Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Gulf of Alaska; 2018 and 2019 Harvest Specifications for Groundfish, 57924-57946 [2017-26473]

Download as PDF sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS 57924 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules to the maximum permissible ABC (if the full TAC were harvested), unless the sum of TACs exceeded the BSAI OY, in which case TACs would have been limited to the OY. Alternative 3 would have set TACs to produce fishing rates equal to the most recent 5-year average fishing rates. Alternative 4 would have set TACs equal to the lower limit of the BSAI OY range. Alternative 5, the ‘‘no action’’ alternative, would have set TACs equal to zero. The TACs associated with Alternative 2, the preferred harvest strategy, are those adopted by the Council in October 2017. OFLs and ABCs for the species were based on recommendations prepared by the Council’s BSAI Groundfish Plan Team in September 2017, and reviewed and modified by the Council’s SSC in October 2017. The Council based its TAC recommendations on those of its AP, which were consistent with the SSC’s OFL and ABC recommendations. Alternative 1 selects harvest rates that would allow fishermen to harvest stocks at the level of ABCs, unless total harvests were constrained by the upper bound of the BSAI OY of two million mt. As shown in Table 1 of the preamble, the sum of ABCs in 2018 and 2019 would be about 4,214,648 mt, which falls above the upper bound of the OY range. Under Alternative 1, the sum of TACs is equal to the sum of ABCs. In this instance, Alternative 1 is consistent with the preferred alternative (Alternative 2), meets the objectives of that action, and has small entity impacts that are equivalent to small entity impacts of the preferred alternative. However, NMFS cannot set TACs equal to the sum of ABCs in the BSAI due to the constraining OY limit of 2.0 million mt, which Alternative 1 would exceed. Alternative 3 selects harvest rates based on the most recent 5 years of harvest rates (for species in Tiers 1 through 3) or based on the most recent 5 years of harvests (for species in Tiers 4 through 6). This alternative is inconsistent with the objectives of this action (as reflected in Alternative 2, the Council’s preferred harvest strategy) because it does not take account of the most recent biological information for this fishery. NMFS annually conducts at-sea stock surveys for different species, as well as statistical modeling, to estimate stock sizes and permissible harvest levels. Actual harvest rates or harvest amounts are a component of these estimates, but in and of themselves may not accurately portray stock sizes and conditions. Harvest rates are listed for each species category for each year in the SAFE report (see ADDRESSES). VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 Alternative 4 would lead to significantly lower harvests of all species and reduce TACs from the upper end of the OY range in the BSAI, to its lower end of 1.4 million mt. Overall, this would reduce 2018 TACs by about 30 percent, which would lead to significant reductions in harvests of species by small entities. While reductions of this size would alter the supply, and, therefore, would be associated with offsetting price increases, the size of these associated price increases is uncertain. While production declines in the BSAI would undoubtedly be associated with price increases in the BSAI, these increases would be constrained by production of substitutes, and are unlikely to completely offset revenue declines resulting from reductions in harvests of these species by small entities. Thus, this alternative action would have a detrimental impact on small entities. Alternative 5, which sets all harvests equal to zero, would have a significant adverse impact on small entities and would be contrary to the requirement for achieving OY on a continuing basis, as mandated by the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The proposed harvest specifications (Alternative 2) extend the current 2018 OFLs, ABCs, and TACs to 2018 and 2019, with the exceptions for decreases of Pacific cod OFL, ABC, and TAC in the BS and related increases in Atka mackerel, Pacific ocean perch, pollock, and rock sole TAC amounts. As noted in the IRFA, the Council may modify these OFLs, ABCs, and TACs in December 2017, when it reviews the November 2017 SAFE report from its groundfish Plan Team, and the reports of the SSC and AP at the December Council meeting. Because most of the TACs in the proposed 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications are unchanged from the 2018 harvest specification TACs, with the exception of modifications for TACs for five species, and because the sum of all TACs remains within the upper limit of OY for the BSAI of 2.0 million mt, NMFS does not expect adverse impacts on small entities. Also, NMFS does not expect any changes made by the Council in December 2017 to be large enough to have an impact on small entities. This action does not modify recordkeeping or reporting requirements, or duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any Federal rules. Adverse impacts on marine mammals resulting from fishing activities conducted under these harvest specifications are discussed in the Final EIS (see ADDRESSES), and in the 2017 PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 SIR (https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/ sites/default/files/sir-2017-18.pdf). Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1540(f); 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 3631 et seq.; Pub. L. 105–277; Pub. L. 106– 31; Pub. L. 106–554; Pub. L. 108–199; Pub. L. 108–447; Pub. L. 109–241; Pub. L. 109–479. Dated: December 4, 2017. Alan D. Risenhoover, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–26477 Filed 12–6–17; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 170816769–7769–01] RIN 0648–XF633 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Gulf of Alaska; 2018 and 2019 Harvest Specifications for Groundfish National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications, apportionments, and Pacific halibut prohibited species catch limits for the groundfish fishery of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). This action is necessary to establish harvest limits for groundfish during the 2018 and 2019 fishing years and to accomplish the goals and objectives of the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska. The intended effect of this action is to conserve and manage the groundfish resources in the GOA in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. SUMMARY: Comments must be received by January 8, 2018. ADDRESSES: Submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA–NMFS– 2017–0107, by either of the following methods: • Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20170107, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. DATES: E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 08DEP1 sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules • 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: 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 the comments for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender is publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Electronic copies of the Alaska Groundfish Harvest Specifications Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIS), Record of Decision (ROD) for the Final EIS, Supplementary Information Report (SIR) to the Final EIS, and the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) prepared for this action may be obtained from http:// www.regulations.gov or from the Alaska Region Web site at https://alaska fisheries.noaa.gov. The final 2016 Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) report for the groundfish resources of the GOA, dated November 2016, is available from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) at 605 West 4th Avenue, Suite 306, Anchorage, AK 99501, phone 907–271– 2809, or from the Council’s Web site at http://www.npfmc.org. The draft 2017 SAFE report for the GOA will be available from the same source. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Obren Davis, 907–586–7228. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the GOA groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the GOA under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (FMP). The Council prepared the FMP under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), 16 U.S.C. 1801, et seq. Regulations governing U.S. fisheries and implementing the FMP appear at 50 CFR parts 600, 679, and 680. The FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS, after consultation with the Council, to specify the total allowable catch (TAC) for each target species, the sum of which must be within the optimum yield (OY) VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 range of 116,000 to 800,000 metric tons (mt) (§ 679.20(a)(1)(i)(B)). Section 679.20(c)(1) further requires NMFS to publish and solicit public comment on proposed annual TACs and apportionments thereof, Pacific halibut prohibited species catch (PSC) limits, and seasonal allowances of pollock and Pacific cod. The proposed harvest specifications in Tables 1 through 19 of this document satisfy these requirements. For 2018 and 2019, the sum of the proposed TAC amounts is 465,832 mt. Under § 679.20(c)(3), NMFS will publish the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications after (1) considering comments received within the comment period (see DATES), (2) consulting with the Council at its December 2017 meeting, (3) considering information presented in the 2017 SIR that assesses the need to prepare a Supplemental EIS (see ADDRESSES), and (4) considering information presented in the final 2017 SAFE report prepared for the 2018 and 2019 groundfish fisheries. Other Actions Potentially Affecting the 2018 and 2019 Harvest Specifications Amendment 106: Reclassify Squid as an Ecosystem Species In June 2017, the Council recommended for Secretarial review Amendment 106 to the FMP. Amendment 106 would reclassify squid in the FMP as an ‘‘Ecosystem Component Species’’ which is a category of non-target species that are not in need of conservation and management. Currently, NMFS annually sets an Overfishing Level (OFL), Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC), and TAC for squid in the GOA groundfish harvest specifications. Under Amendment 106, OFL, ABC, and TAC specifications would no longer be required. Proposed regulations to implement Amendment 106 would prohibit directed fishing for squid, require recordkeeping and reporting to monitor and report catch of squid species annually, and establish a squid maximum retainable amount when directed fishing for groundfish species at 20 percent to discourage retention, while allowing flexibility to prosecute groundfish fisheries. Further details will be available on publication of the proposed rule for Amendment 106. If Amendment 106 and its implementing regulations are approved by the Secretary of Commerce, this action is anticipated to be effective in 2019. Until Amendment 106 is effective, NMFS will continue to publish OFLs, ABCs, and TACs for squid in the GOA groundfish harvest specifications. PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 57925 Proposed ABC and TAC Specifications In October 2017, the Council, its Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), and its Advisory Panel (AP) reviewed the most recent biological and harvest information about the condition of groundfish stocks in the GOA. This information was compiled by the GOA Groundfish Plan Team (Plan Team) and presented in the final 2016 SAFE report for the GOA groundfish fisheries, dated November 2016 (see ADDRESSES). The SAFE report contains a review of the latest scientific analyses and estimates of each species’ biomass and other biological parameters, as well as summaries of the available information on the GOA ecosystem and the economic condition of the groundfish fisheries off Alaska. From these data and analyses, the Plan Team estimates—and the SSC sets—an OFL and ABC for each species or species group. The amounts proposed for the 2018 and 2019 OFLs and ABCs are based on the 2016 SAFE report. The AP and Council recommended that the proposed 2018 and 2019 TACs be set equal to proposed ABCs for all species and species groups, with the exception of the species categories further discussed below. The proposed OFLs, ABCs, and TACs could be changed in the final harvest specifications depending on the most recent scientific information contained in the final 2017 SAFE report. The draft stock assessments that will comprise, in part, the 2017 SAFE report are available at http://legistar2.granicus.com/npfmc/ meetings/2017/9/962_A_Groundfish_ Plan_Team_17-09-12_Meeting_ Agenda.pdf. The Council recommends and NMFS proposes a reduction in the Pacific cod OFL, ABC, and TAC levels as compared to those levels implemented for Pacific cod in the 2017 and 2018 final GOA groundfish harvest specifications. The Council concurred with its SSC’s recommendation to reduce the Pacific cod OFL and ABC, as well as its AP’s recommendation for a corresponding reduction in the Pacific cod TAC. The reductions to the Pacific cod OFL, ABC, and TAC are the result of preliminary 2017 GOA bottom trawl survey data, as well as other data, that recently became available to stock assessment scientists. Based on the results of the 2017 GOA bottom trawl survey estimates and preliminary modeling for the Pacific cod stock assessment, the Pacific cod biomass and abundance has decreased significantly since the 2015 GOA bottom trawl survey. This decrease is corroborated by additional data sets that appear to support the trawl survey results associated with a decrease in the E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 08DEP1 sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS 57926 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules Pacific cod biomass. This information led to the recommended reduction in the proposed 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod OFL and ABC. The SSC opted to recommend a proposed 2018 OFL and ABC based on the average of the current 2018 OFL and ABC amounts and preliminary Tier 5 OFL and ABC amounts provided by the Pacific cod stock assessment author. This precautionary approach provides a strong indication of decreases in the OFL and ABC amounts for the final harvest specifications. However, this was a temporary approach used only for these proposed specifications, and Pacific cod remains in Tier 3a. The SSC also strongly noted that the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications for Pacific cod could be even lower than those recommended in the proposed 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications once the stock assessment process has been completed and reviewed by December 2017.The proposed Pacific cod OFL, ABC, and TAC amounts likely will further change once the Pacific cod stock assessment is finalized, reviewed by the Council’s groundfish Plan Team in November, and then subsequently reviewed by the SSC, AP, and Council in December 2017. In addition, as discussed later in this preamble, decreases in Pacific cod OFL, ABC, and TAC could affect seasonal and sector apportionments of Pacific cod TAC and, potentially, apportionments of halibut PSC limit among fisheries. In November 2017, the Plan Team will update the 2016 SAFE report to include new information collected during 2017, such as NMFS stock surveys, revised stock assessments, and catch data. The Plan Team will compile this information and produce the draft 2017 SAFE report for presentation at the December 2017 Council meeting. At that meeting, the Council will consider information in the draft 2017 SAFE report, recommendations from the November 2017 Plan Team meeting and December 2017 SSC and AP meetings, public testimony, and relevant written public comments in making its recommendations for the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications. Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(2) and (3), the Council could recommend adjusting the TACs if warranted on the biological condition of groundfish stocks or a variety of socioeconomic considerations, or if required in order to cause the sum to fall within the optimum yield range. In previous years, the OFLs and ABCs that have had the most significant changes (relative to the amount of assessed tonnage of fish) from the proposed to the final harvest specifications have been for OFLs and VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 ABCs that are based on the most recent NMFS stock surveys. These surveys provide updated estimates of stock biomass and spatial distribution, and changes to the models used for producing stock assessments. NMFS scientists presented updated and new survey results, changes to assessment models, and accompanying stock estimates at the September 2017 Plan Team meeting, and the SSC reviewed this information at the October 2017 Council meeting. The species with possible significant model changes are arrowtooth flounder, Pacific cod, Pacific ocean perch, pollock, and rex sole. Model changes can result in changes to OFLs, ABCs, and TACs. In November 2017, the Plan Team will consider updated stock assessments for groundfish, which will be included in the draft 2017 SAFE report. If the draft 2017 SAFE report indicates that the stock biomass trend is increasing for a species, then the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications for that species may reflect an increase from the proposed harvest specifications. Conversely, if the draft 2017 SAFE report indicates that the stock biomass trend is decreasing for a species, then the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications may reflect a decrease from the proposed harvest specifications. The proposed 2018 and 2019 OFLs, ABCs, and TACs are based on the best available biological and socioeconomic information, including projected biomass trends, information on assumed distribution of stock biomass, and revised methods used to calculate stock biomass. The FMP specifies the formulas, or tiers, to be used to compute OFLs and ABCs. The formulas applicable to a particular stock or stock complex are determined by the level of reliable information available to the fisheries scientists. This information is categorized into a successive series of six tiers to define OFL and ABC amounts, with Tier 1 representing the highest level of information quality available and Tier 6 representing the lowest level of information quality available. The Plan Team used the FMP tier structure to calculate OFLs and ABCs for each groundfish species. The SSC adopted the proposed 2018 and 2019 OFLs and ABCs recommended by the Plan Team for all groundfish species, with the exception of Pacific cod. The Council adopted the SSC’s OFL and ABC recommendations and the AP’s TAC recommendations. These amounts have changed from the final 2018 harvest specifications published in the Federal Register on February 27, 2017 (82 FR 12032) as a result of the PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 recommended decreases to the Pacific cod OFL, ABC, and TAC, as previously discussed. Specification and Apportionment of TAC Amounts The Council recommended proposed 2018 and 2019 TACs that are equal to proposed ABCs for all species and species groups, with the exception of the Western, Central, and West Yakutat pollock ABC, Pacific cod, shallow-water flatfish in the Western GOA, arrowtooth flounder, flathead sole in the Western and Central GOA, ‘‘other rockfish’’ in Southeast Outside (SEO) District, and Atka mackerel. The combined Western, Central, and West Yakutat pollock TAC is set to account for the State of Alaska’s (State) guideline harvest levels (GHLs) for the State water pollock fishery. Similarly, the Pacific cod TACs are reduced from ABC levels to account for the State’s GHLs for Pacific cod so that the ABCs are not exceeded. The shallow-water flatfish, arrowtooth flounder, and flathead sole TACs are set to allow for increased harvest opportunities for these target species while conserving the halibut PSC limit for use in other fisheries. The ‘‘other rockfish’’ TAC is set to reduce the potential amount of discards of the species in that complex. The Atka mackerel TAC is set to accommodate incidental catch amounts in other fisheries. These reductions are described below. The proposed 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod TACs are set to accommodate the State’s GHLs for Pacific cod in State waters in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas, as well as in Prince William Sound (PWS). The Plan Team, SSC, AP, and Council recommended that the sum of all State and Federal water Pacific cod removals from the GOA not exceed ABC recommendations. Therefore, the proposed 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod TACs are less than the proposed ABCs by the following amounts: (1) Western GOA, 6,770 mt; (2) Central GOA, 6,868 mt; and (3) Eastern GOA, 1,224 mt. These amounts reflect the sum of the State’s 2018 and 2019 GHLs in these areas, which are 30 percent of the Western GOA proposed ABC, and 25 percent of the Eastern and Central GOA proposed ABCs. The ABC for the pollock stock in the combined Western, Central, and West Yakutat Regulatory Areas (W/C/WYK) includes the amount for the GHL established by the State for the PWS pollock fishery. The Plan Team, SSC, AP, and Council recommended that the sum of all State and Federal water pollock removals from the GOA not exceed ABC recommendations. For 2018 E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 08DEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules and 2019, the SSC recommended and the Council approved the W/C/WYK pollock ABC, including the amount to account for the State’s PWS GHL. At the November 2016 Plan Team meeting, State fisheries managers recommended setting the PWS GHL at 2.5 percent of the annual W/C/WYK pollock ABC. For 2018, this yields a PWS pollock GHL of 3,937 mt, a decrease from the 2017 PWS GHL of 5,094 mt. After accounting for PWS GHL, the 2018 and 2019 pollock ABC for the combined W/C/WYK areas is then apportioned between four statistical areas (Areas 610, 620, 630, and 640) as both ABCs and TACs, as described below and detailed in Table 1. The total ABCs and TACs for the four statistical areas, plus the State GHL, do not exceed the combined W/C/WYK ABC. The proposed W/C/WYK 2018 and 2019 pollock ABC is 157,496 mt, and the proposed TAC is 153,559 mt. Apportionments of pollock to the W/C/WYK management areas are considered to be ‘‘apportionments of annual catch limit (ACLs)’’ rather than ‘‘ABCs.’’ This more accurately reflects that such apportionments address management, rather than biological or conservation, concerns. In addition, apportionments of the ACL in this manner allow NMFS to balance any transfer of TAC among Areas 610, 620, and 630 pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(iv)(B) to ensure that the area-wide ACL, ABC, and TAC are not exceeded. NMFS’ proposed apportionments of groundfish species are based on the distribution of biomass among the regulatory areas under which NMFS manages the species. Additional regulations govern the apportionment of pollock, Pacific cod, and sablefish. Additional detail on these apportionments are described below, and briefly summarized here. NMFS proposes pollock TACs in the W/C/WYK and the SEO District of the GOA (see Table 1). NMFS also proposes seasonal apportionment of the annual pollock TAC in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA between Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630. These apportionments are divided equally among each of the following four seasons: The A season (January 20 through March 10), the B season (March 10 through May 31), the C season (August 25 through October 1), and the D season (October 1 through November 1) (§ 679.23(d)(2)(i) through (iv), and § 679.20(a)(5)(iv)(A) and (B)). Additional detail is provided below; Table 2 lists these amounts. NMFS proposes Pacific cod TACs in the Western, Central, and Eastern GOA (see Table 1). NMFS also proposes seasonal apportionment of the Pacific cod TACs in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas. Sixty percent of the annual TAC is apportioned to the A season for hook-and-line, pot, and jig gear from January 1 through June 10, and for trawl gear from January 20 through June 10. Forty percent of the annual TAC is apportioned to the B season for jig gear from June 10 through December 31, for hook-and-line and pot gear from September 1 through December 31, and for trawl gear from September 1 through November 1 (§§ 679.23(d)(3) and 679.20(a)(12)). The Western and Central GOA Pacific cod TACs are allocated among various gear and operational sectors. Additional detail is provided below; Table 3 lists the amounts apportioned to each sector. 57927 The Council’s recommendation for sablefish area apportionments takes into account the prohibition on the use of trawl gear in the SEO District of the Eastern Regulatory Area (§ 679.7(b)(1)) and makes available 5 percent of the combined Eastern Regulatory Area TACs to trawl gear for use as incidental catch in other groundfish fisheries in the WYK District (§ 679.20(a)(4)(i)). Additional detail is provided below. Tables 4 and 5 list the proposed 2018 and 2019 allocations of the sablefish TAC to fixed gear and trawl gear in the GOA. For 2018 and 2019, the Council recommends and NMFS proposes the OFLs, ABCs, and TACs listed in Table 1. The proposed ABCs reflect harvest amounts that are less than the specified overfishing levels. Table 1 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 OFLs, ABCs, TACs, and area apportionments of groundfish in the GOA. These amounts are consistent with the biological condition of groundfish stocks as described in the 2016 SAFE report, and adjusted for other biological and socioeconomic considerations, including maintaining the total TAC within the required OY range. The sum of the proposed TACs for all GOA groundfish is 465,832 mt for 2018 and 2019, which is within the OY range specified by the FMP. These proposed amounts and apportionments by area, season, and sector are subject to change pending consideration of the draft 2017 SAFE report and the Council’s recommendations for the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications during its December 2017 meeting. TABLE 1—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 ABCS, TACS, AND OFLS OF GROUNDFISH FOR THE WESTERN/CENTRAL/WEST YAKUTAT, WESTERN, CENTRAL, AND EASTERN REGULATORY AREAS, AND IN THE WEST YAKUTAT, SOUTHEAST OUTSIDE, AND GULFWIDE DISTRICTS OF THE GULF OF ALASKA [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton] Area 1 Pollock 2 .......................................................... Shumagin (610) .............................................. Chirikof (620) .................................................. Kodiak (630) ................................................... WYK (640) ...................................................... W/C/WYK (subtotal) ....................................... SEO (650) ...................................................... n/a n/a n/a n/a 182,204 13,226 33,701 76,249 37,818 5,791 157,496 9,920 33,701 76,249 37,818 5,791 153,559 9,920 Total ........................................................ sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Species 195,430 167,416 163,479 W .................................................................... C ..................................................................... E ..................................................................... n/a n/a n/a 22,565 27,471 4,894 15,796 20,603 3,671 Total ........................................................ 67,486 54,930 40,069 W .................................................................... C ..................................................................... WYK ............................................................... SEO ................................................................ n/a n/a n/a n/a 1,367 4,574 1,626 2,640 1,367 4,574 1,626 2,640 Pacific cod 3 .................................................... Sablefish 4 ....................................................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4702 OFL Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM ABC 08DEP1 TAC 2 57928 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules TABLE 1—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 ABCS, TACS, AND OFLS OF GROUNDFISH FOR THE WESTERN/CENTRAL/WEST YAKUTAT, WESTERN, CENTRAL, AND EASTERN REGULATORY AREAS, AND IN THE WEST YAKUTAT, SOUTHEAST OUTSIDE, AND GULFWIDE DISTRICTS OF THE GULF OF ALASKA—Continued [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton] Area 1 Species OFL TAC 2 ABC E (WYK and SEO) (subtotal) ......................... sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS ............................................. Rougheye and blackspotted rockfish 11 .......... VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 54,893 44,771 36,979 W .................................................................... C ..................................................................... WYK ............................................................... SEO ................................................................ n/a n/a n/a n/a 257 3,488 3,047 2,590 257 3,488 3,047 2,590 11,290 9,382 9,382 W .................................................................... C ..................................................................... WYK ............................................................... SEO ................................................................ n/a n/a n/a n/a 1,478 4,995 861 1,087 1,478 4,995 861 1,087 11,004 8,421 8,421 W .................................................................... C ..................................................................... WYK ............................................................... SEO ................................................................ n/a n/a n/a n/a 25,747 98,895 34,273 11,595 14,500 75,000 6,900 6,900 196,635 170,510 103,300 W .................................................................... C ..................................................................... WYK ............................................................... SEO ................................................................ n/a n/a n/a n/a 11,282 20,677 2,998 872 8,650 15,400 2,998 872 43,872 35,829 27,920 W .................................................................... C ..................................................................... WYK ............................................................... W/C/WYK ....................................................... SEO ................................................................ n/a n/a n/a 25,252 2,032 2,627 16,347 2,733 21,707 1,747 2,627 16,347 2,733 21,707 1,747 27,284 23,454 23,454 W .................................................................... C ..................................................................... E ..................................................................... n/a n/a n/a 400 3,108 4 400 3,108 ........................ 4,175 3,512 3,508 W .................................................................... C ..................................................................... E ..................................................................... n/a n/a n/a 38 301 947 38 301 947 1,715 1,286 1,286 W .................................................................... C ..................................................................... WYK ............................................................... SEO ................................................................ n/a n/a n/a n/a 146 3,499 232 77 146 3,499 232 77 Total ........................................................ Dusky 13,250 19,418 3,206 1,105 Total ........................................................ rockfish 10 21,042 19,418 3,206 1,105 Total ........................................................ Shortraker rockfish 9 ........................................ n/a n/a n/a n/a Total ........................................................ Northern rockfish 8 .......................................... W .................................................................... C ..................................................................... WYK ............................................................... SEO ................................................................ Total ........................................................ Pacific ocean perch 7 ...................................... 10,207 Total ........................................................ Flathead sole .................................................. 10,207 Total ........................................................ Arrowtooth flounder ......................................... 12,045 Total ........................................................ Rex sole .......................................................... 4,266 Total ........................................................ Deep-water flatfish 6 ........................................ 4,266 Total ........................................................ Shallow-water flatfish 5 .................................... n/a 4,837 3,954 3,954 W .................................................................... C ..................................................................... E ..................................................................... n/a n/a n/a 104 702 512 104 702 512 PO 00000 Frm 00043 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 08DEP1 57929 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules TABLE 1—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 ABCS, TACS, AND OFLS OF GROUNDFISH FOR THE WESTERN/CENTRAL/WEST YAKUTAT, WESTERN, CENTRAL, AND EASTERN REGULATORY AREAS, AND IN THE WEST YAKUTAT, SOUTHEAST OUTSIDE, AND GULFWIDE DISTRICTS OF THE GULF OF ALASKA—Continued [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton] Area 1 Species OFL TAC 2 ABC Total ........................................................ Other skates 18 ................................................ Sculpins ........................................................... Sharks ............................................................. Squids ............................................................. Octopuses ....................................................... Total ......................................................... 357 n/a n/a n/a 227 291 988 682 227 291 988 682 2,615 1,961 1,961 W/C combined ................................................ WYK ............................................................... SEO ................................................................ n/a n/a n/a 1,534 574 3,665 1,534 574 200 7,424 5,773 2,308 GW ................................................................. W .................................................................... C ..................................................................... E ..................................................................... 6,200 n/a n/a n/a 4,700 908 1,850 1,056 3,000 908 1,850 1,056 5,086 3,814 3,814 W .................................................................... C ..................................................................... E ..................................................................... n/a n/a n/a 61 2,513 632 61 2,513 632 Total ........................................................ Longnose skates 17 ......................................... SEO ................................................................ W .................................................................... C ..................................................................... E ..................................................................... Total ........................................................ Atka mackerel ................................................. Big skates 16 .................................................... 1,318 Total ........................................................ Other rockfish 14 15 .......................................... 1,318 Total ........................................................ Demersal shelf rockfish 12 ............................... Thornyhead rockfish 13 .................................... 1,583 4,274 3,206 3,206 ................................................................. ................................................................. ................................................................. ................................................................. ................................................................. 2,558 7,338 6,020 1,516 6,504 1,919 5,591 4,514 1,137 4,878 1,919 5,591 4,514 1,137 4,878 ......................................................................... 682,141 572,710 465,832 GW GW GW GW GW sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS 1 Regulatory areas and districts are defined at § 679.2. (W=Western Gulf of Alaska; C=Central Gulf of Alaska; E=Eastern Gulf of Alaska; WYK=West Yakutat District; SEO=Southeast Outside District; GW=Gulf-wide). 2 The total for the W/C/WYK Regulatory Areas pollock ABC is 157,496 mt. After deducting 2.5 percent (3,937 mt) of that ABC for the State’s pollock GHL fishery, the remaining pollock ABC of 153,559 mt (for the W/C/WYK Regulatory Areas) is apportioned among four statistical areas (Areas 610, 620, 630, and 640). These apportionments are considered subarea ACLs, rather than ABCs, for specification and reapportionment purposes. The ACLs in Areas 610, 620, and 630 are further divided by season, as detailed in Table 2. In the West Yakutat (Area 640) and Southeast Outside (Area 650) Districts of the Eastern Regulatory Area, pollock is not divided into seasonal allowances. 3 The annual Pacific cod TAC is apportioned 60 percent to the A season and 40 percent to the B season in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA. Pacific cod TAC in the Eastern Regulatory Area is allocated 90 percent for processing by the inshore component and 10 percent for processing by the offshore component. Table 3 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod seasonal apportionments. 4 Sablefish is allocated to fixed and trawl gear in 2018 and trawl gear in 2019. Tables 4 and 5 list the proposed 2018 and 2019 allocations of sablefish TACs. 5 ‘‘Shallow-water flatfish’’ means flatfish not including ‘‘deep-water flatfish,’’ flathead sole, rex sole, or arrowtooth flounder. 6 ‘‘Deep-water flatfish’’ means Dover sole, Greenland turbot, Kamchatka flounder, and deep-sea sole. 7 ‘‘Pacific ocean perch’’ means Sebastes alutus. 8 ‘‘Northern rockfish’’ means Sebastes polyspinous. For management purposes the 3 mt apportionment of ABC to the WYK District of the Eastern Gulf of Alaska has been included in the other rockfish species group. 9 ‘‘Shortraker rockfish’’ means Sebastes borealis. 10 ‘‘Dusky rockfish’’ means Sebastes variabilis. 11 ‘‘Rougheye and blackspotted rockfish’’ means Sebastes aleutianus (rougheye) and Sebastes melanostictus (blackspotted). 12 ‘‘Demersal shelf rockfish’’ means Sebastes pinniger (canary), S. nebulosus (china), S. caurinus (copper), S. maliger (quillback), S. helvomaculatus (rosethorn), S. nigrocinctus (tiger), and S. ruberrimus (yelloweye). 13 ‘‘Thornyhead rockfish’’ means Sebastes species. 14 ‘‘Other rockfish means Sebastes aurora (aurora), S. melanostomus (blackgill), S. paucispinis (bocaccio), S. goodei (chilipepper), S. crameri (darkblotch), S. elongatus (greenstriped), S. variegatus (harlequin), S. wilsoni (pygmy), S. babcocki (redbanded), S. proriger (redstripe), S. zacentrus (sharpchin), S. jordani (shortbelly), S. brevispinis (silvergray), S. diploproa (splitnose), S. saxicola (stripetail), S. miniatus (vermilion), S. reedi (yellowmouth), S. entomelas (widow), and S. flavidus (yellowtail). In the Eastern GOA only, ‘‘other rockfish’’ also includes northern rockfish (S. polyspinous). 15 ‘‘Other rockfish’’ in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas and in the West Yakutat District means all rockfish species included in the ‘‘other rockfish’’ and demersal shelf rockfish categories. The ‘‘other rockfish’’ species group in the SEO District only includes other rockfish. 16 ‘‘Big skates’’ means Raja binoculata. 17 ‘‘Longnose skates’’ means Raja rhina. 18 ‘‘Other skates’’ means Bathyraja and Raja spp. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 PO 00000 Frm 00044 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 08DEP1 57930 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules Proposed Apportionment of Reserves Section 679.20(b)(2) requires NMFS to set aside 20 percent of each TAC for pollock, Pacific cod, flatfish, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses in reserves for possible apportionment at a later date during the fishing year. In 2017, NMFS reapportioned all of the reserves in the final harvest specifications. For 2018 and 2019, NMFS proposes reapportionment of each of the reserves for pollock, Pacific cod, flatfish, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses back into the original TAC from which the reserve was derived. NMFS expects, based on recent harvest patterns, that such reserves are not necessary and the entire TAC for each of these species will be caught. The TACs in Table 1 reflect this proposed reapportionment of reserve amounts for these species and species groups, i.e., each proposed TAC for the above mentioned species categories contains the full TAC recommended by the Council. sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Proposed Apportionments of Pollock TAC Among Seasons and Regulatory Areas, and Allocations for Processing by Inshore and Offshore Components In the GOA, pollock is apportioned by season and area, and is further allocated for processing by inshore and offshore components. Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(iv)(B), the annual pollock TAC specified for the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA is apportioned into four equal seasonal allowances of 25 percent. As established by § 679.23(d)(2)(i) through (iv), the A, B, C, and D season allowances are available from January 20 through March 10, March 10 through May 31, August 25 through October 1, and October 1 through November 1, respectively. Pollock TACs in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA are apportioned among Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630, pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(iv)(A). In the A and B seasons, the apportionments had historically, since 2000, been based on the proportional distribution of pollock biomass based on the four most recent NMFS winter surveys. In the C and D seasons, the apportionments were in VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 proportion to the distribution of pollock biomass based on the four most recent NMFS summer surveys. For 2018 and 2019, the Council recommends, and NMFS proposes, following the methodology that was used for the 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications. This methodology averages the winter and summer distribution of pollock in the Central Regulatory Area for the A season instead of using the distribution based on only the winter surveys. The average is intended to reflect the best available information about migration patterns, distribution of pollock, and the performance of the fishery in the area during the A season. For the A season, the apportionment is based on the proposed adjusted estimate of the relative distribution of pollock biomass of approximately 5 percent, 72 percent, and 23 percent in Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630, respectively. For the B season, the apportionment is based on the relative distribution of pollock biomass of approximately 5 percent, 82 percent, and 13 percent in Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630, respectively. For the C and D seasons, the apportionment is based on the relative distribution of pollock biomass of approximately 41 percent, 26 percent, and 33 percent in Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630, respectively. The pollock chapter of the 2016 SAFE report (see ADDRESSES) contains a comprehensive description of the apportionment process and reasons for the minor changes from past apportionments. Within any fishing year, the amount by which a seasonal allowance is underharvested or overharvested may be added to, or subtracted from, subsequent seasonal allowances in a manner to be determined by the Regional Administrator (§ 679.20(a)(5)(iv)(B)). The rollover amount is limited to 20 percent of the seasonal TAC apportionment for the statistical area. Any unharvested pollock above the 20-percent limit could be further distributed to the subsequent season in other statistical areas, in proportion to the estimated biomass and in an amount no more than 20 percent of the seasonal TAC apportionment in those statistical areas (§ 679.20(a)(5)(iv)(B)). The proposed PO 00000 Frm 00045 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 2018 and 2019 pollock TACs in the WYK District of 5,791 mt and the SEO District of 9,920 mt are not allocated by season. Section 679.20(a)(6)(i) requires the allocation of 100 percent of the pollock apportionments in all regulatory areas and all seasonal allowances to vessels catching pollock for processing by the inshore component after subtraction of pollock amounts projected by the Regional Administrator to be caught by, or delivered to, the offshore component incidental to directed fishing for other groundfish species. Thus, the amount of pollock available for harvest by vessels harvesting pollock for processing by the offshore component is that amount that will be taken as incidental catch during directed fishing for groundfish species other than pollock, up to the maximum retainable amounts allowed under § 679.20(e) and (f). At this time, these incidental catch amounts of pollock are unknown and will be determined as fishing activity occurs during the fishing year by the offshore component. Table 2 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 seasonal biomass distribution of pollock in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas, area apportionments, and seasonal allowances. The amounts of pollock for processing by the inshore and offshore components are not shown. Section 679.20(a)(6)(i) requires the allocation of 100 percent of the pollock TAC in all regulatory areas and all seasonal allowances to vessels catching pollock for processing by the inshore component after subtraction of amounts projected by the Regional Administrator to be caught by, or delivered to, the offshore component incidental to directed fishing for other groundfish species. Thus, the amount of pollock available for harvest by vessels harvesting pollock for processing by the offshore component is that amount that will be taken as incidental catch during directed fishing for groundfish species other than pollock, up to the maximum retainable amounts allowed by § 679.20(e) and (f). The incidental catch amounts of pollock are unknown at this time and will be determined during the 2018 fishing year during the course of fishing activities by the offshore component. E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 08DEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules 57931 TABLE 2—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 DISTRIBUTION OF POLLOCK IN THE CENTRAL AND WESTERN REGULATORY AREAS OF THE GULF OF ALASKA; SEASONAL BIOMASS DISTRIBUTION, AREA APPORTIONMENTS; AND SEASONAL ALLOWANCES OF ANNUAL TAC 1 [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton] Season 2 Shumagin (area 610) Chirikof (Area 620) Kodiak (area 630) Total 3 A (Jan 20–Mar 10) ....... B (Mar 10–May 31) ...... C (Aug 25–Oct 1) ......... D (Oct 1–Nov 1) ........... 1,725 1,725 15,125 15,125 (4.67%) (4.67%) (40.94%) (40.94%) 26,704 30,469 9,538 9,538 (72.29%) (82.48%) (25.82%) (25.82%) 8,513 4,748 12,278 12,278 (23.04%) (12.85%) (33.24%) (33.24%) 36,942 36,942 36,942 36,942 Annual Total .......... 33,701 ........................ 76,249 ........................ 37,818 ........................ 147,768 1 Area apportionments and seasonal allowances may not total precisely due to rounding. established by § 679.23(d)(2)(i) through (iv), the A, B, C, and D season allowances are available from January 20 through March 10, March 10 through May 31, August 25 through October 1, and October 1 through November 1, respectively. The amounts of pollock for processing by the inshore and offshore components are not shown in this table. 3 The West Yakutat and Southeast Outside District pollock TACs are not allocated by season and are not included in the total pollock TACs shown in this table. 2 As sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Proposed Annual and Seasonal Apportionments of Pacific Cod TAC As explained earlier in the section on ‘‘Proposed ABC and TAC Specifications,’’ the Council recommended reduced Pacific cod OFL, ABC, and TAC amounts as a result of preliminary data indicating a decrease in biomass. The proposed amounts could likely change, including a further decrease, once the 2017 Pacific cod stock assessment is finalized, reviewed by the Council’s groundfish Plan Team in November, and then subsequently reviewed by the SSC, AP, and Council in December 2017. Reductions could impact seasonal and sector apportionments of Pacific cod TAC. Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(12)(i), NMFS proposes allocations for the 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod TACs in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA among gear and operational sectors. NMFS also proposes allocating the 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod TACs annually between the inshore and offshore components in the Eastern Regulatory Area of the GOA (§ 679.20(a)(6)(ii)). In the Central GOA, the Pacific cod TAC is apportioned seasonally first to vessels using jig gear, and then among catcher vessels (CVs) less than 50 feet in length overall using hook-and-line gear, CVs equal to or greater than 50 feet in length overall using hook-and-line gear, catcher/ processors (C/Ps) using hook-and-line gear, CVs using trawl gear, C/Ps using trawl gear, and vessels using pot gear (§ 679.20(a)(12)(i)(B)). In the Western GOA, the Pacific cod TAC is apportioned seasonally first to vessels using jig gear, and then among CVs using hook-and-line gear, C/Ps using hook-and-line gear, CVs using trawl gear, C/Ps using trawl gear, and vessels using pot gear (§ 679.20(a)(12)(i)(A)). The overall seasonal apportionments in the Western and Central GOA are 60 percent of the annual TAC to the A season and 40 percent of the annual TAC to the B season. All of these apportionments proposed for 2018 and 2019 incorporate the proposed reduction to the 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod TAC that was recommended by the Council and discussed earlier in the preamble. Under § 679.20(a)(12)(ii), any overage or underage of the Pacific cod allowance from the A season will be subtracted from, or added to, the subsequent B season allowance. In addition, any portion of the hook-and-line, trawl, pot, or jig sector allocations that is determined by NMFS as likely to go unharvested by a sector may be reallocated to other sectors for harvest during the remainder of the fishing year. Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(12)(i)(A) and (B), a portion of the annual Pacific cod TACs in the Western and Central GOA will be allocated to vessels with a Federal fisheries permit that use jig gear before TAC is apportioned among other non-jig sectors. In accordance with the FMP, the annual jig sector allocations may increase to up to 6 percent of the annual Western and Central GOA Pacific cod TACs, depending on the annual performance of the jig sector (see Table 1 of Amendment 83 to the FMP for a detailed discussion of the jig sector allocation process (76 FR 74670, December 1, 2011). Jig sector allocation increases are established for a minimum of 2 years. NMFS has evaluated the historical harvest performance of the jig sector in the Western and Central GOA, and is establishing the proposed 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod apportionments to this sector based on its historical harvest performance through 2016. For 2018 and 2019, NMFS proposes that the jig sector receive 2.5 percent of the annual Pacific cod TAC in the Western GOA. This includes a base allocation of 1.5 percent and an additional 1.0 percent because this sector harvested greater than 90 percent of its initial allocations in 2012 and 2014 in the Western GOA. NMFS also proposes that the jig sector receive 1.0 percent of the annual Pacific cod TAC in the Central GOA. This includes a base allocation of 1.0 percent and no additional performance increase. These historical Pacific cod jig allocations, catch, and percent allocation changes are listed in Figure 1. FIGURE 1—SUMMARY OF WESTERN GOA AND CENTRAL GOA MANAGEMENT AREA PACIFIC COD CATCH BY JIG GEAR IN 2012 THROUGH 2016, AND CORRESPONDING PERCENT ALLOCATION CHANGES Area WGOA .......................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 Initial percent of TAC Year 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 2012 2013 2014 2015 Jkt 244001 1.5 2.5 2.5 3.5 PO 00000 Frm 00046 Initial TAC allocation 315 530 573 948 Fmt 4702 Percent of initial allocation Catch (mt) Sfmt 4702 322 273 785 55 E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 102 52 137 6 08DEP1 >90% of initial allocation? Y N Y N Change to percent allocation Increase 1. None. Increase 1. None. 57932 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules FIGURE 1—SUMMARY OF WESTERN GOA AND CENTRAL GOA MANAGEMENT AREA PACIFIC COD CATCH BY JIG GEAR IN 2012 THROUGH 2016, AND CORRESPONDING PERCENT ALLOCATION CHANGES—Continued Area Initial percent of TAC Year CGOA .......................... 2016 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Initial TAC allocation 3.5 1.0 2.0 2.0 1.0 1.0 NMFS will re-evaluate the annual 2017 harvest performance of jig sector in the Western and Central Management areas when the 2017 fishing year is complete to determine whether to change the jig sector allocations proposed by this action in conjunction with the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications. The current catch through November 2017 by the Western Percent of initial allocation Catch (mt) 992 427 740 797 460 370 52 400 202 262 355 267 GOA jig sector indicates that the Pacific cod allocation percentage to this sector would probably decrease by 1 percent in 2018 (from 2.5 percent to 1.5 percent). Also, the current catch by the Central GOA jig sector indicates that this sector’s Pacific cod allocation percentage would not change in 2018, and would remain at 1 percent. The jig sector allocations for the Western and 5 94 27 33 77 72 >90% of initial allocation? Change to percent allocation N Y N N N N Decrease 1. Increase 1. None. None. Decrease 1. None. Central GOA are further apportioned between the A (60 percent) and B (40 percent) seasons (§ 679.20(a)(12)(i) and § 679.23(d)(3)(iii)). Table 3 lists the seasonal apportionments and allocations of the proposed 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod TACs. TABLE 3—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 SEASONAL APPORTIONMENTS AND ALLOCATIONS OF PACIFIC COD TOTAL ALLOWABLE CATCH AMOUNTS IN THE GOA; ALLOCATIONS IN THE WESTERN GOA AND CENTRAL GOA SECTORS, AND THE EASTERN GOA FOR PROCESSING BY THE INSHORE AND OFFSHORE COMPONENTS [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton] A season Annual allocation (mt) Regulatory area and sector Sector percentage of annual non-jig TAC B season Seasonal allowances (mt) Sector percentage of annual non-jig TAC Seasonal allowances (mt) Western GOA: Jig (2.5% of TAC) ......................................................... Hook-and-line CV ......................................................... Hook-and-line C/P ........................................................ Trawl CV ....................................................................... Trawl C/P ...................................................................... Pot CV and Pot C/P ..................................................... 395 216 3,049 5,914 370 5,852 N/A 0.70 10.90 27.70 0.90 19.80 237 108 1,679 4,266 139 3,049 N/A 0.70 8.90 10.70 1.50 18.20 158 108 1,371 1,648 231 2,803 Total ....................................................................... 15,796 60.00 9,477 40.00 6,318 Central GOA: Jig (1.0% of TAC) ......................................................... Hook-and-line <50 CV .................................................. Hook-and-line ≥50 CV .................................................. Hook-and-line C/P ........................................................ Trawl CV 1 ..................................................................... Trawl C/P ...................................................................... Pot CV and Pot C/P ..................................................... 206 2,978 1,368 1,041 8,482 856 5,671 N/A 9.32 5.61 4.11 21.13 2.00 17.83 124 1,900 1,144 838 4,311 409 3,637 N/A 5.29 1.10 1.00 20.45 2.19 9.97 82 1,078 224 203 4,171 448 2,035 Total ....................................................................... 20,603 60.00 12,362 40.00 8,241 Eastern GOA: ........................ sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS .......................................................................................... Inshore (90% of Annual TAC) Offshore (10% of Annual TAC) 3,303 367 3,671 1 Trawl vessels participating in Rockfish Program cooperatives receive 3.81 percent, or 785 mt, of the annual Central GOA Pacific cod TAC. This apportionment percentage is specified in Table 28c to 50 CFR part 679. This apportionment is deducted from the Trawl CV B season allowance (see Table 8: Apportionments of Rockfish Secondary Species in the Central GOA). VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 PO 00000 Frm 00047 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 08DEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules Proposed Allocations of the Sablefish TACs Amounts to Vessels Using Fixed Gear and Trawl Gear Sections 679.20(a)(4)(i) and (ii) require allocations of sablefish TACs for each of the regulatory areas and districts to fixed and trawl gear. In the Western and Central Regulatory Areas, 80 percent of each TAC is allocated to fixed gear, and 20 percent of each TAC is allocated to trawl gear. In the Eastern Regulatory Area, 95 percent of the TAC is allocated to fixed gear and 5 percent is allocated to trawl gear. The trawl gear allocation in the Eastern Regulatory Area may only be used to support incidental catch of sablefish in directed fisheries for other target species (§ 679.20(a)(4)(i)). In recognition of the prohibition against trawl gear in the SEO District of the Eastern Regulatory Area, the Council recommended and NMFS proposes the allocation of 5 percent of the combined Eastern Regulatory Area sablefish TAC to trawl gear in the WYK District, making the remainder of the WYK sablefish TAC available to vessels using fixed gear. NMFS proposes to allocate 100 percent of the sablefish TAC in the SEO District to vessels using fixed gear. This action results in a proposed 2018 allocation of 213 mt to trawl gear and 1,413 mt to fixed gear in the WYK District, a proposed 2018 allocation of 2,640 mt to fixed gear in the SEO District, and a 2019 allocation of 213 mt to trawl gear in the WYK District. Table 4 lists the allocations of the proposed 2018 sablefish TACs to fixed and trawl gear. Table 5 lists the allocations of the proposed 2019 sablefish TACs to trawl gear. The Council recommended that the trawl sablefish TAC be established for 2 years so that retention of incidental catch of sablefish by trawl gear could commence in January in the second year of the groundfish harvest specifications. Tables 4 and 5 list the 2018 and 2019 trawl allocations, respectively. The Council recommended that the fixed gear sablefish TAC be established annually to ensure that the sablefish IFQ fishery is conducted concurrently with the halibut IFQ fishery and is based on the most recent survey information. 57933 Since there is an annual assessment for sablefish and the final harvest specifications are expected to be published before the IFQ season begins (typically, in early March), the Council recommended that the fixed gear sablefish TAC be set annually, rather than for 2 years, so that the best available scientific information could be considered in establishing the sablefish ABCs and TACs. Accordingly, Table 4 lists the 2018 fixed gear allocations, and the 2019 fixed gear allocations will be in the proposed 2019 and 2020 harvest specifications. With the exception of the trawl allocations that are provided to the Rockfish Program cooperatives (see Table 28c to 50 CFR part 679), directed fishing for sablefish with trawl gear is closed during the fishing year. Also, fishing for groundfish with trawl gear is prohibited prior to January 20. Therefore, it is not likely that the sablefish allocation to trawl gear would be reached before the effective date of the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications. TABLE 4—PROPOSED 2018 SABLEFISH TOTAL ALLOWABLE CATCH (TAC) IN THE GULF OF ALASKA AND ALLOCATIONS TO FIXED AND TRAWL GEAR [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton] Area/district Fixed gear allocation TAC Trawl allocation Western ........................................................................................................................................ Central 1 ....................................................................................................................................... West Yakutat 2 ............................................................................................................................. Southeast Outside ....................................................................................................................... 1,367 4,574 1,626 2,640 1,094 3,659 1,413 2,640 273 915 213 0 Total ...................................................................................................................................... 10,207 8,806 1,402 1 The trawl allocation to the Central Regulatory Area is further reduced by the sablefish apportioned to the Rockfish Program cooperatives (471 mt). See Table 8: Apportionments of Rockfish Secondary Species in the Central GOA. This results in 444 mt being available for the non-Rockfish Program trawl fisheries. 2 The proposed trawl allocation is based on allocating 5 percent of the combined Eastern Regulatory Area (West Yakutat and Southeast Outside Districts combined) sablefish TAC to trawl gear in the West Yakutat District. TABLE 5—PROPOSED 2019 SABLEFISH TOTAL ALLOWABLE CATCH (TAC) IN THE GULF OF ALASKA AND ALLOCATION TO TRAWL GEAR 1 [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton.] Area/district Fixed gear allocation TAC sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Western ....................................................................................................................................... Central 2 ....................................................................................................................................... West Yakutat 3 ............................................................................................................................. Southeast Outside ....................................................................................................................... 1,367 4,574 1,626 2,640 Total ...................................................................................................................................... 10,207 1 The n/a n/a n/a n/a Trawl allocation .................. .................. .................. .................. 273 915 213 0 n/a .................. 1,402 Council recommended that harvest specifications for the fixed gear sablefish Individual Fishing Quota fisheries be limited to 1 year. 2 The trawl allocation to the Central Regulatory Area is further reduced by the sablefish apportioned to the Rockfish Program cooperatives (471mt). See Table 8: Apportionments of Rockfish Secondary Species in the Central GOA. This results in 444 mt being available for the nonRockfish Program trawl fisheries. 3 The proposed trawl allocation is based on allocating 5 percent of the combined Eastern Regulatory Area (West Yakutat and Southeast Outside Districts combined) sablefish TAC to trawl gear in the West Yakutat District. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 PO 00000 Frm 00048 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 08DEP1 57934 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules Proposed Apportionments to the Rockfish Program These proposed 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications for the GOA include the fishery cooperative allocations and sideboard limitations established by the Rockfish Program. Program participants are primarily trawl CVs and trawl C/Ps, with limited participation by vessels using longline gear. The Rockfish Program assigns quota share and cooperative quota to participants for primary (Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, and dusky rockfish) and secondary species (Pacific cod, rougheye rockfish, sablefish, shortraker rockfish, and thornyhead rockfish), allows a participant holding a license limitation program (LLP) license with rockfish quota share to form a rockfish cooperative with other persons, and allows holders of C/P LLP licenses to opt out of the fishery. The Rockfish Program also has an entry level fishery for rockfish primary species for vessels using longline gear. Longline gear includes hook-and-line, jig, troll, and handline gear. Under the Rockfish Program, rockfish primary species in the Central GOA are allocated to participants after deducting for incidental catch needs in other directed groundfish fisheries (§ 679.81(a)(2)). Participants in the Rockfish Program also receive a portion of the Central GOA TAC of specific secondary species. Besides groundfish species, the Rockfish Program allocates a portion of the halibut PSC limit (191 mt) from the third season deep-water species fishery allowance for the GOA trawl fisheries to Rockfish Program participants (§ 679.81(d) and Table 28d to 50 CFR part 679). Rockfish Program sideboards and halibut PSC limits are discussed later in this rule. Also, the Rockfish Program establishes sideboard limits to restrict the ability of harvesters that operate under the Rockfish Program to increase their participation in other, nonRockfish Program fisheries. These restrictions are discussed in a subsequent section titled ‘‘Rockfish Program Groundfish Sideboard and Halibut PSC Limitations.’’ Section 679.81(a)(2)(ii) and Table 28e to 50 CFR part 679 requires allocations of 5 mt of Pacific ocean perch, 5 mt of northern rockfish, and 50 mt of dusky rockfish to the entry level longline fishery in 2018 and 2019. The allocation for the entry level longline fishery may increase incrementally each year if the catch exceeds 90 percent of the allocation of a species. The incremental increase in the allocation would continue each year until it is the maximum percentage of the TAC for that species. In 2017, the allocation for dusky rockfish increased by 20 mt, from 30 mt, to 50 mt. In 2017, the catch for all three primary species did not exceed 90 percent of any allocated rockfish species. Therefore, NMFS is not proposing any increases to the entry level longline fishery 2018 and 2019 allocations in the Central GOA. The remainder of the TACs for the rockfish primary species would be allocated to the CV and C/P cooperatives. Table 6 lists the allocations of the proposed 2018 and 2019 TACs for each rockfish primary species to the entry level longline fishery, the incremental increase for future years, and the maximum percentage of the TAC for the entry level longline fishery. TABLE 6—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 ALLOCATIONS OF ROCKFISH PRIMARY SPECIES TO THE ENTRY LEVEL LONGLINE FISHERY IN THE CENTRAL GULF OF ALASKA Rockfish primary species 2018 and 2019 allocations Pacific ocean perch ................................ Northern rockfish .................................... Dusky rockfish ........................................ 5 metric tons ......................................... 5 metric tons ......................................... 50 metric tons ....................................... Up to maximum percent of each TAC of: Incremental increase in 2019 if ≥90 percent of 2018 allocation is harvested 5 metric tons ......................................... 5 metric tons ......................................... 20 metric tons ....................................... Section 679.81 requires allocations of rockfish primary species among various sectors of the Rockfish Program. Table 7 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 allocations of rockfish primary species in the Central GOA to the entry level longline fishery, and rockfish CV and C/P cooperatives in the Rockfish Program. NMFS also proposes setting aside incidental catch amounts (ICAs) for other directed fisheries in the Central GOA of 3,500 mt of Pacific ocean perch, 300 mt of northern rockfish, and 250 mt of dusky rockfish. These amounts are based on recent average incidental catches in the Central GOA by other groundfish fisheries. Allocations among vessels belonging to CV or C/P cooperatives are not included in these proposed harvest specifications. Rockfish Program applications for CV cooperatives and 1 2 5 C/P cooperatives are not due to NMFS until March 1 of each calendar year; therefore, NMFS cannot calculate 2018 and 2019 allocations in conjunction with these proposed harvest specifications. NMFS will post these allocations on the Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/ fisheries/central-goa-rockfish-program when they become available after March 1. TABLE 7—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 ALLOCATIONS OF ROCKFISH PRIMARY SPECIES IN THE CENTRAL GULF OF ALASKA TO THE ENTRY LEVEL LONGLINE FISHERY AND ROCKFISH COOPERATIVES IN THE ROCKFISH PROGRAM sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton] Rockfish primary species Pacific ocean perch ............................................................. Northern rockfish .................................................................. Dusky rockfish ...................................................................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 Incidental catch allowance (ICA) TAC PO 00000 Frm 00049 16,347 3,108 3,499 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 3,500 300 250 TAC minus ICA 12,847 2,808 3,249 E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 08DEP1 Allocation to the entry level longline 1 fishery Allocation to the Rockfish Cooperatives 2 5 5 50 12,842 2,803 3,199 57935 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules TABLE 7—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 ALLOCATIONS OF ROCKFISH PRIMARY SPECIES IN THE CENTRAL GULF OF ALASKA TO THE ENTRY LEVEL LONGLINE FISHERY AND ROCKFISH COOPERATIVES IN THE ROCKFISH PROGRAM—Continued [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton] Rockfish primary species Total .............................................................................. 1 Longline 2 Rockfish Incidental catch allowance (ICA) TAC 22,954 Allocation to the entry level longline 1 fishery TAC minus ICA 4,050 Allocation to the Rockfish Cooperatives 2 60 18,844 18,904 gear includes hook-and-line, jig, troll, and handline gear (§ 679.2). cooperatives include vessels in CV and C/P cooperatives (§ 679.81). Section 679.81(c) and Table 28c to 50 CFR part 679 requires allocations of rockfish secondary species to CV and C/P cooperatives in the Central GOA. CV cooperatives receive allocations of Pacific cod, sablefish from the trawl gear allocation, and thornyhead rockfish. C/P cooperatives receive allocations of sablefish from the trawl allocation, rougheye rockfish, shortraker rockfish, and thornyhead rockfish. Table 8 lists the apportionments of the proposed 2018 and 2019 TACs of rockfish secondary species in the Central GOA to CV and C/P cooperatives. TABLE 8—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 APPORTIONMENTS OF ROCKFISH SECONDARY SPECIES IN THE CENTRAL GOA TO CATCHER VESSEL AND CATCHER/PROCESSOR COOPERATIVES [Values are in metric tons] Catcher Vessel cooperatives Rockfish secondary species Central GOA annual TAC Pacific cod ............................................. Sablefish ................................................ Shortraker rockfish ................................. Rougheye rockfish ................................. Thornyhead rockfish .............................. 20,603 4,574 301 702 988 sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Halibut PSC Limits Section 679.21(d) establishes annual halibut PSC limit apportionments to trawl and hook-and-line gear, and authorizes the establishment of apportionments for pot gear. In October 2017, the Council recommended halibut PSC limits of 1,706 mt for trawl gear, 257 mt for hook-and-line gear, and 9 mt for the demersal shelf rockfish (DSR) fishery in the SEO District. The DSR fishery in the SEO District is defined at § 679.21(d)(2)(ii)(A). This fishery is apportioned 9 mt of the halibut PSC limit in recognition of its small-scale harvests of groundfish. NMFS estimates low halibut bycatch in the DSR fishery because (1) the duration of the DSR fisheries and the gear soak times are short, (2) the DSR fishery occurs in the winter when there is less overlap in the distribution of DSR and halibut, and (3) the directed commercial DSR fishery has a low DSR TAC. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game sets the commercial GHL for the DSR fishery after deducting (1) estimates of DSR incidental catch in all fisheries (including halibut and subsistence); and (2) the allocation to the DSR sport fish fishery. Of the 227 mt TAC for DSR in 2017, 77 mt were available for the DSR VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 Percentage of TAC Apportionment (mt) 3.81 6.78 0.0 0.0 7.84 Frm 00050 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Percentage of TAC 785 310 0 0 77 commercial directed fishery, of which 36 mt were harvested. The FMP authorizes the Council to exempt specific gear from the halibut PSC limits. NMFS, after consultation with the Council, proposes to exempt pot gear, jig gear, and the sablefish IFQ hook-and-line gear fishery categories from the non-trawl halibut PSC limit for 2018 and 2019. The Council recommended, and NMFS is proposing, these exemptions because (1) pot gear fisheries have low annual halibut bycatch mortality; (2) IFQ program regulations prohibit discard of halibut if any halibut IFQ permit holder on board a CV holds unused halibut IFQ for that vessel category and the IFQ regulatory area in which the vessel is operating (§ 679.7(f)(11)); 3) some sablefish IFQ permit holders hold halibut IFQ permits and are therefore required to retain the halibut they catch while fishing sablefish IFQ; and 4) NMFS estimates negligible halibut mortality for the jig gear fisheries. NMFS estimates halibut mortality is negligible in the jig gear fisheries given the small amount of groundfish harvested by jig gear, the selective nature of jig gear, and the high survival rates of halibut caught and released with jig gear. The best available information on estimated halibut bycatch consists of PO 00000 Catcher/Processor cooperatives 0.0 3.51 40.00 58.87 26.50 Apportionment (mt) 0.0 161 120 413 262 data collected by fisheries observers during 2017. The calculated halibut bycatch mortality through October 12, 2017, is 1,018 mt for trawl gear and 119 mt for hook-and-line gear for a total halibut mortality of 1,137 mt. This halibut mortality was calculated using groundfish and halibut catch data from the NMFS Alaska Region’s catch accounting system. This accounting system contains historical and recent catch information compiled from each Alaska groundfish fishery. Section 679.21(d)(4)(i) and (ii) authorizes NMFS to seasonally apportion the halibut PSC limits after consultation with the Council. The FMP and regulations require that the Council and NMFS consider the following information in seasonally apportioning halibut PSC limits: (1) Seasonal distribution of halibut, (2) seasonal distribution of target groundfish species relative to halibut distribution, (3) expected halibut bycatch needs on a seasonal basis relative to changes in halibut biomass and expected catch of target groundfish species, (4) expected bycatch rates on a seasonal basis, (5) expected changes in directed groundfish fishing seasons, (6) expected actual start of fishing effort, and (7) economic effects of establishing seasonal halibut allocations on segments of the target E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 08DEP1 57936 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules groundfish industry. Based on public comment and the information presented in the final 2017 SAFE report, the Council may recommend or NMFS may make changes to the seasonal, gear-type, or fishery category apportionments of halibut PSC limits for the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications. The final 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications (82 FR 12032, February 27, 2017) summarized the Council’s and NMFS’ findings with respect to halibut PSC for each of these FMP considerations. The Council’s and NMFS’ findings for 2018 are unchanged from 2017. Table 9 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 Pacific halibut PSC limits, allowances, and apportionments. The halibut PSC limits in these tables reflect the halibut PSC limits set forth at § 679.21(d)(2) and § 679.21(d)(3). Sections 679.21(d)(4)(iii) and (iv) specify that any underages or overages of a seasonal apportionment of a halibut PSC limit will be added to or deducted from the next respective seasonal apportionment within the fishing year. TABLE 9—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 PACIFIC HALIBUT PSC LIMITS, ALLOWANCES, AND APPORTIONMENTS [Values are in metric tons] Hook-and-line gear 1 Trawl gear Other than DSR Season Percent DSR Amount Season January 20–April 1 ........... April 1–July 1 .................... July 1–September 1 ......... 27.5 20 30 469 341 512 September 1–October 1 ... October 1–December 31 .. 7.5 15 Total .......................... ................ Percent Amount Season Amount 86 2 12 221 5 31 January 1–December 31 .......................................... .......................................... 9 ................ ................ 128 256 January 1–June 10 ......... June 10–September 1 ..... September 1–December 31. .......................................... .......................................... ................ ................ ................ ................ .......................................... .......................................... ................ ................ 1,706 .......................................... ................ 257 .......................................... 9 1 The sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Pacific halibut prohibited species catch (PSC) limit for hook-and-line gear is allocated to the demersal shelf rockfish (DSR) fishery and fisheries other than DSR. The hook-and-line sablefish fishery is exempt from halibut PSC limits, as are pot and jig gear for all groundfish fisheries. Section 679.21(d)(3)(ii) authorizes further apportionment of the trawl halibut PSC limit as bycatch allowances to trawl fishery categories listed in § 679.21(d)(3)(iii). The annual apportionments are based on each category’s proportional share of the anticipated halibut bycatch mortality during a fishing year and optimization of the total amount of groundfish harvest under the halibut PSC limit. The fishery categories for the trawl halibut PSC limits are (1) a deep-water species fishery, composed of sablefish, rockfish, deep-water flatfish, rex sole, and arrowtooth flounder; and (2) a shallowwater species fishery, composed of pollock, Pacific cod, shallow-water flatfish, flathead sole, Atka mackerel, and ‘‘other species’’ (sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses) (§ 679.21(d)(3)(iii)). Halibut mortality incurred while directed fishing for skates with trawl gear accrues towards the shallow-water fishery halibut PSC limit (69 FR 26320, May 12, 2004). As discussed previously in this preamble, the proposed Pacific cod TAC recommended by the Council is substantially less than the 2018 TAC published in the final 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications (82 FR 12032, February 27, 2017). If the proposed TAC VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 or a lower TAC is adopted as the final TAC for 2018 and 2019, this reduced TAC could result in the Council adjusting the apportionment of halibut PSC limits between the shallow-water and deep-water species fisheries to reflect the potential for decreased effort in the shallow-water fisheries in 2018 and 2019 due the decrease in the Pacific cod TAC. The potential for decreased effort in the shallow-water species fishery could allow the deep-water species fishery to receive additional apportionments of the trawl halibut PSC limit. This adjustment could be made during the final harvest specifications process, pending any public comment, Council discussion, and Council recommendations for a change during the December 2017 Council meeting. NMFS will combine available trawl halibut PSC limit apportionments in part of the second season deep-water and shallow-water fisheries for use in either fishery from May 15 through June 30 (§ 679.21(d)(4)(iii)(D)). This is intended to maintain groundfish harvest while minimizing halibut bycatch by these sectors to the extent practicable. This provides the deep-water and shallow-water trawl fisheries additional flexibility and the incentive to participate in fisheries at times of the PO 00000 Frm 00051 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 year that may have lower halibut PSC rates relative to other times of the year. Table 10 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 seasonal apportionments of trawl halibut PSC limits between the trawl gear deep-water and the shallow-water species fisheries. Table 28d to 50 CFR part 679 specifies the amount of the trawl halibut PSC limit that is assigned to the CV and C/P sectors that are participating in the Central GOA Rockfish Program. This includes 117 mt of halibut PSC limit to the CV sector and 74 mt of halibut PSC limit to the C/P sector. These amounts are allocated from the trawl deep-water species fishery’s halibut PSC third seasonal apportionment. Section 679.21(d)(4)(iii)(B) limits the amount of the halibut PSC limit allocated to Rockfish Program participants that could be reapportioned to the general GOA trawl fisheries to no more than 55 percent of the unused annual halibut PSC apportioned to Rockfish Program participants. The remainder of the unused Rockfish Program halibut PSC limit is unavailable for use by any person for the remainder of the fishing year (§ 679.21(d)(4)(iii)(C)). E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 08DEP1 57937 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules TABLE 10—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 SEASONAL APPORTIONMENTS OF THE PACIFIC HALIBUT PSC LIMIT APPORTIONED BETWEEN THE TRAWL GEAR SHALLOW-WATER AND DEEP-WATER SPECIES FISHERIES [Values are in metric tons] Season Shallow-water Deep-water 1 Total January 20–April 1 .................................................................................................... April 1–July 1 ............................................................................................................ July 1–September 1 .................................................................................................. September 1–October 1 ............................................................................................ 384 85 171 128 85 ......................... 256 ....................... 341 ....................... Any remainder ...... 469 341 512 128 Subtotal, January 20–October 1 ........................................................................ October 1–December 31 2 ........................................................................................ 768 .............................. 682 ....................... .............................. 1,450 256 Total ............................................................................................................ .............................. .............................. 1,706 1 Vessels participating in cooperatives in the Rockfish Program will receive 191 mt of the third season (July 1 through September 1) deepwater species fishery halibut PSC apportionment. 2 There is no apportionment between trawl shallow-water and deep-water species fisheries during the fifth season (October 1 through December 31). Section 679.21(d)(2) requires that the ‘‘other hook-and-line fishery’’ halibut PSC limit apportionment to vessels using hook-and-line gear must be divided between CVs and C/Ps. NMFS must calculate the halibut PSC limit apportionments for the entire GOA to hook-and-line CVs and C/Ps in accordance with § 679.21(d)(2)(iii) in conjunction with these harvest specifications. A comprehensive description and example of the calculations necessary to apportion the ‘‘other hook-and-line fishery’’ halibut PSC limit between the hook-and-line CV and C/P sectors were included in the proposed rule to implement Amendment 83 to the FMP (76 FR 44700, July 26, 2011) and are not repeated here. For 2018 and 2019, NMFS proposes annual halibut PSC limit apportionments of 129 mt and 128 mt to the hook-and-line CV and hook-and-line C/P sectors, respectively. The 2018 and 2019 annual halibut PSC limits are divided into three seasonal apportionments, using seasonal percentages of 86 percent, 2 percent, and 12 percent. Table 11 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 annual halibut PSC limits and seasonal apportionments between the hook-and-line CV and hook-and-line C/P sectors in the GOA. No later than November 1 year, any halibut PSC limit allocated under § 679.21(d)(2)(ii)(B) not projected by the Regional Administrator to be used by one of the hook-and-line sectors during the remainder of the fishing year will be made available to the other sector. NMFS calculates the projected unused amount of halibut PSC limit by either the CV hook-and-line or the C/P hookand-line sectors of the ‘‘other hook-andline fishery’’ for the remainder of the year. The projected unused amount of halibut PSC limit is made available to the other hook-and-line sector for the remainder of that fishing year if NMFS determines that an additional amount of halibut PSC limit is necessary for that sector to continue its directed fishing operations (§ 679.21(d)(2)(iii)(C)). TABLE 11—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 APPORTIONMENTS OF THE ‘‘OTHER HOOK-AND-LINE FISHERIES’’ HALIBUT PSC ALLOWANCE BETWEEN THE HOOK-AND-LINE GEAR CATCHER VESSEL AND CATCHER/PROCESSOR SECTORS [Values are in metric tons] ‘‘Other than DSR’’ allowance Hook-andline sector Sector annual amount 257 ................. Catcher Vessel .................. 129 Catcher/Processor ............. 128 sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Halibut Discard Mortality Rates To monitor halibut bycatch mortality allowances and apportionments, the Regional Administrator uses observed halibut incidental catch rates, halibut discard mortality rates (DMRs), and estimates of groundfish catch to project when a fishery’s halibut bycatch mortality allowance or seasonal apportionment is reached. Halibut incidental catch rates are based on observers’ estimates of halibut incidental catch in the groundfish fishery. DMRs are estimates of the VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 January 1–June 10 .......................................... June 10–September 1 ..................................... September 1–December 31 ............................ January 1—June 10 ........................................ June 10–September 1 ..................................... September 1–December 31 ............................ proportion of incidentally caught halibut that do not survive after being returned to the sea. The cumulative halibut mortality that accrues to a particular halibut PSC limit is the product of a DMR multiplied by the estimated halibut PSC. DMRs are estimated using the best scientific information available in conjunction with the annual GOA stock assessment process. The DMR methodology and findings are included as an appendix to the annual GOA groundfish SAFE report. PO 00000 Seasonal percentage Season Frm 00052 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 86 2 12 86 2 12 Sector seasonal amount 111 3 15 110 3 15 In 2016, the DMR estimation methodology underwent revisions per the Council’s directive. An interagency halibut working group (International Pacific Halibut Commission, Council, and NMFS staff) developed improved estimation methods that have undergone review by the Plan Team, SSC, and the Council. A summary of the revised methodology is contained in the GOA proposed 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications (81 FR 87881, December 6, 2016), and the comprehensive discussion of the working group’s E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 08DEP1 57938 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules statistical methodology is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). The DMR working group’s revised methodology is intended to improve estimation accuracy, as well as transparency and transferability in the methodology used for calculating DMRs. The working group will continue to consider improvements to the methodology used to calculate halibut mortality, including potential changes to the reference period (the period of data used for calculating the DMRs). Future DMRs may change based on additional years of observer sampling, which could provide more recent and accurate data and which could improve the accuracy of estimation and progress on methodology. The new methodology will continue to ensure that NMFS is using DMRs that more accurately reflect halibut mortality, which will inform the different sectors of their estimated halibut mortality and allow specific sectors to respond with methods that could reduce mortality and, eventually, the DMR for that sector. At the December 2016 meeting, the SSC, AP, and Council concurred with the revised DMR estimation methodology, and NMFS adopted the DMRs calculated under the revised methodology for the 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications. In October 2017, the Council recommended adopting the halibut DMRs derived from the 2016 process for the proposed 2018 and 2019 DMRs. The proposed 2018 and 2019 DMRs maintain the 2016 process using an updated 3-year reference period of 2014 through 2016. The proposed DMR for catcher vessels using hook-and-line gear increased to 17 percent from 12 percent, and the proposed DMR for trawl catcher vessels operating in the Rockfish Program decreased to 62 percent from 67 percent. Other sectors had minor increases of 3 percent or less. Table 12 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 DMRs. TABLE 12—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 HALIBUT DISCARD MORTALITY RATES FOR VESSELS FISHING IN THE GULF OF ALASKA [Values are percent of halibut assumed to be dead] Gear Sector Groundfish fishery Pelagic trawl ........................................... Catcher vessel ...................................... Catcher/processor ................................. Catcher vessel ...................................... Catcher vessel ...................................... Mothership and catcher/processor ........ Catcher/processor ................................. Catcher vessel ...................................... Catcher vessel and catcher/processor All .......................................................... All .......................................................... Rockfish Program .................................. All others ............................................... All .......................................................... All .......................................................... All .......................................................... All .......................................................... Non-pelagic trawl ................................... Hook-and-line ......................................... Pot .......................................................... sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Chinook Salmon Prohibited Species Catch Limit Amendment 93 to the FMP (77 FR 42629, July 20, 2012) established separate Chinook salmon PSC limits in the Western and Central GOA in the directed pollock trawl fishery. These limits require NMFS to close the pollock directed fishery in the Western and Central regulatory areas of the GOA if the applicable Chinook salmon PSC limit is reached (§ 679.21(h)(8)). The annual Chinook salmon PSC limits in the pollock directed fishery of 6,684 salmon in the Western GOA and 18,316 salmon in the Central GOA are set in § 679.21(h)(2)(i) and (ii). Amendment 97 to the FMP (79 FR 71350, December 2, 2014) established an initial annual PSC limit of 7,500 Chinook salmon for the non-pollock groundfish trawl fisheries in the Western and Central GOA. This limit is apportioned among three sectors: 3,600 Chinook salmon to trawl C/Ps; 1,200 Chinook salmon to trawl CVs participating in the Rockfish Program; and 2,700 Chinook salmon to trawl CVs not participating in the Rockfish Program (§ 679.21(h)(4)). NMFS will monitor the Chinook salmon PSC in the non-pollock GOA groundfish fisheries VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 and close an applicable sector if it reaches its Chinook salmon PSC limit. The Chinook salmon PSC limit for two sectors, trawl C/Ps and trawl CVs not participating in the Rockfish Program, may be increased in subsequent years based on the performance of these two sectors and their ability to minimize their use of their respective Chinook salmon PSC limits. If either or both of these two sectors limit its use of Chinook salmon PSC to a certain threshold amount in 2017 (3,120 for trawl C/Ps and 2,340 for trawl CVs), that sector will receive an incremental increase to its 2018 Chinook salmon PSC limit (4,080 for trawl C/Ps and 3,060 for trawl CVs) (§ 679.21(h)(4)). NMFS will evaluate the annual Chinook salmon PSC by trawl C/Ps and non-Rockfish Program CVs when the 2017 fishing year is complete to determine whether to increase the Chinook salmon PSC limits for these two sectors. Based on preliminary 2017 Chinook salmon PSC data, the trawl C/P sector and the non-Rockfish Program CV sector may receive an incremental increase of Chinook salmon PSC limit in 2018. This evaluation will be completed in conjunction with the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications. PO 00000 Frm 00053 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Halibut discard mortality rate (percent) 100 100 62 67 84 10 17 7 American Fisheries Act (AFA) Catcher/ Processor and Catcher Vessel Groundfish Sideboard Limits Section 679.64 establishes groundfish harvesting and processing sideboard limits on AFA C/Ps and CVs in the GOA. These sideboard limits are necessary to protect the interests of fishermen and processors who do not directly benefit from the AFA from those fishermen and processors who receive exclusive harvesting and processing privileges under the AFA. Section 679.7(k)(1)(ii) prohibits listed AFA C/Ps from harvesting any species of fish in the GOA. Additionally, § 679.7(k)(1)(iv) prohibits listed AFA C/Ps from processing any pollock harvested in a directed pollock fishery in the GOA and any groundfish harvested in Statistical Area 630 of the GOA. AFA CVs that are less than 125 ft (38.1 meters) length overall, have annual landings of pollock in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands of less than 5,100 mt, and have made at least 40 landings of GOA groundfish from 1995 through 1997 are exempt from GOA CV groundfish sideboard limits under § 679.64(b)(2)(ii). Sideboard limits for non-exempt AFA CVs in the GOA are based on their traditional harvest levels E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 08DEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules of TAC in groundfish fisheries covered by the FMP. Section 679.64(b)(3)(iv) establishes for CVs the groundfish sideboard limitations in the GOA based on the retained catch of non-exempt AFA CVs of each sideboard species from 1995 through 1997 divided by the TAC for that species over the same period. Table 13 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 groundfish sideboard limits for 57939 non-exempt AFA CVs. NMFS will deduct all targeted or incidental catch of sideboard species made by non-exempt AFA CVs from the sideboard limits listed in Table 13. TABLE 13—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 GOA NON-EXEMPT AMERICAN FISHERIES ACT CATCHER VESSEL (CV) GROUNDFISH SIDEBOARD LIMITS [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton] Species Apportionments by season/ gear Area/component Pollock ................................... A Season January 20–March 10. Shumagin (610) .................... Chirikof (620) ........................ Kodiak (630) ......................... Shumagin (610) .................... Chirikof (620) ........................ Kodiak (630) ......................... Shumagin (610) .................... Chirikof (620) ........................ Kodiak (630) ......................... Shumagin (610) .................... Chirikof (620) ........................ Kodiak (630) ......................... WYK (640) ............................ SEO (650) ............................. W .......................................... C ........................................... W .......................................... C ........................................... E inshore .............................. E offshore ............................. W .......................................... C ........................................... E ........................................... W .......................................... C ........................................... E ........................................... W .......................................... C ........................................... E ........................................... W .......................................... C ........................................... E ........................................... W .......................................... C ........................................... E ........................................... W .......................................... C ........................................... E ........................................... W .......................................... C ........................................... E ........................................... W .......................................... C ........................................... W .......................................... C ........................................... E ........................................... W .......................................... C ........................................... E ........................................... W .......................................... C ........................................... E ........................................... SEO ...................................... W .......................................... C ........................................... E ........................................... B Season March 10–May 31 C Season August 25–October 1. D Season October 1–November 1. Annual ................................... A Season 1 January 1–June 10. B Season 2 ............................ September 1–December 31 Annual ................................... Sablefish ................................ Annual, trawl gear ................ Flatfish, shallow-water ........... Annual ................................... Flatfish, deep-water ............... Annual ................................... Rex sole ................................ Annual ................................... Arrowtooth flounder ............... Annual ................................... Flathead sole ......................... Annual ................................... Pacific ocean perch ............... Annual ................................... Northern rockfish ................... Annual ................................... Shortraker rockfish ................ sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Pacific cod ............................. Annual ................................... Dusky Rockfish ...................... Annual ................................... Rougheye rockfish ................. Annual ................................... Demersal shelf rockfish ......... Thornyhead rockfish .............. Annual ................................... Annual ................................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 PO 00000 Frm 00054 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Ratio of 1995–1997 non-exempt AFA CV catch to 1995–1997 TAC 0.6047 0.1167 0.2028 0.6047 0.1167 0.2028 0.6047 0.1167 0.2028 0.6047 0.1167 0.2028 0.3495 0.3495 0.1331 0.0692 0.1331 0.0692 0.0079 0.0078 0.0000 0.0642 0.0433 0.0156 0.0587 0.0126 0.0000 0.0647 0.0128 0.0007 0.0384 0.0029 0.0021 0.0280 0.0002 0.0036 0.0213 0.0009 0.0023 0.0748 0.0466 0.0003 0.0277 0.0000 0.0218 0.0110 0.0001 0.0000 0.0067 0.0000 0.0237 0.0124 0.0020 0.0280 0.0280 0.0280 E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 08DEP1 Proposed 2018 and 2019 TACs 3 1,725 26,704 8,513 1,725 30,469 4,748 15,125 9,538 12,278 15,125 9,538 12,278 5,791 9,920 9,477 12,362 6,318 8,241 3,303 367 273 915 213 13,250 19,418 4,311 257 3,488 5,637 1,478 4,995 1,948 14,500 75,000 13,800 8,650 15,400 3,870 2,627 16,347 4,480 400 3,108 38 301 947 146 3,499 309 104 702 512 227 291 988 682 Proposed 2018 and 2019 non-exempt AFA CV sideboard limit 1,043 3,116 1,726 1,043 3,556 963 9,146 1,113 2,490 9,146 1,113 2,490 2,024 3,467 1,261 855 841 570 26 3 0 59 9 207 1,140 54 0 226 72 1 192 6 30 2,100 3 31 328 3 6 1,223 209 0 86 0 7 10 0 0 2 0 17 6 0 8 28 19 57940 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules TABLE 13—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 GOA NON-EXEMPT AMERICAN FISHERIES ACT CATCHER VESSEL (CV) GROUNDFISH SIDEBOARD LIMITS—Continued [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton] Species Apportionments by season/ gear Area/component Other Rockfish ....................... Annual ................................... Atka mackerel ........................ Big skates .............................. Annual ................................... Annual ................................... Longnose skates ................... Annual ................................... Other skates .......................... Sculpins ................................. Sharks ................................... Squids .................................... Octopuses ............................. Annual Annual Annual Annual Annual Ratio of 1995–1997 non-exempt AFA CV catch to 1995–1997 TAC W/C ....................................... E ........................................... Gulfwide ................................ W .......................................... C ........................................... E ........................................... W .......................................... C ........................................... E ........................................... Gulfwide ................................ Gulfwide ................................ Gulfwide ................................ Gulfwide ................................ Gulfwide ................................ ................................... ................................... ................................... ................................... ................................... 0.1699 0.0000 0.0309 0.0063 0.0063 0.0063 0.0063 0.0063 0.0063 0.0063 0.0063 0.0063 0.0063 0.0063 Proposed 2018 and 2019 TACs 3 1,534 774 3,000 908 1,850 1,056 61 2,513 632 1,919 5,591 4,514 1,137 4,878 Proposed 2018 and 2019 non-exempt AFA CV sideboard limit 261 0 93 6 12 7 0 16 4 12 35 28 7 31 1 The Pacific cod A season for trawl gear does not open until January 20. Pacific cod B season for trawl gear closes November 1. 3 The Western and Central GOA area apportionments of pollock are considered ACLs. 2 The Non-Exempt AFA Catcher Vessel Halibut PSC Sideboard Limits based on the aggregate retained groundfish catch by non-exempt AFA CVs in each PSC target category from 1995 through 1997 divided by the retained catch of all vessels in that The halibut PSC sideboard limits for non-exempt AFA CVs in the GOA are fishery from 1995 through 1997 (§ 679.64(b)(4)(ii)). Table 14 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 non-exempt AFA CV halibut PSC limits for vessels using trawl gear in the GOA. TABLE 14—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 NON-EXEMPT AMERICAN FISHERIES ACT CATCHER VESSEL HALIBUT PROHIBITED SPECIES CATCH (PSC) SIDEBOARD LIMITS FOR VESSELS USING TRAWL GEAR IN THE GOA [PSC limits are rounded to the nearest metric ton] Ratio of 1995– 1997 non-exempt AFA CV retained catch to total retained catch Proposed 2018 and 2019 PSC limit Proposed 2018 and 2019 non-exempt AFA CV PSC limit Season Season dates Fishery category 1 ...................................... January 20–April 1 ......... 2 ...................................... April 1–July 1 .................. 3 ...................................... July 1–September 1 ....... 4 ...................................... September 1–October 1 5 ...................................... Annual: Total shallow-water .. October 1–December 31 shallow-water .................. deep-water ...................... shallow-water .................. deep-water ...................... shallow-water .................. deep-water ...................... shallow-water .................. deep-water ...................... all targets ........................ 0.340 0.070 0.340 0.070 0.340 0.070 0.340 0.070 0.205 384 85 85 256 171 341 128 0 256 131 6 29 18 58 24 44 0 52 ......................................... ......................................... .............................. .............................. 262 ......................................... ......................................... .............................. .............................. 48 ......................................... ......................................... .............................. 1,706 362 Total deep-water ...... sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Grand Total, all seasons and categories. Non-AFA Crab Vessel Groundfish Sideboard Limits Section 680.22 establishes groundfish sideboard limits for vessels with a history of participation in the Bering Sea snow crab fishery to prevent these vessels from using the increased VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 flexibility provided by the Crab Rationalization Program to expand their level of participation in the GOA groundfish fisheries. Sideboard harvest limits restrict these vessels’ catch to their collective historical landings in each GOA groundfish fishery (except PO 00000 Frm 00055 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 the fixed-gear sablefish fishery). Sideboard limits also apply to landings made using an LLP license derived from the history of a restricted vessel, even if that LLP license is used on another vessel. E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 08DEP1 57941 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules The basis for these sideboard harvest limits is described in detail in the final rules implementing the major provisions of the Crab Rationalization Program, including Amendments 18 and 19 to the Fishery Management Plan for Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands King and Tanner Crabs (Crab FMP) (70 FR 10174, March 2, 2005), Amendment 34 to the Crab FMP (76 FR 35772, June 20, 2011), Amendment 83 to the GOA FMP (76 FR 74670, December 1, 2011), and Amendment 45 to the Crab FMP (80 FR 28539, May 19, 2015). Table 15 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 groundfish sideboard limitations for non-AFA crab vessels. All targeted or incidental catch of sideboard species made by non-AFA crab vessels or associated LLP licenses will be deducted from these sideboard limits. TABLE 15—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 GOA NON-AMERICAN FISHERIES ACT CRAB VESSEL GROUNDFISH SIDEBOARD LIMITS [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton] Species Season/gear Area/component/gear Pollock ............................. A Season ........................ January 20–March 10 ..... Shumagin (610) .............. Chirikof (620) .................. Kodiak (630) ................... Shumagin (610) .............. Chirikof (620) .................. Kodiak (630) ................... Shumagin (610) .............. Chirikof (620) .................. Kodiak (630) ................... Shumagin (610) .............. Chirikof (620) .................. Kodiak (630) ................... WYK (640) ...................... SEO (650) ....................... W Jig CV ........................ W Hook-and-line CV ....... W Pot CV ........................ W Pot C/P ....................... W Trawl CV .................... C Jig CV ......................... C Hook-and-line CV ........ C Pot CV ........................ C Pot C/P ....................... C Trawl CV ..................... W Jig CV ........................ W Hook-and-line CV ....... W Pot CV ........................ W Pot C/P ....................... W Trawl CV .................... C Jig CV ......................... C Hook-and-line CV ........ C Pot CV ........................ C Pot C/P ....................... C Trawl CV ..................... E inshore ........................ E offshore ....................... W .................................... C ..................................... E ..................................... W .................................... C ..................................... E ..................................... W .................................... C ..................................... E ..................................... W .................................... C ..................................... E ..................................... W .................................... C ..................................... E ..................................... W .................................... C ..................................... E ..................................... B Season ........................ March 10–May 31 ........... C Season ........................ August 25–October 1 ..... D Season ........................ October 1–November 1 .. Annual ............................. Pacific cod ....................... A Season 1 ...................... January 1–June 10 ......... B Season 2 ...................... September 1–December 31. Annual ............................. Annual, trawl gear ........... Flatfish, shallow-water ..... Annual ............................. Flatfish, deep-water ......... sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Sablefish .......................... Annual ............................. Rex sole .......................... Annual ............................. Arrowtooth flounder ......... Annual ............................. Flathead sole ................... Annual ............................. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 PO 00000 Frm 00056 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Ratio of 1996– 2000 non-AFA crab vessel catch to 1996– 2000 total harvest Proposed 2018 and 2019 TACs 0.0098 0.0031 0.0002 0.0098 0.0031 0.0002 0.0098 0.0031 0.0002 0.0098 0.0031 0.0002 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0004 0.0997 0.0078 0.0007 0.0000 0.0001 0.0474 0.0136 0.0012 0.0000 0.0004 0.0997 0.0078 0.0007 0.0000 0.0001 0.0474 0.0136 0.0012 0.0110 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0059 0.0001 0.0000 0.0035 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0004 0.0001 0.0000 0.0002 0.0004 0.0000 E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 1,725 26,704 8,513 1,725 30,469 4,748 15,125 9,538 12,278 15,125 9,538 12,278 5,791 9,920 9,477 9,477 9,477 9,477 9,477 12,362 12,362 12,362 12,362 12,362 6,318 6,318 6,318 6,318 6,318 8,241 8,241 8,241 8,241 8,241 3,303 367 273 915 213 13,250 19,418 4,311 257 3,488 5,637 1,478 4,995 1,948 14,500 75,000 13,800 8,650 15,400 3,870 08DEP1 Proposed 2018 and 2019 non-AFA crab vessel sideboard limit 17 83 2 17 94 1 148 30 2 148 30 2 .............................. .............................. .............................. 4 945 74 7 1 586 168 15 .............................. 3 630 49 4 1 391 112 10 36 .............................. .............................. .............................. .............................. 78 2 .............................. 1 .............................. .............................. .............................. .............................. .............................. 6 8 .............................. 2 6 .............................. 57942 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules TABLE 15—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 GOA NON-AMERICAN FISHERIES ACT CRAB VESSEL—Continued GROUNDFISH SIDEBOARD LIMITS [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton] Species Season/gear Area/component/gear Pacific ocean perch ......... Annual ............................. Northern rockfish ............. Annual ............................. Shortraker rockfish .......... Annual ............................. Dusky rockfish ................. Annual ............................. Rougheye rockfish .......... Annual ............................. Demersal shelf rockfish ... Thornyhead rockfish ........ Annual ............................. Annual ............................. Other Rockfish ................ Annual ............................. Atka mackerel ................. Big skate ......................... Annual ............................. Annual ............................. Longnose skate ............... Annual ............................. Other skates .................... Sculpins ........................... Sharks ............................. Squids ............................. Octopuses ....................... Annual Annual Annual Annual Annual W .................................... C ..................................... E ..................................... W .................................... C ..................................... W .................................... C ..................................... E ..................................... W .................................... C ..................................... E ..................................... W .................................... C ..................................... E ..................................... SEO ................................ W .................................... C ..................................... E ..................................... W/C ................................. E ..................................... Gulfwide .......................... W .................................... C ..................................... E ..................................... W .................................... C ..................................... E ..................................... Gulfwide .......................... Gulfwide .......................... Gulfwide .......................... Gulfwide .......................... Gulfwide .......................... 1 The 2 The ............................. ............................. ............................. ............................. ............................. Proposed 2018 and 2019 TACs 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0005 0.0000 0.0013 0.0012 0.0009 0.0017 0.0000 0.0000 0.0067 0.0047 0.0008 0.0000 0.0047 0.0066 0.0045 0.0033 0.0000 0.0000 0.0392 0.0159 0.0000 0.0392 0.0159 0.0000 0.0176 0.0176 0.0176 0.0176 0.0176 2,627 16,347 4,480 400 3,108 38 301 947 146 3,499 309 104 702 512 227 291 988 682 1,534 774 3,000 908 1,850 1,056 61 2,513 632 1,919 5,591 4,514 1,137 4,878 Proposed 2018 and 2019 non-AFA crab vessel sideboard limit .............................. .............................. .............................. 0 .............................. 0 0 1 0 .............................. .............................. 1 3 0 .............................. 1 7 3 5 .............................. .............................. 36 29 .............................. 2 40 .............................. 34 98 79 20 86 Pacific cod A season for trawl gear does not open until January 20. Pacific cod B season for trawl gear closes November 1. Rockfish Program Groundfish Sideboard and Halibut PSC Limitations The Rockfish Program establishes three classes of sideboard provisions: CV groundfish sideboard restrictions, C/P rockfish sideboard restrictions, and C/P opt-out vessel sideboard restrictions (§ 679.82(c)(1)). These sideboards are intended to limit the ability of rockfish harvesters to expand into other fisheries. CVs participating in the Rockfish Program may not participate in directed fishing for dusky rockfish, northern rockfish, and Pacific ocean perch in the sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Ratio of 1996– 2000 non-AFA crab vessel catch to 1996– 2000 total harvest VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 Western GOA and West Yakutat Districts from July 1 through July 31. Also, CVs may not participate in directed fishing for arrowtooth flounder, deep-water flatfish, and rex sole in the GOA from July 1 through July 31 (§ 679.82(d)). C/Ps participating in Rockfish Program cooperatives are restricted by rockfish and halibut PSC sideboard limits. These C/Ps are prohibited from directed fishing for northern rockfish, Pacific ocean perch, and dusky rockfish in the Western GOA and West Yakutat District from July 1 through July 31. Holders of C/P-designated LLP licenses PO 00000 Frm 00057 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 that opt out of participating in a Rockfish Program cooperative will be able to access those sideboard limits that are not assigned to Rockfish Program cooperatives (§ 679.82(e)(2) and (e)(7)). The sideboard ratio for each rockfish fishery in the Western GOA and WYK District is set forth in § 679.82(e)(4). Table 16 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 Rockfish Program C/P rockfish sideboard limits in the Western GOA and West Yakutat District. Due to confidentiality requirements associated with fisheries data, the sideboard limits for the West Yakutat District are not displayed. E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 08DEP1 57943 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules TABLE 16—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 ROCKFISH PROGRAM SIDEBOARD LIMITS FOR THE WESTERN GOA AND WEST YAKUTAT DISTRICT BY FISHERY FOR THE CATCHER/PROCESSOR (C/P) SECTOR [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton] Area Fishery C/P sector (% of TAC) Western GOA ........................................ Dusky rockfish ...................................... Pacific ocean perch .............................. Northern rockfish .................................. Dusky rockfish ...................................... Pacific ocean perch .............................. 72.3 ...................... 50.6 ...................... 74.3 ...................... Confidential 1 ........ Confidential 1 ........ West Yakutat District ............................. ........................................................... 1 Not Proposed 2018 and 2019 TACs 146 2,627 400 232 2,733 Proposed 2018 and 2019 C/P sideboard limit 106 1,329 297. Confidential.1 Confidential.1 released due to confidentiality requirements associated with fish ticket data, as established by NMFS and the State of Alaska. Under the Rockfish Program, the C/P sector is subject to halibut PSC sideboard limits for the trawl deepwater and shallow-water species fisheries from July 1 through July 31 (§ 679.82(e)(3) and (e)(5)). Halibut PSC sideboard ratios by fishery are set forth in § 679.82(e)(5). No halibut PSC sideboard limits apply to the CV sector, as vessels participating in a rockfish cooperative receive a portion of the annual halibut PSC limit. C/Ps that opt out of the Rockfish Program would be able to access that portion of the deepwater and shallow-water halibut PSC sideboard limit not assigned to C/P rockfish cooperatives. The sideboard provisions for C/Ps that elect to opt out of participating in a rockfish cooperative are described in § 679.82(c), (e), and (f). Sideboard limits are linked to the catch history of specific vessels that may choose to opt out. After March 1, NMFS will determine which C/Ps have opted- out of the Rockfish Program in 2018, and will know the ratios and amounts used to calculate opt-out sideboard ratios. NMFS will then calculate any applicable opt-out sideboard limits and post these limits on the Alaska Region Web site at https://alaska fisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/central-goarockfish-program. Table 17 lists the 2018 and 2019 proposed Rockfish Program halibut PSC limits for the C/P sector. TABLE 17—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 ROCKFISH PROGRAM HALIBUT MORTALITY LIMITS FOR THE CATCHER/PROCESSOR SECTOR [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton] Deep-water species fishery halibut PSC sideboard ratio (percent) Annual halibut mortality limit (mt) Catcher/processor .................................. 0.10 2.50 1,706 2 Amendment 80 Program Groundfish and PSC Sideboard Limits Amendment 80 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (Amendment 80 Program) established a limited access privilege program for the non-AFA trawl C/P sector. The Amendment 80 Program established groundfish and halibut PSC limits for Amendment 80 Program participants to limit the ability of participants eligible for the Amendment sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Sector Shallow-water species fishery halibut PSC sideboard ratio (percent) Annual shallow-water species fishery halibut PSC sideboard limit (mt) 80 Program to expand their harvest efforts in the GOA. Section 679.92 establishes groundfish harvesting sideboard limits on all Amendment 80 Program vessels, other than the F/V Golden Fleece, to amounts no greater than the limits shown in Table 37 to 50 CFR part 679. Under § 679.92(d), the F/V Golden Fleece is prohibited from directed fishing for pollock, Pacific cod, Pacific ocean perch, dusky rockfish, and northern rockfish in the GOA. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 PO 00000 Frm 00058 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Annual deep-water species fishery halibut PSC sideboard limit (mt) 43 Groundfish sideboard limits for Amendment 80 Program vessels operating in the GOA are based on their average aggregate harvests from 1998 through 2004 (72 FR 52668, September 14, 2007). Table 18 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 sideboard limits for Amendment 80 Program vessels. NMFS will deduct all targeted or incidental catch of sideboard species made by Amendment 80 Program vessels from the sideboard limits in Table 18. E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 08DEP1 57944 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules TABLE 18—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 GOA GROUNDFISH SIDEBOARD LIMITS FOR AMENDMENT 80 PROGRAM VESSELS [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton] Species Pollock ............................. Season Area A Season January 20– March 10. B Season March 10–May 31. C Season August 25–October 1. D Season October 1–November 1. Pacific ocean perch ......... Annual ............................. A Season 1 January 1– June 10. B Season 2 September 1–December 31. Annual ............................. Annual ............................. Northern rockfish ............. Dusky rockfish ................. Annual ............................. Annual ............................. Pacific cod ....................... 1 The 2 The Ratio of Amendment 80 sector vessels 1998–2004 catch to TAC Shumagin (610) .............. Chirikof (620) .................. Kodiak (630) ................... Shumagin (610) .............. Chirikof (620) .................. Kodiak (630) ................... Shumagin (610) .............. Chirikof (620) .................. Kodiak (630) ................... Shumagin (610) .............. Chirikof (620) .................. Kodiak (630) ................... WYK (640) ...................... W .................................... C ..................................... W .................................... C ..................................... WYK ................................ W .................................... WYK ................................ W .................................... W .................................... WYK ................................ Proposed 2018 and 2019 TAC (mt) 0.003 0.002 0.002 0.003 0.002 0.002 0.003 0.002 0.002 0.003 0.002 0.002 0.002 0.020 0.044 0.020 0.044 0.034 0.994 0.961 1.000 0.764 0.896 Proposed 2018 and 2019 Amendment 80 vessel sideboard limits (mt) 1,725 26,704 8,513 1,725 30,469 4,748 15,125 9,538 12,278 15,125 9,538 12,278 5,791 9,477 12,362 6,318 8,241 3,671 2,627 2,733 400 146 232 5 53 17 5 61 9 45 19 25 45 19 25 12 190 544 126 363 125 2,611 2,626 400 112 208 Pacific cod A season for trawl gear does not open until January 20. Pacific cod B season for trawl gear closes November 1. The halibut PSC sideboard limits for Amendment 80 Program vessels in the GOA are based on the historic use of halibut PSC by Amendment 80 Program vessels in each PSC target category from 1998 through 2004. These values are slightly lower than the average historic use to accommodate two factors: Allocation of halibut PSC cooperative quota under the Rockfish Program and the exemption of the F/V Golden Fleece from this restriction (§ 679.92(b)(2)). Table 19 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 halibut PSC sideboard limits for Amendment 80 Program vessels. These tables incorporate the maximum percentages of the halibut PSC sideboard limits that may be used by Amendment 80 Program vessels, as contained in Table 38 to 50 CFR part 679. Any residual amount of a seasonal Amendment 80 sideboard halibut PSC limit may carry forward to the next season limit (§ 679.92(b)(2)). TABLE 19—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 HALIBUT PSC SIDEBOARD LIMITS FOR AMENDMENT 80 PROGRAM VESSELS IN THE GOA [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton] Historic Amendment 80 use of the annual halibut PSC limit (ratio) Proposed 2018 and 2019 annual PSC limit (mt) Proposed 2018 and 2019 Amendment 80 vessel PSC sideboard limit (mt) Season dates Fishery category 1 ...................................... January 20 –April 1 ........ 2 ...................................... April 1–July 1 .................. 3 ...................................... July 1–September 1 ....... 4 ...................................... sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Season September 1–October 1 5 ...................................... October 1–December 31 shallow-water .................. deep-water ...................... shallow-water .................. deep-water ...................... shallow-water .................. deep-water ...................... shallow-water .................. deep-water ...................... shallow-water .................. deep-water ...................... 0.0048 0.0115 0.0189 0.1072 0.0146 0.0521 0.0074 0.0014 0.0227 0.0371 1,706 1,706 1,706 1,706 1,706 1,706 1,706 1,706 1,706 1,706 8 20 32 183 25 89 13 2 39 63 Annual: Total shallow-water .. Total deep-water ...... ......................................... ......................................... ......................................... ......................................... .............................. .............................. .............................. .............................. 117 357 E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 08DEP1 VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 PO 00000 Frm 00059 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 57945 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules TABLE 19—PROPOSED 2018 AND 2019 HALIBUT PSC SIDEBOARD LIMITS FOR AMENDMENT 80—Continued PROGRAM VESSELS IN THE GOA [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton] Season dates Fishery category Historic Amendment 80 use of the annual halibut PSC limit (ratio) ......................................... ......................................... .............................. Season sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Grand Total, all seasons and categories. Classification NMFS has determined that the proposed harvest specifications are consistent with the FMP and preliminarily determined that the proposed harvest specifications are consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws, subject to further review after public comment. This action is authorized under 50 CFR 679.20 and is exempt from review under Executive Orders 12866 and 13563. NMFS prepared an EIS for this action and made it available to the public on January 12, 2007 (72 FR 1512). On February 13, 2007, NMFS issued the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Final EIS. A Supplemental Information Report (SIR) that assesses the need to prepare a Supplemental EIS is being prepared for the final action. Copies of the Final EIS, ROD, and SIR for this action are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). The Final EIS analyzes the environmental consequences of the proposed groundfish harvest specifications and alternative harvest strategies on resources in the action area. The Final EIS found no significant environmental consequences from the proposed action or its alternatives. NMFS prepared an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), analyzing the methodology for establishing the relevant TACs. The IRFA evaluated the impacts on small entities of alternative harvest strategies for the groundfish fisheries in the EEZ off Alaska. As set forth in the methodology, TACs are set to a level that fall within the range of ABCs recommended by the SSC; the sum of the TACs must achieve the OY specified in the FMP. While the specific numbers that the methodology produces may vary from year to year, the methodology itself remains constant. A description of the proposed action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for this proposed action are contained in the preamble above. A VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 copy of the IRFA is available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). A summary of the IRFA follows. The action under consideration is a harvest strategy to govern the catch of groundfish in the GOA. The preferred alternative is the existing harvest strategy in which TACs fall within the range of ABCs recommended by the SSC. This action is taken in accordance with the FMP prepared by the Council pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The entities directly regulated by this action are those that harvest groundfish in the EEZ of the GOA and in parallel fisheries within State of Alaska waters. These include entities operating CVs and C/Ps within the action area and entities receiving direct allocations of groundfish. For RFA purposes only, NMFS has established a small business size standard for businesses, including their affiliates, whose primary industry is commercial fishing (see 50 CFR 200.2). A business primarily engaged in commercial fishing (NAICS code 11411) is classified as a small business if it is independently owned and operated, is not dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and has combined annual gross receipts not in excess of $11 million for all its affiliated operations worldwide. The IRFA shows that, in 2016, there were 920 individual CVs with gross revenues less than or equal to $11 million. This estimate accounts for corporate affiliations among vessels, and for cooperative affiliations among fishing entities, since some of the fishing vessels operating in the GOA are members of AFA inshore pollock cooperatives, GOA rockfish cooperatives, or BSAI Crab Rationalization Program cooperatives. Therefore, under the RFA, it is the aggregate gross receipts of all participating members of the cooperative that must meet the ‘‘under $11 million’’ threshold. Vessels that participate in these cooperatives are considered to be large entities within PO 00000 Frm 00060 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Proposed 2018 and 2019 annual PSC limit (mt) .............................. Proposed 2018 and 2019 Amendment 80 vessel PSC sideboard limit (mt) 474 the meaning of the RFA. After accounting for membership in these cooperatives, there are an estimated 920 small CV entities remaining in the GOA groundfish sector. This latter group of vessels had average gross revenues that varied by gear type. Average gross revenues for hook-and-line CVs, pot gear vessels, and trawl gear vessels are estimated to be $340,000, $720,000, and $1.83 million, respectively. Revenue data for the three C/Ps considered to be small entities are confidential. The preferred alternative (Alternative 2) was compared to four other alternatives. Alternative 1 would have set TACs to generate fishing rates equal to the maximum permissible ABC (if the full TAC were harvested), unless the sum of TACs exceeded the GOA OY, in which case TACs would be limited to the OY. Alternative 3 would have set TACs to produce fishing rates equal to the most recent 5-year average fishing rate. Alternative 4 would have set TACs to equal the lower limit of the GOA OY range. Alternative 5, the ‘‘no action alternative,’’ would have set TACs equal to zero. The TACs associated with the preferred harvest strategy are those adopted by the Council in October 2017, as per Alternative 2. OFLs and ABCs for the species were based on recommendations prepared by the Council’s Plan Team in September 2017, and reviewed by the Council’s SSC in October 2017. The Council based its TAC recommendations on those of its AP, which were consistent with the SSC’s OFL and ABC recommendations. Alternative 1 selects harvest rates that would allow fishermen to harvest stocks at the level of ABCs, unless total harvests were constrained by the upper bound of the GOA OY of 800,000 mt. As shown in Table 1 of the preamble, the sum of ABCs in 2018 and 2019 would be 572,710 mt, which falls below the upper bound of the OY range. The sum of TACs is 465,832 mt, which is less than the sum of ABCs. In this instance, Alternative 1 is consistent with the E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 08DEP1 57946 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 235 / Friday, December 8, 2017 / Proposed Rules sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS preferred alternative (Alternative 2), meets the objectives of that action, and has small entity impacts that may be equivalent to the preferred alternative. However, it is not likely that Alternative 1 would result in reduced adverse economic impacts to directly-regulated small entities relative to Alternative 2. The selection of Alternative 1, which could increase all TACs up to the sum of ABCs, would not reflect the practical implications that increased TACs for some species probably would not be fully harvested. This could be due to a variety of reasons, including the lack of commercial or market interest in some species. Additionally, an underharvest of flatfish TACs could result due to constraints such as the fixed, and therefore constraining, PSC limits associated with the harvest of the GOA groundfish species. Furthermore, TACs may be set lower than ABC for conservation purposes, as is the case with other rockfish in the Eastern GOA. Finally, the TACs for two species (pollock and Pacific cod) cannot be set equal to ABC, as the ABC must be reduced to account for the State of Alaska’s guideline harvest levels in these fisheries. Alternative 3 selects harvest rates based on the most recent 5 years of harvest rates (for species in Tiers 1 through 3) or based on the most recent 5 years of harvests (for species in Tiers 4 through 6). This alternative is inconsistent with the objectives of this action, the Council’s preferred harvest strategy, because it does not take account of the most recent biological information for this fishery. NMFS annually conducts at-sea stock surveys for different species, as well as statistical modeling, to estimate stock sizes and permissible harvest levels. Actual harvest rates or harvest amounts VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Dec 07, 2017 Jkt 244001 are a component of these estimates, but in and of themselves may not accurately portray stock sizes and conditions. Harvest rates are listed for each species category for each year in the SAFE report (see ADDRESSES). Alternative 4 would lead to significantly lower harvests of all species and reduce the TACs from the upper end of the OY range in the GOA, to its lower end of 116,000 mt. Overall, this would reduce 2018 TACs by about 80 percent and would lead to significant reductions in harvests of species harvested by small entities. While reductions of this size would be associated with offsetting price increases, the size of these increases is very uncertain. There are close substitutes for GOA groundfish species available in significant quantities from the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area. While production declines in the GOA would undoubtedly be associated with significant price increases in the GOA, these increases would still be constrained by production of substitutes, and are very unlikely to offset revenue declines from smaller production. Thus, this alternative would have a detrimental impact on small entities. Alternative 5, which sets all harvests equal to zero, would have a significant adverse economic impact on small entities and would be contrary to obligations to achieve OY on a continuing basis, as mandated by the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Under Alternative 5, all 920 individual CVs impacted by this rule would have gross revenues of $0. Additionally, the three small C/Ps impacted by this rule also would have gross revenues of $0. The proposed harvest specifications (Alternative 2) extend the current 2018 PO 00000 Frm 00061 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 OFLs, ABCs, and TACs to 2018 and 2019, with the exception of Pacific cod, as explained in the preamble. As noted in the IRFA, the Council may modify these OFLs, ABCs, and TACs in December 2017, when it reviews the November 2017 SAFE report from its Groundfish Plan Team, and the December 2017 Council meeting reports of its SSC and AP. Because the 2018 TACs in the proposed 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications are unchanged from the 2018 TACs, with the sole exception of modifications to Pacific cod harvest amounts, and because the sum of all TACs remains within OY for the GOA, NMFS does not expect adverse impacts on small entities. Also, NMFS does not expect any changes made by the Council in December 2017 to have significant adverse impacts on small entities. This action does not modify recordkeeping or reporting requirements, or duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any Federal rules. Adverse impacts on marine mammals or endangered species resulting from fishing activities conducted under this rule are discussed in the Final EIS and its accompanying annual SIRs (see ADDRESSES). Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1540(f); 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 3631 et seq.; Pub. L. 105–277; Pub. L. 106– 31; Pub. L. 106–554; Pub. L. 108–199; Pub. L. 108–447; Pub. L. 109–241; Pub. L. 109– 479. Dated: December 4, 2017. Alan D. Risenhoover, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–26473 Filed 12–6–17; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\08DEP1.SGM 08DEP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 235 (Friday, December 8, 2017)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 57924-57946]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-26473]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

[Docket No. 170816769-7769-01]
RIN 0648-XF633


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Gulf of 
Alaska; 2018 and 2019 Harvest Specifications for Groundfish

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS proposes 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications, 
apportionments, and Pacific halibut prohibited species catch limits for 
the groundfish fishery of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). This action is 
necessary to establish harvest limits for groundfish during the 2018 
and 2019 fishing years and to accomplish the goals and objectives of 
the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska. The 
intended effect of this action is to conserve and manage the groundfish 
resources in the GOA in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act.

DATES: Comments must be received by January 8, 2018.

ADDRESSES: Submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA-NMFS-
2017-0107, by either of the following methods:
     Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2017-0107, click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.

[[Page 57925]]

     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: 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 the comments for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address), confidential business information, 
or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender 
is publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ``N/
A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous).
    Electronic copies of the Alaska Groundfish Harvest Specifications 
Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIS), Record of Decision 
(ROD) for the Final EIS, Supplementary Information Report (SIR) to the 
Final EIS, and the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) 
prepared for this action may be obtained from http://www.regulations.gov or from the Alaska Region Web site at https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. The final 2016 Stock Assessment and Fishery 
Evaluation (SAFE) report for the groundfish resources of the GOA, dated 
November 2016, is available from the North Pacific Fishery Management 
Council (Council) at 605 West 4th Avenue, Suite 306, Anchorage, AK 
99501, phone 907-271-2809, or from the Council's Web site at http://www.npfmc.org. The draft 2017 SAFE report for the GOA will be available 
from the same source.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Obren Davis, 907-586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the GOA groundfish fisheries in 
the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the GOA under the Fishery 
Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (FMP). The Council 
prepared the FMP under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), 16 U.S.C. 1801, 
et seq. Regulations governing U.S. fisheries and implementing the FMP 
appear at 50 CFR parts 600, 679, and 680.
    The FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS, after 
consultation with the Council, to specify the total allowable catch 
(TAC) for each target species, the sum of which must be within the 
optimum yield (OY) range of 116,000 to 800,000 metric tons (mt) (Sec.  
679.20(a)(1)(i)(B)). Section 679.20(c)(1) further requires NMFS to 
publish and solicit public comment on proposed annual TACs and 
apportionments thereof, Pacific halibut prohibited species catch (PSC) 
limits, and seasonal allowances of pollock and Pacific cod. The 
proposed harvest specifications in Tables 1 through 19 of this document 
satisfy these requirements. For 2018 and 2019, the sum of the proposed 
TAC amounts is 465,832 mt.
    Under Sec.  679.20(c)(3), NMFS will publish the final 2018 and 2019 
harvest specifications after (1) considering comments received within 
the comment period (see DATES), (2) consulting with the Council at its 
December 2017 meeting, (3) considering information presented in the 
2017 SIR that assesses the need to prepare a Supplemental EIS (see 
ADDRESSES), and (4) considering information presented in the final 2017 
SAFE report prepared for the 2018 and 2019 groundfish fisheries.

Other Actions Potentially Affecting the 2018 and 2019 Harvest 
Specifications

Amendment 106: Reclassify Squid as an Ecosystem Species

    In June 2017, the Council recommended for Secretarial review 
Amendment 106 to the FMP. Amendment 106 would reclassify squid in the 
FMP as an ``Ecosystem Component Species'' which is a category of non-
target species that are not in need of conservation and management. 
Currently, NMFS annually sets an Overfishing Level (OFL), Acceptable 
Biological Catch (ABC), and TAC for squid in the GOA groundfish harvest 
specifications. Under Amendment 106, OFL, ABC, and TAC specifications 
would no longer be required. Proposed regulations to implement 
Amendment 106 would prohibit directed fishing for squid, require 
recordkeeping and reporting to monitor and report catch of squid 
species annually, and establish a squid maximum retainable amount when 
directed fishing for groundfish species at 20 percent to discourage 
retention, while allowing flexibility to prosecute groundfish 
fisheries. Further details will be available on publication of the 
proposed rule for Amendment 106. If Amendment 106 and its implementing 
regulations are approved by the Secretary of Commerce, this action is 
anticipated to be effective in 2019. Until Amendment 106 is effective, 
NMFS will continue to publish OFLs, ABCs, and TACs for squid in the GOA 
groundfish harvest specifications.

Proposed ABC and TAC Specifications

    In October 2017, the Council, its Scientific and Statistical 
Committee (SSC), and its Advisory Panel (AP) reviewed the most recent 
biological and harvest information about the condition of groundfish 
stocks in the GOA. This information was compiled by the GOA Groundfish 
Plan Team (Plan Team) and presented in the final 2016 SAFE report for 
the GOA groundfish fisheries, dated November 2016 (see ADDRESSES). The 
SAFE report contains a review of the latest scientific analyses and 
estimates of each species' biomass and other biological parameters, as 
well as summaries of the available information on the GOA ecosystem and 
the economic condition of the groundfish fisheries off Alaska. From 
these data and analyses, the Plan Team estimates--and the SSC sets--an 
OFL and ABC for each species or species group. The amounts proposed for 
the 2018 and 2019 OFLs and ABCs are based on the 2016 SAFE report. The 
AP and Council recommended that the proposed 2018 and 2019 TACs be set 
equal to proposed ABCs for all species and species groups, with the 
exception of the species categories further discussed below. The 
proposed OFLs, ABCs, and TACs could be changed in the final harvest 
specifications depending on the most recent scientific information 
contained in the final 2017 SAFE report. The draft stock assessments 
that will comprise, in part, the 2017 SAFE report are available at 
http://legistar2.granicus.com/npfmc/meetings/2017/9/962_A_Groundfish_Plan_Team_17-09-12_Meeting_Agenda.pdf.
    The Council recommends and NMFS proposes a reduction in the Pacific 
cod OFL, ABC, and TAC levels as compared to those levels implemented 
for Pacific cod in the 2017 and 2018 final GOA groundfish harvest 
specifications. The Council concurred with its SSC's recommendation to 
reduce the Pacific cod OFL and ABC, as well as its AP's recommendation 
for a corresponding reduction in the Pacific cod TAC. The reductions to 
the Pacific cod OFL, ABC, and TAC are the result of preliminary 2017 
GOA bottom trawl survey data, as well as other data, that recently 
became available to stock assessment scientists.
    Based on the results of the 2017 GOA bottom trawl survey estimates 
and preliminary modeling for the Pacific cod stock assessment, the 
Pacific cod biomass and abundance has decreased significantly since the 
2015 GOA bottom trawl survey. This decrease is corroborated by 
additional data sets that appear to support the trawl survey results 
associated with a decrease in the

[[Page 57926]]

Pacific cod biomass. This information led to the recommended reduction 
in the proposed 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod OFL and ABC. The SSC opted to 
recommend a proposed 2018 OFL and ABC based on the average of the 
current 2018 OFL and ABC amounts and preliminary Tier 5 OFL and ABC 
amounts provided by the Pacific cod stock assessment author. This 
precautionary approach provides a strong indication of decreases in the 
OFL and ABC amounts for the final harvest specifications. However, this 
was a temporary approach used only for these proposed specifications, 
and Pacific cod remains in Tier 3a. The SSC also strongly noted that 
the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications for Pacific cod could be 
even lower than those recommended in the proposed 2018 and 2019 harvest 
specifications once the stock assessment process has been completed and 
reviewed by December 2017.The proposed Pacific cod OFL, ABC, and TAC 
amounts likely will further change once the Pacific cod stock 
assessment is finalized, reviewed by the Council's groundfish Plan Team 
in November, and then subsequently reviewed by the SSC, AP, and Council 
in December 2017. In addition, as discussed later in this preamble, 
decreases in Pacific cod OFL, ABC, and TAC could affect seasonal and 
sector apportionments of Pacific cod TAC and, potentially, 
apportionments of halibut PSC limit among fisheries.
    In November 2017, the Plan Team will update the 2016 SAFE report to 
include new information collected during 2017, such as NMFS stock 
surveys, revised stock assessments, and catch data. The Plan Team will 
compile this information and produce the draft 2017 SAFE report for 
presentation at the December 2017 Council meeting. At that meeting, the 
Council will consider information in the draft 2017 SAFE report, 
recommendations from the November 2017 Plan Team meeting and December 
2017 SSC and AP meetings, public testimony, and relevant written public 
comments in making its recommendations for the final 2018 and 2019 
harvest specifications. Pursuant to Sec.  679.20(a)(2) and (3), the 
Council could recommend adjusting the TACs if warranted on the 
biological condition of groundfish stocks or a variety of socioeconomic 
considerations, or if required in order to cause the sum to fall within 
the optimum yield range.
    In previous years, the OFLs and ABCs that have had the most 
significant changes (relative to the amount of assessed tonnage of 
fish) from the proposed to the final harvest specifications have been 
for OFLs and ABCs that are based on the most recent NMFS stock surveys. 
These surveys provide updated estimates of stock biomass and spatial 
distribution, and changes to the models used for producing stock 
assessments. NMFS scientists presented updated and new survey results, 
changes to assessment models, and accompanying stock estimates at the 
September 2017 Plan Team meeting, and the SSC reviewed this information 
at the October 2017 Council meeting. The species with possible 
significant model changes are arrowtooth flounder, Pacific cod, Pacific 
ocean perch, pollock, and rex sole. Model changes can result in changes 
to OFLs, ABCs, and TACs.
    In November 2017, the Plan Team will consider updated stock 
assessments for groundfish, which will be included in the draft 2017 
SAFE report. If the draft 2017 SAFE report indicates that the stock 
biomass trend is increasing for a species, then the final 2018 and 2019 
harvest specifications for that species may reflect an increase from 
the proposed harvest specifications. Conversely, if the draft 2017 SAFE 
report indicates that the stock biomass trend is decreasing for a 
species, then the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications may 
reflect a decrease from the proposed harvest specifications.
    The proposed 2018 and 2019 OFLs, ABCs, and TACs are based on the 
best available biological and socioeconomic information, including 
projected biomass trends, information on assumed distribution of stock 
biomass, and revised methods used to calculate stock biomass. The FMP 
specifies the formulas, or tiers, to be used to compute OFLs and ABCs. 
The formulas applicable to a particular stock or stock complex are 
determined by the level of reliable information available to the 
fisheries scientists. This information is categorized into a successive 
series of six tiers to define OFL and ABC amounts, with Tier 1 
representing the highest level of information quality available and 
Tier 6 representing the lowest level of information quality available. 
The Plan Team used the FMP tier structure to calculate OFLs and ABCs 
for each groundfish species. The SSC adopted the proposed 2018 and 2019 
OFLs and ABCs recommended by the Plan Team for all groundfish species, 
with the exception of Pacific cod. The Council adopted the SSC's OFL 
and ABC recommendations and the AP's TAC recommendations. These amounts 
have changed from the final 2018 harvest specifications published in 
the Federal Register on February 27, 2017 (82 FR 12032) as a result of 
the recommended decreases to the Pacific cod OFL, ABC, and TAC, as 
previously discussed.

Specification and Apportionment of TAC Amounts

    The Council recommended proposed 2018 and 2019 TACs that are equal 
to proposed ABCs for all species and species groups, with the exception 
of the Western, Central, and West Yakutat pollock ABC, Pacific cod, 
shallow-water flatfish in the Western GOA, arrowtooth flounder, 
flathead sole in the Western and Central GOA, ``other rockfish'' in 
Southeast Outside (SEO) District, and Atka mackerel. The combined 
Western, Central, and West Yakutat pollock TAC is set to account for 
the State of Alaska's (State) guideline harvest levels (GHLs) for the 
State water pollock fishery. Similarly, the Pacific cod TACs are 
reduced from ABC levels to account for the State's GHLs for Pacific cod 
so that the ABCs are not exceeded. The shallow-water flatfish, 
arrowtooth flounder, and flathead sole TACs are set to allow for 
increased harvest opportunities for these target species while 
conserving the halibut PSC limit for use in other fisheries. The 
``other rockfish'' TAC is set to reduce the potential amount of 
discards of the species in that complex. The Atka mackerel TAC is set 
to accommodate incidental catch amounts in other fisheries. These 
reductions are described below.
    The proposed 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod TACs are set to accommodate 
the State's GHLs for Pacific cod in State waters in the Western and 
Central Regulatory Areas, as well as in Prince William Sound (PWS). The 
Plan Team, SSC, AP, and Council recommended that the sum of all State 
and Federal water Pacific cod removals from the GOA not exceed ABC 
recommendations. Therefore, the proposed 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod TACs 
are less than the proposed ABCs by the following amounts: (1) Western 
GOA, 6,770 mt; (2) Central GOA, 6,868 mt; and (3) Eastern GOA, 1,224 
mt. These amounts reflect the sum of the State's 2018 and 2019 GHLs in 
these areas, which are 30 percent of the Western GOA proposed ABC, and 
25 percent of the Eastern and Central GOA proposed ABCs.
    The ABC for the pollock stock in the combined Western, Central, and 
West Yakutat Regulatory Areas (W/C/WYK) includes the amount for the GHL 
established by the State for the PWS pollock fishery. The Plan Team, 
SSC, AP, and Council recommended that the sum of all State and Federal 
water pollock removals from the GOA not exceed ABC recommendations. For 
2018

[[Page 57927]]

and 2019, the SSC recommended and the Council approved the W/C/WYK 
pollock ABC, including the amount to account for the State's PWS GHL. 
At the November 2016 Plan Team meeting, State fisheries managers 
recommended setting the PWS GHL at 2.5 percent of the annual W/C/WYK 
pollock ABC. For 2018, this yields a PWS pollock GHL of 3,937 mt, a 
decrease from the 2017 PWS GHL of 5,094 mt. After accounting for PWS 
GHL, the 2018 and 2019 pollock ABC for the combined W/C/WYK areas is 
then apportioned between four statistical areas (Areas 610, 620, 630, 
and 640) as both ABCs and TACs, as described below and detailed in 
Table 1. The total ABCs and TACs for the four statistical areas, plus 
the State GHL, do not exceed the combined W/C/WYK ABC. The proposed W/
C/WYK 2018 and 2019 pollock ABC is 157,496 mt, and the proposed TAC is 
153,559 mt.
    Apportionments of pollock to the W/C/WYK management areas are 
considered to be ``apportionments of annual catch limit (ACLs)'' rather 
than ``ABCs.'' This more accurately reflects that such apportionments 
address management, rather than biological or conservation, concerns. 
In addition, apportionments of the ACL in this manner allow NMFS to 
balance any transfer of TAC among Areas 610, 620, and 630 pursuant to 
Sec.  679.20(a)(5)(iv)(B) to ensure that the area-wide ACL, ABC, and 
TAC are not exceeded.
    NMFS' proposed apportionments of groundfish species are based on 
the distribution of biomass among the regulatory areas under which NMFS 
manages the species. Additional regulations govern the apportionment of 
pollock, Pacific cod, and sablefish. Additional detail on these 
apportionments are described below, and briefly summarized here.
    NMFS proposes pollock TACs in the W/C/WYK and the SEO District of 
the GOA (see Table 1). NMFS also proposes seasonal apportionment of the 
annual pollock TAC in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the 
GOA between Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630. These apportionments 
are divided equally among each of the following four seasons: The A 
season (January 20 through March 10), the B season (March 10 through 
May 31), the C season (August 25 through October 1), and the D season 
(October 1 through November 1) (Sec.  679.23(d)(2)(i) through (iv), and 
Sec.  679.20(a)(5)(iv)(A) and (B)). Additional detail is provided 
below; Table 2 lists these amounts.
    NMFS proposes Pacific cod TACs in the Western, Central, and Eastern 
GOA (see Table 1). NMFS also proposes seasonal apportionment of the 
Pacific cod TACs in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas. Sixty 
percent of the annual TAC is apportioned to the A season for hook-and-
line, pot, and jig gear from January 1 through June 10, and for trawl 
gear from January 20 through June 10. Forty percent of the annual TAC 
is apportioned to the B season for jig gear from June 10 through 
December 31, for hook-and-line and pot gear from September 1 through 
December 31, and for trawl gear from September 1 through November 1 
(Sec. Sec.  679.23(d)(3) and 679.20(a)(12)). The Western and Central 
GOA Pacific cod TACs are allocated among various gear and operational 
sectors. Additional detail is provided below; Table 3 lists the amounts 
apportioned to each sector.
    The Council's recommendation for sablefish area apportionments 
takes into account the prohibition on the use of trawl gear in the SEO 
District of the Eastern Regulatory Area (Sec.  679.7(b)(1)) and makes 
available 5 percent of the combined Eastern Regulatory Area TACs to 
trawl gear for use as incidental catch in other groundfish fisheries in 
the WYK District (Sec.  679.20(a)(4)(i)). Additional detail is provided 
below. Tables 4 and 5 list the proposed 2018 and 2019 allocations of 
the sablefish TAC to fixed gear and trawl gear in the GOA.
    For 2018 and 2019, the Council recommends and NMFS proposes the 
OFLs, ABCs, and TACs listed in Table 1. The proposed ABCs reflect 
harvest amounts that are less than the specified overfishing levels. 
Table 1 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 OFLs, ABCs, TACs, and area 
apportionments of groundfish in the GOA. These amounts are consistent 
with the biological condition of groundfish stocks as described in the 
2016 SAFE report, and adjusted for other biological and socioeconomic 
considerations, including maintaining the total TAC within the required 
OY range. The sum of the proposed TACs for all GOA groundfish is 
465,832 mt for 2018 and 2019, which is within the OY range specified by 
the FMP. These proposed amounts and apportionments by area, season, and 
sector are subject to change pending consideration of the draft 2017 
SAFE report and the Council's recommendations for the final 2018 and 
2019 harvest specifications during its December 2017 meeting.

    Table 1--Proposed 2018 and 2019 ABCs, TACs, and OFLs of Groundfish for the Western/Central/West Yakutat,
    Western, Central, and Eastern Regulatory Areas, and in the West Yakutat, Southeast Outside, and Gulfwide
                                         Districts of the Gulf of Alaska
                                 [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Species                         Area \1\                OFL             ABC           TAC \2\
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pollock \2\...........................  Shumagin (610)..........             n/a          33,701          33,701
                                        Chirikof (620)..........             n/a          76,249          76,249
                                        Kodiak (630)............             n/a          37,818          37,818
                                        WYK (640)...............             n/a           5,791           5,791
                                        W/C/WYK (subtotal)......         182,204         157,496         153,559
                                        SEO (650)...............          13,226           9,920           9,920
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Total................         195,430         167,416         163,479
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pacific cod \3\.......................  W.......................             n/a          22,565          15,796
                                        C.......................             n/a          27,471          20,603
                                        E.......................             n/a           4,894           3,671
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Total................          67,486          54,930          40,069
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sablefish \4\.........................  W.......................             n/a           1,367           1,367
                                        C.......................             n/a           4,574           4,574
                                        WYK.....................             n/a           1,626           1,626
                                        SEO.....................             n/a           2,640           2,640

[[Page 57928]]

 
                                        E (WYK and SEO)                      n/a           4,266           4,266
                                         (subtotal).
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Total................          12,045          10,207          10,207
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Shallow-water flatfish \5\............  W.......................             n/a          21,042          13,250
                                        C.......................             n/a          19,418          19,418
                                        WYK.....................             n/a           3,206           3,206
                                        SEO.....................             n/a           1,105           1,105
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Total................          54,893          44,771          36,979
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Deep-water flatfish \6\...............  W.......................             n/a             257             257
                                        C.......................             n/a           3,488           3,488
                                        WYK.....................             n/a           3,047           3,047
                                        SEO.....................             n/a           2,590           2,590
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Total................          11,290           9,382           9,382
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rex sole..............................  W.......................             n/a           1,478           1,478
                                        C.......................             n/a           4,995           4,995
                                        WYK.....................             n/a             861             861
                                        SEO.....................             n/a           1,087           1,087
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Total................          11,004           8,421           8,421
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Arrowtooth flounder...................  W.......................             n/a          25,747          14,500
                                        C.......................             n/a          98,895          75,000
                                        WYK.....................             n/a          34,273           6,900
                                        SEO.....................             n/a          11,595           6,900
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Total................         196,635         170,510         103,300
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Flathead sole.........................  W.......................             n/a          11,282           8,650
                                        C.......................             n/a          20,677          15,400
                                        WYK.....................             n/a           2,998           2,998
                                        SEO.....................             n/a             872             872
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Total................          43,872          35,829          27,920
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pacific ocean perch \7\...............  W.......................             n/a           2,627           2,627
                                        C.......................             n/a          16,347          16,347
                                        WYK.....................             n/a           2,733           2,733
                                        W/C/WYK.................          25,252          21,707          21,707
                                        SEO.....................           2,032           1,747           1,747
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Total................          27,284          23,454          23,454
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Northern rockfish \8\.................  W.......................             n/a             400             400
                                        C.......................             n/a           3,108           3,108
                                        E.......................             n/a               4  ..............
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Total................           4,175           3,512           3,508
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Shortraker rockfish \9\...............  W.......................             n/a              38              38
                                        C.......................             n/a             301             301
                                        E.......................             n/a             947             947
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Total................           1,715           1,286           1,286
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dusky rockfish \10\...................  W.......................             n/a             146             146
                                        C.......................             n/a           3,499           3,499
                                        WYK.....................             n/a             232             232
                                        SEO.....................             n/a              77              77
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Total................           4,837           3,954           3,954
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rougheye and blackspotted rockfish      W.......................             n/a             104             104
 \11\.
                                        C.......................             n/a             702             702
                                        E.......................             n/a             512             512
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------

[[Page 57929]]

 
                                           Total................           1,583           1,318           1,318
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Demersal shelf rockfish \12\..........  SEO.....................             357             227             227
Thornyhead rockfish \13\..............  W.......................             n/a             291             291
                                        C.......................             n/a             988             988
                                        E.......................             n/a             682             682
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Total................           2,615           1,961           1,961
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Other rockfish 14 15..................  W/C combined............             n/a           1,534           1,534
                                        WYK.....................             n/a             574             574
                                        SEO.....................             n/a           3,665             200
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Total................           7,424           5,773           2,308
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Atka mackerel.........................  GW......................           6,200           4,700           3,000
Big skates \16\.......................  W.......................             n/a             908             908
                                        C.......................             n/a           1,850           1,850
                                        E.......................             n/a           1,056           1,056
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Total................           5,086           3,814           3,814
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Longnose skates \17\..................  W.......................             n/a              61              61
                                        C.......................             n/a           2,513           2,513
                                        E.......................             n/a             632             632
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Total................           4,274           3,206           3,206
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Other skates \18\.....................  GW......................           2,558           1,919           1,919
Sculpins..............................  GW......................           7,338           5,591           5,591
Sharks................................  GW......................           6,020           4,514           4,514
Squids................................  GW......................           1,516           1,137           1,137
Octopuses.............................  GW......................           6,504           4,878           4,878
                                                                 -----------------------------------------------
    Total.............................  ........................         682,141         572,710         465,832
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Regulatory areas and districts are defined at Sec.   679.2. (W=Western Gulf of Alaska; C=Central Gulf of
  Alaska; E=Eastern Gulf of Alaska; WYK=West Yakutat District; SEO=Southeast Outside District; GW=Gulf-wide).
\2\ The total for the W/C/WYK Regulatory Areas pollock ABC is 157,496 mt. After deducting 2.5 percent (3,937 mt)
  of that ABC for the State's pollock GHL fishery, the remaining pollock ABC of 153,559 mt (for the W/C/WYK
  Regulatory Areas) is apportioned among four statistical areas (Areas 610, 620, 630, and 640). These
  apportionments are considered subarea ACLs, rather than ABCs, for specification and reapportionment purposes.
  The ACLs in Areas 610, 620, and 630 are further divided by season, as detailed in Table 2. In the West Yakutat
  (Area 640) and Southeast Outside (Area 650) Districts of the Eastern Regulatory Area, pollock is not divided
  into seasonal allowances.
\3\ The annual Pacific cod TAC is apportioned 60 percent to the A season and 40 percent to the B season in the
  Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA. Pacific cod TAC in the Eastern Regulatory Area is allocated
  90 percent for processing by the inshore component and 10 percent for processing by the offshore component.
  Table 3 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod seasonal apportionments.
\4\ Sablefish is allocated to fixed and trawl gear in 2018 and trawl gear in 2019. Tables 4 and 5 list the
  proposed 2018 and 2019 allocations of sablefish TACs.
\5\ ``Shallow-water flatfish'' means flatfish not including ``deep-water flatfish,'' flathead sole, rex sole, or
  arrowtooth flounder.
\6\ ``Deep-water flatfish'' means Dover sole, Greenland turbot, Kamchatka flounder, and deep-sea sole.
\7\ ``Pacific ocean perch'' means Sebastes alutus.
\8\ ``Northern rockfish'' means Sebastes polyspinous. For management purposes the 3 mt apportionment of ABC to
  the WYK District of the Eastern Gulf of Alaska has been included in the other rockfish species group.
\9\ ``Shortraker rockfish'' means Sebastes borealis.
\10\ ``Dusky rockfish'' means Sebastes variabilis.
\11\ ``Rougheye and blackspotted rockfish'' means Sebastes aleutianus (rougheye) and Sebastes melanostictus
  (blackspotted).
\12\ ``Demersal shelf rockfish'' means Sebastes pinniger (canary), S. nebulosus (china), S. caurinus (copper),
  S. maliger (quillback), S. helvomaculatus (rosethorn), S. nigrocinctus (tiger), and S. ruberrimus (yelloweye).
\13\ ``Thornyhead rockfish'' means Sebastes species.
\14\ ``Other rockfish means Sebastes aurora (aurora), S. melanostomus (blackgill), S. paucispinis (bocaccio), S.
  goodei (chilipepper), S. crameri (darkblotch), S. elongatus (greenstriped), S. variegatus (harlequin), S.
  wilsoni (pygmy), S. babcocki (redbanded), S. proriger (redstripe), S. zacentrus (sharpchin), S. jordani
  (shortbelly), S. brevispinis (silvergray), S. diploproa (splitnose), S. saxicola (stripetail), S. miniatus
  (vermilion), S. reedi (yellowmouth), S. entomelas (widow), and S. flavidus (yellowtail). In the Eastern GOA
  only, ``other rockfish'' also includes northern rockfish (S. polyspinous).
\15\ ``Other rockfish'' in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas and in the West Yakutat District means all
  rockfish species included in the ``other rockfish'' and demersal shelf rockfish categories. The ``other
  rockfish'' species group in the SEO District only includes other rockfish.
\16\ ``Big skates'' means Raja binoculata.
\17\ ``Longnose skates'' means Raja rhina.
\18\ ``Other skates'' means Bathyraja and Raja spp.


[[Page 57930]]

Proposed Apportionment of Reserves

    Section 679.20(b)(2) requires NMFS to set aside 20 percent of each 
TAC for pollock, Pacific cod, flatfish, sculpins, sharks, squids, and 
octopuses in reserves for possible apportionment at a later date during 
the fishing year. In 2017, NMFS reapportioned all of the reserves in 
the final harvest specifications. For 2018 and 2019, NMFS proposes 
reapportionment of each of the reserves for pollock, Pacific cod, 
flatfish, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses back into the 
original TAC from which the reserve was derived. NMFS expects, based on 
recent harvest patterns, that such reserves are not necessary and the 
entire TAC for each of these species will be caught. The TACs in Table 
1 reflect this proposed reapportionment of reserve amounts for these 
species and species groups, i.e., each proposed TAC for the above 
mentioned species categories contains the full TAC recommended by the 
Council.

Proposed Apportionments of Pollock TAC Among Seasons and Regulatory 
Areas, and Allocations for Processing by Inshore and Offshore 
Components

    In the GOA, pollock is apportioned by season and area, and is 
further allocated for processing by inshore and offshore components. 
Pursuant to Sec.  679.20(a)(5)(iv)(B), the annual pollock TAC specified 
for the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA is apportioned 
into four equal seasonal allowances of 25 percent. As established by 
Sec.  679.23(d)(2)(i) through (iv), the A, B, C, and D season 
allowances are available from January 20 through March 10, March 10 
through May 31, August 25 through October 1, and October 1 through 
November 1, respectively.
    Pollock TACs in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA 
are apportioned among Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630, pursuant to 
Sec.  679.20(a)(5)(iv)(A). In the A and B seasons, the apportionments 
had historically, since 2000, been based on the proportional 
distribution of pollock biomass based on the four most recent NMFS 
winter surveys. In the C and D seasons, the apportionments were in 
proportion to the distribution of pollock biomass based on the four 
most recent NMFS summer surveys. For 2018 and 2019, the Council 
recommends, and NMFS proposes, following the methodology that was used 
for the 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications. This methodology averages 
the winter and summer distribution of pollock in the Central Regulatory 
Area for the A season instead of using the distribution based on only 
the winter surveys. The average is intended to reflect the best 
available information about migration patterns, distribution of 
pollock, and the performance of the fishery in the area during the A 
season. For the A season, the apportionment is based on the proposed 
adjusted estimate of the relative distribution of pollock biomass of 
approximately 5 percent, 72 percent, and 23 percent in Statistical 
Areas 610, 620, and 630, respectively. For the B season, the 
apportionment is based on the relative distribution of pollock biomass 
of approximately 5 percent, 82 percent, and 13 percent in Statistical 
Areas 610, 620, and 630, respectively. For the C and D seasons, the 
apportionment is based on the relative distribution of pollock biomass 
of approximately 41 percent, 26 percent, and 33 percent in Statistical 
Areas 610, 620, and 630, respectively. The pollock chapter of the 2016 
SAFE report (see ADDRESSES) contains a comprehensive description of the 
apportionment process and reasons for the minor changes from past 
apportionments.
    Within any fishing year, the amount by which a seasonal allowance 
is underharvested or overharvested may be added to, or subtracted from, 
subsequent seasonal allowances in a manner to be determined by the 
Regional Administrator (Sec.  679.20(a)(5)(iv)(B)). The rollover amount 
is limited to 20 percent of the seasonal TAC apportionment for the 
statistical area. Any unharvested pollock above the 20-percent limit 
could be further distributed to the subsequent season in other 
statistical areas, in proportion to the estimated biomass and in an 
amount no more than 20 percent of the seasonal TAC apportionment in 
those statistical areas (Sec.  679.20(a)(5)(iv)(B)). The proposed 2018 
and 2019 pollock TACs in the WYK District of 5,791 mt and the SEO 
District of 9,920 mt are not allocated by season.
    Section 679.20(a)(6)(i) requires the allocation of 100 percent of 
the pollock apportionments in all regulatory areas and all seasonal 
allowances to vessels catching pollock for processing by the inshore 
component after subtraction of pollock amounts projected by the 
Regional Administrator to be caught by, or delivered to, the offshore 
component incidental to directed fishing for other groundfish species. 
Thus, the amount of pollock available for harvest by vessels harvesting 
pollock for processing by the offshore component is that amount that 
will be taken as incidental catch during directed fishing for 
groundfish species other than pollock, up to the maximum retainable 
amounts allowed under Sec.  679.20(e) and (f). At this time, these 
incidental catch amounts of pollock are unknown and will be determined 
as fishing activity occurs during the fishing year by the offshore 
component.
    Table 2 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 seasonal biomass 
distribution of pollock in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas, 
area apportionments, and seasonal allowances. The amounts of pollock 
for processing by the inshore and offshore components are not shown. 
Section 679.20(a)(6)(i) requires the allocation of 100 percent of the 
pollock TAC in all regulatory areas and all seasonal allowances to 
vessels catching pollock for processing by the inshore component after 
subtraction of amounts projected by the Regional Administrator to be 
caught by, or delivered to, the offshore component incidental to 
directed fishing for other groundfish species. Thus, the amount of 
pollock available for harvest by vessels harvesting pollock for 
processing by the offshore component is that amount that will be taken 
as incidental catch during directed fishing for groundfish species 
other than pollock, up to the maximum retainable amounts allowed by 
Sec.  [thinsp]679.20(e) and (f). The incidental catch amounts of 
pollock are unknown at this time and will be determined during the 2018 
fishing year during the course of fishing activities by the offshore 
component.

[[Page 57931]]



       Table 2--Proposed 2018 and 2019 Distribution of Pollock in the Central and Western Regulatory Areas of the Gulf of Alaska; Seasonal Biomass
                                      Distribution, Area Apportionments; and Seasonal Allowances of Annual TAC \1\
                                                     [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
               Season \2\                       Shumagin (area 610)
                                                Chirikof (Area 620)
                                                 Kodiak (area 630)           Total \3\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A (Jan 20-Mar 10).......................           1,725         (4.67%)          26,704        (72.29%)           8,513        (23.04%)          36,942
B (Mar 10-May 31).......................           1,725         (4.67%)          30,469        (82.48%)           4,748        (12.85%)          36,942
C (Aug 25-Oct 1)........................          15,125        (40.94%)           9,538        (25.82%)          12,278        (33.24%)          36,942
D (Oct 1-Nov 1).........................          15,125        (40.94%)           9,538        (25.82%)          12,278        (33.24%)          36,942
                                         ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Annual Total........................          33,701  ..............          76,249  ..............          37,818  ..............         147,768
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Area apportionments and seasonal allowances may not total precisely due to rounding.
\2\ As established by Sec.   679.23(d)(2)(i) through (iv), the A, B, C, and D season allowances are available from January 20 through March 10, March 10
  through May 31, August 25 through October 1, and October 1 through November 1, respectively. The amounts of pollock for processing by the inshore and
  offshore components are not shown in this table.
\3\ The West Yakutat and Southeast Outside District pollock TACs are not allocated by season and are not included in the total pollock TACs shown in
  this table.

Proposed Annual and Seasonal Apportionments of Pacific Cod TAC

    As explained earlier in the section on ``Proposed ABC and TAC 
Specifications,'' the Council recommended reduced Pacific cod OFL, ABC, 
and TAC amounts as a result of preliminary data indicating a decrease 
in biomass. The proposed amounts could likely change, including a 
further decrease, once the 2017 Pacific cod stock assessment is 
finalized, reviewed by the Council's groundfish Plan Team in November, 
and then subsequently reviewed by the SSC, AP, and Council in December 
2017. Reductions could impact seasonal and sector apportionments of 
Pacific cod TAC.
    Pursuant to Sec.  679.20(a)(12)(i), NMFS proposes allocations for 
the 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod TACs in the Western and Central 
Regulatory Areas of the GOA among gear and operational sectors. NMFS 
also proposes allocating the 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod TACs annually 
between the inshore and offshore components in the Eastern Regulatory 
Area of the GOA (Sec.  679.20(a)(6)(ii)). In the Central GOA, the 
Pacific cod TAC is apportioned seasonally first to vessels using jig 
gear, and then among catcher vessels (CVs) less than 50 feet in length 
overall using hook-and-line gear, CVs equal to or greater than 50 feet 
in length overall using hook-and-line gear, catcher/processors (C/Ps) 
using hook-and-line gear, CVs using trawl gear, C/Ps using trawl gear, 
and vessels using pot gear (Sec.  679.20(a)(12)(i)(B)). In the Western 
GOA, the Pacific cod TAC is apportioned seasonally first to vessels 
using jig gear, and then among CVs using hook-and-line gear, C/Ps using 
hook-and-line gear, CVs using trawl gear, C/Ps using trawl gear, and 
vessels using pot gear (Sec.  679.20(a)(12)(i)(A)). The overall 
seasonal apportionments in the Western and Central GOA are 60 percent 
of the annual TAC to the A season and 40 percent of the annual TAC to 
the B season. All of these apportionments proposed for 2018 and 2019 
incorporate the proposed reduction to the 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod TAC 
that was recommended by the Council and discussed earlier in the 
preamble.
    Under Sec.  679.20(a)(12)(ii), any overage or underage of the 
Pacific cod allowance from the A season will be subtracted from, or 
added to, the subsequent B season allowance. In addition, any portion 
of the hook-and-line, trawl, pot, or jig sector allocations that is 
determined by NMFS as likely to go unharvested by a sector may be 
reallocated to other sectors for harvest during the remainder of the 
fishing year.
    Pursuant to Sec.  679.20(a)(12)(i)(A) and (B), a portion of the 
annual Pacific cod TACs in the Western and Central GOA will be 
allocated to vessels with a Federal fisheries permit that use jig gear 
before TAC is apportioned among other non-jig sectors. In accordance 
with the FMP, the annual jig sector allocations may increase to up to 6 
percent of the annual Western and Central GOA Pacific cod TACs, 
depending on the annual performance of the jig sector (see Table 1 of 
Amendment 83 to the FMP for a detailed discussion of the jig sector 
allocation process (76 FR 74670, December 1, 2011). Jig sector 
allocation increases are established for a minimum of 2 years.
    NMFS has evaluated the historical harvest performance of the jig 
sector in the Western and Central GOA, and is establishing the proposed 
2018 and 2019 Pacific cod apportionments to this sector based on its 
historical harvest performance through 2016. For 2018 and 2019, NMFS 
proposes that the jig sector receive 2.5 percent of the annual Pacific 
cod TAC in the Western GOA. This includes a base allocation of 1.5 
percent and an additional 1.0 percent because this sector harvested 
greater than 90 percent of its initial allocations in 2012 and 2014 in 
the Western GOA. NMFS also proposes that the jig sector receive 1.0 
percent of the annual Pacific cod TAC in the Central GOA. This includes 
a base allocation of 1.0 percent and no additional performance 
increase. These historical Pacific cod jig allocations, catch, and 
percent allocation changes are listed in Figure 1.

     Figure 1--Summary of Western GOA and Central GOA Management Area Pacific Cod Catch by Jig Gear in 2012 Through 2016, and Corresponding Percent
                                                                   Allocation Changes
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                      Initial                                       Percent of        >90% of
              Area                     Year         percent of      Initial TAC     Catch  (mt)       initial         initial        Change to  percent
                                                        TAC         allocation                      allocation      allocation?          allocation
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
WGOA............................            2012             1.5             315             322             102               Y   Increase 1.
                                            2013             2.5             530             273              52               N   None.
                                            2014             2.5             573             785             137               Y   Increase 1.
                                            2015             3.5             948              55               6               N   None.

[[Page 57932]]

 
                                            2016             3.5             992              52               5               N   Decrease 1.
CGOA............................            2012             1.0             427             400              94               Y   Increase 1.
                                            2013             2.0             740             202              27               N   None.
                                            2014             2.0             797             262              33               N   None.
                                            2015             1.0             460             355              77               N   Decrease 1.
                                            2016             1.0             370             267              72               N   None.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    NMFS will re-evaluate the annual 2017 harvest performance of jig 
sector in the Western and Central Management areas when the 2017 
fishing year is complete to determine whether to change the jig sector 
allocations proposed by this action in conjunction with the final 2018 
and 2019 harvest specifications. The current catch through November 
2017 by the Western GOA jig sector indicates that the Pacific cod 
allocation percentage to this sector would probably decrease by 1 
percent in 2018 (from 2.5 percent to 1.5 percent). Also, the current 
catch by the Central GOA jig sector indicates that this sector's 
Pacific cod allocation percentage would not change in 2018, and would 
remain at 1 percent. The jig sector allocations for the Western and 
Central GOA are further apportioned between the A (60 percent) and B 
(40 percent) seasons (Sec.  679.20(a)(12)(i) and Sec.  
679.23(d)(3)(iii)).
    Table 3 lists the seasonal apportionments and allocations of the 
proposed 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod TACs.

  Table 3--Proposed 2018 and 2019 Seasonal Apportionments and Allocations of Pacific Cod Total Allowable Catch
 Amounts in the GOA; Allocations in the Western GOA and Central GOA Sectors, and the Eastern GOA for Processing
                                     by the Inshore and Offshore Components
                                 [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                             A season                        B season
                                                 ---------------------------------------------------------------
                                      Annual          Sector                          Sector
   Regulatory area and sector       allocation    percentage  of     Seasonal     percentage  of     Seasonal
                                       (mt)        annual  non-     allowances     annual  non-     allowances
                                                     jig  TAC          (mt)          jig  TAC          (mt)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Western GOA:
    Jig (2.5% of TAC)...........             395             N/A             237             N/A             158
    Hook-and-line CV............             216            0.70             108            0.70             108
    Hook-and-line C/P...........           3,049           10.90           1,679            8.90           1,371
    Trawl CV....................           5,914           27.70           4,266           10.70           1,648
    Trawl C/P...................             370            0.90             139            1.50             231
    Pot CV and Pot C/P..........           5,852           19.80           3,049           18.20           2,803
                                 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Total...................          15,796           60.00           9,477           40.00           6,318
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Central GOA:
    Jig (1.0% of TAC)...........             206             N/A             124             N/A              82
    Hook-and-line <50 CV........           2,978            9.32           1,900            5.29           1,078
    Hook-and-line >=50 CV.......           1,368            5.61           1,144            1.10             224
    Hook-and-line C/P...........           1,041            4.11             838            1.00             203
    Trawl CV \1\................           8,482           21.13           4,311           20.45           4,171
    Trawl C/P...................             856            2.00             409            2.19             448
    Pot CV and Pot C/P..........           5,671           17.83           3,637            9.97           2,035
                                 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Total...................          20,603           60.00          12,362           40.00           8,241
                                                 ---------------------------------------------------------------
Eastern GOA:                      ..............    Inshore (90% of Annual TAC)
                                   Offshore (10% of Annual TAC)
                                                 ---------------------------------------------------------------
                                           3,671               3,303
                                                367
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Trawl vessels participating in Rockfish Program cooperatives receive 3.81 percent, or 785 mt, of the annual
  Central GOA Pacific cod TAC. This apportionment percentage is specified in Table 28c to 50 CFR part 679. This
  apportionment is deducted from the Trawl CV B season allowance (see Table 8: Apportionments of Rockfish
  Secondary Species in the Central GOA).


[[Page 57933]]

Proposed Allocations of the Sablefish TACs Amounts to Vessels Using 
Fixed Gear and Trawl Gear

    Sections 679.20(a)(4)(i) and (ii) require allocations of sablefish 
TACs for each of the regulatory areas and districts to fixed and trawl 
gear. In the Western and Central Regulatory Areas, 80 percent of each 
TAC is allocated to fixed gear, and 20 percent of each TAC is allocated 
to trawl gear. In the Eastern Regulatory Area, 95 percent of the TAC is 
allocated to fixed gear and 5 percent is allocated to trawl gear. The 
trawl gear allocation in the Eastern Regulatory Area may only be used 
to support incidental catch of sablefish in directed fisheries for 
other target species (Sec.  679.20(a)(4)(i)).
    In recognition of the prohibition against trawl gear in the SEO 
District of the Eastern Regulatory Area, the Council recommended and 
NMFS proposes the allocation of 5 percent of the combined Eastern 
Regulatory Area sablefish TAC to trawl gear in the WYK District, making 
the remainder of the WYK sablefish TAC available to vessels using fixed 
gear. NMFS proposes to allocate 100 percent of the sablefish TAC in the 
SEO District to vessels using fixed gear. This action results in a 
proposed 2018 allocation of 213 mt to trawl gear and 1,413 mt to fixed 
gear in the WYK District, a proposed 2018 allocation of 2,640 mt to 
fixed gear in the SEO District, and a 2019 allocation of 213 mt to 
trawl gear in the WYK District. Table 4 lists the allocations of the 
proposed 2018 sablefish TACs to fixed and trawl gear. Table 5 lists the 
allocations of the proposed 2019 sablefish TACs to trawl gear.
    The Council recommended that the trawl sablefish TAC be established 
for 2 years so that retention of incidental catch of sablefish by trawl 
gear could commence in January in the second year of the groundfish 
harvest specifications. Tables 4 and 5 list the 2018 and 2019 trawl 
allocations, respectively.
    The Council recommended that the fixed gear sablefish TAC be 
established annually to ensure that the sablefish IFQ fishery is 
conducted concurrently with the halibut IFQ fishery and is based on the 
most recent survey information. Since there is an annual assessment for 
sablefish and the final harvest specifications are expected to be 
published before the IFQ season begins (typically, in early March), the 
Council recommended that the fixed gear sablefish TAC be set annually, 
rather than for 2 years, so that the best available scientific 
information could be considered in establishing the sablefish ABCs and 
TACs. Accordingly, Table 4 lists the 2018 fixed gear allocations, and 
the 2019 fixed gear allocations will be in the proposed 2019 and 2020 
harvest specifications.
    With the exception of the trawl allocations that are provided to 
the Rockfish Program cooperatives (see Table 28c to 50 CFR part 679), 
directed fishing for sablefish with trawl gear is closed during the 
fishing year. Also, fishing for groundfish with trawl gear is 
prohibited prior to January 20. Therefore, it is not likely that the 
sablefish allocation to trawl gear would be reached before the 
effective date of the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications.

               Table 4--Proposed 2018 Sablefish Total Allowable Catch (TAC) in the Gulf of Alaska
                                     and Allocations to Fixed and Trawl Gear
                                 [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                    Fixed gear         Trawl
                          Area/district                                 TAC         allocation      allocation
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Western.........................................................           1,367           1,094             273
Central \1\.....................................................           4,574           3,659             915
West Yakutat \2\................................................           1,626           1,413             213
Southeast Outside...............................................           2,640           2,640               0
                                                                 -----------------------------------------------
    Total.......................................................          10,207           8,806           1,402
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ The trawl allocation to the Central Regulatory Area is further reduced by the sablefish apportioned to the
  Rockfish Program cooperatives (471 mt). See Table 8: Apportionments of Rockfish Secondary Species in the
  Central GOA. This results in 444 mt being available for the non-Rockfish Program trawl fisheries.
\2\ The proposed trawl allocation is based on allocating 5 percent of the combined Eastern Regulatory Area (West
  Yakutat and Southeast Outside Districts combined) sablefish TAC to trawl gear in the West Yakutat District.


               Table 5--Proposed 2019 Sablefish Total Allowable Catch (TAC) in the Gulf of Alaska
                                        and Allocation to Trawl Gear \1\
                                 [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton.]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                       Trawl
                Area/district                       TAC              Fixed gear allocation          allocation
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Western.....................................           1,367  n/a...............................             273
Central \2\.................................           4,574  n/a...............................             915
West Yakutat \3\............................           1,626  n/a...............................             213
Southeast Outside...........................           2,640  n/a...............................               0
                                             -------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total...................................          10,207  n/a...............................           1,402
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ The Council recommended that harvest specifications for the fixed gear sablefish Individual Fishing Quota
  fisheries be limited to 1 year.
\2\ The trawl allocation to the Central Regulatory Area is further reduced by the sablefish apportioned to the
  Rockfish Program cooperatives (471mt). See Table 8: Apportionments of Rockfish Secondary Species in the
  Central GOA. This results in 444 mt being available for the non-Rockfish Program trawl fisheries.
\3\ The proposed trawl allocation is based on allocating 5 percent of the combined Eastern Regulatory Area (West
  Yakutat and Southeast Outside Districts combined) sablefish TAC to trawl gear in the West Yakutat District.


[[Page 57934]]

Proposed Apportionments to the Rockfish Program

    These proposed 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications for the GOA 
include the fishery cooperative allocations and sideboard limitations 
established by the Rockfish Program. Program participants are primarily 
trawl CVs and trawl C/Ps, with limited participation by vessels using 
longline gear. The Rockfish Program assigns quota share and cooperative 
quota to participants for primary (Pacific ocean perch, northern 
rockfish, and dusky rockfish) and secondary species (Pacific cod, 
rougheye rockfish, sablefish, shortraker rockfish, and thornyhead 
rockfish), allows a participant holding a license limitation program 
(LLP) license with rockfish quota share to form a rockfish cooperative 
with other persons, and allows holders of C/P LLP licenses to opt out 
of the fishery. The Rockfish Program also has an entry level fishery 
for rockfish primary species for vessels using longline gear. Longline 
gear includes hook-and-line, jig, troll, and handline gear.
    Under the Rockfish Program, rockfish primary species in the Central 
GOA are allocated to participants after deducting for incidental catch 
needs in other directed groundfish fisheries (Sec.  679.81(a)(2)). 
Participants in the Rockfish Program also receive a portion of the 
Central GOA TAC of specific secondary species. Besides groundfish 
species, the Rockfish Program allocates a portion of the halibut PSC 
limit (191 mt) from the third season deep-water species fishery 
allowance for the GOA trawl fisheries to Rockfish Program participants 
(Sec.  679.81(d) and Table 28d to 50 CFR part 679). Rockfish Program 
sideboards and halibut PSC limits are discussed later in this rule.
    Also, the Rockfish Program establishes sideboard limits to restrict 
the ability of harvesters that operate under the Rockfish Program to 
increase their participation in other, non-Rockfish Program fisheries. 
These restrictions are discussed in a subsequent section titled 
``Rockfish Program Groundfish Sideboard and Halibut PSC Limitations.''
    Section 679.81(a)(2)(ii) and Table 28e to 50 CFR part 679 requires 
allocations of 5 mt of Pacific ocean perch, 5 mt of northern rockfish, 
and 50 mt of dusky rockfish to the entry level longline fishery in 2018 
and 2019. The allocation for the entry level longline fishery may 
increase incrementally each year if the catch exceeds 90 percent of the 
allocation of a species. The incremental increase in the allocation 
would continue each year until it is the maximum percentage of the TAC 
for that species. In 2017, the allocation for dusky rockfish increased 
by 20 mt, from 30 mt, to 50 mt. In 2017, the catch for all three 
primary species did not exceed 90 percent of any allocated rockfish 
species. Therefore, NMFS is not proposing any increases to the entry 
level longline fishery 2018 and 2019 allocations in the Central GOA. 
The remainder of the TACs for the rockfish primary species would be 
allocated to the CV and C/P cooperatives. Table 6 lists the allocations 
of the proposed 2018 and 2019 TACs for each rockfish primary species to 
the entry level longline fishery, the incremental increase for future 
years, and the maximum percentage of the TAC for the entry level 
longline fishery.

 Table 6--Proposed 2018 and 2019 Allocations of Rockfish Primary Species to the Entry Level Longline Fishery in
                                           the Central Gulf of Alaska
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                     Incremental increase in
                                                                     2019 if >=90 percent of     Up to maximum
        Rockfish primary species         2018 and 2019 allocations      2018 allocation is      percent of  each
                                                                            harvested               TAC of:
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pacific ocean perch....................  5 metric tons............  5 metric tons............                  1
Northern rockfish......................  5 metric tons............  5 metric tons............                  2
Dusky rockfish.........................  50 metric tons...........  20 metric tons...........                  5
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Section 679.81 requires allocations of rockfish primary species 
among various sectors of the Rockfish Program. Table 7 lists the 
proposed 2018 and 2019 allocations of rockfish primary species in the 
Central GOA to the entry level longline fishery, and rockfish CV and C/
P cooperatives in the Rockfish Program. NMFS also proposes setting 
aside incidental catch amounts (ICAs) for other directed fisheries in 
the Central GOA of 3,500 mt of Pacific ocean perch, 300 mt of northern 
rockfish, and 250 mt of dusky rockfish. These amounts are based on 
recent average incidental catches in the Central GOA by other 
groundfish fisheries.
    Allocations among vessels belonging to CV or C/P cooperatives are 
not included in these proposed harvest specifications. Rockfish Program 
applications for CV cooperatives and C/P cooperatives are not due to 
NMFS until March 1 of each calendar year; therefore, NMFS cannot 
calculate 2018 and 2019 allocations in conjunction with these proposed 
harvest specifications. NMFS will post these allocations on the Alaska 
Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/central-goa-rockfish-program when they become available after March 1.

  Table 7--Proposed 2018 and 2019 Allocations of Rockfish Primary Species in the Central Gulf of Alaska to the
                 Entry Level Longline Fishery and Rockfish Cooperatives in the Rockfish Program
                                 [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                   Allocation to
                                                    Incidental                       the entry     Allocation to
    Rockfish primary species            TAC            catch      TAC minus  ICA       level       the Rockfish
                                                     allowance                     longline \1\    Cooperatives
                                                       (ICA)                          fishery           \2\
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pacific ocean perch.............          16,347           3,500          12,847               5          12,842
Northern rockfish...............           3,108             300           2,808               5           2,803
Dusky rockfish..................           3,499             250           3,249              50           3,199
                                 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[[Page 57935]]

 
    Total.......................          22,954           4,050          18,904              60          18,844
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Longline gear includes hook-and-line, jig, troll, and handline gear (Sec.   679.2).
\2\ Rockfish cooperatives include vessels in CV and C/P cooperatives (Sec.   679.81).

    Section 679.81(c) and Table 28c to 50 CFR part 679 requires 
allocations of rockfish secondary species to CV and C/P cooperatives in 
the Central GOA. CV cooperatives receive allocations of Pacific cod, 
sablefish from the trawl gear allocation, and thornyhead rockfish. C/P 
cooperatives receive allocations of sablefish from the trawl 
allocation, rougheye rockfish, shortraker rockfish, and thornyhead 
rockfish. Table 8 lists the apportionments of the proposed 2018 and 
2019 TACs of rockfish secondary species in the Central GOA to CV and C/
P cooperatives.

  Table 8--Proposed 2018 and 2019 Apportionments of Rockfish Secondary Species in the Central GOA to Catcher Vessel and Catcher/Processor Cooperatives
                                                               [Values are in metric tons]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                   Catcher Vessel cooperatives         Catcher/Processor cooperatives
                                                              Central GOA    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Rockfish secondary species                     annual TAC       Percentage of      Apportionment      Percentage of      Apportionment
                                                                                     TAC                (mt)               TAC                (mt)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pacific cod..............................................             20,603               3.81                785                0.0                0.0
Sablefish................................................              4,574               6.78                310               3.51                161
Shortraker rockfish......................................                301                0.0                  0              40.00                120
Rougheye rockfish........................................                702                0.0                  0              58.87                413
Thornyhead rockfish......................................                988               7.84                 77              26.50                262
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Halibut PSC Limits

    Section 679.21(d) establishes annual halibut PSC limit 
apportionments to trawl and hook-and-line gear, and authorizes the 
establishment of apportionments for pot gear. In October 2017, the 
Council recommended halibut PSC limits of 1,706 mt for trawl gear, 257 
mt for hook-and-line gear, and 9 mt for the demersal shelf rockfish 
(DSR) fishery in the SEO District.
    The DSR fishery in the SEO District is defined at Sec.  
679.21(d)(2)(ii)(A). This fishery is apportioned 9 mt of the halibut 
PSC limit in recognition of its small-scale harvests of groundfish. 
NMFS estimates low halibut bycatch in the DSR fishery because (1) the 
duration of the DSR fisheries and the gear soak times are short, (2) 
the DSR fishery occurs in the winter when there is less overlap in the 
distribution of DSR and halibut, and (3) the directed commercial DSR 
fishery has a low DSR TAC. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game sets 
the commercial GHL for the DSR fishery after deducting (1) estimates of 
DSR incidental catch in all fisheries (including halibut and 
subsistence); and (2) the allocation to the DSR sport fish fishery. Of 
the 227 mt TAC for DSR in 2017, 77 mt were available for the DSR 
commercial directed fishery, of which 36 mt were harvested.
    The FMP authorizes the Council to exempt specific gear from the 
halibut PSC limits. NMFS, after consultation with the Council, proposes 
to exempt pot gear, jig gear, and the sablefish IFQ hook-and-line gear 
fishery categories from the non-trawl halibut PSC limit for 2018 and 
2019. The Council recommended, and NMFS is proposing, these exemptions 
because (1) pot gear fisheries have low annual halibut bycatch 
mortality; (2) IFQ program regulations prohibit discard of halibut if 
any halibut IFQ permit holder on board a CV holds unused halibut IFQ 
for that vessel category and the IFQ regulatory area in which the 
vessel is operating (Sec.  679.7(f)(11)); 3) some sablefish IFQ permit 
holders hold halibut IFQ permits and are therefore required to retain 
the halibut they catch while fishing sablefish IFQ; and 4) NMFS 
estimates negligible halibut mortality for the jig gear fisheries. NMFS 
estimates halibut mortality is negligible in the jig gear fisheries 
given the small amount of groundfish harvested by jig gear, the 
selective nature of jig gear, and the high survival rates of halibut 
caught and released with jig gear.
    The best available information on estimated halibut bycatch 
consists of data collected by fisheries observers during 2017. The 
calculated halibut bycatch mortality through October 12, 2017, is 1,018 
mt for trawl gear and 119 mt for hook-and-line gear for a total halibut 
mortality of 1,137 mt. This halibut mortality was calculated using 
groundfish and halibut catch data from the NMFS Alaska Region's catch 
accounting system. This accounting system contains historical and 
recent catch information compiled from each Alaska groundfish fishery.
    Section 679.21(d)(4)(i) and (ii) authorizes NMFS to seasonally 
apportion the halibut PSC limits after consultation with the Council. 
The FMP and regulations require that the Council and NMFS consider the 
following information in seasonally apportioning halibut PSC limits: 
(1) Seasonal distribution of halibut, (2) seasonal distribution of 
target groundfish species relative to halibut distribution, (3) 
expected halibut bycatch needs on a seasonal basis relative to changes 
in halibut biomass and expected catch of target groundfish species, (4) 
expected bycatch rates on a seasonal basis, (5) expected changes in 
directed groundfish fishing seasons, (6) expected actual start of 
fishing effort, and (7) economic effects of establishing seasonal 
halibut allocations on segments of the target

[[Page 57936]]

groundfish industry. Based on public comment and the information 
presented in the final 2017 SAFE report, the Council may recommend or 
NMFS may make changes to the seasonal, gear-type, or fishery category 
apportionments of halibut PSC limits for the final 2018 and 2019 
harvest specifications.
    The final 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications (82 FR 12032, 
February 27, 2017) summarized the Council's and NMFS' findings with 
respect to halibut PSC for each of these FMP considerations. The 
Council's and NMFS' findings for 2018 are unchanged from 2017. Table 9 
lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 Pacific halibut PSC limits, 
allowances, and apportionments. The halibut PSC limits in these tables 
reflect the halibut PSC limits set forth at Sec.  679.21(d)(2) and 
Sec.  679.21(d)(3). Sections 679.21(d)(4)(iii) and (iv) specify that 
any underages or overages of a seasonal apportionment of a halibut PSC 
limit will be added to or deducted from the next respective seasonal 
apportionment within the fishing year.

                               Table 9--Proposed 2018 and 2019 Pacific Halibut PSC Limits, Allowances, and Apportionments
                                                               [Values are in metric tons]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                          Trawl gear                                                             Hook-and-line gear \1\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                  Other than DSR                                    DSR
                 Season                    Percent     Amount  -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                           Season             Percent     Amount             Season              Amount
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
January 20-April 1......................       27.5        469  January 1-June 10..........         86        221  January 1-December 31.....          9
April 1-July 1..........................         20        341  June 10-September 1........          2          5  ..........................  .........
July 1-September 1......................         30        512  September 1-December 31....         12         31  ..........................  .........
September 1-October 1...................        7.5        128  ...........................  .........  .........  ..........................  .........
October 1-December 31...................         15        256  ...........................  .........  .........  ..........................  .........
                                         ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total...............................  .........      1,706  ...........................  .........        257  ..........................          9
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ The Pacific halibut prohibited species catch (PSC) limit for hook-and-line gear is allocated to the demersal shelf rockfish (DSR) fishery and
  fisheries other than DSR. The hook-and-line sablefish fishery is exempt from halibut PSC limits, as are pot and jig gear for all groundfish fisheries.

    Section 679.21(d)(3)(ii) authorizes further apportionment of the 
trawl halibut PSC limit as bycatch allowances to trawl fishery 
categories listed in Sec.  679.21(d)(3)(iii). The annual apportionments 
are based on each category's proportional share of the anticipated 
halibut bycatch mortality during a fishing year and optimization of the 
total amount of groundfish harvest under the halibut PSC limit. The 
fishery categories for the trawl halibut PSC limits are (1) a deep-
water species fishery, composed of sablefish, rockfish, deep-water 
flatfish, rex sole, and arrowtooth flounder; and (2) a shallow-water 
species fishery, composed of pollock, Pacific cod, shallow-water 
flatfish, flathead sole, Atka mackerel, and ``other species'' 
(sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses) (Sec.  679.21(d)(3)(iii)). 
Halibut mortality incurred while directed fishing for skates with trawl 
gear accrues towards the shallow-water fishery halibut PSC limit (69 FR 
26320, May 12, 2004).
    As discussed previously in this preamble, the proposed Pacific cod 
TAC recommended by the Council is substantially less than the 2018 TAC 
published in the final 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications (82 FR 
12032, February 27, 2017). If the proposed TAC or a lower TAC is 
adopted as the final TAC for 2018 and 2019, this reduced TAC could 
result in the Council adjusting the apportionment of halibut PSC limits 
between the shallow-water and deep-water species fisheries to reflect 
the potential for decreased effort in the shallow-water fisheries in 
2018 and 2019 due the decrease in the Pacific cod TAC. The potential 
for decreased effort in the shallow-water species fishery could allow 
the deep-water species fishery to receive additional apportionments of 
the trawl halibut PSC limit. This adjustment could be made during the 
final harvest specifications process, pending any public comment, 
Council discussion, and Council recommendations for a change during the 
December 2017 Council meeting.
    NMFS will combine available trawl halibut PSC limit apportionments 
in part of the second season deep-water and shallow-water fisheries for 
use in either fishery from May 15 through June 30 (Sec.  
679.21(d)(4)(iii)(D)). This is intended to maintain groundfish harvest 
while minimizing halibut bycatch by these sectors to the extent 
practicable. This provides the deep-water and shallow-water trawl 
fisheries additional flexibility and the incentive to participate in 
fisheries at times of the year that may have lower halibut PSC rates 
relative to other times of the year.
    Table 10 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 seasonal apportionments 
of trawl halibut PSC limits between the trawl gear deep-water and the 
shallow-water species fisheries.
    Table 28d to 50 CFR part 679 specifies the amount of the trawl 
halibut PSC limit that is assigned to the CV and C/P sectors that are 
participating in the Central GOA Rockfish Program. This includes 117 mt 
of halibut PSC limit to the CV sector and 74 mt of halibut PSC limit to 
the C/P sector. These amounts are allocated from the trawl deep-water 
species fishery's halibut PSC third seasonal apportionment.
    Section 679.21(d)(4)(iii)(B) limits the amount of the halibut PSC 
limit allocated to Rockfish Program participants that could be re-
apportioned to the general GOA trawl fisheries to no more than 55 
percent of the unused annual halibut PSC apportioned to Rockfish 
Program participants. The remainder of the unused Rockfish Program 
halibut PSC limit is unavailable for use by any person for the 
remainder of the fishing year (Sec.  679.21(d)(4)(iii)(C)).

[[Page 57937]]



  Table 10--Proposed 2018 and 2019 Seasonal Apportionments of the Pacific Halibut PSC Limit Apportioned Between
                          the Trawl Gear Shallow-Water and Deep-Water Species Fisheries
                                           [Values are in metric tons]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                 Season                    Shallow-water              Deep-water \1\                 Total
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
January 20-April 1.....................                384  85...............................                469
April 1-July 1.........................                 85  256..............................                341
July 1-September 1.....................                171  341..............................                512
September 1-October 1..................                128  Any remainder....................                128
                                        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Subtotal, January 20-October 1.....                768  682..............................              1,450
October 1-December 31 \2\..............  .................  .................................                256
                                        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Total..........................  .................  .................................              1,706
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Vessels participating in cooperatives in the Rockfish Program will receive 191 mt of the third season (July
  1 through September 1) deep-water species fishery halibut PSC apportionment.
\2\ There is no apportionment between trawl shallow-water and deep-water species fisheries during the fifth
  season (October 1 through December 31).

    Section 679.21(d)(2) requires that the ``other hook-and-line 
fishery'' halibut PSC limit apportionment to vessels using hook-and-
line gear must be divided between CVs and C/Ps. NMFS must calculate the 
halibut PSC limit apportionments for the entire GOA to hook-and-line 
CVs and C/Ps in accordance with Sec.  679.21(d)(2)(iii) in conjunction 
with these harvest specifications. A comprehensive description and 
example of the calculations necessary to apportion the ``other hook-
and-line fishery'' halibut PSC limit between the hook-and-line CV and 
C/P sectors were included in the proposed rule to implement Amendment 
83 to the FMP (76 FR 44700, July 26, 2011) and are not repeated here.
    For 2018 and 2019, NMFS proposes annual halibut PSC limit 
apportionments of 129 mt and 128 mt to the hook-and-line CV and hook-
and-line C/P sectors, respectively. The 2018 and 2019 annual halibut 
PSC limits are divided into three seasonal apportionments, using 
seasonal percentages of 86 percent, 2 percent, and 12 percent. Table 11 
lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 annual halibut PSC limits and seasonal 
apportionments between the hook-and-line CV and hook-and-line C/P 
sectors in the GOA.
    No later than November 1 year, any halibut PSC limit allocated 
under Sec.  679.21(d)(2)(ii)(B) not projected by the Regional 
Administrator to be used by one of the hook-and-line sectors during the 
remainder of the fishing year will be made available to the other 
sector. NMFS calculates the projected unused amount of halibut PSC 
limit by either the CV hook-and-line or the C/P hook-and-line sectors 
of the ``other hook-and-line fishery'' for the remainder of the year. 
The projected unused amount of halibut PSC limit is made available to 
the other hook-and-line sector for the remainder of that fishing year 
if NMFS determines that an additional amount of halibut PSC limit is 
necessary for that sector to continue its directed fishing operations 
(Sec.  679.21(d)(2)(iii)(C)).

  Table 11--Proposed 2018 and 2019 Apportionments of the ``Other Hook-and-Line Fisheries'' Halibut PSC Allowance Between the Hook-and-Line Gear Catcher
                                                          Vessel and Catcher/Processor Sectors
                                                               [Values are in metric tons]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                                              Sector
``Other  than DSR''  allowance             Hook-and-  line sector             Sector  annual            Season               Seasonal        seasonal
                                                                                   amount                                   percentage        amount
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
257...........................  Catcher Vessel..............................             129  January 1-June 10.........              86             111
                                                                                              June 10-September 1.......               2               3
                                                                                              September 1-December 31...              12              15
                                Catcher/Processor...........................             128  January 1--June 10........              86             110
                                                                                              June 10-September 1.......               2               3
                                                                                              September 1-December 31...              12              15
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Halibut Discard Mortality Rates

    To monitor halibut bycatch mortality allowances and apportionments, 
the Regional Administrator uses observed halibut incidental catch 
rates, halibut discard mortality rates (DMRs), and estimates of 
groundfish catch to project when a fishery's halibut bycatch mortality 
allowance or seasonal apportionment is reached. Halibut incidental 
catch rates are based on observers' estimates of halibut incidental 
catch in the groundfish fishery. DMRs are estimates of the proportion 
of incidentally caught halibut that do not survive after being returned 
to the sea. The cumulative halibut mortality that accrues to a 
particular halibut PSC limit is the product of a DMR multiplied by the 
estimated halibut PSC. DMRs are estimated using the best scientific 
information available in conjunction with the annual GOA stock 
assessment process. The DMR methodology and findings are included as an 
appendix to the annual GOA groundfish SAFE report.
    In 2016, the DMR estimation methodology underwent revisions per the 
Council's directive. An interagency halibut working group 
(International Pacific Halibut Commission, Council, and NMFS staff) 
developed improved estimation methods that have undergone review by the 
Plan Team, SSC, and the Council. A summary of the revised methodology 
is contained in the GOA proposed 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications 
(81 FR 87881, December 6, 2016), and the comprehensive discussion of 
the working group's

[[Page 57938]]

statistical methodology is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). 
The DMR working group's revised methodology is intended to improve 
estimation accuracy, as well as transparency and transferability in the 
methodology used for calculating DMRs. The working group will continue 
to consider improvements to the methodology used to calculate halibut 
mortality, including potential changes to the reference period (the 
period of data used for calculating the DMRs). Future DMRs may change 
based on additional years of observer sampling, which could provide 
more recent and accurate data and which could improve the accuracy of 
estimation and progress on methodology. The new methodology will 
continue to ensure that NMFS is using DMRs that more accurately reflect 
halibut mortality, which will inform the different sectors of their 
estimated halibut mortality and allow specific sectors to respond with 
methods that could reduce mortality and, eventually, the DMR for that 
sector.
    At the December 2016 meeting, the SSC, AP, and Council concurred 
with the revised DMR estimation methodology, and NMFS adopted the DMRs 
calculated under the revised methodology for the 2017 and 2018 harvest 
specifications. In October 2017, the Council recommended adopting the 
halibut DMRs derived from the 2016 process for the proposed 2018 and 
2019 DMRs. The proposed 2018 and 2019 DMRs maintain the 2016 process 
using an updated 3-year reference period of 2014 through 2016. The 
proposed DMR for catcher vessels using hook-and-line gear increased to 
17 percent from 12 percent, and the proposed DMR for trawl catcher 
vessels operating in the Rockfish Program decreased to 62 percent from 
67 percent. Other sectors had minor increases of 3 percent or less. 
Table 12 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 DMRs.

   Table 12--Proposed 2018 and 2019 Halibut Discard Mortality Rates for Vessels Fishing in the Gulf of Alaska
                               [Values are percent of halibut assumed to be dead]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                Halibut discard
                  Gear                             Sector               Groundfish fishery       mortality rate
                                                                                                   (percent)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pelagic trawl..........................  Catcher vessel...........  All......................                100
                                         Catcher/processor........  All......................                100
Non-pelagic trawl......................  Catcher vessel...........  Rockfish Program.........                 62
                                         Catcher vessel...........  All others...............                 67
                                         Mothership and catcher/    All......................                 84
                                          processor.
Hook-and-line..........................  Catcher/processor........  All......................                 10
                                         Catcher vessel...........  All......................                 17
Pot....................................  Catcher vessel and         All......................                  7
                                          catcher/processor.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Chinook Salmon Prohibited Species Catch Limit

    Amendment 93 to the FMP (77 FR 42629, July 20, 2012) established 
separate Chinook salmon PSC limits in the Western and Central GOA in 
the directed pollock trawl fishery. These limits require NMFS to close 
the pollock directed fishery in the Western and Central regulatory 
areas of the GOA if the applicable Chinook salmon PSC limit is reached 
(Sec.  679.21(h)(8)). The annual Chinook salmon PSC limits in the 
pollock directed fishery of 6,684 salmon in the Western GOA and 18,316 
salmon in the Central GOA are set in Sec.  679.21(h)(2)(i) and (ii).
    Amendment 97 to the FMP (79 FR 71350, December 2, 2014) established 
an initial annual PSC limit of 7,500 Chinook salmon for the non-pollock 
groundfish trawl fisheries in the Western and Central GOA. This limit 
is apportioned among three sectors: 3,600 Chinook salmon to trawl C/Ps; 
1,200 Chinook salmon to trawl CVs participating in the Rockfish 
Program; and 2,700 Chinook salmon to trawl CVs not participating in the 
Rockfish Program (Sec.  679.21(h)(4)). NMFS will monitor the Chinook 
salmon PSC in the non-pollock GOA groundfish fisheries and close an 
applicable sector if it reaches its Chinook salmon PSC limit.
    The Chinook salmon PSC limit for two sectors, trawl C/Ps and trawl 
CVs not participating in the Rockfish Program, may be increased in 
subsequent years based on the performance of these two sectors and 
their ability to minimize their use of their respective Chinook salmon 
PSC limits. If either or both of these two sectors limit its use of 
Chinook salmon PSC to a certain threshold amount in 2017 (3,120 for 
trawl C/Ps and 2,340 for trawl CVs), that sector will receive an 
incremental increase to its 2018 Chinook salmon PSC limit (4,080 for 
trawl C/Ps and 3,060 for trawl CVs) (Sec.  679.21(h)(4)). NMFS will 
evaluate the annual Chinook salmon PSC by trawl C/Ps and non-Rockfish 
Program CVs when the 2017 fishing year is complete to determine whether 
to increase the Chinook salmon PSC limits for these two sectors. Based 
on preliminary 2017 Chinook salmon PSC data, the trawl C/P sector and 
the non-Rockfish Program CV sector may receive an incremental increase 
of Chinook salmon PSC limit in 2018. This evaluation will be completed 
in conjunction with the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications.

American Fisheries Act (AFA) Catcher/Processor and Catcher Vessel 
Groundfish Sideboard Limits

    Section 679.64 establishes groundfish harvesting and processing 
sideboard limits on AFA C/Ps and CVs in the GOA. These sideboard limits 
are necessary to protect the interests of fishermen and processors who 
do not directly benefit from the AFA from those fishermen and 
processors who receive exclusive harvesting and processing privileges 
under the AFA. Section 679.7(k)(1)(ii) prohibits listed AFA C/Ps from 
harvesting any species of fish in the GOA. Additionally, Sec.  
679.7(k)(1)(iv) prohibits listed AFA C/Ps from processing any pollock 
harvested in a directed pollock fishery in the GOA and any groundfish 
harvested in Statistical Area 630 of the GOA.
    AFA CVs that are less than 125 ft (38.1 meters) length overall, 
have annual landings of pollock in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands 
of less than 5,100 mt, and have made at least 40 landings of GOA 
groundfish from 1995 through 1997 are exempt from GOA CV groundfish 
sideboard limits under Sec.  679.64(b)(2)(ii). Sideboard limits for 
non-exempt AFA CVs in the GOA are based on their traditional harvest 
levels

[[Page 57939]]

of TAC in groundfish fisheries covered by the FMP. Section 
679.64(b)(3)(iv) establishes for CVs the groundfish sideboard 
limitations in the GOA based on the retained catch of non-exempt AFA 
CVs of each sideboard species from 1995 through 1997 divided by the TAC 
for that species over the same period.
    Table 13 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 groundfish sideboard 
limits for non-exempt AFA CVs. NMFS will deduct all targeted or 
incidental catch of sideboard species made by non-exempt AFA CVs from 
the sideboard limits listed in Table 13.

 Table 13--Proposed 2018 and 2019 GOA Non-Exempt American Fisheries Act Catcher Vessel (CV) Groundfish Sideboard
                                                     Limits
                                 [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                  Ratio of  1995-                 Proposed  2018
                                                                    1997  non-    Proposed  2018  and 2019  non-
           Species              Apportionments    Area/component  exempt  AFA CV  and 2019  TACs  exempt  AFA CV
                                by season/gear                    catch  to 1995-       \3\          sideboard
                                                                     1997  TAC                         limit
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pollock......................  A Season January  Shumagin (610).          0.6047           1,725           1,043
                                20-March 10.     Chirikof (620).          0.1167          26,704           3,116
                                                 Kodiak (630)...          0.2028           8,513           1,726
                               B Season March    Shumagin (610).          0.6047           1,725           1,043
                                10-May 31.       Chirikof (620).          0.1167          30,469           3,556
                                                 Kodiak (630)...          0.2028           4,748             963
                               C Season August   Shumagin (610).          0.6047          15,125           9,146
                                25-October 1.    Chirikof (620).          0.1167           9,538           1,113
                                                 Kodiak (630)...          0.2028          12,278           2,490
                               D Season October  Shumagin (610).          0.6047          15,125           9,146
                                1-November 1.    Chirikof (620).          0.1167           9,538           1,113
                                                 Kodiak (630)...          0.2028          12,278           2,490
                               Annual..........  WYK (640)......          0.3495           5,791           2,024
                                                 SEO (650)......          0.3495           9,920           3,467
Pacific cod..................  A Season \1\      W..............          0.1331           9,477           1,261
                                January 1-June   C..............          0.0692          12,362             855
                                10.
                               B Season \2\....  W..............          0.1331           6,318             841
                               September 1-      C..............          0.0692           8,241             570
                                December 31.
                               Annual..........  E inshore......          0.0079           3,303              26
                                                 E offshore.....          0.0078             367               3
Sablefish....................  Annual, trawl     W..............          0.0000             273               0
                                gear.            C..............          0.0642             915              59
                                                 E..............          0.0433             213               9
Flatfish, shallow-water......  Annual..........  W..............          0.0156          13,250             207
                                                 C..............          0.0587          19,418           1,140
                                                 E..............          0.0126           4,311              54
Flatfish, deep-water.........  Annual..........  W..............          0.0000             257               0
                                                 C..............          0.0647           3,488             226
                                                 E..............          0.0128           5,637              72
Rex sole.....................  Annual..........  W..............          0.0007           1,478               1
                                                 C..............          0.0384           4,995             192
                                                 E..............          0.0029           1,948               6
Arrowtooth flounder..........  Annual..........  W..............          0.0021          14,500              30
                                                 C..............          0.0280          75,000           2,100
                                                 E..............          0.0002          13,800               3
Flathead sole................  Annual..........  W..............          0.0036           8,650              31
                                                 C..............          0.0213          15,400             328
                                                 E..............          0.0009           3,870               3
Pacific ocean perch..........  Annual..........  W..............          0.0023           2,627               6
                                                 C..............          0.0748          16,347           1,223
                                                 E..............          0.0466           4,480             209
Northern rockfish............  Annual..........  W..............          0.0003             400               0
                                                 C..............          0.0277           3,108              86
Shortraker rockfish..........  Annual..........  W..............          0.0000              38               0
                                                 C..............          0.0218             301               7
                                                 E..............          0.0110             947              10
Dusky Rockfish...............  Annual..........  W..............          0.0001             146               0
                                                 C..............          0.0000           3,499               0
                                                 E..............          0.0067             309               2
Rougheye rockfish............  Annual..........  W..............          0.0000             104               0
                                                 C..............          0.0237             702              17
                                                 E..............          0.0124             512               6
Demersal shelf rockfish......  Annual..........  SEO............          0.0020             227               0
Thornyhead rockfish..........  Annual..........  W..............          0.0280             291               8
                                                 C..............          0.0280             988              28
                                                 E..............          0.0280             682              19

[[Page 57940]]

 
Other Rockfish...............  Annual..........  W/C............          0.1699           1,534             261
                                                 E..............          0.0000             774               0
Atka mackerel................  Annual..........  Gulfwide.......          0.0309           3,000              93
Big skates...................  Annual..........  W..............          0.0063             908               6
                                                 C..............          0.0063           1,850              12
                                                 E..............          0.0063           1,056               7
Longnose skates..............  Annual..........  W..............          0.0063              61               0
                                                 C..............          0.0063           2,513              16
                                                 E..............          0.0063             632               4
Other skates.................  Annual..........  Gulfwide.......          0.0063           1,919              12
Sculpins.....................  Annual..........  Gulfwide.......          0.0063           5,591              35
Sharks.......................  Annual..........  Gulfwide.......          0.0063           4,514              28
Squids.......................  Annual..........  Gulfwide.......          0.0063           1,137               7
Octopuses....................  Annual..........  Gulfwide.......          0.0063           4,878              31
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ The Pacific cod A season for trawl gear does not open until January 20.
\2\ The Pacific cod B season for trawl gear closes November 1.
\3\ The Western and Central GOA area apportionments of pollock are considered ACLs.

Non-Exempt AFA Catcher Vessel Halibut PSC Sideboard Limits

    The halibut PSC sideboard limits for non-exempt AFA CVs in the GOA 
are based on the aggregate retained groundfish catch by non-exempt AFA 
CVs in each PSC target category from 1995 through 1997 divided by the 
retained catch of all vessels in that fishery from 1995 through 1997 
(Sec.  679.64(b)(4)(ii)). Table 14 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 
non-exempt AFA CV halibut PSC limits for vessels using trawl gear in 
the GOA.

  Table 14--Proposed 2018 and 2019 Non-Exempt American Fisheries Act Catcher Vessel Halibut Prohibited Species Catch (PSC) Sideboard Limits for Vessels
                                                               Using Trawl Gear in the GOA
                                                   [PSC limits are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                   Ratio of 1995-
                                                                                                  1997 non-exempt     Proposed 2018      Proposed 2018
                 Season                         Season dates              Fishery category        AFA CV retained      and 2019 PSC      and 2019  non-
                                                                                                   catch to total         limit          exempt  AFA CV
                                                                                                   retained catch                          PSC  limit
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1......................................  January 20-April 1........  shallow-water.............              0.340                384                131
                                                                     deep-water................              0.070                 85                  6
2......................................  April 1-July 1............  shallow-water.............              0.340                 85                 29
                                                                     deep-water................              0.070                256                 18
3......................................  July 1-September 1........  shallow-water.............              0.340                171                 58
                                                                     deep-water................              0.070                341                 24
4......................................  September 1-October 1.....  shallow-water.............              0.340                128                 44
                                                                     deep-water................              0.070                  0                  0
5......................................  October 1-December 31.....  all targets...............              0.205                256                 52
Annual:
    Total shallow-water................  ..........................  ..........................  .................  .................                262
                                                                                                --------------------------------------------------------
    Total deep-water...................  ..........................  ..........................  .................  .................                 48
                                                                                                --------------------------------------------------------
        Grand Total, all seasons and     ..........................  ..........................  .................              1,706                362
         categories.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Non-AFA Crab Vessel Groundfish Sideboard Limits

    Section 680.22 establishes groundfish sideboard limits for vessels 
with a history of participation in the Bering Sea snow crab fishery to 
prevent these vessels from using the increased flexibility provided by 
the Crab Rationalization Program to expand their level of participation 
in the GOA groundfish fisheries. Sideboard harvest limits restrict 
these vessels' catch to their collective historical landings in each 
GOA groundfish fishery (except the fixed-gear sablefish fishery). 
Sideboard limits also apply to landings made using an LLP license 
derived from the history of a restricted vessel, even if that LLP 
license is used on another vessel.

[[Page 57941]]

    The basis for these sideboard harvest limits is described in detail 
in the final rules implementing the major provisions of the Crab 
Rationalization Program, including Amendments 18 and 19 to the Fishery 
Management Plan for Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands King and Tanner Crabs 
(Crab FMP) (70 FR 10174, March 2, 2005), Amendment 34 to the Crab FMP 
(76 FR 35772, June 20, 2011), Amendment 83 to the GOA FMP (76 FR 74670, 
December 1, 2011), and Amendment 45 to the Crab FMP (80 FR 28539, May 
19, 2015).
    Table 15 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 groundfish sideboard 
limitations for non-AFA crab vessels. All targeted or incidental catch 
of sideboard species made by non-AFA crab vessels or associated LLP 
licenses will be deducted from these sideboard limits.

                                       Table 15--Proposed 2018 and 2019 GOA Non-American Fisheries Act Crab Vessel
                                                               Groundfish Sideboard Limits
                                                     [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                   Ratio of 1996-
                                                                                                    2000 non-AFA                         Proposed  2018
                                                                                                    crab vessel       Proposed  2018   and 2019  non-AFA
                Species                          Season/gear             Area/component/gear       catch to 1996-     and 2019  TACs      crab  vessel
                                                                                                     2000 total                         sideboard  limit
                                                                                                      harvest
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pollock................................  A Season..................  Shumagin (610)............             0.0098              1,725                 17
                                         January 20-March 10.......  Chirikof (620)............             0.0031             26,704                 83
                                                                     Kodiak (630)..............             0.0002              8,513                  2
                                         B Season..................  Shumagin (610)............             0.0098              1,725                 17
                                         March 10-May 31...........  Chirikof (620)............             0.0031             30,469                 94
                                                                     Kodiak (630)..............             0.0002              4,748                  1
                                         C Season..................  Shumagin (610)............             0.0098             15,125                148
                                         August 25-October 1.......  Chirikof (620)............             0.0031              9,538                 30
                                                                     Kodiak (630)..............             0.0002             12,278                  2
                                         D Season..................  Shumagin (610)............             0.0098             15,125                148
                                         October 1-November 1......  Chirikof (620)............             0.0031              9,538                 30
                                                                     Kodiak (630)..............             0.0002             12,278                  2
                                         Annual....................  WYK (640).................             0.0000              5,791  .................
                                                                     SEO (650).................             0.0000              9,920  .................
Pacific cod............................  A Season \1\..............  W Jig CV..................             0.0000              9,477  .................
                                                                     W Hook-and-line CV........             0.0004              9,477                  4
                                         January 1-June 10.........  W Pot CV..................             0.0997              9,477                945
                                                                     W Pot C/P.................             0.0078              9,477                 74
                                                                     W Trawl CV................             0.0007              9,477                  7
                                                                     C Jig CV..................             0.0000             12,362
                                                                     C Hook-and-line CV........             0.0001             12,362                  1
                                                                     C Pot CV..................             0.0474             12,362                586
                                                                     C Pot C/P.................             0.0136             12,362                168
                                                                     C Trawl CV................             0.0012             12,362                 15
                                         B Season \2\..............  W Jig CV..................             0.0000              6,318  .................
                                                                     W Hook-and-line CV........             0.0004              6,318                  3
                                         September 1-December 31...  W Pot CV..................             0.0997              6,318                630
                                                                     W Pot C/P.................             0.0078              6,318                 49
                                                                     W Trawl CV................             0.0007              6,318                  4
                                                                     C Jig CV..................             0.0000              8,241
                                                                     C Hook-and-line CV........             0.0001              8,241                  1
                                                                     C Pot CV..................             0.0474              8,241                391
                                                                     C Pot C/P.................             0.0136              8,241                112
                                                                     C Trawl CV................             0.0012              8,241                 10
                                         Annual....................  E inshore.................             0.0110              3,303                 36
                                                                     E offshore................             0.0000                367  .................
Sablefish..............................  Annual, trawl gear........  W.........................             0.0000                273  .................
                                                                     C.........................             0.0000                915  .................
                                                                     E.........................             0.0000                213  .................
Flatfish, shallow-water................  Annual....................  W.........................             0.0059             13,250                 78
                                                                     C.........................             0.0001             19,418                  2
                                                                     E.........................             0.0000              4,311  .................
Flatfish, deep-water...................  Annual....................  W.........................             0.0035                257                  1
                                                                     C.........................             0.0000              3,488  .................
                                                                     E.........................             0.0000              5,637  .................
Rex sole...............................  Annual....................  W.........................             0.0000              1,478  .................
                                                                     C.........................             0.0000              4,995  .................
                                                                     E.........................             0.0000              1,948  .................
Arrowtooth flounder....................  Annual....................  W.........................             0.0004             14,500                  6
                                                                     C.........................             0.0001             75,000                  8
                                                                     E.........................             0.0000             13,800  .................
Flathead sole..........................  Annual....................  W.........................             0.0002              8,650                  2
                                                                     C.........................             0.0004             15,400                  6
                                                                     E.........................             0.0000              3,870  .................

[[Page 57942]]

 
Pacific ocean perch....................  Annual....................  W.........................             0.0000              2,627  .................
                                                                     C.........................             0.0000             16,347  .................
                                                                     E.........................             0.0000              4,480  .................
Northern rockfish......................  Annual....................  W.........................             0.0005                400                  0
                                                                     C.........................             0.0000              3,108  .................
Shortraker rockfish....................  Annual....................  W.........................             0.0013                 38                  0
                                                                     C.........................             0.0012                301                  0
                                                                     E.........................             0.0009                947                  1
Dusky rockfish.........................  Annual....................  W.........................             0.0017                146                  0
                                                                     C.........................             0.0000              3,499  .................
                                                                     E.........................             0.0000                309  .................
Rougheye rockfish......................  Annual....................  W.........................             0.0067                104                  1
                                                                     C.........................             0.0047                702                  3
                                                                     E.........................             0.0008                512                  0
Demersal shelf rockfish................  Annual....................  SEO.......................             0.0000                227  .................
Thornyhead rockfish....................  Annual....................  W.........................             0.0047                291                  1
                                                                     C.........................             0.0066                988                  7
                                                                     E.........................             0.0045                682                  3
Other Rockfish.........................  Annual....................  W/C.......................             0.0033              1,534                  5
                                                                     E.........................             0.0000                774  .................
Atka mackerel..........................  Annual....................  Gulfwide..................             0.0000              3,000  .................
Big skate..............................  Annual....................  W.........................             0.0392                908                 36
                                                                     C.........................             0.0159              1,850                 29
                                                                     E.........................             0.0000              1,056  .................
Longnose skate.........................  Annual....................  W.........................             0.0392                 61                  2
                                                                     C.........................             0.0159              2,513                 40
                                                                     E.........................             0.0000                632  .................
Other skates...........................  Annual....................  Gulfwide..................             0.0176              1,919                 34
Sculpins...............................  Annual....................  Gulfwide..................             0.0176              5,591                 98
Sharks.................................  Annual....................  Gulfwide..................             0.0176              4,514                 79
Squids.................................  Annual....................  Gulfwide..................             0.0176              1,137                 20
Octopuses..............................  Annual....................  Gulfwide..................             0.0176              4,878                 86
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ The Pacific cod A season for trawl gear does not open until January 20.
\2\ The Pacific cod B season for trawl gear closes November 1.

Rockfish Program Groundfish Sideboard and Halibut PSC Limitations

    The Rockfish Program establishes three classes of sideboard 
provisions: CV groundfish sideboard restrictions, C/P rockfish 
sideboard restrictions, and C/P opt-out vessel sideboard restrictions 
(Sec.  679.82(c)(1)). These sideboards are intended to limit the 
ability of rockfish harvesters to expand into other fisheries.
    CVs participating in the Rockfish Program may not participate in 
directed fishing for dusky rockfish, northern rockfish, and Pacific 
ocean perch in the Western GOA and West Yakutat Districts from July 1 
through July 31. Also, CVs may not participate in directed fishing for 
arrowtooth flounder, deep-water flatfish, and rex sole in the GOA from 
July 1 through July 31 (Sec.  679.82(d)).
    C/Ps participating in Rockfish Program cooperatives are restricted 
by rockfish and halibut PSC sideboard limits. These C/Ps are prohibited 
from directed fishing for northern rockfish, Pacific ocean perch, and 
dusky rockfish in the Western GOA and West Yakutat District from July 1 
through July 31. Holders of C/P-designated LLP licenses that opt out of 
participating in a Rockfish Program cooperative will be able to access 
those sideboard limits that are not assigned to Rockfish Program 
cooperatives (Sec.  679.82(e)(2) and (e)(7)). The sideboard ratio for 
each rockfish fishery in the Western GOA and WYK District is set forth 
in Sec.  679.82(e)(4). Table 16 lists the proposed 2018 and 2019 
Rockfish Program C/P rockfish sideboard limits in the Western GOA and 
West Yakutat District. Due to confidentiality requirements associated 
with fisheries data, the sideboard limits for the West Yakutat District 
are not displayed.

[[Page 57943]]



Table 16--Proposed 2018 and 2019 Rockfish Program Sideboard Limits for the Western GOA and West Yakutat District
                                by Fishery for the Catcher/Processor (C/P) Sector
                                 [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                            Proposed 2018  and
            Area                  Fishery      C/P sector  (% of TAC)    Proposed 2018      2019 C/P  sideboard
                                                                         and 2019 TACs             limit
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Western GOA.................  Dusky rockfish.  72.3..................                146  106
                              Pacific ocean    50.6..................              2,627  1,329
                               perch.
                              Northern         74.3..................                400  297.
                               rockfish.
West Yakutat District.......  Dusky rockfish.  Confidential \1\......                232  Confidential.\1\
                              Pacific ocean    Confidential \1\......              2,733  Confidential.\1\
                               perch.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Not released due to confidentiality requirements associated with fish ticket data, as established by NMFS
  and the State of Alaska.

    Under the Rockfish Program, the C/P sector is subject to halibut 
PSC sideboard limits for the trawl deep-water and shallow-water species 
fisheries from July 1 through July 31 (Sec.  679.82(e)(3) and (e)(5)). 
Halibut PSC sideboard ratios by fishery are set forth in Sec.  
679.82(e)(5). No halibut PSC sideboard limits apply to the CV sector, 
as vessels participating in a rockfish cooperative receive a portion of 
the annual halibut PSC limit. C/Ps that opt out of the Rockfish Program 
would be able to access that portion of the deep-water and shallow-
water halibut PSC sideboard limit not assigned to C/P rockfish 
cooperatives. The sideboard provisions for C/Ps that elect to opt out 
of participating in a rockfish cooperative are described in Sec.  
679.82(c), (e), and (f). Sideboard limits are linked to the catch 
history of specific vessels that may choose to opt out. After March 1, 
NMFS will determine which C/Ps have opted-out of the Rockfish Program 
in 2018, and will know the ratios and amounts used to calculate opt-out 
sideboard ratios. NMFS will then calculate any applicable opt-out 
sideboard limits and post these limits on the Alaska Region Web site at 
https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/central-goa-rockfish-program. Table 17 lists the 2018 and 2019 proposed Rockfish Program 
halibut PSC limits for the C/P sector.

                       Table 17--Proposed 2018 and 2019 Rockfish Program Halibut Mortality Limits for the Catcher/Processor Sector
                                                     [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         Shallow-water        Deep-water                           Annual  shallow-   Annual  deep-water
                                                        species fishery     species fishery     Annual halibut      water  species      species  fishery
                       Sector                             halibut PSC         halibut PSC       mortality limit    fishery  halibut      halibut  PSC
                                                        sideboard ratio     sideboard ratio          (mt)           PSC  sideboard     sideboard  limit
                                                           (percent)           (percent)                              limit  (mt)            (mt)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Catcher/processor...................................               0.10                2.50               1,706                   2                  43
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Amendment 80 Program Groundfish and PSC Sideboard Limits

    Amendment 80 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the 
Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (Amendment 80 Program) 
established a limited access privilege program for the non-AFA trawl C/
P sector. The Amendment 80 Program established groundfish and halibut 
PSC limits for Amendment 80 Program participants to limit the ability 
of participants eligible for the Amendment 80 Program to expand their 
harvest efforts in the GOA.
    Section 679.92 establishes groundfish harvesting sideboard limits 
on all Amendment 80 Program vessels, other than the F/V Golden Fleece, 
to amounts no greater than the limits shown in Table 37 to 50 CFR part 
679. Under Sec.  679.92(d), the F/V Golden Fleece is prohibited from 
directed fishing for pollock, Pacific cod, Pacific ocean perch, dusky 
rockfish, and northern rockfish in the GOA.
    Groundfish sideboard limits for Amendment 80 Program vessels 
operating in the GOA are based on their average aggregate harvests from 
1998 through 2004 (72 FR 52668, September 14, 2007). Table 18 lists the 
proposed 2018 and 2019 sideboard limits for Amendment 80 Program 
vessels. NMFS will deduct all targeted or incidental catch of sideboard 
species made by Amendment 80 Program vessels from the sideboard limits 
in Table 18.

[[Page 57944]]



                            Table 18--Proposed 2018 and 2019 GOA Groundfish Sideboard Limits for Amendment 80 Program Vessels
                                                     [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                      Ratio of                           Proposed  2018
                                                                                                    Amendment 80      Proposed  2018        and 2019
                Species                            Season                       Area               sector vessels     and 2019  TAC       Amendment 80
                                                                                                  1998-2004 catch          (mt)         vessel sideboard
                                                                                                       to TAC                             limits  (mt)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pollock................................  A Season January 20-March   Shumagin (610)............              0.003              1,725                  5
                                          10.                        Chirikof (620)............              0.002             26,704                 53
                                                                     Kodiak (630)..............              0.002              8,513                 17
                                         B Season March 10-May 31..  Shumagin (610)............              0.003              1,725                  5
                                                                     Chirikof (620)............              0.002             30,469                 61
                                                                     Kodiak (630)..............              0.002              4,748                  9
                                         C Season August 25-October  Shumagin (610)............              0.003             15,125                 45
                                          1.                         Chirikof (620)............              0.002              9,538                 19
                                                                     Kodiak (630)..............              0.002             12,278                 25
                                         D Season October 1-         Shumagin (610)............              0.003             15,125                 45
                                          November 1.                Chirikof (620)............              0.002              9,538                 19
                                                                     Kodiak (630)..............              0.002             12,278                 25
                                         Annual....................  WYK (640).................              0.002              5,791                 12
Pacific cod............................  A Season \1\ January 1-     W.........................              0.020              9,477                190
                                          June 10.                   C.........................              0.044             12,362                544
                                         B Season \2\ September 1-   W.........................              0.020              6,318                126
                                          December 31.               C.........................              0.044              8,241                363
                                         Annual....................  WYK.......................              0.034              3,671                125
Pacific ocean perch....................  Annual....................  W.........................              0.994              2,627              2,611
                                                                     WYK.......................              0.961              2,733              2,626
Northern rockfish......................  Annual....................  W.........................              1.000                400                400
Dusky rockfish.........................  Annual....................  W.........................              0.764                146                112
                                                                     WYK.......................              0.896                232                208
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ The Pacific cod A season for trawl gear does not open until January 20.
\2\ The Pacific cod B season for trawl gear closes November 1.

    The halibut PSC sideboard limits for Amendment 80 Program vessels 
in the GOA are based on the historic use of halibut PSC by Amendment 80 
Program vessels in each PSC target category from 1998 through 2004. 
These values are slightly lower than the average historic use to 
accommodate two factors: Allocation of halibut PSC cooperative quota 
under the Rockfish Program and the exemption of the F/V Golden Fleece 
from this restriction (Sec.  679.92(b)(2)). Table 19 lists the proposed 
2018 and 2019 halibut PSC sideboard limits for Amendment 80 Program 
vessels. These tables incorporate the maximum percentages of the 
halibut PSC sideboard limits that may be used by Amendment 80 Program 
vessels, as contained in Table 38 to 50 CFR part 679. Any residual 
amount of a seasonal Amendment 80 sideboard halibut PSC limit may carry 
forward to the next season limit (Sec.  679.92(b)(2)).

                                     Table 19--Proposed 2018 and 2019 Halibut PSC Sideboard Limits for Amendment 80
                                                               Program Vessels in the GOA
                                                     [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                                         Proposed  2018
                                                                                                      Historic                              and 2019
                                                                                                 Amendment 80  use    Proposed  2018      Amendment 80
                 Season                         Season dates              Fishery category         of the annual     and 2019  annual      vessel PSC
                                                                                                 halibut PSC limit   PSC limit  (mt)    sideboard limit
                                                                                                       (ratio)                                (mt)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1......................................  January 20 -April 1.......  shallow-water.............             0.0048              1,706                  8
                                                                     deep-water................             0.0115              1,706                 20
2......................................  April 1-July 1............  shallow-water.............             0.0189              1,706                 32
                                                                     deep-water................             0.1072              1,706                183
3......................................  July 1-September 1........  shallow-water.............             0.0146              1,706                 25
                                                                     deep-water................             0.0521              1,706                 89
4......................................  September 1-October 1.....  shallow-water.............             0.0074              1,706                 13
                                                                     deep-water................             0.0014              1,706                  2
5......................................  October 1-December 31.....  shallow-water.............             0.0227              1,706                 39
                                                                     deep-water................             0.0371              1,706                 63
                                                                                                --------------------------------------------------------
Annual:
    Total shallow-water................  ..........................  ..........................  .................  .................                117
    Total deep-water...................  ..........................  ..........................  .................  .................                357
                                                                                                --------------------------------------------------------

[[Page 57945]]

 
        Grand Total, all seasons and     ..........................  ..........................  .................  .................                474
         categories.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Classification

    NMFS has determined that the proposed harvest specifications are 
consistent with the FMP and preliminarily determined that the proposed 
harvest specifications are consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and 
other applicable laws, subject to further review after public comment.
    This action is authorized under 50 CFR 679.20 and is exempt from 
review under Executive Orders 12866 and 13563.
    NMFS prepared an EIS for this action and made it available to the 
public on January 12, 2007 (72 FR 1512). On February 13, 2007, NMFS 
issued the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Final EIS. A Supplemental 
Information Report (SIR) that assesses the need to prepare a 
Supplemental EIS is being prepared for the final action. Copies of the 
Final EIS, ROD, and SIR for this action are available from NMFS (see 
ADDRESSES). The Final EIS analyzes the environmental consequences of 
the proposed groundfish harvest specifications and alternative harvest 
strategies on resources in the action area. The Final EIS found no 
significant environmental consequences from the proposed action or its 
alternatives.
    NMFS prepared an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) as 
required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), 
analyzing the methodology for establishing the relevant TACs. The IRFA 
evaluated the impacts on small entities of alternative harvest 
strategies for the groundfish fisheries in the EEZ off Alaska. As set 
forth in the methodology, TACs are set to a level that fall within the 
range of ABCs recommended by the SSC; the sum of the TACs must achieve 
the OY specified in the FMP. While the specific numbers that the 
methodology produces may vary from year to year, the methodology itself 
remains constant.
    A description of the proposed action, why it is being considered, 
and the legal basis for this proposed action are contained in the 
preamble above. A copy of the IRFA is available from NMFS (see 
ADDRESSES). A summary of the IRFA follows.
    The action under consideration is a harvest strategy to govern the 
catch of groundfish in the GOA. The preferred alternative is the 
existing harvest strategy in which TACs fall within the range of ABCs 
recommended by the SSC. This action is taken in accordance with the FMP 
prepared by the Council pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
    The entities directly regulated by this action are those that 
harvest groundfish in the EEZ of the GOA and in parallel fisheries 
within State of Alaska waters. These include entities operating CVs and 
C/Ps within the action area and entities receiving direct allocations 
of groundfish.
    For RFA purposes only, NMFS has established a small business size 
standard for businesses, including their affiliates, whose primary 
industry is commercial fishing (see 50 CFR 200.2). A business primarily 
engaged in commercial fishing (NAICS code 11411) is classified as a 
small business if it is independently owned and operated, is not 
dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and has 
combined annual gross receipts not in excess of $11 million for all its 
affiliated operations worldwide.
    The IRFA shows that, in 2016, there were 920 individual CVs with 
gross revenues less than or equal to $11 million. This estimate 
accounts for corporate affiliations among vessels, and for cooperative 
affiliations among fishing entities, since some of the fishing vessels 
operating in the GOA are members of AFA inshore pollock cooperatives, 
GOA rockfish cooperatives, or BSAI Crab Rationalization Program 
cooperatives. Therefore, under the RFA, it is the aggregate gross 
receipts of all participating members of the cooperative that must meet 
the ``under $11 million'' threshold. Vessels that participate in these 
cooperatives are considered to be large entities within the meaning of 
the RFA. After accounting for membership in these cooperatives, there 
are an estimated 920 small CV entities remaining in the GOA groundfish 
sector. This latter group of vessels had average gross revenues that 
varied by gear type. Average gross revenues for hook-and-line CVs, pot 
gear vessels, and trawl gear vessels are estimated to be $340,000, 
$720,000, and $1.83 million, respectively. Revenue data for the three 
C/Ps considered to be small entities are confidential.
    The preferred alternative (Alternative 2) was compared to four 
other alternatives. Alternative 1 would have set TACs to generate 
fishing rates equal to the maximum permissible ABC (if the full TAC 
were harvested), unless the sum of TACs exceeded the GOA OY, in which 
case TACs would be limited to the OY. Alternative 3 would have set TACs 
to produce fishing rates equal to the most recent 5-year average 
fishing rate. Alternative 4 would have set TACs to equal the lower 
limit of the GOA OY range. Alternative 5, the ``no action 
alternative,'' would have set TACs equal to zero.
    The TACs associated with the preferred harvest strategy are those 
adopted by the Council in October 2017, as per Alternative 2. OFLs and 
ABCs for the species were based on recommendations prepared by the 
Council's Plan Team in September 2017, and reviewed by the Council's 
SSC in October 2017. The Council based its TAC recommendations on those 
of its AP, which were consistent with the SSC's OFL and ABC 
recommendations.
    Alternative 1 selects harvest rates that would allow fishermen to 
harvest stocks at the level of ABCs, unless total harvests were 
constrained by the upper bound of the GOA OY of 800,000 mt. As shown in 
Table 1 of the preamble, the sum of ABCs in 2018 and 2019 would be 
572,710 mt, which falls below the upper bound of the OY range. The sum 
of TACs is 465,832 mt, which is less than the sum of ABCs. In this 
instance, Alternative 1 is consistent with the

[[Page 57946]]

preferred alternative (Alternative 2), meets the objectives of that 
action, and has small entity impacts that may be equivalent to the 
preferred alternative. However, it is not likely that Alternative 1 
would result in reduced adverse economic impacts to directly-regulated 
small entities relative to Alternative 2. The selection of Alternative 
1, which could increase all TACs up to the sum of ABCs, would not 
reflect the practical implications that increased TACs for some species 
probably would not be fully harvested. This could be due to a variety 
of reasons, including the lack of commercial or market interest in some 
species. Additionally, an underharvest of flatfish TACs could result 
due to constraints such as the fixed, and therefore constraining, PSC 
limits associated with the harvest of the GOA groundfish species. 
Furthermore, TACs may be set lower than ABC for conservation purposes, 
as is the case with other rockfish in the Eastern GOA. Finally, the 
TACs for two species (pollock and Pacific cod) cannot be set equal to 
ABC, as the ABC must be reduced to account for the State of Alaska's 
guideline harvest levels in these fisheries.
    Alternative 3 selects harvest rates based on the most recent 5 
years of harvest rates (for species in Tiers 1 through 3) or based on 
the most recent 5 years of harvests (for species in Tiers 4 through 6). 
This alternative is inconsistent with the objectives of this action, 
the Council's preferred harvest strategy, because it does not take 
account of the most recent biological information for this fishery. 
NMFS annually conducts at-sea stock surveys for different species, as 
well as statistical modeling, to estimate stock sizes and permissible 
harvest levels. Actual harvest rates or harvest amounts are a component 
of these estimates, but in and of themselves may not accurately portray 
stock sizes and conditions. Harvest rates are listed for each species 
category for each year in the SAFE report (see ADDRESSES).
    Alternative 4 would lead to significantly lower harvests of all 
species and reduce the TACs from the upper end of the OY range in the 
GOA, to its lower end of 116,000 mt. Overall, this would reduce 2018 
TACs by about 80 percent and would lead to significant reductions in 
harvests of species harvested by small entities. While reductions of 
this size would be associated with offsetting price increases, the size 
of these increases is very uncertain. There are close substitutes for 
GOA groundfish species available in significant quantities from the 
Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area. While production 
declines in the GOA would undoubtedly be associated with significant 
price increases in the GOA, these increases would still be constrained 
by production of substitutes, and are very unlikely to offset revenue 
declines from smaller production. Thus, this alternative would have a 
detrimental impact on small entities.
    Alternative 5, which sets all harvests equal to zero, would have a 
significant adverse economic impact on small entities and would be 
contrary to obligations to achieve OY on a continuing basis, as 
mandated by the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Under Alternative 5, all 920 
individual CVs impacted by this rule would have gross revenues of $0. 
Additionally, the three small C/Ps impacted by this rule also would 
have gross revenues of $0.
    The proposed harvest specifications (Alternative 2) extend the 
current 2018 OFLs, ABCs, and TACs to 2018 and 2019, with the exception 
of Pacific cod, as explained in the preamble. As noted in the IRFA, the 
Council may modify these OFLs, ABCs, and TACs in December 2017, when it 
reviews the November 2017 SAFE report from its Groundfish Plan Team, 
and the December 2017 Council meeting reports of its SSC and AP. 
Because the 2018 TACs in the proposed 2018 and 2019 harvest 
specifications are unchanged from the 2018 TACs, with the sole 
exception of modifications to Pacific cod harvest amounts, and because 
the sum of all TACs remains within OY for the GOA, NMFS does not expect 
adverse impacts on small entities. Also, NMFS does not expect any 
changes made by the Council in December 2017 to have significant 
adverse impacts on small entities.
    This action does not modify recordkeeping or reporting 
requirements, or duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any Federal 
rules.
    Adverse impacts on marine mammals or endangered species resulting 
from fishing activities conducted under this rule are discussed in the 
Final EIS and its accompanying annual SIRs (see ADDRESSES).

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1540(f); 16 U.S.C. 
1801 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 3631 et seq.; Pub. L. 105-277; Pub. L. 106-
31; Pub. L. 106-554; Pub. L. 108-199; Pub. L. 108-447; Pub. L. 109-
241; Pub. L. 109-479.

    Dated: December 4, 2017.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-26473 Filed 12-6-17; 4:15 pm]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P