Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; General Provisions for Domestic Fisheries; Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery; Application for an Exempted Fishing Permit, 61603-61605 [2018-26049]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 231 / Friday, November 30, 2018 / Notices xanthan gum from China. U.S. Customs and Border Protection will continue to collect AD cash deposits at the rates in effect at the time of entry for all imports of subject merchandise. The effective date of the continuation of the Order will be the date of publication in the Federal Register of this notice of continuation. Pursuant to section 751(c)(2) of the Act and 19 CFR 351.218(c)(2), Commerce intends to initiate the next sunset review of the Order not later than 30 days prior to the fifth anniversary of the effective date of continuation. This five-year sunset review and this notice are in accordance with section 751(c) and 751(d)(2) of the Act and published pursuant to section 777(i)(1) of the Act and 19 CFR 351.218(f)(4). Dated: November 27, 2018. Gary Taverman, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Operations, performing the non-exclusive functions and duties of the Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Compliance. [FR Doc. 2018–26170 Filed 11–29–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–DS–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XG513 Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; General Provisions for Domestic Fisheries; Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery; Application for an Exempted Fishing Permit National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS announces the receipt of an exempted fishing permit application titled, ‘‘Year-round Coastwide Midwater Rockfish EFP: Monitoring and Minimizing Salmon Bycatch When Targeting Rockfish in the Shorebased IFQ Fishery.’’ The application, submitted by the West Coast Seafood Processors Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Oregon Trawl Commission, and Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, requests a permit to test whether removing certain gear, time, and area restrictions for vessels fishing under the Trawl Rationalization Program’s Shorebased Individual Fishing Quota Program may impact the nature and extent of bycatch of prohibited species (e.g., Chinook salmon). This exempted fishing permit amozie on DSK3GDR082PROD with NOTICES1 SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:00 Nov 29, 2018 Jkt 247001 would allow participating groundfish bottom and midwater trawl vessels more flexibility than allowed in current regulations to target pelagic rockfish species, such as widow, chilipepper, and yellowtail rockfish. Regulations under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act require publication of this notification to provide interested parties the opportunity to comment on applications for proposed exempted fishing permits. DATES: Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m., local time on December 17, 2018. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2018–0112, by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20180112, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. The EFP application will be available under ‘‘Supporting Documents’’ through the same link. • Mail: Submit written comments to Lynn Massey, West Coast Region, NMFS, 501 W Ocean Blvd., Ste. 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802–4250. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and would generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender would be publicly accessible. NMFS would accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments would be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lynn Massey, West Coast Region, NMFS, at (562) 436–2462, lynn.massey@ noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This action is authorized by the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and implementing regulations at 50 CFR 600.745, which allow NMFS Regional Administrators to authorize exempted fishing permits (EFPs) to test fishing activities that would otherwise be prohibited. PO 00000 Frm 00005 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 61603 In 2017, NMFS permitted 32 vessels to fish under the 2017 Trawl Gear EFP. The EFP exempted limited entry bottom and midwater trawl vessels from the minimum mesh size requirement, and exempted limited entry bottom trawl vessels from the requirement to use selective flatfish trawl gear shoreward of the Trawl Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA) north of 42° North latitude (N lat). The purpose of this EFP was to collect information on potential impacts to prohibited and protected species from modifying or eliminating certain gear and area regulations by allowing participants to configure their gear to reestablish a targeted rockfish fishery for widow, yellowtail, and chilipepper rockfish. From March 2017 to December 2017, a total of 11 limited entry groundfish bottom trawl vessels went on 63 EFP trips and landed 1,355 metric tons (mt) of groundfish, totaling $1,613,178 in revenue. Prohibited species bycatch included five Chinook salmon and no sturgeon. To continue collecting information on the impacts of modifying or eliminating gear and area regulations, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) recommended and NMFS issued, a 2018 Trawl Gear EFP that expanded on the 2017 Trawl Gear EFP. As with the 2017 EFP, the 2018 EFP was intended to collect data on if and how the removal of certain gear, time, and area restrictions for the Shorebased Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Program may impact the nature and extent of prohibited species bycatch. In addition to the exemptions provided by the 2017 Trawl Gear EFP (i.e., required minimum mesh size and requirement to use a selective flatfish trawl shoreward of the Trawl RCA and north of 42° N lat.), the 2018 Trawl Gear EFP provided participating vessels exemptions from the following limited entry prohibitions: • Fishing with midwater groundfish trawl gear north of 40°10′ N lat. in all areas (i.e., seaward, within, and shoreward of the RCA) prior to May 15th each year; • Fishing with midwater groundfish trawl gear south of 40°10′ N lat. within the boundaries of the Trawl RCA; • Bringing a new haul onboard before a previous haul is stowed; and • Carrying and fishing more than one type of groundfish trawl gear (midwater and bottom trawl gear) on the same trip. The 2018 Trawl Gear EFP began on January 1, 2018. As of October 23, 2018, a total of 15 vessels (7 midwater-only trawlers, 4 bottom-only trawlers, and 4 that used both gears) have completed 289 EFP trips and landed approximately 9,000 mt of groundfish, totaling E:\FR\FM\30NON1.SGM 30NON1 amozie on DSK3GDR082PROD with NOTICES1 61604 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 231 / Friday, November 30, 2018 / Notices approximately $7 million in revenue. Those vessels harvested 213 Chinook salmon and no sturgeon or coho salmon. At the June 2018 Council meeting, the 2017 and 2018 Trawl Gear EFP applicants submitted a modified EFP application titled, ‘‘Year-round Coastwide Midwater Rockfish EFP: Monitoring and Minimizing Salmon Bycatch When Targeting Rockfish in the Shorebased IFQ Fishery’’ (herein referred to as the ‘‘2019 Trawl Gear EFP’’). At the September 2018 meeting, the Council recommended that NMFS implement this EFP for 2019, and made a preliminary determination to recommend the EFP to NMFS for 2020. Separately, NMFS has issued a proposed trawl gear rule that would incorporate some of the exemptions included in the 2017 and 2018 EFPs into the groundfish regulations (Proposed rule: 83 FR 45396, September 7, 2018; final rule expected to publish in late November/early December 2018). The exemptions authorized under this 2019 Trawl Gear EFP will be finalized following the publication of the trawl gear rule so that the EFP does not include exemptions from requirements which may be removed from regulations by the rule. The 2019 Trawl Gear EFP is anticipated to include, at a minimum, exemptions from the following limited entry restrictions: • The requirement to use selective flatfish trawl gear, and the prohibition on using small footrope trawl gear, other than selective flatfish trawl gear, shoreward of the Trawl RCA between 42° N lat. and 40°10′ N lat.; • The prohibition on fishing with midwater groundfish trawl gear north of 40°10′ N lat. in all areas (i.e., seaward, within, and shoreward of the RCA) prior to May 15th each year; • The prohibition on fishing with midwater groundfish trawl gear south of 40°10′ N lat. within the boundaries of the Trawl RCA; and • The prohibition on retaining certain prohibited species. If NMFS approves this EFP, vessels fishing on an EFP trip with limited entry bottom trawl gear would be permitted to use any small footrope gear that meets the definition in regulations at § 660.11 shoreward of the Trawl RCA and between 42° N lat. and 40°10′ N lat. Vessels fishing on an EFP trip with limited entry midwater trawl gear would be permitted to fish within all areas north of 40°10′ N lat. and within the boundaries and seaward of the Trawl RCA south of 40°10′ N lat. Midwater trawling will still be prohibited shoreward of the Trawl RCA south of 40°10′ N lat. Participating vessels would not be constrained to the VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:00 Nov 29, 2018 Jkt 247001 Pacific whiting primary season dates in existing groundfish regulations (see CFR 660.131). Participating vessels would be required to carry observers or use a NMFS-approved electronic monitoring system on 100 percent of trips, as is currently required in the IFQ program. Participating vessels would also be required to retain all salmon (excluding salmon already sampled by the West Coast Groundfish Observer (WCGOP) program) until offloading. A goal of this EFP is to collect information on the effects of lifting the restrictions described above on bycatch, including bycatch of Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed species. Previous analyses suggest that bycatch rates of ESA-listed salmon and green sturgeon could increase as a result of the increased and changes in gear configurations resulting from this EFP. However, because a targeted fishery for chilipepper, widow, and yellowtail rockfish has not existed in more than a decade, and because the current groundfish trawl fishery has changed considerably in recent years, available data may have limited utility for predicting current impacts to protected and prohibited species in fisheries conducted with the exemptions that would be allowed under the EFP. NMFS staff worked with the applicants to develop an EFP that would increase the ability of fishery participants to target pelagic rockfish species while also minimizing bycatch to the extent practicable and collecting information about bycatch. To address potential increased protected and prohibited species encounters, the EFP applicants proposed gear-based Chinook salmon bycatch limits for midwater trawl and bottom trawl EFP vessels in 2019 (based on the Council Groundfish Management Team’s recommendations at the September 2018 meeting; Agenda Item I.8.a). Under this proposal, if Chinook salmon catch on EFP trips for either gear type reaches the applicable bycatch limit, NMFS would revoke the EFP for that gear type for the remainder of the year. During discussion at the September 2018 meeting, the Council recommended simplifying the EFP terms by proposing that the Chinook bycatch limits be based only on the 42° N lat. management line, rather than by gear type north and south of the 42° N lat. line. This recommendation would reduce unnecessary complexity while still providing adequate safeguards for limiting salmon bycatch under the EFP. If this EFP is approved, NMFS would set a bycatch limit of 1,000 Chinook salmon north of 42° N lat. and 100 Chinook salmon south of 42° N lat. for PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 vessels declared into the EFP, regardless of gear type. If either of these bycatch limits are reached, NMFS would revoke the EFP for both gear types in the respective management area (i.e., north or south of 42° N lat.). The application includes a requirement to retain and land salmon bycatch on all EFP trips, consistent with current requirements for vessels participating in the shoreside Pacific whiting fishery. The intent of this provision is to provide a complete census of salmon bycatch for each EFP trip and maximize the amount of biological and genetic salmon samples. At the September 2018 meeting, the Council expressed a desire to provide state fish and wildlife agencies the opportunity to sample salmon bycatch. This sampling effort would be in addition to the salmon sampling already conducted by WCGOP. To address the request for additional sampling, the Council requested that NMFS work with NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and state fish and wildlife agencies to establish proper chain-of-custody and sampling protocols in the event that salmon are landed. NMFS is supportive of making salmon bycatch available to state fish and wildlife agencies for additional sampling, however NMFS is confident that WCGOP’s sampling approach is sufficient to collect the necessary scientific information for assessing salmon bycatch. The EFP applicants have not proposed a specific list of participating vessels, but rather are proposing that NMFS publish a public notice to gauge interest from limited entry groundfish midwater and bottom trawl vessels. Depending on the amount of interest and where vessels may be fishing, NMFS may need to limit participation by time and area to mitigate potential impacts. Information collected under the EFP would be used to support analysis for potential new gear regulations and modifications to existing gear regulations. Because many of the current gear regulations have been in place for more than ten years, it is difficult for NMFS, the Council, and industry to predict the impacts of removing these regulations. In the past ten years, the industry has changed significantly. Reduction in capacity, innovations in gear technologies, and changes in management have all contributed to these changes. This EFP would help demonstrate what potential impacts, if any, today’s fleet may have if some of the current gear, area, and time regulations are modified from what is currently in regulation. E:\FR\FM\30NON1.SGM 30NON1 amozie on DSK3GDR082PROD with NOTICES1 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 231 / Friday, November 30, 2018 / Notices NMFS is proposing to approve the 2019 Trawl Gear EFP, covering all the exemptions stated above, following the conclusion of the public comment period and review of public comment. Pending approval, NMFS would issue the permits for the EFP to the vessel owner or designated representative as the ‘‘EFP holder.’’ NMFS intends to use an adaptive management approach in which NMFS may revise requirements and protocols to improve the program without issuing another Federal Register Notice, provided that the modifications fall within the scope of the original EFP. In addition, the applicants may request minor modifications and extensions to the EFP throughout the course of research. NMFS may grant EFP modifications and extensions without further public notice if the changes are essential to facilitate completing the proposed research and result in only a minimal change in the scope or impacts of the initially approved EFP request. NMFS analyzed the potential effects of implementing the 2018 Trawl Gear EFP in an environmental assessment (EA), dated December 2017 (Available at: http:// www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov). In that EA, NMFS stated that it anticipated issuing additional, similar, one-year EFPs that would cover a portion or all of the components discussed in the EA. Those EFPs would be supported by the analyses in the EA, as long as there were not substantial changes to the affected environment (e.g., status of the stock), components of the EFP (i.e., gear, area, and time restrictions), or unanticipated effects on the environment from permitting fishing activities that were not discussed in the EA’s analysis. Since the 2019 Trawl Gear EFP meets those criteria, NMFS does not anticipate any adverse environmental impacts from the 2019 Trawl Gear EFP beyond those analyzed in the EA for the 2018 Trawl Gear and future similar EFPs. NMFS welcomes public comment on the NEPA coverage for this EFP. After publication of this document in the Federal Register, NMFS may approve and issue the EFP after the close of the public comment period. NMFS will consider comments submitted, as well as the Council’s discussion at their September 2018 meeting, in deciding whether to approve the application as requested. NMFS may approve the application in its entirety or may make any alterations needed to achieve the goals of the EFP. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq., and 16 U.S.C. 7001 et seq. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:00 Nov 29, 2018 Jkt 247001 Dated: November 27, 2018. Karen H. Abrams, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2018–26049 Filed 11–29–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XG589 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area; Cost Recovery Programs National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of standard prices and fee percentages. AGENCY: NMFS publishes standard prices and fee percentages for cost recovery for the Amendment 80 Program, the American Fisheries Act (AFA) Program, the Aleutian Islands Pollock (AIP) Program, and the Western Alaska Community Development Quota (CDQ) groundfish and halibut Programs. The fee percentage for 2018 is 0.75 percent for the Amendment 80 Program, 0.24 percent for the AFA inshore cooperatives, 0.34 percent for the AFA mothership cooperative, 3.0 percent for the AIP program, and 0.66 percent for the CDQ groundfish and halibut Programs. This action is intended to provide the 2018 standard prices and fee percentages to calculate the required payment for cost recovery fees due by December 31, 2018. DATES: The standard prices and fee percentages are valid on November 30, 2018. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carl Greene, Fee Coordinator, 907–586–7105. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: Background Section 304(d) of the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) authorizes and requires the collection of cost recovery fees for limited access privilege programs and the CDQ Program. Cost recovery fees recover the actual costs directly related to the management, data collection, and enforcement of the programs. Section 304(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act mandates that cost recovery fees not exceed three percent of the annual exvessel value of fish harvested by a PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 61605 program subject to a cost recovery fee, and that the fee be collected either at the time of landing, filing of a landing report, or sale of such fish during a fishing season or in the last quarter of the calendar year in which the fish is harvested. NMFS manages the Amendment 80 Program, AFA Program, and AIP Program as limited access privilege programs. On January 5, 2016, NMFS published a final rule to implement cost recovery for these three limited access privilege programs and the CDQ groundfish and halibut programs (81 FR 150). The designated representative (for the purposes of cost recovery) for each program is responsible for submitting the fee payment to NMFS on or before the due date of December 31 of the year in which the landings were made. The total dollar amount of the fee due is determined by multiplying the NMFS published fee percentage by the exvessel value of all landings under the program made during the fishing year. NMFS publishes this notice of the fee percentages for the Amendment 80, AFA, AIP, and CDQ groundfish and halibut fisheries in the Federal Register by December 1 each year. Standard Prices The fee liability is based on the exvessel value of fish harvested in each program. For purposes of calculating cost recovery fees, NMFS calculates a standard ex-vessel price (standard price) for each species. A standard price is determined using information on landings purchased (volume) and exvessel value paid (value). For most groundfish species, NMFS annually summarizes volume and value information for landings of all fishery species subject to cost recovery in order to estimate a standard price for each species. The standard prices are described in U.S. dollars per pound for landings made during the year. The standard prices for all species in the Amendment 80, AFA, AIP, and CDQ groundfish and halibut programs are listed in Table 1. Each landing made under each program is multiplied by the appropriate standard price to arrive at an ex-vessel value for each landing. These values are summed together to arrive at the ex-vessel value of each program (fishery value). Fee Percentage NMFS calculates the fee percentage each year according to the factors and methods described in Federal regulations at 50 CFR 679.33(c)(2), 679.66(c)(2), 679.67(c)(2), and 679.95(c)(2). NMFS determines the fee percentage that applies to landings E:\FR\FM\30NON1.SGM 30NON1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 231 (Friday, November 30, 2018)]
[Notices]
[Pages 61603-61605]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-26049]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XG513


Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; General Provisions for Domestic 
Fisheries; Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery; Application for an 
Exempted Fishing Permit

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

ACTION: Notice; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS announces the receipt of an exempted fishing permit 
application titled, ``Year-round Coastwide Midwater Rockfish EFP: 
Monitoring and Minimizing Salmon Bycatch When Targeting Rockfish in the 
Shorebased IFQ Fishery.'' The application, submitted by the West Coast 
Seafood Processors Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Oregon 
Trawl Commission, and Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, requests a permit 
to test whether removing certain gear, time, and area restrictions for 
vessels fishing under the Trawl Rationalization Program's Shorebased 
Individual Fishing Quota Program may impact the nature and extent of 
bycatch of prohibited species (e.g., Chinook salmon). This exempted 
fishing permit would allow participating groundfish bottom and midwater 
trawl vessels more flexibility than allowed in current regulations to 
target pelagic rockfish species, such as widow, chilipepper, and 
yellowtail rockfish. Regulations under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act require publication of this 
notification to provide interested parties the opportunity to comment 
on applications for proposed exempted fishing permits.

DATES: Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m., local time on 
December 17, 2018.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2018-0112, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2018-0112, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments. The EFP application will be available under 
``Supporting Documents'' through the same link.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Lynn Massey, West Coast 
Region, NMFS, 501 W Ocean Blvd., Ste. 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802-4250.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and would generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender would be publicly accessible. NMFS would accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments would be accepted in 
Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lynn Massey, West Coast Region, NMFS, 
at (562) 436-2462, [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This action is authorized by the Pacific 
Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR 600.745, which allow NMFS Regional Administrators 
to authorize exempted fishing permits (EFPs) to test fishing activities 
that would otherwise be prohibited.
    In 2017, NMFS permitted 32 vessels to fish under the 2017 Trawl 
Gear EFP. The EFP exempted limited entry bottom and midwater trawl 
vessels from the minimum mesh size requirement, and exempted limited 
entry bottom trawl vessels from the requirement to use selective 
flatfish trawl gear shoreward of the Trawl Rockfish Conservation Area 
(RCA) north of 42[deg] North latitude (N lat). The purpose of this EFP 
was to collect information on potential impacts to prohibited and 
protected species from modifying or eliminating certain gear and area 
regulations by allowing participants to configure their gear to re-
establish a targeted rockfish fishery for widow, yellowtail, and 
chilipepper rockfish. From March 2017 to December 2017, a total of 11 
limited entry groundfish bottom trawl vessels went on 63 EFP trips and 
landed 1,355 metric tons (mt) of groundfish, totaling $1,613,178 in 
revenue. Prohibited species bycatch included five Chinook salmon and no 
sturgeon.
    To continue collecting information on the impacts of modifying or 
eliminating gear and area regulations, the Pacific Fishery Management 
Council (Council) recommended and NMFS issued, a 2018 Trawl Gear EFP 
that expanded on the 2017 Trawl Gear EFP. As with the 2017 EFP, the 
2018 EFP was intended to collect data on if and how the removal of 
certain gear, time, and area restrictions for the Shorebased Individual 
Fishing Quota (IFQ) Program may impact the nature and extent of 
prohibited species bycatch. In addition to the exemptions provided by 
the 2017 Trawl Gear EFP (i.e., required minimum mesh size and 
requirement to use a selective flatfish trawl shoreward of the Trawl 
RCA and north of 42[deg] N lat.), the 2018 Trawl Gear EFP provided 
participating vessels exemptions from the following limited entry 
prohibitions:
     Fishing with midwater groundfish trawl gear north of 
40[deg]10' N lat. in all areas (i.e., seaward, within, and shoreward of 
the RCA) prior to May 15th each year;
     Fishing with midwater groundfish trawl gear south of 
40[deg]10' N lat. within the boundaries of the Trawl RCA;
     Bringing a new haul onboard before a previous haul is 
stowed; and
     Carrying and fishing more than one type of groundfish 
trawl gear (midwater and bottom trawl gear) on the same trip.

The 2018 Trawl Gear EFP began on January 1, 2018. As of October 23, 
2018, a total of 15 vessels (7 midwater-only trawlers, 4 bottom-only 
trawlers, and 4 that used both gears) have completed 289 EFP trips and 
landed approximately 9,000 mt of groundfish, totaling

[[Page 61604]]

approximately $7 million in revenue. Those vessels harvested 213 
Chinook salmon and no sturgeon or coho salmon.
    At the June 2018 Council meeting, the 2017 and 2018 Trawl Gear EFP 
applicants submitted a modified EFP application titled, ``Year-round 
Coastwide Midwater Rockfish EFP: Monitoring and Minimizing Salmon 
Bycatch When Targeting Rockfish in the Shorebased IFQ Fishery'' (herein 
referred to as the ``2019 Trawl Gear EFP''). At the September 2018 
meeting, the Council recommended that NMFS implement this EFP for 2019, 
and made a preliminary determination to recommend the EFP to NMFS for 
2020. Separately, NMFS has issued a proposed trawl gear rule that would 
incorporate some of the exemptions included in the 2017 and 2018 EFPs 
into the groundfish regulations (Proposed rule: 83 FR 45396, September 
7, 2018; final rule expected to publish in late November/early December 
2018). The exemptions authorized under this 2019 Trawl Gear EFP will be 
finalized following the publication of the trawl gear rule so that the 
EFP does not include exemptions from requirements which may be removed 
from regulations by the rule. The 2019 Trawl Gear EFP is anticipated to 
include, at a minimum, exemptions from the following limited entry 
restrictions:
     The requirement to use selective flatfish trawl gear, and 
the prohibition on using small footrope trawl gear, other than 
selective flatfish trawl gear, shoreward of the Trawl RCA between 
42[deg] N lat. and 40[deg]10' N lat.;
     The prohibition on fishing with midwater groundfish trawl 
gear north of 40[deg]10' N lat. in all areas (i.e., seaward, within, 
and shoreward of the RCA) prior to May 15th each year;
     The prohibition on fishing with midwater groundfish trawl 
gear south of 40[deg]10' N lat. within the boundaries of the Trawl RCA; 
and
     The prohibition on retaining certain prohibited species.
    If NMFS approves this EFP, vessels fishing on an EFP trip with 
limited entry bottom trawl gear would be permitted to use any small 
footrope gear that meets the definition in regulations at Sec.  660.11 
shoreward of the Trawl RCA and between 42[deg] N lat. and 40[deg]10' N 
lat. Vessels fishing on an EFP trip with limited entry midwater trawl 
gear would be permitted to fish within all areas north of 40[deg]10' N 
lat. and within the boundaries and seaward of the Trawl RCA south of 
40[deg]10' N lat. Midwater trawling will still be prohibited shoreward 
of the Trawl RCA south of 40[deg]10' N lat. Participating vessels would 
not be constrained to the Pacific whiting primary season dates in 
existing groundfish regulations (see CFR 660.131). Participating 
vessels would be required to carry observers or use a NMFS-approved 
electronic monitoring system on 100 percent of trips, as is currently 
required in the IFQ program. Participating vessels would also be 
required to retain all salmon (excluding salmon already sampled by the 
West Coast Groundfish Observer (WCGOP) program) until offloading.
    A goal of this EFP is to collect information on the effects of 
lifting the restrictions described above on bycatch, including bycatch 
of Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed species. Previous analyses 
suggest that bycatch rates of ESA-listed salmon and green sturgeon 
could increase as a result of the increased and changes in gear 
configurations resulting from this EFP. However, because a targeted 
fishery for chilipepper, widow, and yellowtail rockfish has not existed 
in more than a decade, and because the current groundfish trawl fishery 
has changed considerably in recent years, available data may have 
limited utility for predicting current impacts to protected and 
prohibited species in fisheries conducted with the exemptions that 
would be allowed under the EFP. NMFS staff worked with the applicants 
to develop an EFP that would increase the ability of fishery 
participants to target pelagic rockfish species while also minimizing 
bycatch to the extent practicable and collecting information about 
bycatch. To address potential increased protected and prohibited 
species encounters, the EFP applicants proposed gear-based Chinook 
salmon bycatch limits for midwater trawl and bottom trawl EFP vessels 
in 2019 (based on the Council Groundfish Management Team's 
recommendations at the September 2018 meeting; Agenda Item I.8.a). 
Under this proposal, if Chinook salmon catch on EFP trips for either 
gear type reaches the applicable bycatch limit, NMFS would revoke the 
EFP for that gear type for the remainder of the year.
    During discussion at the September 2018 meeting, the Council 
recommended simplifying the EFP terms by proposing that the Chinook 
bycatch limits be based only on the 42[deg] N lat. management line, 
rather than by gear type north and south of the 42[deg] N lat. line. 
This recommendation would reduce unnecessary complexity while still 
providing adequate safeguards for limiting salmon bycatch under the 
EFP. If this EFP is approved, NMFS would set a bycatch limit of 1,000 
Chinook salmon north of 42[deg] N lat. and 100 Chinook salmon south of 
42[deg] N lat. for vessels declared into the EFP, regardless of gear 
type. If either of these bycatch limits are reached, NMFS would revoke 
the EFP for both gear types in the respective management area (i.e., 
north or south of 42[deg] N lat.).
    The application includes a requirement to retain and land salmon 
bycatch on all EFP trips, consistent with current requirements for 
vessels participating in the shoreside Pacific whiting fishery. The 
intent of this provision is to provide a complete census of salmon 
bycatch for each EFP trip and maximize the amount of biological and 
genetic salmon samples. At the September 2018 meeting, the Council 
expressed a desire to provide state fish and wildlife agencies the 
opportunity to sample salmon bycatch. This sampling effort would be in 
addition to the salmon sampling already conducted by WCGOP. To address 
the request for additional sampling, the Council requested that NMFS 
work with NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement and state fish and wildlife 
agencies to establish proper chain-of-custody and sampling protocols in 
the event that salmon are landed. NMFS is supportive of making salmon 
bycatch available to state fish and wildlife agencies for additional 
sampling, however NMFS is confident that WCGOP's sampling approach is 
sufficient to collect the necessary scientific information for 
assessing salmon bycatch.
    The EFP applicants have not proposed a specific list of 
participating vessels, but rather are proposing that NMFS publish a 
public notice to gauge interest from limited entry groundfish midwater 
and bottom trawl vessels. Depending on the amount of interest and where 
vessels may be fishing, NMFS may need to limit participation by time 
and area to mitigate potential impacts.
    Information collected under the EFP would be used to support 
analysis for potential new gear regulations and modifications to 
existing gear regulations. Because many of the current gear regulations 
have been in place for more than ten years, it is difficult for NMFS, 
the Council, and industry to predict the impacts of removing these 
regulations. In the past ten years, the industry has changed 
significantly. Reduction in capacity, innovations in gear technologies, 
and changes in management have all contributed to these changes. This 
EFP would help demonstrate what potential impacts, if any, today's 
fleet may have if some of the current gear, area, and time regulations 
are modified from what is currently in regulation.

[[Page 61605]]

    NMFS is proposing to approve the 2019 Trawl Gear EFP, covering all 
the exemptions stated above, following the conclusion of the public 
comment period and review of public comment. Pending approval, NMFS 
would issue the permits for the EFP to the vessel owner or designated 
representative as the ``EFP holder.'' NMFS intends to use an adaptive 
management approach in which NMFS may revise requirements and protocols 
to improve the program without issuing another Federal Register Notice, 
provided that the modifications fall within the scope of the original 
EFP. In addition, the applicants may request minor modifications and 
extensions to the EFP throughout the course of research. NMFS may grant 
EFP modifications and extensions without further public notice if the 
changes are essential to facilitate completing the proposed research 
and result in only a minimal change in the scope or impacts of the 
initially approved EFP request.
    NMFS analyzed the potential effects of implementing the 2018 Trawl 
Gear EFP in an environmental assessment (EA), dated December 2017 
(Available at: http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov). In that EA, 
NMFS stated that it anticipated issuing additional, similar, one-year 
EFPs that would cover a portion or all of the components discussed in 
the EA. Those EFPs would be supported by the analyses in the EA, as 
long as there were not substantial changes to the affected environment 
(e.g., status of the stock), components of the EFP (i.e., gear, area, 
and time restrictions), or unanticipated effects on the environment 
from permitting fishing activities that were not discussed in the EA's 
analysis. Since the 2019 Trawl Gear EFP meets those criteria, NMFS does 
not anticipate any adverse environmental impacts from the 2019 Trawl 
Gear EFP beyond those analyzed in the EA for the 2018 Trawl Gear and 
future similar EFPs. NMFS welcomes public comment on the NEPA coverage 
for this EFP.
    After publication of this document in the Federal Register, NMFS 
may approve and issue the EFP after the close of the public comment 
period. NMFS will consider comments submitted, as well as the Council's 
discussion at their September 2018 meeting, in deciding whether to 
approve the application as requested. NMFS may approve the application 
in its entirety or may make any alterations needed to achieve the goals 
of the EFP.

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq., and 16 
U.S.C. 7001 et seq.

    Dated: November 27, 2018.
Karen H. Abrams,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2018-26049 Filed 11-29-18; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P