Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Authorize Retention of Halibut in Pot Gear in the Bering Sea Aleutian Islands; Amendment 118, 43570-43573 [2019-18033]

Download as PDF 43570 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2019 / Proposed Rules § 571.139 Standard No. 139; New pneumatic radial tires for light vehicles. Test pressure (kPa) Tire application * * * * * S2 Application. This standard applies to new pneumatic radial tires for use on motor vehicles (other than motorcycles and low speed vehicles) that have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,000 pounds or less and that were manufactured after 1975. This standard does not apply to special tires (ST) for trailers in highway service, tires for use on farm implements (FI) in agricultural service with intermittent highway use, tires with rim diameters of 12 inches and below, T-type temporary use spare tires with radial construction, and light truck tires with a tread depth of 18/32 inch or greater. * * * * * S4.1.1 * * * (a) Listed by manufacturer name or brand name in a document furnished to dealers of the manufacturer’s tires, to any person upon request, and in duplicate to the Docket Section (No. NHTSA–2009–0117), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, West Building, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20590; or * * * * * S6.2.1.1.1 Mount the tire on a test rim and inflate it to the pressure specified for the tire in the following table: Test pressure (kPa) Tire application Passenger car tires: Standard load ................................... Extra load ......................................... Light truck tires with a nominal cross section ≤295 mm (11.5 inches): Load Range C .................................. Load Range D .................................. Load Range E .................................. Light truck tires with a nominal cross section >295 mm (11.5 inches): Load Range C .................................. Load Range D .................................. Load Range E .................................. 220 260 320 410 500 230 320 410 * * * * * S6.3.1.1.1 Mount the tire on a test rim and inflate it to the pressure specified for the tire in the following table: Test pressure (kPa) jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Tire application Passenger car tires: Standard load ................................... Extra load ......................................... Light truck tires with a nominal cross section ≤295 mm (11.5 inches): Load Range C .................................. Load Range D .................................. Load Range E .................................. Light truck tires with a nominal cross section >295 mm (11.5 inches): Load Range C .................................. Load Range D .................................. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:37 Aug 20, 2019 Jkt 247001 180 220 260 340 410 190 260 Load Range E .................................. 340 * * * * * S6.4.1.1.1 This test is conducted following completion of the tire endurance test using the same tire and rim assembly tested in accordance with S6.3 with the tire deflated to the following appropriate pressure: Test pressure (kPa) Tire application Passenger car tires: Standard load ................................... Extra load ......................................... Light truck tires with a nominal cross section ≤295 mm (11.5 inches): Load Range C .................................. Load Range D .................................. Load Range E .................................. Light truck tires with a nominal cross section >295 mm (11.5 inches): Load Range C .................................. Load Range D .................................. Load Range E .................................. 140 160 200 260 320 150 200 260 Issued in Washington, DC, under authority delegated in 49 CFR 1.95 and 501.5. Heidi Renate King, Deputy Administrator. [FR Doc. 2019–17813 Filed 8–20–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–59–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Parts 300, 600, and 679 RIN 0648–BI65 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Authorize Retention of Halibut in Pot Gear in the Bering Sea Aleutian Islands; Amendment 118 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of availability of fishery management plan amendment; request for comments. AGENCY: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) submitted Amendment 118 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP) (Amendment 118) to the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) for review. If approved, Amendment 118 would prohibit the use of pot gear in the Pribilof Islands Habitat Conservation Zone (PIHCZ) and a regulatory SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 amendment would authorize the retention of halibut in pot gear under the Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) and Western Alaska Community Development Quota (CDQ) Programs in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI). Amendment 118 is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the FMP, the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 (Halibut Act), and other applicable laws. DATES: Comments must be received no later than October 21, 2019. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2018–0134, by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20180134, 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. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802–1668. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender 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 Amendment 118 to the FMP, the Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review prepared for this action (the Analysis), and the Finding of No Significant Impact prepared for this action may be obtained from www.regulations.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephanie Warpinski, 907–586–7228 or stephanie.warpinski@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Council has submitted Amendment 118 to the FMP to the Secretary for review. If approved, Amendment 118 would prohibit the use of pot gear in the Pribilof Islands Habitat Conservation Zone (PIHCZ). The regulatory amendment associated with E:\FR\FM\21AUP1.SGM 21AUP1 jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2019 / Proposed Rules Amendment 118 would authorize the use of pot gear, in addition to currently authorized fishing gear, to fish IFQ or CDQ halibut in the BSAI and would authorize the retention of halibut in pots in the IFQ or CDQ sablefish fishery in the BSAI. Provided a permit holder on board the fishing vessel also holds an IFQ or CDQ halibut permit with sufficient unused IFQ or CDQ halibut, the permit holder would be required to retain legal-size halibut. This action is necessary to improve information for future conservation and management measures, improve efficiency of the IFQ and CDQ sablefish and halibut fleets, and reduce bycatch and fishery interactions with whales and seabirds. Amendment 118 is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the FMP, the Halibut Act, and other applicable laws. The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that each regional fishery management council submit any fishery management plan amendment it prepares to NMFS for review and approval, disapproval, or partial approval by the Secretary. The Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires that NMFS, upon receiving a fishery management plan amendment, immediately publish a document in the Federal Register announcing that the amendment is available for public review and comment. This document announces that proposed Amendment 118 to the FMP is available for public review and comment. The Council prepared, and the Secretary approved, the FMP under the authority of section 302(h)(1) and 303(b) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. The FMP is implemented by Federal regulations governing U.S. fisheries at 50 CFR parts 600 and 679. The Council is authorized to prepare and recommend an FMP amendment for the conservation and management of a fishery covered under the FMP. The conservation and management needs of BSAI groundfish are directly related to the management of the Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) fishery by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC). Under the FMP, Pacific halibut is not a target species but is managed as a prohibited species. Many of the management measures contained in the FMP are for the express purpose of mitigating adverse effects from the trawl and fixed gear groundfish fisheries on the halibut resource. Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) is managed as a groundfish species under the FMP, as well as under the IFQ Program for the fixed gear Commercial Fisheries for Pacific Halibut and Sablefish in Waters in and off Alaska (IFQ Program). The IFQ Program is a VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:37 Aug 20, 2019 Jkt 247001 limited access privilege program implemented by Amendment 15 to the FMP in 1995 (58 FR 59375, November 9, 1993). The IFQ Program allocates halibut and sablefish harvesting privileges in terms of quota share (QS) among U.S. fishermen. The FMP specifies requirements for the initial allocation of quota share in 1995, as well as transfer, use, ownership, and general provisions. A QS holder’s allocation is given effect annually through issuance of an IFQ permit. The ratio of a person’s QS to the total number of QS is multiplied by the fixed gear sablefish total allowable catch (TAC) or halibut annual commercial catch limit to arrive at the annual IFQ. The IFQ permit specifies the amount of halibut or sablefish that each QS holder may harvest in pounds. The IPHC and NMFS manage fishing for halibut through regulations at 50 CFR part 300, subpart E, established under authority of the Halibut Act, 16 U.S.C. 773–773k. The Halibut Act authorizes the Council to develop halibut fishery regulations, including limited access regulations, that are in addition to, and not in conflict with, approved IPHC regulations (16 U.S.C. 773c(c)). The Council has exercised this authority in the development and advancement of the IFQ Program. The CDQ Program was implemented in 1992, and in 1996, the MagnusonStevens Act was amended to include provisions specific to the CDQ Program. The purposes of the CDQ Program are (1) to provide eligible western Alaska villages with the opportunity to participate and invest in fisheries in the BSAI management area; (2) to support economic development in western Alaska; (3) to alleviate poverty and provide economic and social benefits for residents of western Alaska; and (4) to achieve sustainable and diversified local economies in western Alaska (16 U.S.C. 1855(i)(1)(A)). If approved, Amendment 118 to the FMP would prohibit the use of pot gear in the PIHCZ. The regulatory amendment would authorize the use of pot gear to target BSAI IFQ or CDQ halibut and would authorize retention of halibut in longline and pot-and-line pot gear used in the new BSAI IFQ or CDQ halibut and existing IFQ or CDQ sablefish fisheries. Currently, hook-andline gear is the only authorized gear type in the IFQ and CDQ halibut fishery. Amendment 118 would authorize IFQ and CDQ fishermen to elect to use pot gear in the IFQ or CDQ halibut or IFQ or CDQ sablefish fisheries in the BSAI. In addition, if a permit holder on board the fishing vessel holds an IFQ or CDQ halibut permit with sufficient unused PO 00000 Frm 00043 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 43571 IFQ or CDQ halibut, the permit holder would be required to retain legal-size halibut. In recommending Amendment 118 and the proposed rule to implement the Amendment, the Council determined, and NMFS agrees, that prohibiting the use of pot gear in the PIHCZ and authorizing halibut retention in pot gear in the BSAI is appropriate to improve efficiency in the fleet because fishermen would have more flexibility to use their quota opportunistically and minimize variable costs. In addition, the length of the IFQ season makes it much less likely that hook-and-line gear and longline pot gear conflicts would occur or that fishing grounds would be preempted for extended periods. The Council and NMFS therefore expect that gear conflicts and grounds preemption would occur in the same manner as previously analyzed by the Council and NMFS. Although hook-and-line and longline pot gear may catch slightly different sizes of halibut, the best available information indicates that the use of pot gear would not have a significant impact on the halibut resource (see Section 3.4 and 4.7.4 of the Analysis). Due to concern over additional pot fishing activity in the PIHCZ and in the Pribilof Islands Blue King Crab (PIBKC) stock boundary area, the proposed regulatory amendment to implement Amendment 118 would require all vessels deploying pot gear for retaining IFQ or CDQ halibut or sablefish in pot gear to use logbooks and VMS to ensure consistency in monitoring fishery behavior. Pribilof Islands Blue King Crab (PIBKC) (Lithodes aequispinus) are overfished and experienced overfishing most recently in 2016. Rebuilding the PIBKC stock has been a Council priority since 2002, when NMFS notified the Council that the PIBKC stock was overfished. NMFS initiated a rebuilding plan in 2002, and when that rebuilding plan did not rebuild PIBKC, a new rebuilding plan was instituted in 2011. As part of the rebuilding plan, in October 2011 the Council recommended closing the PIHCZ year-round to directed fishing for Pacific cod with pot gear. In 2014, Amendment 103 to the FMP was published, prohibiting Pacific cod pot gear in the PIHCZ to promote bycatch reduction of PIBKC (79 FR 71344, December 2, 2014). No pot fishing for Pacific cod has occurred within the PIHCZ since 2015. Section 3.6 of the Analysis contains additional detail on the status of PIBKC and the rebuilding plans. Bycatch of PIBKC in pot gear is a concern in the BSAI, particularly in E:\FR\FM\21AUP1.SGM 21AUP1 jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS 43572 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2019 / Proposed Rules areas where PIBKC are concentrated. The greatest concentration of PIBKC is within the PIHCZ, which encloses the Pribilof Islands. The PIHCZ, defined in § 679.22(a)(6) and shown in Figure 10 to 50 CFR part 679, is closed to all directed fishing for groundfish using trawl gear, and to directed fishing for Pacific cod using pot gear. This existing pot gear closure does not include fishing for halibut and sablefish pot gear. If approved, Amendment 118 would close the PIHCZ to all groundfish and halibut fishing with pot gear. Section 3.6 of the Analysis provides more information about PIBKC and the PIHCZ. To help minimize the risk of overfishing PIBKC, regulations at § 679.25 provide NMFS with inseason management authority to make precise closures to BSAI fisheries that use bottom contact gear if a stock, in this case PIBKC, approaches its acceptable biological catch limit and is approaching the overfishing level (OFL) in the stock boundary area. The IFQ and CDQ Programs already include requirements for participants to report specific information to NMFS and other management agencies for management, monitoring, and enforcement purposes. In general, vessels that fish IFQ and CDQ halibut and sablefish must adhere to many of the same requirements, although there are some differences. There is overlap in vessels that fish for IFQ halibut and sablefish and vessels that fish CDQ halibut and sablefish, particularly among the larger vessels. A vessel can retain both CDQ and IFQ species on the same trip. The purpose of authorizing pot gear to target and retain halibut in the BSAI is to maximize the ability of permit holders to harvest their IFQ or CDQ by increasing catch per unit and reducing fishing costs. Some fishermen would like to use pot gear because it is less prone to whale depredation and seabird interactions than hook-and-line gear. Whales can remove fish from hook-andline gear and damage the gear. This reduces catch rates, increases costs for IFQ and CDQ fishermen, and impacts fishing efficiency. Use of pot gear would minimize whale depredation and seabird interactions with fishing gear and would minimize adverse impacts on the IFQ fleet. Killer whale (Orcinus orca) depredation is most common in the BSAI. Section 3.5 of the Analysis provides the most recent information on killer whale depredation in the sablefish and halibut IFQ fishery, and Figure 11 in the Analysis shows a map of observed depredation on sablefish longline surveys. While depredation VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:37 Aug 20, 2019 Jkt 247001 events are difficult to observe because depredation occurs near the ocean floor in deep water or during active gear retrieval, fishery participants have testified to the Council that depredation continues to be a major cost to the IFQ sablefish and halibut fishery, and appears to be occurring more frequently in the BSAI. Participants in the BSAI IFQ fisheries indicated to the Council and NMFS that authorizing the use of pot gear for IFQ halibut fishing would reduce the adverse impacts of depredation for those vessel operators who choose to switch from hook-and-line to pot gear. The Council and NMFS agree that interactions with whales throughout the BSAI could affect the ability of IFQ permit holders to harvest sablefish and halibut by reducing catch per unit of effort and decreasing fishing costs. If some portion of the IFQ or CDQ halibut fleet switches from hook-andline gear to pot gear, interactions between killer whales and the halibut fishery would be expected to decrease, and unaccounted halibut mortality due to depredation would be expected to decline. Because the amount of depredation is not known with certainty, the potential effects of reduced depredation from this proposed rule cannot be quantified. Section 1.2 of the Analysis provides additional information on the Council’s development and recommendation of Amendment 118 and the proposed rule. The Council and NMFS considered all the National Standards in section 301 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (16 U.S.C. 1851), but five national standards figured prominently in their consideration of Amendment 118: National Standard 2, National Standard 5, National Standard 8, National Standard 9, and National Standard 10. Section 5 of the Analysis provides more background on the National Standards. National Standard 2. Amendment 118 would lessen a source of scientific uncertainty in the assessment of sablefish stock abundance and marginally improve the information available for future conservation and management measures, consistent with National Standard 2. To the extent fishery participants choose to use pot gear, this gear is likely to reduce the amount of unaccounted mortality that occurs when whales depredate on sablefish, halibut, and other fish hooked on hook-and-line gear. National Standard 5. Amendment 118 considers efficiency consistent with National Standard 5 by providing the fleet with an additional tool, pot gear, to directly address reduced catch per unit of fishing effort and increased fishing PO 00000 Frm 00044 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 costs due to whale depredation off of hook-and-line gear. National Standard 8. Amendment 118 recognizes the importance of the sablefish and halibut fishery to BSAI communities and their residents, consistent with National Standard 8. Amendment 118 would provide fishery participants an option to use pot gear and would allow vessels fishing for sablefish with pot gear to retain their halibut, which would potentially improve fishing outcomes for vessels fishing for IFQ or CDQ halibut or sablefish. Amendment 118 would not alter the management measures that are designed to maintain the IFQ Program’s diverse fleet; those measures include area-specific quota, different quota allocations for vessel size categories, quota share use caps, and vessel IFQ caps. Amendment 118 would sustain community participation by reducing uncertainty in stock abundance estimation that results in improving long term management of the resource. National Standard 9. Amendment 118 would minimize bycatch, to the extent practicable, consistent with National Standard 9. Amendment 118 would authorize the use of pot gear, a gear type that is evidenced to reduce overall bycatch across all species and physically protect bycatch species from whale depredation, thereby reducing one source of bycatch mortality. In addition, under Amendment 118, the PIHCZ would be closed to all pot fishing to protect the PIBKC stock from overfishing. National Standard 10. Amendment 118 would promote the safety of life at sea, to the extent practicable, consistent with National Standard 10. All vessels over 79 feet would still be required to maintain and abide by their stability instructions for their vessel and gear. Vessels are not being required to carry any extra gear, and operators have the option to participate in the opportunity created by this action. Amendment 118 would require that all IFQ halibut caught in pot gear used by a vessel to fish IFQ or CDQ halibut or IFQ or CDQ sablefish in the BSAI be retained when a permit holder on board the vessel also holds an IFQ or CDQ halibut permit with sufficient IFQ or CDQ to cover the halibut harvest. Regulations that implement the IFQ Program in conjunction with FMPmanaged species are consistent with the Halibut Act and the Magnuson Stevens Act, respectively. Amendment 118 also notes that requirements for retaining, handling, and reporting halibut harvest are established in regulation and unchanged by this action. E:\FR\FM\21AUP1.SGM 21AUP1 jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2019 / Proposed Rules The FMP recognizes that discarding incidental catches of fish is wasteful and should be minimized. The FMP also recognizes that halibut are not managed as a target species, but as a prohibited species, under the FMP. Therefore, to remove the incentive to covertly target halibut, the FMP prohibits retention of halibut caught in target groundfish fisheries, except for when authorized. In the evaluation of retention of IFQ or CDQ halibut in a pot gear fishery for IFQ or CDQ halibut or IFQ or CDQ sablefish in the BSAI, the Council balanced the tenets of minimizing halibut discard with the IFQ Program, and the Council recommended retention of halibut in pot gear used to fish IFQ or CDQ halibut or IFQ or CDQ sablefish. Retention of halibut caught with pot gear used to fish IFQ or CDQ halibut or IFQ or CDQ sablefish is consistent with general provisions of the FMP. The Council’s recommendation to require retention of halibut in pot gear was conditioned on the IPHC adopting complementary regulations that would allow NMFS to promulgate regulations implementing the requirements specified by the Council. The IPHC approved the annual Pacific Halibut Fishery Regulations in January 2019. The 2019 annual regulations recommended by the IPHC and approved by the U.S. include approval of harvest of halibut in pot gear as legal gear for the commercial halibut fishery in Alaska when NMFS regulations permit the use of this gear to retain halibut (84 FR 9243, March 14, 2019). Amendment 118 to the FMP would amend Table ES–2 and section 3.5.2.1.1 in the FMP to prohibit all pot gear in the Pribilof Islands Habitat Conservation Zone. NMFS is soliciting public comments on proposed Amendment 118 through the end of the comment period (see DATES). NMFS intends to publish in the Federal Register and seek public comment on a proposed rule that would implement Amendment 118, following NMFS’s evaluation of the proposed rule under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. All comments received by the end of the comment period on Amendment 118, whether specifically directed to the FMP amendment or the proposed rule, will be considered in the approval/ disapproval decision on Amendment 118. Comments received after that date may not be considered in the approval/ disapproval decision on Amendment 118. To be certain of consideration, comments must be received, not just postmarked or otherwise transmitted, by the last day of the comment period. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:37 Aug 20, 2019 Jkt 247001 Dated: August 16, 2019. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2019–18033 Filed 8–20–19; 8:45 a.m.] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 RIN 0648–BI80 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Amendment 8 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Availability of proposed fishery management plan amendment; request for comments. AGENCY: The New England Fishery Management Council developed Amendment 8 to the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan to specify a long-term acceptable biological catch control rule for herring and address localized depletion and user group conflict. This amendment would establish an acceptable biological catch control rule that accounts for herring’s role in the ecosystem and prohibit midwater trawling in inshore Federal waters from the U.S./Canada border to the Rhode Island/Connecticut border. Amendment 8 is intended to support sustainable management of the herring resource and help ensure that herring is available to minimize possible detrimental biological impacts on predators of herring and associated socioeconomic impacts on other user groups. DATES: Public comments must be received on or before October 21, 2019. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2019–0078, by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. 1. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20190078; 2. Click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon and complete the required fields; and 3. Enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to Michael Pentony, Regional SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00045 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 43573 Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope, ‘‘Comments on Herring Amendment 8.’’ Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by us. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. We will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Copies of Amendment 8, including the Environmental Impact Statement, the Regulatory Impact Review, and the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EIS/RIR/IRFA) prepared in support of this action are available from Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950. The supporting documents are also accessible via the internet at: http:// www.nefmc.org. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carrie Nordeen, Fishery Policy Analyst, phone: (978) 281–9272 or email: Carrie.Nordeen@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The goal of the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan (FMP) is to manage the herring fishery at long-term sustainable levels and objectives of the FMP include providing for full utilization of the optimum yield (OY) and, to the extent practicable, controlled opportunities for participants in other New England and Mid-Atlantic fisheries. The Herring FMP describes OY as the amount of fish that will provide the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production and recreational opportunities, taking into account the protection of marine ecosystems, including maintenance of a biomass that supports the ocean ecosystem, predator consumption of herring, and biologically sustainable human harvest. This includes recognition of the importance of herring as one of many forage species of fish, marine mammals, and birds in the Greater Atlantic Region. Consistent with these aims, the goals for Amendment 8 are to: (1) Account for the role of herring within the ecosystem, E:\FR\FM\21AUP1.SGM 21AUP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 162 (Wednesday, August 21, 2019)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 43570-43573]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-18033]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Parts 300, 600, and 679

RIN 0648-BI65


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Authorize 
Retention of Halibut in Pot Gear in the Bering Sea Aleutian Islands; 
Amendment 118

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

ACTION: Notice of availability of fishery management plan amendment; 
request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) 
submitted Amendment 118 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish 
of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP) (Amendment 
118) to the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) for review. If approved, 
Amendment 118 would prohibit the use of pot gear in the Pribilof 
Islands Habitat Conservation Zone (PIHCZ) and a regulatory amendment 
would authorize the retention of halibut in pot gear under the 
Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) and Western Alaska Community Development 
Quota (CDQ) Programs in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI). 
Amendment 118 is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act), the FMP, the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 
(Halibut Act), and other applicable laws.

DATES: Comments must be received no later than October 21, 2019.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2018-0134, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2018-0134, 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. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address), confidential business information, 
or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender 
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 Amendment 118 to the FMP, the Environmental 
Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review prepared for this action (the 
Analysis), and the Finding of No Significant Impact prepared for this 
action may be obtained from www.regulations.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephanie Warpinski, 907-586-7228 or 
[email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Council has submitted Amendment 118 to 
the FMP to the Secretary for review. If approved, Amendment 118 would 
prohibit the use of pot gear in the Pribilof Islands Habitat 
Conservation Zone (PIHCZ). The regulatory amendment associated with

[[Page 43571]]

Amendment 118 would authorize the use of pot gear, in addition to 
currently authorized fishing gear, to fish IFQ or CDQ halibut in the 
BSAI and would authorize the retention of halibut in pots in the IFQ or 
CDQ sablefish fishery in the BSAI. Provided a permit holder on board 
the fishing vessel also holds an IFQ or CDQ halibut permit with 
sufficient unused IFQ or CDQ halibut, the permit holder would be 
required to retain legal-size halibut. This action is necessary to 
improve information for future conservation and management measures, 
improve efficiency of the IFQ and CDQ sablefish and halibut fleets, and 
reduce bycatch and fishery interactions with whales and seabirds. 
Amendment 118 is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, the FMP, the Halibut Act, and other applicable 
laws.
    The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that each regional fishery 
management council submit any fishery management plan amendment it 
prepares to NMFS for review and approval, disapproval, or partial 
approval by the Secretary. The Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires that 
NMFS, upon receiving a fishery management plan amendment, immediately 
publish a document in the Federal Register announcing that the 
amendment is available for public review and comment. This document 
announces that proposed Amendment 118 to the FMP is available for 
public review and comment.
    The Council prepared, and the Secretary approved, the FMP under the 
authority of section 302(h)(1) and 303(b) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 
16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. The FMP is implemented by Federal regulations 
governing U.S. fisheries at 50 CFR parts 600 and 679. The Council is 
authorized to prepare and recommend an FMP amendment for the 
conservation and management of a fishery covered under the FMP. The 
conservation and management needs of BSAI groundfish are directly 
related to the management of the Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus 
stenolepis) fishery by the International Pacific Halibut Commission 
(IPHC). Under the FMP, Pacific halibut is not a target species but is 
managed as a prohibited species. Many of the management measures 
contained in the FMP are for the express purpose of mitigating adverse 
effects from the trawl and fixed gear groundfish fisheries on the 
halibut resource.
    Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) is managed as a groundfish species 
under the FMP, as well as under the IFQ Program for the fixed gear 
Commercial Fisheries for Pacific Halibut and Sablefish in Waters in and 
off Alaska (IFQ Program). The IFQ Program is a limited access privilege 
program implemented by Amendment 15 to the FMP in 1995 (58 FR 59375, 
November 9, 1993). The IFQ Program allocates halibut and sablefish 
harvesting privileges in terms of quota share (QS) among U.S. 
fishermen. The FMP specifies requirements for the initial allocation of 
quota share in 1995, as well as transfer, use, ownership, and general 
provisions. A QS holder's allocation is given effect annually through 
issuance of an IFQ permit. The ratio of a person's QS to the total 
number of QS is multiplied by the fixed gear sablefish total allowable 
catch (TAC) or halibut annual commercial catch limit to arrive at the 
annual IFQ. The IFQ permit specifies the amount of halibut or sablefish 
that each QS holder may harvest in pounds.
    The IPHC and NMFS manage fishing for halibut through regulations at 
50 CFR part 300, subpart E, established under authority of the Halibut 
Act, 16 U.S.C. 773-773k. The Halibut Act authorizes the Council to 
develop halibut fishery regulations, including limited access 
regulations, that are in addition to, and not in conflict with, 
approved IPHC regulations (16 U.S.C. 773c(c)). The Council has 
exercised this authority in the development and advancement of the IFQ 
Program.
    The CDQ Program was implemented in 1992, and in 1996, the Magnuson-
Stevens Act was amended to include provisions specific to the CDQ 
Program. The purposes of the CDQ Program are (1) to provide eligible 
western Alaska villages with the opportunity to participate and invest 
in fisheries in the BSAI management area; (2) to support economic 
development in western Alaska; (3) to alleviate poverty and provide 
economic and social benefits for residents of western Alaska; and (4) 
to achieve sustainable and diversified local economies in western 
Alaska (16 U.S.C. 1855(i)(1)(A)).
    If approved, Amendment 118 to the FMP would prohibit the use of pot 
gear in the PIHCZ. The regulatory amendment would authorize the use of 
pot gear to target BSAI IFQ or CDQ halibut and would authorize 
retention of halibut in longline and pot-and-line pot gear used in the 
new BSAI IFQ or CDQ halibut and existing IFQ or CDQ sablefish 
fisheries. Currently, hook-and-line gear is the only authorized gear 
type in the IFQ and CDQ halibut fishery. Amendment 118 would authorize 
IFQ and CDQ fishermen to elect to use pot gear in the IFQ or CDQ 
halibut or IFQ or CDQ sablefish fisheries in the BSAI. In addition, if 
a permit holder on board the fishing vessel holds an IFQ or CDQ halibut 
permit with sufficient unused IFQ or CDQ halibut, the permit holder 
would be required to retain legal-size halibut.
    In recommending Amendment 118 and the proposed rule to implement 
the Amendment, the Council determined, and NMFS agrees, that 
prohibiting the use of pot gear in the PIHCZ and authorizing halibut 
retention in pot gear in the BSAI is appropriate to improve efficiency 
in the fleet because fishermen would have more flexibility to use their 
quota opportunistically and minimize variable costs. In addition, the 
length of the IFQ season makes it much less likely that hook-and-line 
gear and longline pot gear conflicts would occur or that fishing 
grounds would be preempted for extended periods. The Council and NMFS 
therefore expect that gear conflicts and grounds preemption would occur 
in the same manner as previously analyzed by the Council and NMFS. 
Although hook-and-line and longline pot gear may catch slightly 
different sizes of halibut, the best available information indicates 
that the use of pot gear would not have a significant impact on the 
halibut resource (see Section 3.4 and 4.7.4 of the Analysis).
    Due to concern over additional pot fishing activity in the PIHCZ 
and in the Pribilof Islands Blue King Crab (PIBKC) stock boundary area, 
the proposed regulatory amendment to implement Amendment 118 would 
require all vessels deploying pot gear for retaining IFQ or CDQ halibut 
or sablefish in pot gear to use logbooks and VMS to ensure consistency 
in monitoring fishery behavior.
    Pribilof Islands Blue King Crab (PIBKC) (Lithodes aequispinus) are 
overfished and experienced overfishing most recently in 2016. 
Rebuilding the PIBKC stock has been a Council priority since 2002, when 
NMFS notified the Council that the PIBKC stock was overfished. NMFS 
initiated a rebuilding plan in 2002, and when that rebuilding plan did 
not rebuild PIBKC, a new rebuilding plan was instituted in 2011. As 
part of the rebuilding plan, in October 2011 the Council recommended 
closing the PIHCZ year-round to directed fishing for Pacific cod with 
pot gear. In 2014, Amendment 103 to the FMP was published, prohibiting 
Pacific cod pot gear in the PIHCZ to promote bycatch reduction of PIBKC 
(79 FR 71344, December 2, 2014). No pot fishing for Pacific cod has 
occurred within the PIHCZ since 2015. Section 3.6 of the Analysis 
contains additional detail on the status of PIBKC and the rebuilding 
plans.
    Bycatch of PIBKC in pot gear is a concern in the BSAI, particularly 
in

[[Page 43572]]

areas where PIBKC are concentrated. The greatest concentration of PIBKC 
is within the PIHCZ, which encloses the Pribilof Islands. The PIHCZ, 
defined in Sec.  679.22(a)(6) and shown in Figure 10 to 50 CFR part 
679, is closed to all directed fishing for groundfish using trawl gear, 
and to directed fishing for Pacific cod using pot gear. This existing 
pot gear closure does not include fishing for halibut and sablefish pot 
gear. If approved, Amendment 118 would close the PIHCZ to all 
groundfish and halibut fishing with pot gear. Section 3.6 of the 
Analysis provides more information about PIBKC and the PIHCZ.
    To help minimize the risk of overfishing PIBKC, regulations at 
Sec.  679.25 provide NMFS with inseason management authority to make 
precise closures to BSAI fisheries that use bottom contact gear if a 
stock, in this case PIBKC, approaches its acceptable biological catch 
limit and is approaching the overfishing level (OFL) in the stock 
boundary area.
    The IFQ and CDQ Programs already include requirements for 
participants to report specific information to NMFS and other 
management agencies for management, monitoring, and enforcement 
purposes. In general, vessels that fish IFQ and CDQ halibut and 
sablefish must adhere to many of the same requirements, although there 
are some differences. There is overlap in vessels that fish for IFQ 
halibut and sablefish and vessels that fish CDQ halibut and sablefish, 
particularly among the larger vessels. A vessel can retain both CDQ and 
IFQ species on the same trip.
    The purpose of authorizing pot gear to target and retain halibut in 
the BSAI is to maximize the ability of permit holders to harvest their 
IFQ or CDQ by increasing catch per unit and reducing fishing costs. 
Some fishermen would like to use pot gear because it is less prone to 
whale depredation and seabird interactions than hook-and-line gear. 
Whales can remove fish from hook-and-line gear and damage the gear. 
This reduces catch rates, increases costs for IFQ and CDQ fishermen, 
and impacts fishing efficiency. Use of pot gear would minimize whale 
depredation and seabird interactions with fishing gear and would 
minimize adverse impacts on the IFQ fleet.
    Killer whale (Orcinus orca) depredation is most common in the BSAI. 
Section 3.5 of the Analysis provides the most recent information on 
killer whale depredation in the sablefish and halibut IFQ fishery, and 
Figure 11 in the Analysis shows a map of observed depredation on 
sablefish longline surveys. While depredation events are difficult to 
observe because depredation occurs near the ocean floor in deep water 
or during active gear retrieval, fishery participants have testified to 
the Council that depredation continues to be a major cost to the IFQ 
sablefish and halibut fishery, and appears to be occurring more 
frequently in the BSAI.
    Participants in the BSAI IFQ fisheries indicated to the Council and 
NMFS that authorizing the use of pot gear for IFQ halibut fishing would 
reduce the adverse impacts of depredation for those vessel operators 
who choose to switch from hook-and-line to pot gear. The Council and 
NMFS agree that interactions with whales throughout the BSAI could 
affect the ability of IFQ permit holders to harvest sablefish and 
halibut by reducing catch per unit of effort and decreasing fishing 
costs.
    If some portion of the IFQ or CDQ halibut fleet switches from hook-
and-line gear to pot gear, interactions between killer whales and the 
halibut fishery would be expected to decrease, and unaccounted halibut 
mortality due to depredation would be expected to decline. Because the 
amount of depredation is not known with certainty, the potential 
effects of reduced depredation from this proposed rule cannot be 
quantified.
    Section 1.2 of the Analysis provides additional information on the 
Council's development and recommendation of Amendment 118 and the 
proposed rule.
    The Council and NMFS considered all the National Standards in 
section 301 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (16 U.S.C. 1851), but five 
national standards figured prominently in their consideration of 
Amendment 118: National Standard 2, National Standard 5, National 
Standard 8, National Standard 9, and National Standard 10. Section 5 of 
the Analysis provides more background on the National Standards.
    National Standard 2. Amendment 118 would lessen a source of 
scientific uncertainty in the assessment of sablefish stock abundance 
and marginally improve the information available for future 
conservation and management measures, consistent with National Standard 
2. To the extent fishery participants choose to use pot gear, this gear 
is likely to reduce the amount of unaccounted mortality that occurs 
when whales depredate on sablefish, halibut, and other fish hooked on 
hook-and-line gear.
    National Standard 5. Amendment 118 considers efficiency consistent 
with National Standard 5 by providing the fleet with an additional 
tool, pot gear, to directly address reduced catch per unit of fishing 
effort and increased fishing costs due to whale depredation off of 
hook-and-line gear.
    National Standard 8. Amendment 118 recognizes the importance of the 
sablefish and halibut fishery to BSAI communities and their residents, 
consistent with National Standard 8. Amendment 118 would provide 
fishery participants an option to use pot gear and would allow vessels 
fishing for sablefish with pot gear to retain their halibut, which 
would potentially improve fishing outcomes for vessels fishing for IFQ 
or CDQ halibut or sablefish. Amendment 118 would not alter the 
management measures that are designed to maintain the IFQ Program's 
diverse fleet; those measures include area-specific quota, different 
quota allocations for vessel size categories, quota share use caps, and 
vessel IFQ caps. Amendment 118 would sustain community participation by 
reducing uncertainty in stock abundance estimation that results in 
improving long term management of the resource.
    National Standard 9. Amendment 118 would minimize bycatch, to the 
extent practicable, consistent with National Standard 9. Amendment 118 
would authorize the use of pot gear, a gear type that is evidenced to 
reduce overall bycatch across all species and physically protect 
bycatch species from whale depredation, thereby reducing one source of 
bycatch mortality. In addition, under Amendment 118, the PIHCZ would be 
closed to all pot fishing to protect the PIBKC stock from overfishing.
    National Standard 10. Amendment 118 would promote the safety of 
life at sea, to the extent practicable, consistent with National 
Standard 10. All vessels over 79 feet would still be required to 
maintain and abide by their stability instructions for their vessel and 
gear. Vessels are not being required to carry any extra gear, and 
operators have the option to participate in the opportunity created by 
this action.
    Amendment 118 would require that all IFQ halibut caught in pot gear 
used by a vessel to fish IFQ or CDQ halibut or IFQ or CDQ sablefish in 
the BSAI be retained when a permit holder on board the vessel also 
holds an IFQ or CDQ halibut permit with sufficient IFQ or CDQ to cover 
the halibut harvest. Regulations that implement the IFQ Program in 
conjunction with FMP-managed species are consistent with the Halibut 
Act and the Magnuson Stevens Act, respectively. Amendment 118 also 
notes that requirements for retaining, handling, and reporting halibut 
harvest are established in regulation and unchanged by this action.

[[Page 43573]]

    The FMP recognizes that discarding incidental catches of fish is 
wasteful and should be minimized. The FMP also recognizes that halibut 
are not managed as a target species, but as a prohibited species, under 
the FMP. Therefore, to remove the incentive to covertly target halibut, 
the FMP prohibits retention of halibut caught in target groundfish 
fisheries, except for when authorized. In the evaluation of retention 
of IFQ or CDQ halibut in a pot gear fishery for IFQ or CDQ halibut or 
IFQ or CDQ sablefish in the BSAI, the Council balanced the tenets of 
minimizing halibut discard with the IFQ Program, and the Council 
recommended retention of halibut in pot gear used to fish IFQ or CDQ 
halibut or IFQ or CDQ sablefish. Retention of halibut caught with pot 
gear used to fish IFQ or CDQ halibut or IFQ or CDQ sablefish is 
consistent with general provisions of the FMP.
    The Council's recommendation to require retention of halibut in pot 
gear was conditioned on the IPHC adopting complementary regulations 
that would allow NMFS to promulgate regulations implementing the 
requirements specified by the Council. The IPHC approved the annual 
Pacific Halibut Fishery Regulations in January 2019. The 2019 annual 
regulations recommended by the IPHC and approved by the U.S. include 
approval of harvest of halibut in pot gear as legal gear for the 
commercial halibut fishery in Alaska when NMFS regulations permit the 
use of this gear to retain halibut (84 FR 9243, March 14, 2019).
    Amendment 118 to the FMP would amend Table ES-2 and section 
3.5.2.1.1 in the FMP to prohibit all pot gear in the Pribilof Islands 
Habitat Conservation Zone. NMFS is soliciting public comments on 
proposed Amendment 118 through the end of the comment period (see 
DATES). NMFS intends to publish in the Federal Register and seek public 
comment on a proposed rule that would implement Amendment 118, 
following NMFS's evaluation of the proposed rule under the Magnuson-
Stevens Act. All comments received by the end of the comment period on 
Amendment 118, whether specifically directed to the FMP amendment or 
the proposed rule, will be considered in the approval/disapproval 
decision on Amendment 118. Comments received after that date may not be 
considered in the approval/disapproval decision on Amendment 118. To be 
certain of consideration, comments must be received, not just 
postmarked or otherwise transmitted, by the last day of the comment 
period.

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

    Dated: August 16, 2019.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2019-18033 Filed 8-20-19; 8:45 a.m.]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P