Pacific Halibut Fisheries; Revisions to Catch Sharing Plan and Domestic Management Measures in Alaska, 3403-3410 [2019-01912]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 29 / Tuesday, February 12, 2019 / Proposed Rules petitioners posited that ‘‘the ongoing asbestos risk evaluation is such a ‘proceeding’ and information on asbestos importation and use is clearly ‘relevant’ because it has a direct bearing on EPA’s determinations of exposure and risk and the ability of the public to comment on these elements of the risk evaluation’’ (Ref. 1). b. Agency response. Petitioners’ request is not appropriate for a TSCA section 21 petition. Under TSCA section 21 (15 U.S.C. 2620(a)), any person can petition EPA to initiate a rulemaking proceeding for the issuance, amendment, or repeal of a rule under TSCA sections 4, 6, or 8, or an order under TSCA sections 4 or 5(e) or (f). Under this express statutory language, therefore, a TSCA section 21 petition is not a vehicle to petition EPA to initiate an action under TSCA section 14. Moreover, even if petitioners could use the TSCA section 21 mechanism to request an action under TSCA section 14, the petitioners have not made a sufficient case for lifting CBI protections as described by either TSCA section 14(d)(3) or section 14(d)(7). TSCA section 14(d)(3) states that CBI ‘‘shall be disclosed if the Administrator determines that disclosure is necessary to protect health or the environment against an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment. . . .’’ The asbestos risk evaluation is ongoing for the uses reported under the CDR rule, and EPA has yet to determine if these uses pose an unreasonable risk. In the absence of an unreasonable risk finding for a condition of use, EPA cannot make a determination whether disclosure is necessary under TSCA section 14(d)(3). TSCA section 14(d)(7) states that CBI ‘‘may be disclosed if the Administrator determines that disclosure is relevant in a proceeding under this Act, subject to the condition that the disclosure is made in such a manner as to preserve confidentiality to the extent practicable without impairing the proceeding.’’ However, EPA believes that disclosure of CBI would have no practical relevance to the risk evaluation or risk determination as the CBI claims are limited and EPA retains the ability to characterize the information without revealing the actual protected data. Accordingly, EPA denies this request. V. References The following is a listing of the documents that are specifically referenced in this document. The docket includes these documents and other information considered by EPA, including documents that are referenced within the documents that are included in the docket, even if the referenced VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:15 Feb 11, 2019 Jkt 247001 document is not physically located in the docket. For assistance in locating these other documents, please consult the technical person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. 1. Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, American Public Health Association, Center for Environmental Health, Environmental Working Group, Environmental Health Strategy Center, and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families to Andrew Wheeler, Acting Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency. Re: Petition under TSCA Section 21 to Require Reporting on Asbestos Manufacture, Importation and Use under TSCA Section 8(a). Received September 27, 2018. 2. Bob Sussman email to Jeff Morris, Director of EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. RE: TSCA Section 21 Petition. Received November 29, 2018. 3. EPA. Problem Formulation of the Risk Evaluation for Asbestos. May 2018. Washington, DC: US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. https:// www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/ 2018-06/documents/asbestos_problem_ formulation_05-31-18.pdf. 4. EPA. Public database 2016 chemical data reporting (May 2017 release). Washington, DC: US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/chemical-datareporting. 5. Flanagan, DM. (2016). 2015 Minerals yearbook. Asbestos [advance release]. In US Geological Survey 2015 Minerals Yearbook. Reston, VA: U.S. Geological Survey. https://minerals.usgs.gov/ minerals/pubs/commodity/asbestos/ myb1-2015-asbes.pdf. 6. EPA. Response to Petition to Require Reporting on Asbestos Manufacture, Importation and Use under TSCA Section 8(a). Letter. 2018. 7. Virta, Robert. (2012). 2012 Minerals yearbook. Asbestos. In US Geological Survey 2015 Minerals Yearbook. Reston, VA: U.S. Geological Survey. https:// minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/ commodity/asbestos/myb1-2012asbes.pdf. 8. EPA. TSCA Chemical Data Reporting. Fact Sheet: Articles. August 3, 2012. https:// www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/ documents/articlesfactsheetforcdr_ reporting_080312.pdf. List of Subjects in 40 CFR Chapter I Environmental protection, Asbestos, Flame retardants, Chemicals, Confidential business information, Hazardous substances, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. Dated: December 21, 2018. Nancy B. Beck, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. [FR Doc. 2019–01533 Filed 2–11–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6560–50–P PO 00000 Frm 00060 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 3403 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 300 [Docket No. 180426419–8419–01] RIN 0648–BH91 Pacific Halibut Fisheries; Revisions to Catch Sharing Plan and Domestic Management Measures in Alaska National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: This proposed action would apply the daily bag limits, possession limits, size restrictions, and carcass retention requirements for guided fishing to all Pacific halibut on board a fishing vessel when Pacific halibut caught and retained by anglers that were guided and by anglers that were not guided are on the same fishing vessel. Currently, sport fishing activities for halibut in International Pacific Halibut Commission Regulatory Areas 2C (Southeast Alaska) and 3A (Southcentral Alaska) are subject to different regulations, depending on whether those activities are guided or unguided. This proposed action is intended to aid the enforcement and to ensure the proper accounting of halibut taken when sport fishing in Areas 2C and 3A. DATES: Comments must be received no later than March 14, 2019. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by FDMS Docket Number NOAA–NMFS–2018–0057, by either of the following methods: • Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docket Detail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2018-0057, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802–1668. Instructions: NMFS may not consider comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on http://www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address), SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\12FEP1.SGM 12FEP1 3404 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 29 / Tuesday, February 12, 2019 / Proposed Rules confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Electronic copies of the Categorical Exclusion and the Regulatory Impact Review (RIR) prepared for this action are available from http:// www.regulations.gov or from the NMFS Alaska Region website at http:// alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this rule may be submitted to NMFS at the above address, and by email to OIRA_ Submission@omb.eop.gov or fax to 202– 395–7285. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kurt Iverson, 907–586–7228. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Authority for Action The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) and NMFS manage fishing for Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) through regulations established under authority of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 (Halibut Act). The IPHC adopts regulations governing the Pacific halibut fishery under the Convention between the United States and Canada for the Preservation of the Halibut Fishery of the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea (Convention), signed in Ottawa, Ontario, on March 2, 1953, as amended by a Protocol Amending the Convention (signed in Washington, DC, on March 29, 1979). For the United States, regulations developed by the IPHC are subject to acceptance by the Secretary of State with concurrence from the Secretary of Commerce. After acceptance by the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Commerce, NMFS publishes the IPHC regulations in the Federal Register as annual management measures pursuant to 50 CFR 300.62. The Halibut Act, at sections 773c(a) and (b), provides the Secretary of Commerce with general responsibility to carry out the Convention and the Halibut Act. In adopting regulations that may be necessary to carry out the purposes and objectives of the Convention and the Halibut Act, the Secretary of Commerce is directed to consult with the Secretary of the department in which the U.S. Coast Guard is operating, which is currently the Department of Homeland Security. The Halibut Act, at section 773c(c), also provides the North Pacific Fishery VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:15 Feb 11, 2019 Jkt 247001 Management Council (Council) with authority to develop regulations, including limited access regulations, that are in addition to, and not in conflict with, approved IPHC regulations. Regulations developed by the Council may be implemented by NMFS only after approval by the Secretary of Commerce. The Council has exercised this authority in the development of subsistence halibut fishery management measures, the limited access program for charter operators in the charter halibut fishery, and the catch sharing plan and domestic management measures in waters in and off Alaska, codified at 50 CFR 300.61, 300.65, 300.66, and 300.67. The Council also developed the Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Program for the commercial halibut and sablefish fisheries, codified at 50 CFR part 679, under the authority of section 5 of the Halibut Act (16 U.S.C. 773c(c)) and section 303(b) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.). Management of the Halibut Fishery Description of the Action Area This proposed rule would change regulations for the management of the sport halibut fishery in IPHC Regulatory Areas 2C (Southeast Alaska) and 3A (Southcentral Alaska). These regulatory areas are referred to as ‘‘IFQ regulatory areas’’ throughout the IFQ Program regulations at 50 CFR part 679 and as ‘‘Commission regulatory areas’’ throughout the halibut management regulations at 50 CFR 300.61, 300.65, 300.66, and 300.67. These terms are synonymous with ‘‘IPHC regulatory areas.’’ This preamble uses the term ‘‘Area 2C’’ and ‘‘Area 3A’’ to refer to IPHC Regulatory Areas 2C and 3A, respectively. Background on the Halibut Fishery The harvest of halibut in Alaska occurs in three fisheries—the commercial, sport, and subsistence fisheries. The commercial halibut fishery is managed under the IFQ Program. The sport fishery includes guided and unguided anglers. Guided anglers are also referred to as ‘‘charter vessel anglers’’ herein; ‘‘charter vessel anglers’’ is also defined in § 300.61, and means persons, paying or non-paying, receiving sport fishing guide services for halibut. Throughout this preamble, the term ‘‘charter halibut fishery’’ is used to refer to the sport fishery prosecuted by charter operators who hold Charter Halibut Permits and offer sport fishing guide services for halibut. This preamble uses the terms ‘‘guided PO 00000 Frm 00061 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 fishing’’ to refer to sport fishing by an angler who receives sport fishing guide services for halibut, and ‘‘guided angler’’ to an angler receiving those sport fishing guide services. This preamble uses the terms ‘‘unguided fishing’’ to refer to sport fishing by an angler who does not receive sport fishing guide services for halibut sport fishing, and ‘‘unguided angler’’ to an angler who does not receive those sport fishing guide services. This proposed rule would not apply to the subsistence fishery, which provides an opportunity for rural residents and members of an Alaska Native tribe to retain halibut for personal use or customary trade. The following sections of the preamble summarize charter halibut fishery management. Section 2.7 of the RIR prepared for this proposed action provides additional detail on charter halibut management programs that have been implemented in Areas 2C and 3A. Charter Halibut Fishery Sport fishing activities for Pacific halibut in Areas 2C and 3A are subject to different regulations, depending on whether those activities are guided or unguided. Guided sport fishing (charter fishing) for halibut is subject to charter restrictions under Federal regulations that are generally more restrictive than the regulations for unguided anglers. NMFS regulations at § 300.61 describe guided and unguided fishing. Guided fishing occurs if a charter vessel guide receives compensation to provide assistance or to physically direct a person who is sport fishing, and that person takes or attempts to take fish during any part of a charter vessel fishing trip. Unguided fishing occurs when anglers do not fish with the assistance of a guide. In some instances, halibut caught and retained by guided anglers are on the same vessel as halibut caught and retained by unguided anglers. This proposed action is limited to those instances. Over the years, the Council and NMFS have developed specific management programs for the charter halibut fishery to achieve allocation and conservation objectives. These management programs maintain stability and economic viability in the charter fishery by (1) limiting the number of charter vessel operators, (2) allocating halibut to the charter fishery that vary with abundance, and (3) establishing a process for determining harvest restrictions for charter vessel anglers to keep the charter halibut fishery within its allocations. The charter halibut fisheries in Areas 2C and 3A are currently managed under E:\FR\FM\12FEP1.SGM 12FEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 29 / Tuesday, February 12, 2019 / Proposed Rules the Charter Halibut Limited Access Program (CHLAP) and the Catch Sharing Plan (CSP). The CHLAP limits the number of operators in the charter halibut fishery, while the CSP establishes annual allocations to the charter and commercial fisheries. The CSP also describes a process for determining annual management measures to limit charter harvest to the allocations in each management area. The CHLAP and the CSP are summarized below. Description of CHLAP The CHLAP established Federal charter halibut permits (CHPs) for operators in the charter fisheries in Areas 2C and 3A. Since 2011, all vessel operators in Areas 2C and 3A with charter vessel anglers on board must have an original, valid permit on board during every charter vessel fishing trip on which Pacific halibut are caught and retained. CHPs are endorsed for the appropriate regulatory area and the number of anglers that may catch and retain charter halibut on a trip. NMFS implemented this program, based on recommendations by the Council, to meet allocation objectives in the charter halibut fishery. This program provides stability in the fishery by limiting the number of charter vessels that may participate in Areas 2C and 3A. Vessel operators had to meet minimum participation requirements to receive an initial issuance of CHPs. Implementation of the CHLAP has resulted in consolidation in the charter halibut fishery as operators who did not meet the qualification criteria exited the fishery. Complete regulations for the CHLAP are published at 50 CFR 300.65, 300.66, and 300.67. Description of CSP and Limits on Charter Vessel Anglers The CSP in Areas 2C and 3A was adopted by the Council and implemented by NMFS in January 2014 (78 FR 75844, December 12, 2013). The CSP defines an annual process for allocating halibut between the charter and commercial halibut fisheries in Areas 2C and 3A. It establishes sector allocations that vary proportionally with changing levels of annual halibut abundance and that balance the differing needs of the charter and commercial halibut fisheries over a wide range of halibut abundance in each area. The CSP describes a public process by which the Council develops recommendations to the IPHC for charter harvest restrictions that are intended to maintain harvest within the annual charter halibut fishery catch limit for each area. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:15 Feb 11, 2019 Jkt 247001 The CSP also authorizes limited annual leases of commercial IFQ for use in the charter fishery as guided angler fish (GAF). Charter vessel anglers can use GAF to retain halibut up to the limits provided for unguided halibut anglers. Catch Monitoring and Estimation in the Sport Halibut Fisheries The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) Saltwater Charter Logbook (hereafter, logbook) is the primary reporting requirement for operators in the charter fisheries for all species harvested in saltwater in Areas 2C and 3A. ADF&G developed the logbook program in 1998 to provide information on participation and harvest by individual vessels and businesses in charter fisheries for halibut and for state-managed species, such as salmon and other bottomfish. Please consult State of Alaska regulations for the logbook requirements. These requirements are currently found at 5 AAC 75.076. Logbook data are compiled to show where fishing occurs, the extent of participation, and the species and the numbers of fish caught and retained by individual charter vessel anglers. This information is essential to estimate harvest for regulation and management of the charter fisheries in Areas 2C and 3A. ADF&G collects logbook information from charter vessel guides on halibut harvested by charter vessel anglers to accommodate the information requirements for implementing and enforcing Federal charter halibut fishing regulations, such as the current Area 2C one-halibut per day bag limit and the CHLAP. ADF&G uses the Statewide Harvest Survey (SWHS) to estimate halibut harvests in the unguided sport halibut fishery. The SWHS is a mail survey of households containing at least one licensed angler. Survey respondents are asked to report the numbers of fish caught and kept by all members of the entire household, and the data are expanded to cover all households. IPHC Annual Management Measures Each year, through an open public process, the Council reviews and recommends annual management measures for implementation in the charter halibut fishery. Each fall, the Council reviews an analysis of potential charter management measures for the Area 2C and Area 3A charter fisheries for the upcoming fishing year. The Council considers stakeholder input and the most current information regarding the charter halibut fishery and its management. After reviewing the PO 00000 Frm 00062 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 3405 analysis and considering public testimony, the Council identifies the charter halibut management measures to recommend to the IPHC that will most likely constrain charter halibut harvest for each area to its catch limit, while considering impacts on charter operations. The IPHC considers the Council’s recommendations, along with the analysis upon which those recommendations were based, and input from its stakeholders and staff. The IPHC then adopts either the Council’s recommendations or alternative charter halibut management measures designed to keep charter harvest in Area 2C and Area 3A to the allocations specified under the CSP. These measures are necessary to limit the combined commercial and charter harvest in Area 2C and 3A within each area’s combined catch limit. Once accepted by the Secretary of State with the concurrence of the Secretary of Commerce, NMFS publishes in the Federal Register the charter halibut management measures for each area as part of the IPHC annual management measures. NMFS published the 2018 IPHC annual management measures on March 9, 2018 (83 FR 10390). Subsequently, NMFS revised portions of the annual management measures with an interim final rule on March 20, 2018 (83 FR 12133). Unguided anglers are currently managed under a two-fish of any size daily bag limit in Alaska. Since 2008, guided anglers in Area 2C have been managed under more restrictive limits than unguided anglers. In Area 3A, guided anglers have been managed under more restrictive limits since 2014. For example, in 2018, guided anglers in Area 2C are limited to a daily bag limit of one fish and size limits that prohibit retention of halibut greater than 38 inches and less than 80 inches. In 2018, guided anglers in Area 3A may retain two halibut per day; however, one fish must be 28 inches or less, and guided anglers are allowed to retain a maximum of four fish in a calendar year. Additionally, guided anglers in Area 3A in 2018 are prohibited from retaining halibut on any Wednesday, and on six Tuesdays from July 10 through August 14. To enforce the halibut size limit restrictions in Areas 2C and 3A, if the fish are filleted on board the charter vessel, guided anglers are required to retain the carcasses of fish until the vessel offloads at the end of the fishing trip. The maximum number of halibut an angler may possess at any one time in Areas 2C and 3A is two daily bag limits. E:\FR\FM\12FEP1.SGM 12FEP1 3406 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 29 / Tuesday, February 12, 2019 / Proposed Rules Those possession limits correspond to the respective daily bag limits for guided or unguided anglers. For example, the 2018 daily bag limit for unguided anglers in Area 2C is two halibut, so the possession limit for unguided anglers is four halibut; however, for guided anglers in Area 2C in 2018, the daily bag limit is one halibut (within the size limit), so the possession limit for that sector is two halibut (within the size limit). Mixing of Guided and Unguided Halibut Some sport fishing businesses offer anglers the option to fish either guided or unguided. A charter vessel fishing trip is defined in § 300.61 and is the period of time between the first deployment of fishing gear by a charter vessel angler, to the point when one or more charter vessel anglers or any halibut from the vessel are offloaded. Typically, if there is a mix of guided and unguided fishing, it occurs on larger charter vessels that transport clients on trips that span more than one day. The unguided portion of the fishing trip most commonly occurs on small vessels deployed away from the main vessel. Unguided fishing can also occur on the main vessel itself. In either case, anglers who do not receive sport fishing guide services are unguided anglers. Sport fishing guide services are defined in NMFS regulations, and were recently clarified in a final rule published June 19, 2015 (80 FR 35195). The definition of sport fishing guide services in § 300.61 means assisting a sport fisherman by accompanying or physically directing the sport fisherman’s fishing activities, and being compensated for doing so. ‘‘Compensation,’’ as defined in § 300.61, is purposely broad and includes direct or indirect payment, remuneration, or other benefits received in return for services, regardless of the source. Sport fishing businesses that have multi-day trips typically offer a suite of activities to their clients that includes marine fishing for halibut, salmon, and various species of groundfish; freshwater fishing for salmon, char, and trout; personal use shellfish harvesting; sightseeing; bird and wildlife viewing; photography; and small boat and kayak excursions. This diversity of services allows businesses the flexibility to respond to different social, environmental, and regulatory conditions and to broaden their appeal to potential clients. Some unguided sport fishing may be a reaction to the more restrictive regulations imposed on guided halibut anglers. For example, in Area 3A, unguided fishing provides an VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:15 Feb 11, 2019 Jkt 247001 opportunity for persons to keep halibut on days when catching and retaining halibut by guided anglers is closed. Public testimony to the Council suggests that pricing, convenience, and the personal preferences of the clients can also be reasons for sport fishing businesses to offer unguided fishing. Section 2.7.5 of the RIR indicates there is a lack of systematic information or data sources that can precisely identify which sport fishing businesses offer unguided fishing, or the number of fishing trips where there is a mix of guided and unguided fishing. In an attempt to establish an upper-bound estimate of the current number of businesses potentially affected by this action, Section 2.7.5 of the RIR cites an informal survey performed by the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement (OLE). OLE determined there are approximately 30 fishing vessel businesses currently operating in Area 2C and 14 similar businesses in Area 3A that offer multi-day fishing trips for their clients. However, among these businesses, the specific number of vessels where halibut are comingled from both guided and unguided fishing is unknown. Note that businesses that offer exclusively guided fishing or exclusively unguided fishing would not be affected by this proposed action. Although the intention of this proposed action is specific to fishing vessels that simultaneously have halibut caught and retained by guided and unguided anglers, the Council recognizes that some shoreside sport fishing businesses or stationary floating facilities also offer saltwater fishing. In some cases, unguided anglers leave the facility in boats provided by the operator to fish for salmon, halibut, or other species without receiving sport fishing guide services. Other operations offer a mix of both guided and unguided fishing, which allows anglers to alternate between fishing with and without a charter vessel guide. The Council received public comments that indicated mixed guided and unguided fishing occurs when anglers based out of shoreside businesses or stationary floating facilities spend part of their time with a guide and part of their time unguided. Typically, at the end of the day, the anglers return to the facility to offload their catch. The fundamental difference between shoreside or stationary floating facilities and the businesses that are the subject of this proposed rule is that in most cases, at shoreside or stationary floating facilities, an angler’s catch is offloaded and is no longer on a fishing vessel as defined by the Halibut Act. The Council determined that these proposed PO 00000 Frm 00063 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 regulations should apply to fishing vessels on Convention waters. Need for Action This proposed rule would address a concern initially raised at the Council’s Enforcement Committee meeting in June 2016. When halibut are caught and retained by both guided and unguided anglers and those halibut are on the same fishing vessel, it presents enforcement challenges due to the different regulations for guided versus unguided anglers. The greatest challenge is for accountability under the bag and possession limits and halibut size restrictions. Under the current regulations, when halibut are caught and retained by guided and unguided anglers and those halibut are on the same fishing vessel, enforcement officers have no positive means to verify which angler harvested a particular fish, or whether that angler harvested the fish while fishing unguided or while being guided. It is important to note these enforcement challenges occur when the halibut from guided and unguided anglers is on board a fishing vessel on Convention waters. Therefore, this proposed rule would not apply to Pacific halibut that is not on a fishing vessel. Section 2.3 of the RIR provides additional information on the history of this proposed action. This Proposed Rule To address the purpose and need for this action, the Council and NMFS considered three alternatives, which are described in Sections 2.4 and 2.8 of the RIR. Under the preferred alternative (Alternative 3), anglers would have the option to fish guided or to fish unguided. However, if Pacific halibut caught and retained by one or more unguided anglers is on board a fishing vessel in the Convention waters with Pacific halibut caught and retained by one or more guided anglers, then all Pacific halibut on board and the anglers that caught and retained that Pacific halibut would be subject to the daily bag limits, possession limits, size limits, and carcass retention requirements for guided anglers for that IPHC area. For example, if halibut caught and retained by an unguided angler is on board a fishing vessel with halibut caught and retained by a guided angler in Area 2C, then all halibut on board would be subject to the guided angler daily bag limit and possession limit for Area 2C. To enforce size limits, if applicable, the fish must be retained whole, or if the halibut are filleted on the vessel, the carcasses must be retained in one piece and a patch of skin must be left on each fillet until the fish are offloaded. E:\FR\FM\12FEP1.SGM 12FEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 29 / Tuesday, February 12, 2019 / Proposed Rules Similarly, in Area 3A, if halibut caught and retained from guided and unguided anglers are on the same vessel at the same time, then all halibut on board would be subject to the Area 3A guided angler daily limit and possession limit. As in 2C, if any halibut are filleted before the end of the fishing trip, a patch of skin must be left on each fillet and the carcasses of a size-restricted halibut must be retained on board the vessel until the fish are offloaded. The Council and NMFS considered an alternative (Alternative 2), that would prohibit the possession of halibut caught and retained by a guided angler and by an unguided angler on the same fishing vessel simultaneously. This alternative would likely maximize regulatory compliance. However, the Council also expressed concern that an outright prohibition on having Pacific halibut caught and retained by a guided angler and Pacific halibut caught and retained by an unguided angler on the same fishing vessel could be overly restrictive, especially to sport fishing businesses that currently offer guided and unguided fishing options for anglers. Under this proposed rule, sport fishing businesses that currently offer a mix of guided and unguided fishing opportunities could continue to do so, but unguided anglers would be subject to the daily bag limits, possession limits, size limits, and carcass retention requirements for guided anglers for that IPHC regulatory area if halibut caught and retained by the unguided angler is onboard a fishing vessel with halibut caught and retained by a guided angler. This proposed rule would provide uniform halibut retention regulations, provide clearer regulatory standards for the public, reduce the amount of time needed by enforcement officers when boarding fishing vessels, and improve overall compliance with daily bag limits, possession limits, size limits, and carcass retention requirements. Other regulations for guided and unguided anglers would remain unchanged under this proposed rule. This proposed rule would not require halibut harvested by an unguided angler to be accounted for in charter logbooks. This proposed rule would not apply halibut harvested by an unguided angler to the charter halibut allocation in the CSP. Section 2.8.3 of the RIR provides additional information on reporting harvests in logbooks. This proposed rule would not impose day-of-the-week closures on unguided anglers, but guided anglers would continue to fish under those restrictions. The Council and NMFS recognize that uniform day-of-the-week closures for all VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:15 Feb 11, 2019 Jkt 247001 anglers who comingle halibut from guided and unguided fishing on a vessel could potentially enhance the enforcement of their preferred alternative; however, this proposed rule balances the enforcement objective with rules that could present an unnecessary burden on businesses offering guided and unguided fishing opportunities. Under this proposed rule, halibut harvested by unguided anglers would not be included in the annual harvest limit assigned to persons when they fish with a guide. Currently, guided anglers in Area 3A can harvest no more than four fish per year, and are required to record each retained fish on the back of their Alaska sport fishing license or on an ADF&G Sport Fishing Harvest Record Card. This proposed rule would not require maintaining harvest records of halibut harvested while anglers are unguided. Section 2.8.3 of the RIR discusses annual harvest limits and recordkeeping in additional detail. This proposed action would apply to fishing vessels, as they are defined in the Halibut Act. The term ‘‘fishing vessel’ in the Halibut Act means: ‘‘(1) any vessel engaged in catching fish in Convention waters or in processing or transporting fish loaded in Convention waters; (2) any vessel outfitted to engage in any activity described in paragraph (1); or (3) any vessel in normal support of any vessel described in paragraph (1) or (2).’’ 16 U.S.C. 773(f). In general, § 300.65(d)(3) restricts a charter vessel guide, charter vessel operator, or crew member from catching and retaining halibut on charter vessel fishing trips in Areas 2C and 3A. However, that regulation does not prohibit crew members and other charter vessel support persons from participating as unguided anglers and retaining halibut if there are no sport fishing guide services being rendered. For example, on a multi-day charter vessel trip, crew members may use their free time to fish unguided. Under this proposed rule, if that halibut is on board a fishing vessel with halibut caught and retained by a guided angler, then the daily bag limit, the possession limit, size restrictions, and carcass retention requirements for guided anglers for that IPHC Area applies to all halibut on board that fishing vessel and applies to all anglers that caught and retained halibut on board that fishing vessel. This proposed rule would not modify regulations related to the management of GAF. Regulations for GAF are principally found in § 300.65(c)(5). The regulations allow transfers of commercial halibut IFQ to a charter operator, where the IFQ is translated to fish that individual anglers can use to PO 00000 Frm 00064 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 3407 increase their harvests up to the limits of unguided anglers, which is currently two fish of any size per day, with no annual limit. Under this proposed rule, guided anglers will be able to continue to use GAF on charter vessel fishing trips. Regulations applicable to GAF permitting, transfer, use, and reporting requirements in § 300.65 would still apply. Proposed Revisions to the CSP Regulations in § 300.65 This proposed rule would add a new paragraph at § 300.65(d)(6). The new paragraph at § 300.65(d)(6) would require that all Pacific halibut on board a fishing vessel be subject to the daily bag limit, the possession limit, size restrictions, and carcass retention requirements for guided anglers for that IPHC Area if any halibut caught and retained by a guided angler is on board that vessel. This paragraph applies to Pacific halibut caught and retained by guided and unguided anglers when those halibut are on the same fishing vessel. If sport fishing guide services are performed at any point during a charter fishing trip, then all anglers on board, for the full extent of the fishing trip, would be subject to the daily bag limits, possession limits, size restrictions, and carcass retention requirements for guided charter vessel anglers, as specified for the applicable IPHC regulatory area, and determined by the annual management measures recommended by the IPHC and NMFS and published by NMFS in the Federal Register. Attention to both the IPHC and NMFS regulations is critical because there may be differences between the IPHC management measures and NMFS regulations. For example, in 2018, the IPHC adopted management measures for halibut size restrictions in Area 2C that were initially accepted by the Secretary of State and published by NMFS (83 FR 10390, March 9, 2018), but those regulations were eventually superseded by a subsequent action implemented by NMFS in an interim final rule (83 FR 12133, March 20, 2018). Classification Regulations governing the U.S. fisheries for Pacific halibut are developed by the IPHC, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and the Secretary of Commerce. Section 5 of the Halibut Act (16 U.S.C. 773c) allows the regional fishery management council having authority for a particular geographical area to develop regulations governing fishing for halibut in U.S. Convention waters as long as those E:\FR\FM\12FEP1.SGM 12FEP1 3408 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 29 / Tuesday, February 12, 2019 / Proposed Rules regulations do not conflict with IPHC regulations. The Halibut Act at 16 U.S.C. 773c(a) and (b) provides the Secretary of Commerce with the general responsibility to carry out the Convention with the authority to, in consultation with the Secretary of the department in which the U.S. Coast Guard is operating, adopt such regulations as may be necessary to carry out the purposes and objectives of the Convention and the Halibut Act. This proposed rule is consistent with the Halibut Act and other applicable laws. This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. This proposed rule also complies with the Secretary of Commerce’s authority under the Halibut Act to implement management measures for the halibut fishery. Regulatory Impact Review An RIR was prepared to assess all costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives. A copy of this analysis is available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). The Council recommended this proposed action based on those measures that maximized net benefits to the Nation. Specific aspects of the economic analysis are discussed below in the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis section. Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) This IRFA was prepared for this proposed rule, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), to describe the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. An IRFA describes why this action is being proposed; the objectives and legal basis for the proposed rule; the number of small entities to which the proposed rule would apply; any projected reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements of the proposed rule; any overlapping, duplicative, or conflicting Federal rules; and any significant alternatives to the proposed rule that would accomplish the stated objectives, consistent with applicable statutes, and that would minimize any significant adverse economic impacts of the proposed rule on small entities. Descriptions of this proposed rule, its purpose, and the legal basis are contained earlier in this preamble and are not repeated here. Number and Description of Small Entities Regulated by This Proposed Rule This proposed rule would directly regulate (1) sport fishing businesses that VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:15 Feb 11, 2019 Jkt 247001 currently offer, or would offer, both guided and unguided halibut fishing opportunities, and the sport fishing guides that work for those businesses; and (2) unguided anglers whose halibut are on board vessels where halibut caught and retained by guided anglers are on board at the same time. NMFS does not collect information on the number of entities that offer mixed guided and unguided halibut fishing, and there appears to be no systematic means to determine an accurate number of those entities. An informal survey by enforcement officers, combined with testimony and comments from the public, indicates the practice of mixing guided and unguided fishing primarily occurs on larger charter vessels that provide multi-day fishing trips. Section 2.7.5 in the RIR provides the best available estimate based on informal surveys by NOAA Office of Law Enforcement. Approximately 30 fishing vessel businesses in Area 2C and 14 similar businesses in Area 3A currently offer multi-day fishing trips for their clients. This should be considered an upper-bound estimate of the number of businesses directly affected by this action at this time because the number of those operations that offer mixed guided and unguided fishing is unknown. Public comment also indicates that on relatively rare occasions, anglers will mix guided and unguided fishing when they are based out of a shoreside lodge or facility that provides rental boats. In these cases, as with multi-day charter vessels, comingling of retained halibut from guided and unguided fishing on the same vessel presents enforcement and accountability issues when those vessels are boarded by enforcement officers on Convention waters. For RFA purposes only, the Small Business Administration has established a small business size standard for businesses, including their affiliates, whose primary industry is scenic and sightseeing transportation on water, or all other amusement and recreation (NAICS codes 487210, and 713990, respectively). A business primarily engaged in these activities 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 receipts not in excess of $7.5 million for all its affiliated operations worldwide. It is unlikely that the largest of the affected charter vessel operations would be considered large entities under Small Business Administration (SBA) standards; however, that cannot be confirmed because NMFS does not have PO 00000 Frm 00065 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 or collect economic data on lodges or charter vessels necessary to definitively determine total annual receipts. Thus, all charter vessel operations are considered small entities, based on SBA criteria, because NMFS cannot confirm if any entities have annual gross revenues greater than $7.5 million. Community quota entities may apply for and receive community CHPs and some of those charter operations could potentially offer mixed guided and unguided halibut fishing; therefore, this proposed rule may directly regulate entities representing small, remote communities in Areas 2C and 3A. There are 20 communities in Area 2C and 14 in Area 3A eligible to receive community CHPs. Of these 34 communities, 20 hold community CHPs. Again, the number of these CHP holders who offer, or would offer, mixed guided and unguided fishing is unknown; however, this proposed action is not expected to adversely impact communities that hold CHPs. This proposed rule would apply more restrictive halibut bag and possession limits on clients that take multi-day charters with mixed guided and unguided halibut fishing activity. These individuals are not considered directly regulated small entities under the RFA. However, the proposed action will also apply these more restrictive catch and possession limits on vessel crew and guides who choose to fish for halibut in any time off they may have during a guided trip. It is possible that these crew and guides may operate as subcontractors to the primary vessel and, as such, may be defined as small entities. However, the applicability of the more restrictive limits to any of these potential small entities is as an indirect consequence of their being aboard the vessel on a mixed guided and unguided trip. Thus, they are not considered to be directly regulated small entities for RFA purposes. Based on this analysis, NMFS preliminarily determines that there are a substantial number of directly regulated small entities affected by this action. However, no small entities would be subject to significant adverse effects by this proposed rule. Due to the assumptions necessary to come to this conclusion and the lack of information available to conduct this analysis, NMFS has prepared this IRFA in order to provide potentially affected entities an opportunity to provide comments on this IRFA. NMFS will evaluate any comments received on the IRFA and may consider certifying that this action will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small E:\FR\FM\12FEP1.SGM 12FEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 29 / Tuesday, February 12, 2019 / Proposed Rules entities prior to publication of the final rule. Recordkeeping, Reporting, and Other Compliance Requirements Under this proposed rule, the current recording and reporting requirements for guided and unguided halibut anglers will not change. Therefore, on charter vessels where mixed guided and unguided fishing occurs, aligning the bag limits, possession limits, size limits, and carcass retention requirements so they are the same for both guided and unguided anglers will not change recordkeeping and reporting costs for fishery participants or impose any additional or new costs on participants. Duplicate, Overlapping, or Conflicting Federal Rules No duplication, overlap, or conflict between this proposed rule and existing Federal rules has been identified. Description of Significant Alternatives That Minimize Adverse Impacts on Small Entities An IRFA is required to describe significant alternatives to the proposed rule that accomplish the stated objectives of the Halibut Act and other applicable statutes and that would minimize any significant economic impact of the proposed rule on small entities. The Council recognizes, and NMFS agrees that unguided fishing by charter operations is largely used as an option to attract clients who have diverse desires and needs. Charter vessels, especially those that offer multi-day trips, offer a broad range of services. In addition to transportation, food, and lodging on the boat, a typical trip might include marine fishing for salmon, halibut, and various species of groundfish, freshwater fishing for trout, salmon, and char, wildlife and bird viewing, small boat and shore excursions, photography, and personaluse shellfish fishing. The flexibility for competent anglers to fish unguided is attractive to some clients; unguided fishing often includes reduced fees relative to guided fishing, and for halibut anglers, unguided fishing offers less restrictive bag and size limits and no day of the week closures. Alternative 1, the status quo, would continue to maintain different daily bag limits, possession limits, size restrictions, and carcass retention requirements for guided anglers and unguided anglers even if halibut caught and retained by both guided and unguided anglers are on the same fishing vessel simultaneously. The benefit of status quo is the flexibility VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:15 Feb 11, 2019 Jkt 247001 and business advantages for operators seeking to accommodate the desires of a broad range of clients, and their anglers can choose guided fishing, unguided fishing, or alternating between guided and unguided fishing at different times. The concerns about status quo are expressed in the Council’s purpose and need statement and in the discussion of alternatives in Section 2.8 of the RIR. In Areas 2C or 3A, guided anglers are frequently subject to greater harvest restrictions than unguided anglers. When halibut from guided and unguided fishing are commingled on a vessel in these management areas, it is difficult for enforcement officers to determine whether the halibut were caught by guided or unguided anglers. When vessels are boarded by enforcement officers, establishing each person’s catch and whether that person was guided or unguided can become a lengthy and complicated process for both officers and charter operators. Alternative 2 would prevent the commingling of halibut catches from guided and unguided anglers on fishing vessels by prohibiting the possession of halibut retained by guided anglers with halibut retained by unguided anglers on the same fishing vessel simultaneously. The primary advantage of this alternative is that it would maximize compliance of the regulations and likely reduce the duration of at-sea boardings by enforcement officers. The RIR describes the disadvantages of Alternative 2, which is primarily the reduced flexibility and potential lost revenue for multi-day fishing vessels that currently provide, or would seek to provide, the option of mixed guided and unguided fishing. If charter operations wanted to switch from guided to unguided fishing, the vessels would need to assume the time and cost of returning to port, offloading the fish, and then beginning a new trip to prevent comingling of halibut. Alternative 3, the preferred alternative, is intended to balance the enforcement concerns that result from commingling of halibut from guided and unguided fishing with an allowance for charter operations to maintain the flexibility of offering a mix of guided and unguided fishing, as they do now. Moreover, Alternative 3 allows other operations to assume the practice of offering both guided and unguided fishing in the future. The Council’s enforcement concerns are addressed by establishing uniform bag limits, possession limits, size restrictions, and carcass retention requirements for all halibut retained by anglers on a fishing vessel, irrespective of whether the PO 00000 Frm 00066 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 3409 angler was guided or unguided. These harvest restrictions would align with the rules specified for guided anglers in the respective regulatory areas, as determined by annual IPHC and NMFS management measures and specified in NMFS regulations in 50 CFR part 300, subparts A and E. Under Alternative 3, some of the requirements for guided anglers would not be imposed on unguided anglers, largely because the proposed alignment of bag and possession limits, size restrictions, and carcass retention requirements effectively serve to mitigate the compliance risks associated with the commingling of halibut on a fishing vessel that were caught and retained by both guided and unguided anglers. For example, halibut caught by unguided anglers would not be entered into the charter operator’s logbook and would not be recorded on the ADF&G charter harvest database. Section 2.3.3 of the RIR indicates that revising logbooks and logbook databases to accommodate entries of halibut caught and retained by unguided anglers would not only add an unnecessary burden, it would add difficult complications and significant cost to the managing agencies. This proposed rule would not require unguided anglers to individually record their daily catch and accrue it toward guided angler annual limits, which is currently a maximum of four fish in Area 3A. Additionally, day of the week closures for guided anglers, which is a restriction to catching and retaining Pacific halibut on specific days and is currently used in Area 3A, would not apply to unguided anglers. The RIR examines the potential negative effects of this proposed action, which largely relate to reduced harvest limits for unguided anglers who have their halibut on the same fishing vessel as guided anglers. One of the advantages of fishing unguided is that anglers are allowed to keep two fish of any size per day and keep a possession limit of four fish. Relative to the status quo, it is possible that this proposed action, which would reduce the number and size of halibut that can be retained by unguided anglers in some situations, could also reduce the incentive to purchase charter halibut trips. As noted above, the entities directly regulated under this proposed action are assumed to be small, by the SBA definition, and substantial in number. Overall, this action is likely to have a limited effect on net benefits to the Nation. The majority of Area 2C and 3A halibut charter operations, which includes business owners, guides and crew members, would not be subject to significant negative economic impacts E:\FR\FM\12FEP1.SGM 12FEP1 3410 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 29 / Tuesday, February 12, 2019 / Proposed Rules by this proposed rule. Thus, NMFS is not aware of any alternatives, in addition to the alternatives considered, that would more effectively meet the RFA criteria with the objectives of the Halibut Act and other applicable statutes at a lower economic cost to directly regulated small entities. Collection-of-Information Requirements This proposed rule contains collection-of-information requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) and which have been approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under OMB control number 0648–0575 (Alaska Pacific Halibut Fisheries: Charter Recordkeeping). Public reporting burden per response is estimated to average 4 minutes for the ADF&G Saltwater Sport Fishing Charter Trip Logbook, 5 minutes for the GAF Landing Report, and 2 minutes for the GAF Permit Log. The response time includes time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information. The ADF&G Saltwater Sport Fishing Charter Trip Logbook, GAF Electronic Landing Report, and GAF Permit Log are mentioned in this proposed rule. These requirements apply only to the harvest accounting of charter vessel anglers by charter vessel guides. Under this proposed rule, the harvests of VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:15 Feb 11, 2019 Jkt 247001 unguided charter vessel anglers would not be subject to these requirements; therefore, this rulemaking imposes no additional burden or cost on the regulated community. Send comments regarding this burden estimate, or any other aspect of this data collection, including suggestions for reducing the burden, to NMFS (see ADDRESSES), and by email to OIRA_ Submission@omb.eop.gov, or fax to (202) 395–5806. Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is required to respond to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the requirements of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays a currently valid OMB control number. All currently approved NOAA collections of information may be viewed at: http://www.cio.noaa.gov/ services_programs/prasubs.html. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 300 Administrative practice and procedure, Antarctica, Canada, Exports, Fish, Fisheries, Fishing, Imports, Indians, Labeling, Marine resources, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Russian Federation, Transportation, Treaties, Wildlife. PO 00000 Dated: February 6, 2019. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS proposes to amend 50 CFR part 300 as follows: PART 300—INTERNATIONAL FISHERIES REGULATIONS Subpart E—Pacific Halibut Fisheries 1. The authority citation for part 300, subpart E, continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773–773k. 2. Amend § 300.65 by adding paragraph (d)(6) to read as follows: ■ § 300.65 Catch sharing plan and domestic management measures in waters in and off Alaska. * * * * * (d) * * * (6) If a charter vessel angler catches and retains halibut, and that halibut is on board a fishing vessel with halibut caught and retained by persons who are not charter vessel anglers, then the daily bag limit, possession limit, size limit, and carcass retention regulations applicable to charter vessel anglers shall apply to all halibut on board the fishing vessel. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2019–01912 Filed 2–11–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P Frm 00067 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 E:\FR\FM\12FEP1.SGM 12FEP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 29 (Tuesday, February 12, 2019)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 3403-3410]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-01912]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 300

[Docket No. 180426419-8419-01]
RIN 0648-BH91


Pacific Halibut Fisheries; Revisions to Catch Sharing Plan and 
Domestic Management Measures in Alaska

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: This proposed action would apply the daily bag limits, 
possession limits, size restrictions, and carcass retention 
requirements for guided fishing to all Pacific halibut on board a 
fishing vessel when Pacific halibut caught and retained by anglers that 
were guided and by anglers that were not guided are on the same fishing 
vessel. Currently, sport fishing activities for halibut in 
International Pacific Halibut Commission Regulatory Areas 2C (Southeast 
Alaska) and 3A (Southcentral Alaska) are subject to different 
regulations, depending on whether those activities are guided or 
unguided. This proposed action is intended to aid the enforcement and 
to ensure the proper accounting of halibut taken when sport fishing in 
Areas 2C and 3A.

DATES: Comments must be received no later than March 14, 2019.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by FDMS Docket Number 
NOAA-NMFS-2018-0057, by either of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2018-0057, click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant 
Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region 
NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, 
AK 99802-1668.
    Instructions: NMFS may not consider comments sent by any other 
method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end 
of the comment period. All comments received are a part of the public 
record and will generally be posted for public viewing on http://www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address),

[[Page 3404]]

confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information 
submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS 
will accept anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required fields if you 
wish to remain anonymous).
    Electronic copies of the Categorical Exclusion and the Regulatory 
Impact Review (RIR) prepared for this action are available from http://www.regulations.gov or from the NMFS Alaska Region website at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.
    Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other 
aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this 
rule may be submitted to NMFS at the above address, and by email to 
OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov or fax to 202-395-7285.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kurt Iverson, 907-586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Authority for Action

    The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) and NMFS manage 
fishing for Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) through 
regulations established under authority of the Northern Pacific Halibut 
Act of 1982 (Halibut Act). The IPHC adopts regulations governing the 
Pacific halibut fishery under the Convention between the United States 
and Canada for the Preservation of the Halibut Fishery of the North 
Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea (Convention), signed in Ottawa, Ontario, 
on March 2, 1953, as amended by a Protocol Amending the Convention 
(signed in Washington, DC, on March 29, 1979). For the United States, 
regulations developed by the IPHC are subject to acceptance by the 
Secretary of State with concurrence from the Secretary of Commerce. 
After acceptance by the Secretary of State and the Secretary of 
Commerce, NMFS publishes the IPHC regulations in the Federal Register 
as annual management measures pursuant to 50 CFR 300.62.
    The Halibut Act, at sections 773c(a) and (b), provides the 
Secretary of Commerce with general responsibility to carry out the 
Convention and the Halibut Act. In adopting regulations that may be 
necessary to carry out the purposes and objectives of the Convention 
and the Halibut Act, the Secretary of Commerce is directed to consult 
with the Secretary of the department in which the U.S. Coast Guard is 
operating, which is currently the Department of Homeland Security.
    The Halibut Act, at section 773c(c), also provides the North 
Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) with authority to develop 
regulations, including limited access regulations, that are in addition 
to, and not in conflict with, approved IPHC regulations. Regulations 
developed by the Council may be implemented by NMFS only after approval 
by the Secretary of Commerce. The Council has exercised this authority 
in the development of subsistence halibut fishery management measures, 
the limited access program for charter operators in the charter halibut 
fishery, and the catch sharing plan and domestic management measures in 
waters in and off Alaska, codified at 50 CFR 300.61, 300.65, 300.66, 
and 300.67. The Council also developed the Individual Fishing Quota 
(IFQ) Program for the commercial halibut and sablefish fisheries, 
codified at 50 CFR part 679, under the authority of section 5 of the 
Halibut Act (16 U.S.C. 773c(c)) and section 303(b) of the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1801 et 
seq.).

Management of the Halibut Fishery

Description of the Action Area

    This proposed rule would change regulations for the management of 
the sport halibut fishery in IPHC Regulatory Areas 2C (Southeast 
Alaska) and 3A (Southcentral Alaska). These regulatory areas are 
referred to as ``IFQ regulatory areas'' throughout the IFQ Program 
regulations at 50 CFR part 679 and as ``Commission regulatory areas'' 
throughout the halibut management regulations at 50 CFR 300.61, 300.65, 
300.66, and 300.67. These terms are synonymous with ``IPHC regulatory 
areas.'' This preamble uses the term ``Area 2C'' and ``Area 3A'' to 
refer to IPHC Regulatory Areas 2C and 3A, respectively.

Background on the Halibut Fishery

    The harvest of halibut in Alaska occurs in three fisheries--the 
commercial, sport, and subsistence fisheries. The commercial halibut 
fishery is managed under the IFQ Program. The sport fishery includes 
guided and unguided anglers. Guided anglers are also referred to as 
``charter vessel anglers'' herein; ``charter vessel anglers'' is also 
defined in Sec.  300.61, and means persons, paying or non-paying, 
receiving sport fishing guide services for halibut. Throughout this 
preamble, the term ``charter halibut fishery'' is used to refer to the 
sport fishery prosecuted by charter operators who hold Charter Halibut 
Permits and offer sport fishing guide services for halibut. This 
preamble uses the terms ``guided fishing'' to refer to sport fishing by 
an angler who receives sport fishing guide services for halibut, and 
``guided angler'' to an angler receiving those sport fishing guide 
services. This preamble uses the terms ``unguided fishing'' to refer to 
sport fishing by an angler who does not receive sport fishing guide 
services for halibut sport fishing, and ``unguided angler'' to an 
angler who does not receive those sport fishing guide services.
    This proposed rule would not apply to the subsistence fishery, 
which provides an opportunity for rural residents and members of an 
Alaska Native tribe to retain halibut for personal use or customary 
trade.
    The following sections of the preamble summarize charter halibut 
fishery management. Section 2.7 of the RIR prepared for this proposed 
action provides additional detail on charter halibut management 
programs that have been implemented in Areas 2C and 3A.

Charter Halibut Fishery

    Sport fishing activities for Pacific halibut in Areas 2C and 3A are 
subject to different regulations, depending on whether those activities 
are guided or unguided. Guided sport fishing (charter fishing) for 
halibut is subject to charter restrictions under Federal regulations 
that are generally more restrictive than the regulations for unguided 
anglers. NMFS regulations at Sec.  300.61 describe guided and unguided 
fishing. Guided fishing occurs if a charter vessel guide receives 
compensation to provide assistance or to physically direct a person who 
is sport fishing, and that person takes or attempts to take fish during 
any part of a charter vessel fishing trip. Unguided fishing occurs when 
anglers do not fish with the assistance of a guide. In some instances, 
halibut caught and retained by guided anglers are on the same vessel as 
halibut caught and retained by unguided anglers. This proposed action 
is limited to those instances.
    Over the years, the Council and NMFS have developed specific 
management programs for the charter halibut fishery to achieve 
allocation and conservation objectives. These management programs 
maintain stability and economic viability in the charter fishery by (1) 
limiting the number of charter vessel operators, (2) allocating halibut 
to the charter fishery that vary with abundance, and (3) establishing a 
process for determining harvest restrictions for charter vessel anglers 
to keep the charter halibut fishery within its allocations.
    The charter halibut fisheries in Areas 2C and 3A are currently 
managed under

[[Page 3405]]

the Charter Halibut Limited Access Program (CHLAP) and the Catch 
Sharing Plan (CSP). The CHLAP limits the number of operators in the 
charter halibut fishery, while the CSP establishes annual allocations 
to the charter and commercial fisheries. The CSP also describes a 
process for determining annual management measures to limit charter 
harvest to the allocations in each management area. The CHLAP and the 
CSP are summarized below.

Description of CHLAP

    The CHLAP established Federal charter halibut permits (CHPs) for 
operators in the charter fisheries in Areas 2C and 3A. Since 2011, all 
vessel operators in Areas 2C and 3A with charter vessel anglers on 
board must have an original, valid permit on board during every charter 
vessel fishing trip on which Pacific halibut are caught and retained. 
CHPs are endorsed for the appropriate regulatory area and the number of 
anglers that may catch and retain charter halibut on a trip.
    NMFS implemented this program, based on recommendations by the 
Council, to meet allocation objectives in the charter halibut fishery. 
This program provides stability in the fishery by limiting the number 
of charter vessels that may participate in Areas 2C and 3A. Vessel 
operators had to meet minimum participation requirements to receive an 
initial issuance of CHPs. Implementation of the CHLAP has resulted in 
consolidation in the charter halibut fishery as operators who did not 
meet the qualification criteria exited the fishery. Complete 
regulations for the CHLAP are published at 50 CFR 300.65, 300.66, and 
300.67.

Description of CSP and Limits on Charter Vessel Anglers

    The CSP in Areas 2C and 3A was adopted by the Council and 
implemented by NMFS in January 2014 (78 FR 75844, December 12, 2013). 
The CSP defines an annual process for allocating halibut between the 
charter and commercial halibut fisheries in Areas 2C and 3A. It 
establishes sector allocations that vary proportionally with changing 
levels of annual halibut abundance and that balance the differing needs 
of the charter and commercial halibut fisheries over a wide range of 
halibut abundance in each area. The CSP describes a public process by 
which the Council develops recommendations to the IPHC for charter 
harvest restrictions that are intended to maintain harvest within the 
annual charter halibut fishery catch limit for each area.
    The CSP also authorizes limited annual leases of commercial IFQ for 
use in the charter fishery as guided angler fish (GAF). Charter vessel 
anglers can use GAF to retain halibut up to the limits provided for 
unguided halibut anglers.

Catch Monitoring and Estimation in the Sport Halibut Fisheries

    The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) Saltwater Charter 
Logbook (hereafter, logbook) is the primary reporting requirement for 
operators in the charter fisheries for all species harvested in 
saltwater in Areas 2C and 3A. ADF&G developed the logbook program in 
1998 to provide information on participation and harvest by individual 
vessels and businesses in charter fisheries for halibut and for state-
managed species, such as salmon and other bottomfish. Please consult 
State of Alaska regulations for the logbook requirements. These 
requirements are currently found at 5 AAC 75.076. Logbook data are 
compiled to show where fishing occurs, the extent of participation, and 
the species and the numbers of fish caught and retained by individual 
charter vessel anglers. This information is essential to estimate 
harvest for regulation and management of the charter fisheries in Areas 
2C and 3A. ADF&G collects logbook information from charter vessel 
guides on halibut harvested by charter vessel anglers to accommodate 
the information requirements for implementing and enforcing Federal 
charter halibut fishing regulations, such as the current Area 2C one-
halibut per day bag limit and the CHLAP.
    ADF&G uses the Statewide Harvest Survey (SWHS) to estimate halibut 
harvests in the unguided sport halibut fishery. The SWHS is a mail 
survey of households containing at least one licensed angler. Survey 
respondents are asked to report the numbers of fish caught and kept by 
all members of the entire household, and the data are expanded to cover 
all households.

IPHC Annual Management Measures

    Each year, through an open public process, the Council reviews and 
recommends annual management measures for implementation in the charter 
halibut fishery. Each fall, the Council reviews an analysis of 
potential charter management measures for the Area 2C and Area 3A 
charter fisheries for the upcoming fishing year. The Council considers 
stakeholder input and the most current information regarding the 
charter halibut fishery and its management. After reviewing the 
analysis and considering public testimony, the Council identifies the 
charter halibut management measures to recommend to the IPHC that will 
most likely constrain charter halibut harvest for each area to its 
catch limit, while considering impacts on charter operations.
    The IPHC considers the Council's recommendations, along with the 
analysis upon which those recommendations were based, and input from 
its stakeholders and staff. The IPHC then adopts either the Council's 
recommendations or alternative charter halibut management measures 
designed to keep charter harvest in Area 2C and Area 3A to the 
allocations specified under the CSP. These measures are necessary to 
limit the combined commercial and charter harvest in Area 2C and 3A 
within each area's combined catch limit.
    Once accepted by the Secretary of State with the concurrence of the 
Secretary of Commerce, NMFS publishes in the Federal Register the 
charter halibut management measures for each area as part of the IPHC 
annual management measures. NMFS published the 2018 IPHC annual 
management measures on March 9, 2018 (83 FR 10390). Subsequently, NMFS 
revised portions of the annual management measures with an interim 
final rule on March 20, 2018 (83 FR 12133).
    Unguided anglers are currently managed under a two-fish of any size 
daily bag limit in Alaska. Since 2008, guided anglers in Area 2C have 
been managed under more restrictive limits than unguided anglers. In 
Area 3A, guided anglers have been managed under more restrictive limits 
since 2014. For example, in 2018, guided anglers in Area 2C are limited 
to a daily bag limit of one fish and size limits that prohibit 
retention of halibut greater than 38 inches and less than 80 inches. In 
2018, guided anglers in Area 3A may retain two halibut per day; 
however, one fish must be 28 inches or less, and guided anglers are 
allowed to retain a maximum of four fish in a calendar year. 
Additionally, guided anglers in Area 3A in 2018 are prohibited from 
retaining halibut on any Wednesday, and on six Tuesdays from July 10 
through August 14. To enforce the halibut size limit restrictions in 
Areas 2C and 3A, if the fish are filleted on board the charter vessel, 
guided anglers are required to retain the carcasses of fish until the 
vessel offloads at the end of the fishing trip.
    The maximum number of halibut an angler may possess at any one time 
in Areas 2C and 3A is two daily bag limits.

[[Page 3406]]

Those possession limits correspond to the respective daily bag limits 
for guided or unguided anglers. For example, the 2018 daily bag limit 
for unguided anglers in Area 2C is two halibut, so the possession limit 
for unguided anglers is four halibut; however, for guided anglers in 
Area 2C in 2018, the daily bag limit is one halibut (within the size 
limit), so the possession limit for that sector is two halibut (within 
the size limit).

Mixing of Guided and Unguided Halibut

    Some sport fishing businesses offer anglers the option to fish 
either guided or unguided. A charter vessel fishing trip is defined in 
Sec.  300.61 and is the period of time between the first deployment of 
fishing gear by a charter vessel angler, to the point when one or more 
charter vessel anglers or any halibut from the vessel are offloaded. 
Typically, if there is a mix of guided and unguided fishing, it occurs 
on larger charter vessels that transport clients on trips that span 
more than one day. The unguided portion of the fishing trip most 
commonly occurs on small vessels deployed away from the main vessel. 
Unguided fishing can also occur on the main vessel itself. In either 
case, anglers who do not receive sport fishing guide services are 
unguided anglers.
    Sport fishing guide services are defined in NMFS regulations, and 
were recently clarified in a final rule published June 19, 2015 (80 FR 
35195). The definition of sport fishing guide services in Sec.  300.61 
means assisting a sport fisherman by accompanying or physically 
directing the sport fisherman's fishing activities, and being 
compensated for doing so. ``Compensation,'' as defined in Sec.  300.61, 
is purposely broad and includes direct or indirect payment, 
remuneration, or other benefits received in return for services, 
regardless of the source.
    Sport fishing businesses that have multi-day trips typically offer 
a suite of activities to their clients that includes marine fishing for 
halibut, salmon, and various species of groundfish; freshwater fishing 
for salmon, char, and trout; personal use shellfish harvesting; 
sightseeing; bird and wildlife viewing; photography; and small boat and 
kayak excursions. This diversity of services allows businesses the 
flexibility to respond to different social, environmental, and 
regulatory conditions and to broaden their appeal to potential clients. 
Some unguided sport fishing may be a reaction to the more restrictive 
regulations imposed on guided halibut anglers. For example, in Area 3A, 
unguided fishing provides an opportunity for persons to keep halibut on 
days when catching and retaining halibut by guided anglers is closed. 
Public testimony to the Council suggests that pricing, convenience, and 
the personal preferences of the clients can also be reasons for sport 
fishing businesses to offer unguided fishing.
    Section 2.7.5 of the RIR indicates there is a lack of systematic 
information or data sources that can precisely identify which sport 
fishing businesses offer unguided fishing, or the number of fishing 
trips where there is a mix of guided and unguided fishing. In an 
attempt to establish an upper-bound estimate of the current number of 
businesses potentially affected by this action, Section 2.7.5 of the 
RIR cites an informal survey performed by the NOAA Office of Law 
Enforcement (OLE). OLE determined there are approximately 30 fishing 
vessel businesses currently operating in Area 2C and 14 similar 
businesses in Area 3A that offer multi-day fishing trips for their 
clients. However, among these businesses, the specific number of 
vessels where halibut are comingled from both guided and unguided 
fishing is unknown. Note that businesses that offer exclusively guided 
fishing or exclusively unguided fishing would not be affected by this 
proposed action.
    Although the intention of this proposed action is specific to 
fishing vessels that simultaneously have halibut caught and retained by 
guided and unguided anglers, the Council recognizes that some shoreside 
sport fishing businesses or stationary floating facilities also offer 
saltwater fishing. In some cases, unguided anglers leave the facility 
in boats provided by the operator to fish for salmon, halibut, or other 
species without receiving sport fishing guide services. Other 
operations offer a mix of both guided and unguided fishing, which 
allows anglers to alternate between fishing with and without a charter 
vessel guide. The Council received public comments that indicated mixed 
guided and unguided fishing occurs when anglers based out of shoreside 
businesses or stationary floating facilities spend part of their time 
with a guide and part of their time unguided. Typically, at the end of 
the day, the anglers return to the facility to offload their catch. The 
fundamental difference between shoreside or stationary floating 
facilities and the businesses that are the subject of this proposed 
rule is that in most cases, at shoreside or stationary floating 
facilities, an angler's catch is offloaded and is no longer on a 
fishing vessel as defined by the Halibut Act. The Council determined 
that these proposed regulations should apply to fishing vessels on 
Convention waters.

Need for Action

    This proposed rule would address a concern initially raised at the 
Council's Enforcement Committee meeting in June 2016. When halibut are 
caught and retained by both guided and unguided anglers and those 
halibut are on the same fishing vessel, it presents enforcement 
challenges due to the different regulations for guided versus unguided 
anglers. The greatest challenge is for accountability under the bag and 
possession limits and halibut size restrictions. Under the current 
regulations, when halibut are caught and retained by guided and 
unguided anglers and those halibut are on the same fishing vessel, 
enforcement officers have no positive means to verify which angler 
harvested a particular fish, or whether that angler harvested the fish 
while fishing unguided or while being guided. It is important to note 
these enforcement challenges occur when the halibut from guided and 
unguided anglers is on board a fishing vessel on Convention waters. 
Therefore, this proposed rule would not apply to Pacific halibut that 
is not on a fishing vessel. Section 2.3 of the RIR provides additional 
information on the history of this proposed action.

This Proposed Rule

    To address the purpose and need for this action, the Council and 
NMFS considered three alternatives, which are described in Sections 2.4 
and 2.8 of the RIR. Under the preferred alternative (Alternative 3), 
anglers would have the option to fish guided or to fish unguided. 
However, if Pacific halibut caught and retained by one or more unguided 
anglers is on board a fishing vessel in the Convention waters with 
Pacific halibut caught and retained by one or more guided anglers, then 
all Pacific halibut on board and the anglers that caught and retained 
that Pacific halibut would be subject to the daily bag limits, 
possession limits, size limits, and carcass retention requirements for 
guided anglers for that IPHC area. For example, if halibut caught and 
retained by an unguided angler is on board a fishing vessel with 
halibut caught and retained by a guided angler in Area 2C, then all 
halibut on board would be subject to the guided angler daily bag limit 
and possession limit for Area 2C. To enforce size limits, if 
applicable, the fish must be retained whole, or if the halibut are 
filleted on the vessel, the carcasses must be retained in one piece and 
a patch of skin must be left on each fillet until the fish are 
offloaded.

[[Page 3407]]

Similarly, in Area 3A, if halibut caught and retained from guided and 
unguided anglers are on the same vessel at the same time, then all 
halibut on board would be subject to the Area 3A guided angler daily 
limit and possession limit. As in 2C, if any halibut are filleted 
before the end of the fishing trip, a patch of skin must be left on 
each fillet and the carcasses of a size-restricted halibut must be 
retained on board the vessel until the fish are offloaded.
    The Council and NMFS considered an alternative (Alternative 2), 
that would prohibit the possession of halibut caught and retained by a 
guided angler and by an unguided angler on the same fishing vessel 
simultaneously. This alternative would likely maximize regulatory 
compliance. However, the Council also expressed concern that an 
outright prohibition on having Pacific halibut caught and retained by a 
guided angler and Pacific halibut caught and retained by an unguided 
angler on the same fishing vessel could be overly restrictive, 
especially to sport fishing businesses that currently offer guided and 
unguided fishing options for anglers.
    Under this proposed rule, sport fishing businesses that currently 
offer a mix of guided and unguided fishing opportunities could continue 
to do so, but unguided anglers would be subject to the daily bag 
limits, possession limits, size limits, and carcass retention 
requirements for guided anglers for that IPHC regulatory area if 
halibut caught and retained by the unguided angler is onboard a fishing 
vessel with halibut caught and retained by a guided angler. This 
proposed rule would provide uniform halibut retention regulations, 
provide clearer regulatory standards for the public, reduce the amount 
of time needed by enforcement officers when boarding fishing vessels, 
and improve overall compliance with daily bag limits, possession 
limits, size limits, and carcass retention requirements.
    Other regulations for guided and unguided anglers would remain 
unchanged under this proposed rule. This proposed rule would not 
require halibut harvested by an unguided angler to be accounted for in 
charter logbooks. This proposed rule would not apply halibut harvested 
by an unguided angler to the charter halibut allocation in the CSP. 
Section 2.8.3 of the RIR provides additional information on reporting 
harvests in logbooks.
    This proposed rule would not impose day-of-the-week closures on 
unguided anglers, but guided anglers would continue to fish under those 
restrictions. The Council and NMFS recognize that uniform day-of-the-
week closures for all anglers who comingle halibut from guided and 
unguided fishing on a vessel could potentially enhance the enforcement 
of their preferred alternative; however, this proposed rule balances 
the enforcement objective with rules that could present an unnecessary 
burden on businesses offering guided and unguided fishing 
opportunities.
    Under this proposed rule, halibut harvested by unguided anglers 
would not be included in the annual harvest limit assigned to persons 
when they fish with a guide. Currently, guided anglers in Area 3A can 
harvest no more than four fish per year, and are required to record 
each retained fish on the back of their Alaska sport fishing license or 
on an ADF&G Sport Fishing Harvest Record Card. This proposed rule would 
not require maintaining harvest records of halibut harvested while 
anglers are unguided. Section 2.8.3 of the RIR discusses annual harvest 
limits and recordkeeping in additional detail.
    This proposed action would apply to fishing vessels, as they are 
defined in the Halibut Act. The term ``fishing vessel' in the Halibut 
Act means: ``(1) any vessel engaged in catching fish in Convention 
waters or in processing or transporting fish loaded in Convention 
waters; (2) any vessel outfitted to engage in any activity described in 
paragraph (1); or (3) any vessel in normal support of any vessel 
described in paragraph (1) or (2).'' 16 U.S.C. 773(f).
    In general, Sec.  300.65(d)(3) restricts a charter vessel guide, 
charter vessel operator, or crew member from catching and retaining 
halibut on charter vessel fishing trips in Areas 2C and 3A. However, 
that regulation does not prohibit crew members and other charter vessel 
support persons from participating as unguided anglers and retaining 
halibut if there are no sport fishing guide services being rendered. 
For example, on a multi-day charter vessel trip, crew members may use 
their free time to fish unguided. Under this proposed rule, if that 
halibut is on board a fishing vessel with halibut caught and retained 
by a guided angler, then the daily bag limit, the possession limit, 
size restrictions, and carcass retention requirements for guided 
anglers for that IPHC Area applies to all halibut on board that fishing 
vessel and applies to all anglers that caught and retained halibut on 
board that fishing vessel.
    This proposed rule would not modify regulations related to the 
management of GAF. Regulations for GAF are principally found in Sec.  
300.65(c)(5). The regulations allow transfers of commercial halibut IFQ 
to a charter operator, where the IFQ is translated to fish that 
individual anglers can use to increase their harvests up to the limits 
of unguided anglers, which is currently two fish of any size per day, 
with no annual limit. Under this proposed rule, guided anglers will be 
able to continue to use GAF on charter vessel fishing trips. 
Regulations applicable to GAF permitting, transfer, use, and reporting 
requirements in Sec.  300.65 would still apply.

Proposed Revisions to the CSP Regulations in Sec.  300.65

    This proposed rule would add a new paragraph at Sec.  300.65(d)(6). 
The new paragraph at Sec.  300.65(d)(6) would require that all Pacific 
halibut on board a fishing vessel be subject to the daily bag limit, 
the possession limit, size restrictions, and carcass retention 
requirements for guided anglers for that IPHC Area if any halibut 
caught and retained by a guided angler is on board that vessel. This 
paragraph applies to Pacific halibut caught and retained by guided and 
unguided anglers when those halibut are on the same fishing vessel. If 
sport fishing guide services are performed at any point during a 
charter fishing trip, then all anglers on board, for the full extent of 
the fishing trip, would be subject to the daily bag limits, possession 
limits, size restrictions, and carcass retention requirements for 
guided charter vessel anglers, as specified for the applicable IPHC 
regulatory area, and determined by the annual management measures 
recommended by the IPHC and NMFS and published by NMFS in the Federal 
Register.
    Attention to both the IPHC and NMFS regulations is critical because 
there may be differences between the IPHC management measures and NMFS 
regulations. For example, in 2018, the IPHC adopted management measures 
for halibut size restrictions in Area 2C that were initially accepted 
by the Secretary of State and published by NMFS (83 FR 10390, March 9, 
2018), but those regulations were eventually superseded by a subsequent 
action implemented by NMFS in an interim final rule (83 FR 12133, March 
20, 2018).

Classification

    Regulations governing the U.S. fisheries for Pacific halibut are 
developed by the IPHC, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the 
North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and the Secretary of 
Commerce. Section 5 of the Halibut Act (16 U.S.C. 773c) allows the 
regional fishery management council having authority for a particular 
geographical area to develop regulations governing fishing for halibut 
in U.S. Convention waters as long as those

[[Page 3408]]

regulations do not conflict with IPHC regulations. The Halibut Act at 
16 U.S.C. 773c(a) and (b) provides the Secretary of Commerce with the 
general responsibility to carry out the Convention with the authority 
to, in consultation with the Secretary of the department in which the 
U.S. Coast Guard is operating, adopt such regulations as may be 
necessary to carry out the purposes and objectives of the Convention 
and the Halibut Act. This proposed rule is consistent with the Halibut 
Act and other applicable laws.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866. This proposed rule also complies 
with the Secretary of Commerce's authority under the Halibut Act to 
implement management measures for the halibut fishery.

Regulatory Impact Review

    An RIR was prepared to assess all costs and benefits of available 
regulatory alternatives. A copy of this analysis is available from NMFS 
(see ADDRESSES). The Council recommended this proposed action based on 
those measures that maximized net benefits to the Nation. Specific 
aspects of the economic analysis are discussed below in the Initial 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis section.

Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA)

    This IRFA was prepared for this proposed rule, as required by 
section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), to describe the 
economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small 
entities. An IRFA describes why this action is being proposed; the 
objectives and legal basis for the proposed rule; the number of small 
entities to which the proposed rule would apply; any projected 
reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements of the 
proposed rule; any overlapping, duplicative, or conflicting Federal 
rules; and any significant alternatives to the proposed rule that would 
accomplish the stated objectives, consistent with applicable statutes, 
and that would minimize any significant adverse economic impacts of the 
proposed rule on small entities. Descriptions of this proposed rule, 
its purpose, and the legal basis are contained earlier in this preamble 
and are not repeated here.
Number and Description of Small Entities Regulated by This Proposed 
Rule
    This proposed rule would directly regulate (1) sport fishing 
businesses that currently offer, or would offer, both guided and 
unguided halibut fishing opportunities, and the sport fishing guides 
that work for those businesses; and (2) unguided anglers whose halibut 
are on board vessels where halibut caught and retained by guided 
anglers are on board at the same time.
    NMFS does not collect information on the number of entities that 
offer mixed guided and unguided halibut fishing, and there appears to 
be no systematic means to determine an accurate number of those 
entities. An informal survey by enforcement officers, combined with 
testimony and comments from the public, indicates the practice of 
mixing guided and unguided fishing primarily occurs on larger charter 
vessels that provide multi-day fishing trips. Section 2.7.5 in the RIR 
provides the best available estimate based on informal surveys by NOAA 
Office of Law Enforcement. Approximately 30 fishing vessel businesses 
in Area 2C and 14 similar businesses in Area 3A currently offer multi-
day fishing trips for their clients. This should be considered an 
upper-bound estimate of the number of businesses directly affected by 
this action at this time because the number of those operations that 
offer mixed guided and unguided fishing is unknown. Public comment also 
indicates that on relatively rare occasions, anglers will mix guided 
and unguided fishing when they are based out of a shoreside lodge or 
facility that provides rental boats.
    In these cases, as with multi-day charter vessels, comingling of 
retained halibut from guided and unguided fishing on the same vessel 
presents enforcement and accountability issues when those vessels are 
boarded by enforcement officers on Convention waters.
    For RFA purposes only, the Small Business Administration has 
established a small business size standard for businesses, including 
their affiliates, whose primary industry is scenic and sightseeing 
transportation on water, or all other amusement and recreation (NAICS 
codes 487210, and 713990, respectively). A business primarily engaged 
in these activities 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 receipts 
not in excess of $7.5 million for all its affiliated operations 
worldwide.
    It is unlikely that the largest of the affected charter vessel 
operations would be considered large entities under Small Business 
Administration (SBA) standards; however, that cannot be confirmed 
because NMFS does not have or collect economic data on lodges or 
charter vessels necessary to definitively determine total annual 
receipts. Thus, all charter vessel operations are considered small 
entities, based on SBA criteria, because NMFS cannot confirm if any 
entities have annual gross revenues greater than $7.5 million.
    Community quota entities may apply for and receive community CHPs 
and some of those charter operations could potentially offer mixed 
guided and unguided halibut fishing; therefore, this proposed rule may 
directly regulate entities representing small, remote communities in 
Areas 2C and 3A. There are 20 communities in Area 2C and 14 in Area 3A 
eligible to receive community CHPs. Of these 34 communities, 20 hold 
community CHPs. Again, the number of these CHP holders who offer, or 
would offer, mixed guided and unguided fishing is unknown; however, 
this proposed action is not expected to adversely impact communities 
that hold CHPs.
    This proposed rule would apply more restrictive halibut bag and 
possession limits on clients that take multi-day charters with mixed 
guided and unguided halibut fishing activity. These individuals are not 
considered directly regulated small entities under the RFA. However, 
the proposed action will also apply these more restrictive catch and 
possession limits on vessel crew and guides who choose to fish for 
halibut in any time off they may have during a guided trip. It is 
possible that these crew and guides may operate as subcontractors to 
the primary vessel and, as such, may be defined as small entities. 
However, the applicability of the more restrictive limits to any of 
these potential small entities is as an indirect consequence of their 
being aboard the vessel on a mixed guided and unguided trip. Thus, they 
are not considered to be directly regulated small entities for RFA 
purposes.
    Based on this analysis, NMFS preliminarily determines that there 
are a substantial number of directly regulated small entities affected 
by this action. However, no small entities would be subject to 
significant adverse effects by this proposed rule. Due to the 
assumptions necessary to come to this conclusion and the lack of 
information available to conduct this analysis, NMFS has prepared this 
IRFA in order to provide potentially affected entities an opportunity 
to provide comments on this IRFA. NMFS will evaluate any comments 
received on the IRFA and may consider certifying that this action will 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small

[[Page 3409]]

entities prior to publication of the final rule.
Recordkeeping, Reporting, and Other Compliance Requirements
    Under this proposed rule, the current recording and reporting 
requirements for guided and unguided halibut anglers will not change. 
Therefore, on charter vessels where mixed guided and unguided fishing 
occurs, aligning the bag limits, possession limits, size limits, and 
carcass retention requirements so they are the same for both guided and 
unguided anglers will not change recordkeeping and reporting costs for 
fishery participants or impose any additional or new costs on 
participants.
Duplicate, Overlapping, or Conflicting Federal Rules
    No duplication, overlap, or conflict between this proposed rule and 
existing Federal rules has been identified.
Description of Significant Alternatives That Minimize Adverse Impacts 
on Small Entities
    An IRFA is required to describe significant alternatives to the 
proposed rule that accomplish the stated objectives of the Halibut Act 
and other applicable statutes and that would minimize any significant 
economic impact of the proposed rule on small entities.
    The Council recognizes, and NMFS agrees that unguided fishing by 
charter operations is largely used as an option to attract clients who 
have diverse desires and needs. Charter vessels, especially those that 
offer multi-day trips, offer a broad range of services. In addition to 
transportation, food, and lodging on the boat, a typical trip might 
include marine fishing for salmon, halibut, and various species of 
groundfish, freshwater fishing for trout, salmon, and char, wildlife 
and bird viewing, small boat and shore excursions, photography, and 
personal-use shellfish fishing. The flexibility for competent anglers 
to fish unguided is attractive to some clients; unguided fishing often 
includes reduced fees relative to guided fishing, and for halibut 
anglers, unguided fishing offers less restrictive bag and size limits 
and no day of the week closures.
    Alternative 1, the status quo, would continue to maintain different 
daily bag limits, possession limits, size restrictions, and carcass 
retention requirements for guided anglers and unguided anglers even if 
halibut caught and retained by both guided and unguided anglers are on 
the same fishing vessel simultaneously. The benefit of status quo is 
the flexibility and business advantages for operators seeking to 
accommodate the desires of a broad range of clients, and their anglers 
can choose guided fishing, unguided fishing, or alternating between 
guided and unguided fishing at different times.
    The concerns about status quo are expressed in the Council's 
purpose and need statement and in the discussion of alternatives in 
Section 2.8 of the RIR. In Areas 2C or 3A, guided anglers are 
frequently subject to greater harvest restrictions than unguided 
anglers. When halibut from guided and unguided fishing are commingled 
on a vessel in these management areas, it is difficult for enforcement 
officers to determine whether the halibut were caught by guided or 
unguided anglers. When vessels are boarded by enforcement officers, 
establishing each person's catch and whether that person was guided or 
unguided can become a lengthy and complicated process for both officers 
and charter operators.
    Alternative 2 would prevent the commingling of halibut catches from 
guided and unguided anglers on fishing vessels by prohibiting the 
possession of halibut retained by guided anglers with halibut retained 
by unguided anglers on the same fishing vessel simultaneously. The 
primary advantage of this alternative is that it would maximize 
compliance of the regulations and likely reduce the duration of at-sea 
boardings by enforcement officers.
    The RIR describes the disadvantages of Alternative 2, which is 
primarily the reduced flexibility and potential lost revenue for multi-
day fishing vessels that currently provide, or would seek to provide, 
the option of mixed guided and unguided fishing. If charter operations 
wanted to switch from guided to unguided fishing, the vessels would 
need to assume the time and cost of returning to port, offloading the 
fish, and then beginning a new trip to prevent comingling of halibut.
    Alternative 3, the preferred alternative, is intended to balance 
the enforcement concerns that result from commingling of halibut from 
guided and unguided fishing with an allowance for charter operations to 
maintain the flexibility of offering a mix of guided and unguided 
fishing, as they do now. Moreover, Alternative 3 allows other 
operations to assume the practice of offering both guided and unguided 
fishing in the future. The Council's enforcement concerns are addressed 
by establishing uniform bag limits, possession limits, size 
restrictions, and carcass retention requirements for all halibut 
retained by anglers on a fishing vessel, irrespective of whether the 
angler was guided or unguided. These harvest restrictions would align 
with the rules specified for guided anglers in the respective 
regulatory areas, as determined by annual IPHC and NMFS management 
measures and specified in NMFS regulations in 50 CFR part 300, subparts 
A and E.
    Under Alternative 3, some of the requirements for guided anglers 
would not be imposed on unguided anglers, largely because the proposed 
alignment of bag and possession limits, size restrictions, and carcass 
retention requirements effectively serve to mitigate the compliance 
risks associated with the commingling of halibut on a fishing vessel 
that were caught and retained by both guided and unguided anglers. For 
example, halibut caught by unguided anglers would not be entered into 
the charter operator's logbook and would not be recorded on the ADF&G 
charter harvest database. Section 2.3.3 of the RIR indicates that 
revising logbooks and logbook databases to accommodate entries of 
halibut caught and retained by unguided anglers would not only add an 
unnecessary burden, it would add difficult complications and 
significant cost to the managing agencies. This proposed rule would not 
require unguided anglers to individually record their daily catch and 
accrue it toward guided angler annual limits, which is currently a 
maximum of four fish in Area 3A. Additionally, day of the week closures 
for guided anglers, which is a restriction to catching and retaining 
Pacific halibut on specific days and is currently used in Area 3A, 
would not apply to unguided anglers.
    The RIR examines the potential negative effects of this proposed 
action, which largely relate to reduced harvest limits for unguided 
anglers who have their halibut on the same fishing vessel as guided 
anglers. One of the advantages of fishing unguided is that anglers are 
allowed to keep two fish of any size per day and keep a possession 
limit of four fish. Relative to the status quo, it is possible that 
this proposed action, which would reduce the number and size of halibut 
that can be retained by unguided anglers in some situations, could also 
reduce the incentive to purchase charter halibut trips.
    As noted above, the entities directly regulated under this proposed 
action are assumed to be small, by the SBA definition, and substantial 
in number. Overall, this action is likely to have a limited effect on 
net benefits to the Nation. The majority of Area 2C and 3A halibut 
charter operations, which includes business owners, guides and crew 
members, would not be subject to significant negative economic impacts

[[Page 3410]]

by this proposed rule. Thus, NMFS is not aware of any alternatives, in 
addition to the alternatives considered, that would more effectively 
meet the RFA criteria with the objectives of the Halibut Act and other 
applicable statutes at a lower economic cost to directly regulated 
small entities.

Collection-of-Information Requirements

    This proposed rule contains collection-of-information requirements 
subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) and which have been 
approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under OMB control 
number 0648-0575 (Alaska Pacific Halibut Fisheries: Charter 
Recordkeeping). Public reporting burden per response is estimated to 
average 4 minutes for the ADF&G Saltwater Sport Fishing Charter Trip 
Logbook, 5 minutes for the GAF Landing Report, and 2 minutes for the 
GAF Permit Log. The response time includes time for reviewing 
instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and 
maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the 
collection of information.
    The ADF&G Saltwater Sport Fishing Charter Trip Logbook, GAF 
Electronic Landing Report, and GAF Permit Log are mentioned in this 
proposed rule. These requirements apply only to the harvest accounting 
of charter vessel anglers by charter vessel guides. Under this proposed 
rule, the harvests of unguided charter vessel anglers would not be 
subject to these requirements; therefore, this rulemaking imposes no 
additional burden or cost on the regulated community.
    Send comments regarding this burden estimate, or any other aspect 
of this data collection, including suggestions for reducing the burden, 
to NMFS (see ADDRESSES), and by email to OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov, 
or fax to (202) 395-5806.
    Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is 
required to respond to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty 
for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the 
requirements of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays 
a currently valid OMB control number. All currently approved NOAA 
collections of information may be viewed at: http://www.cio.noaa.gov/services_programs/prasubs.html.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 300

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

    Dated: February 6, 2019.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS proposes to amend 50 
CFR part 300 as follows:

PART 300--INTERNATIONAL FISHERIES REGULATIONS

Subpart E--Pacific Halibut Fisheries

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

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

0
2. Amend Sec.  300.65 by adding paragraph (d)(6) to read as follows:


Sec.  300.65   Catch sharing plan and domestic management measures in 
waters in and off Alaska.

* * * * *
    (d) * * *
    (6) If a charter vessel angler catches and retains halibut, and 
that halibut is on board a fishing vessel with halibut caught and 
retained by persons who are not charter vessel anglers, then the daily 
bag limit, possession limit, size limit, and carcass retention 
regulations applicable to charter vessel anglers shall apply to all 
halibut on board the fishing vessel.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2019-01912 Filed 2-11-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P