Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Rockfish Management in the Groundfish Fisheries of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska, 43783-43785 [2019-18130]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 163 / Thursday, August 22, 2019 / Proposed Rules entities and how any impact can be minimized. F. Federal Rules That May Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With the Proposed Rules 129. None. V. Procedural Matters 130. Ex Parte Rules. This proceeding shall be treated as a ‘‘permit-butdisclose’’ proceeding in accordance with the Commission’s ex parte rules. Persons making ex parte presentations must file a copy of any written presentation or a memorandum summarizing any oral presentation within two business days after the presentation (unless a different deadline applicable to the Sunshine period applies). Persons making oral ex parte presentations are reminded that memoranda summarizing the presentation must (1) list all persons attending or otherwise participating in the meeting at which the ex parte presentation was made, and (2) summarize all data presented and arguments made during the presentation. If the presentation consisted in whole or in part of the presentation of data or arguments already reflected in the presenter’s written comments, memoranda, or other filings in the proceeding, then the presenter may provide citations to such data or arguments in his or her prior comments, memoranda, or other filings (specifying the relevant page and/or paragraph numbers where such data or arguments can be found) in lieu of summarizing them in the memorandum. Documents shown or given to Commission staff during ex parte meetings are deemed to be written ex parte presentations and must be filed consistent with 47 CFR 1.1206(b). In proceedings governed 47 CFR 1.49(f), or for which the Commission has made available a method of electronic filing, written ex parte presentations and memoranda summarizing oral ex parte presentations, and all attachments thereto, must be filed through the electronic comment filing system available for that proceeding and must be filed in their native format (e.g., .doc, .xml, .ppt, searchable .pdf). Participants in this proceeding should familiarize themselves with the Commission’s ex parte rules. 131. Paperwork Reduction Act. The Second FNPRM contains proposed new and modified information collection requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA), Public Law 104–13. The Commission, as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork burdens, invites the general VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:22 Aug 21, 2019 Jkt 247001 public and the Office of Management and Budget to comment on the information collection requirements contained in the Second FNPRM, as required by the PRA. In addition, pursuant to the Small Business Paperwork Relief Act of 2002, Public Law 107–198 (44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(4)), we seek specific comment on how we might further reduce the information collection burden for small business concerns with fewer than 25 employees. 132. Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis. Pursuant to the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), the Commission has prepared an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) of the possible significant economic impact on small entities of the policies and actions considered in this NPRM. The IRFA is set forth above. Written public comments are requested on this IRFA. Comments must be identified as responses to the IRFA and must be filed by the deadlines for comments on the Second FNPRM. The Commission’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, Reference Information Center, will send a copy of the Second FNPRM, including the IRFA, to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration. 133. People with Disabilities: To request materials in accessible formats for people with disabilities (braille, large print, electronic files, audio format), send an email to fcc504@fcc.gov or call the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202–418–0530 (voice), 202–418–0432 (tty). VI. Clauses 134. Accordingly, it is ordered that, pursuant to Sections 1–4, 7, 201, 254, 301, 303, 309, 319, and 332 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. 151–154, 157, 201, 254, 301, 303, 309, 319, and 332, this Report and Order and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is adopted. 135. It is further ordered that the Commission’s Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, Reference Information Center, shall send a copy of this Report and Order and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, including the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis, to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration. Federal Communications Commission. Marlene Dortch, Secretary. [FR Doc. 2019–18062 Filed 8–21–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6712–01–P PO 00000 Frm 00055 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 43783 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 RIN 0648–BJ03 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Rockfish Management in the Groundfish Fisheries of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska 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: SUMMARY: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has submitted Amendment 119 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI FMP) and Amendment 107 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA FMP) (collectively Amendments 119/107) to the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) for review. If approved, Amendments 119/107 would require that the operator of a catcher vessel required to have a federal fishery permit using hook-and-line, pot, or jig in the EEZ of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and Gulf of Alaska (GOA) to retain and land all rockfish (Sebastes and Sebastolobus species) caught while fishing for groundfish or for Pacific halibut and establish a limit on the amount of rockfish caught as incidental catch allowed to enter commerce through barter, sale or trade. Amendments 119/ 107 are necessary to improve identification of rockfish species, improve data collection by providing more accurate estimates of total catch, reduce incentives to discard rockfish, reduce waste, reduce overall enforcement burden, and provide regulatory consistency. Amendments 119/107 are intended to promote the goals and objectives of the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the BSAI FMP, the GOA FMP, 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–2019–0068, by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the E:\FR\FM\22AUP1.SGM 22AUP1 43784 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 163 / Thursday, August 22, 2019 / Proposed Rules Federal e Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20190068, 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 119 to the BSAI FMP, Amendment 107 to the GOA FMP, the Regulatory Impact Review (RIR; referred to as the ‘‘Analysis’’) and the draft National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Categorical Exclusion may be obtained from www.regulations.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Josh Keaton, (907) 586–7228. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery and Conservation Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) in section 304(a) and 305(d) requires that each regional fishery management council submit an amendment to a fishery management plan for review and approval, disapproval, or partial approval by the Secretary. The Magnuson-Stevens Act in section 304(a) also requires that the Secretary, upon receiving an amendment to a fishery management plan, immediately publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing that the amendment is available for public review and comment. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) has submitted Amendments 119/107 to the Secretary for review. This notice announces that proposed Amendments 119/107 to the FMPs are available for public review and comment. In April 2019, the Council adopted Amendment 119/107 to the BSAI FMP and GOA FMP, respectively, which would require full retention of rockfish by CVs required to have a federal fishery permit using hook-and-line, pot, or jig VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:22 Aug 21, 2019 Jkt 247001 gear in the BSAI and GOA groundfish and Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ)/ Community Development Quota (CDQ) halibut fisheries even if NMFS prohibits retention of a rockfish species. If approved, Amendments 119/107 would also establish a limit on the amount of rockfish caught as incidental catch allowed to enter commerce through barter, sale, or trade. There is a need to establish such a limit or allowance that both provides an incentive for vessel operators to retain all rockfish and avoids elevated rates of rockfish incidental catch because rockfish maximum retainable amounts (MRA) would not apply under the proposed full retention requirement. This limit is called the maximum commerce allowance (MCA). The MCA would be calculated at each rockfish landing, and would limit the amount of rockfish allowed to enter commerce. The MCA for rockfish would be calculated as a percentage of the total retained groundfish and halibut landed during each delivery. Amendment 119 would amend two sections of the BSAI FMP. First, in Table ES–2 in the Executive Summary, row ‘‘Retention and Utilization Requirements’’ would have a sentence added to read, ‘‘Rockfish: Catcher vessels using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear must retain and land all rockfish.’’ Second, a new BSAI FMP Section ‘‘3.6.3.3 Full Rockfish Retention by Catcher Vessels using Hook-and-Line, Pot, or Jig Gear’’ would have a sentence added to read that ‘‘The operator of a catcher vessel required to have a federal fishery permit using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear and participating in groundfish or halibut fisheries in the EEZ of the BSAI must retain and land all rockfish.’’ A second sentence would be added to read, ‘‘Maximum Commerce Allowance for Rockfish. A vessel operator may sell, barter, or trade a round weight equivalent amount of rockfish that is less than or equal to the maximum commerce allowance established in regulations. The MCA is calculated as a percent of the aggregate round weight equivalent of halibut and groundfish species, other than rockfish, that are landed during the same fishing trip.’’ Amendment 107 to the GOA FMP would amend two sections of the GOA FMP. First, Table ES–2 in the Executive Summary, row ‘‘Retention and Utilization Requirements’’ would have a sentence added to read, ‘‘Rockfish: Catcher vessels using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear must retain and land all rockfish.’’ Second, a new GOA FMP Section ‘‘3.6.3.3 Full Rockfish Retention by PO 00000 Frm 00056 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Catcher Vessels using Hook-and-Line, Pot, or Jig Gear’’ would have a sentence added to read ‘‘The operator of a catcher vessel required to have a federal fishery permit using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear and participating in groundfish or halibut fisheries in the EEZ of the GOA must retain and land all rockfish.’’ A second sentence would be added to read, ‘‘Maximum Commerce Allowance for Rockfish. A vessel operator may sell, barter, or trade a round weight equivalent amount of rockfish that is less than or equal to the maximum commerce allowance established in regulations. The MCA is calculated as a percent of the aggregate round weight equivalent of IFQ halibut and groundfish species, other than rockfish, that are landed during the same fishing trip.’’ Background Rockfish are commercially important groundfish comprising 29 commonly caught species. Most of these species inhabit rocky areas in shallow to moderately deep waters that overlap with groundfish and halibut fisheries. Many rockfish species are sought for their commercial value. Except for thornyhead rockfish (Sebastolobus spp.), rockfish have a closed swim bladder, which regulates buoyancy. Quick changes in pressure that occur when rockfish are caught and brought to the surface damage internal organs, therefore rockfish are susceptible to high mortality when brought to the surface from depth. Virtually no rockfish survive once caught without using special handling procedures to return the rockfish to depth as soon as possible. Many rockfish species are commonly caught as incidental catch by vessels directed fishing for other species using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear. NMFS prohibits directed fishing for most rockfish species at the beginning of the year because the amount of the total allowable catch (TAC) for rockfish species or species groups do not support directed fishing. If a TAC is reached, NMFS prohibits retention of the species. Since directed fishing by CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear is already prohibited for nearly all species of rockfish, NMFS limits retention through the MRA as the primary tool to regulate rockfish catch. The MRA is the proportion or percentage of retained catch of a species closed to directed fishing (incidental catch species) to the retained catch of a species open for directed fishing (basis species). When NMFS prohibits directed fishing for a groundfish species, retention of the catch of that species is allowed up to an E:\FR\FM\22AUP1.SGM 22AUP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 163 / Thursday, August 22, 2019 / Proposed Rules MRA based on percentages set forth in Table 10 and Table 11 to 50 CFR part 679. Section 679.20(d)(iii)(B) requires vessel operators to discard at sea any rockfish that exceeds the MRA. For the individual fishing quota (IFQ) halibut and IFQ sablefish fisheries, when IFQ halibut or IFQ sablefish is on board, retention of rockfish is already mandatory unless rockfish are required to be discarded because catch is in excess of the MRA or the rockfish is in prohibited species status (§ 679.7(f)(8)). Full Retention Since the majority of rockfish do not survive being caught, discards of rockfish increases waste. Rockfish must be discarded for two reasons: (1) When rockfish catch is in excess of an MRA; and (2) when a rockfish species is prohibited from being retained (in a prohibited species status). Amendments 119/107 would require full retention of all rockfish that are caught by CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear and remove the requirements for catcher vessels using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear to discard rockfish. The Council recommended, and NMFS proposes, requiring full retention of all rockfish caught by CVs required to have a federal fishery permit using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear targeting groundfish and halibut in the GOA and BSAI for a number of reasons. These reasons include (1) improving the identification of rockfish species catch by vessels using electronic monitoring (EM); (2) providing more precise estimates of rockfish catch; (3) reducing waste and incentives to discard rockfish; (4) reducing overall enforcement burden; and (5) promoting more consistent management between State and Federal fisheries. These recommended revisions are described in more detail in the Analysis and the forthcoming proposed rule for Amendments 119/107. Maximum Commerce Allowance There is a need to establish a limit or allowance on the sale of rockfish caught as incidental catch that both provides an incentive for vessel operators to retain all rockfish and avoids elevated rates of rockfish incidental catch because rockfish MRAs would not apply under the proposed full retention requirement. These amendments would implement a new fishery management method known as the maximum commerce allowance (MCA). The MCA would be calculated when groundfish and halibut are landed at a processor. The MCA would limit the amount of rockfish allowed to enter commerce through barter, sale, or trade. Rockfish that VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:22 Aug 21, 2019 Jkt 247001 cannot be sold could be consumed by vessel crew, donated to non-profits, processed into fishmeal, or discarded by the processing plant. To address concerns raised by processors, the Council recommended allowing rockfish in excess of the MCA to be processed into meal. Allowing rockfish in excess of the MCA to be processed into meal is unlikely to provide any additional financial incentives to target rockfish due to the low value of fishmeal. Before adopting its preferred alternatives for Amendment 119/107, the Council considered a range of alternatives and options. The Council determined, and NMFS agrees, that the alternative and options selected by the Council will improve estimates of rockfish catch, increase utilization of rockfish incidental catch, reduce overall enforcement burden, reduce regulatory complexity and promote more consistent management of rockfish between the State of Alaska and Federal fisheries. NMFS is soliciting public comments on proposed Amendments 119/107 through the end of the comment period (see DATES). NMFS intends to publish in the Federal Register and seek public comment on the proposed rule that would implement Amendments 119/107 following NMFS’s evaluation of the proposed rule under the MagnusonStevens Act. Respondents do not need to submit the same comments on Amendments 119/107 and the proposed rule. All relevant written comments received by the end of the applicable comment period, whether specifically directed to the FMP amendments or the proposed rule will be considered by NMFS in the approval/disapproval decision for Amendments 119/107 and addressed in the response to comments in the final decision. Comments received after the end of the applicable comment period will not be considered in the approval/ disapproval decision on Amendments 119/107. To be considered, comments must be received, not just postmarked or otherwise transmitted, by the last day of the comment period (see DATES). Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: August 19, 2019. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2019–18130 Filed 8–21–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P PO 00000 Frm 00057 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 43785 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 697 [Docket No. 190816–0015] RIN 0648–BJ10 Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act Provisions; American Lobster Fishery; Control Date for Lobster Conservation Management Areas National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR); request for comments. AGENCY: SUMMARY: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announces a control date that may be used for potential changes to the lobster management program. This action is necessary to inform American lobster permit holders and any potential new entrants that future participation and eligibility may be affected by past participation, documentation of landings, effort, and/or gear configuration prior to the control date. The control date is intended to promote awareness of possible rulemaking and notify the public that actions taken after the control date may not be recognized in the future. DATES: We must receive written comments on or before September 23, 2019. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by [NOAA–NMFS–2019–0095] by any of the following methods: D Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to [NOAA–NMFS–2019–0095], click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. D Mail: Submit written comments to Michael Pentony, Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope, ‘‘Comments on Lobster Control Date.’’ Instructions: Comments must be submitted by one of the above methods to ensure that the comments are received, documented, and considered by NMFS. We may not consider comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or E:\FR\FM\22AUP1.SGM 22AUP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 163 (Thursday, August 22, 2019)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 43783-43785]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-18130]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

RIN 0648-BJ03


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Rockfish 
Management in the Groundfish Fisheries of the Bering Sea and Aleutian 
Islands and the Gulf of Alaska

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 has submitted 
Amendment 119 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the 
Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI FMP) and 
Amendment 107 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf 
of Alaska (GOA FMP) (collectively Amendments 119/107) to the Secretary 
of Commerce (Secretary) for review. If approved, Amendments 119/107 
would require that the operator of a catcher vessel required to have a 
federal fishery permit using hook-and-line, pot, or jig in the EEZ of 
the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and Gulf of Alaska (GOA) to 
retain and land all rockfish (Sebastes and Sebastolobus species) caught 
while fishing for groundfish or for Pacific halibut and establish a 
limit on the amount of rockfish caught as incidental catch allowed to 
enter commerce through barter, sale or trade. Amendments 119/107 are 
necessary to improve identification of rockfish species, improve data 
collection by providing more accurate estimates of total catch, reduce 
incentives to discard rockfish, reduce waste, reduce overall 
enforcement burden, and provide regulatory consistency. Amendments 119/
107 are intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the BSAI FMP, the GOA 
FMP, 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-2019-0068, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the

[[Page 43784]]

Federal e Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2019-0068, 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 119 to the BSAI FMP, Amendment 107 
to the GOA FMP, the Regulatory Impact Review (RIR; referred to as the 
``Analysis'') and the draft National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 
Categorical Exclusion may be obtained from www.regulations.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Josh Keaton, (907) 586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery and 
Conservation Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) in section 304(a) and 305(d) 
requires that each regional fishery management council submit an 
amendment to a fishery management plan for review and approval, 
disapproval, or partial approval by the Secretary. The Magnuson-Stevens 
Act in section 304(a) also requires that the Secretary, upon receiving 
an amendment to a fishery management plan, immediately publish a notice 
in the Federal Register announcing that the amendment is available for 
public review and comment. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council 
(Council) has submitted Amendments 119/107 to the Secretary for review. 
This notice announces that proposed Amendments 119/107 to the FMPs are 
available for public review and comment.
    In April 2019, the Council adopted Amendment 119/107 to the BSAI 
FMP and GOA FMP, respectively, which would require full retention of 
rockfish by CVs required to have a federal fishery permit using hook-
and-line, pot, or jig gear in the BSAI and GOA groundfish and 
Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ)/Community Development Quota (CDQ) 
halibut fisheries even if NMFS prohibits retention of a rockfish 
species. If approved, Amendments 119/107 would also establish a limit 
on the amount of rockfish caught as incidental catch allowed to enter 
commerce through barter, sale, or trade. There is a need to establish 
such a limit or allowance that both provides an incentive for vessel 
operators to retain all rockfish and avoids elevated rates of rockfish 
incidental catch because rockfish maximum retainable amounts (MRA) 
would not apply under the proposed full retention requirement. This 
limit is called the maximum commerce allowance (MCA). The MCA would be 
calculated at each rockfish landing, and would limit the amount of 
rockfish allowed to enter commerce. The MCA for rockfish would be 
calculated as a percentage of the total retained groundfish and halibut 
landed during each delivery.
    Amendment 119 would amend two sections of the BSAI FMP. First, in 
Table ES-2 in the Executive Summary, row ``Retention and Utilization 
Requirements'' would have a sentence added to read, ``Rockfish: Catcher 
vessels using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear must retain and land all 
rockfish.''
    Second, a new BSAI FMP Section ``3.6.3.3 Full Rockfish Retention by 
Catcher Vessels using Hook-and-Line, Pot, or Jig Gear'' would have a 
sentence added to read that ``The operator of a catcher vessel required 
to have a federal fishery permit using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear 
and participating in groundfish or halibut fisheries in the EEZ of the 
BSAI must retain and land all rockfish.'' A second sentence would be 
added to read, ``Maximum Commerce Allowance for Rockfish. A vessel 
operator may sell, barter, or trade a round weight equivalent amount of 
rockfish that is less than or equal to the maximum commerce allowance 
established in regulations. The MCA is calculated as a percent of the 
aggregate round weight equivalent of halibut and groundfish species, 
other than rockfish, that are landed during the same fishing trip.''
    Amendment 107 to the GOA FMP would amend two sections of the GOA 
FMP. First, Table ES-2 in the Executive Summary, row ``Retention and 
Utilization Requirements'' would have a sentence added to read, 
``Rockfish: Catcher vessels using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear must 
retain and land all rockfish.''
    Second, a new GOA FMP Section ``3.6.3.3 Full Rockfish Retention by 
Catcher Vessels using Hook-and-Line, Pot, or Jig Gear'' would have a 
sentence added to read ``The operator of a catcher vessel required to 
have a federal fishery permit using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear and 
participating in groundfish or halibut fisheries in the EEZ of the GOA 
must retain and land all rockfish.'' A second sentence would be added 
to read, ``Maximum Commerce Allowance for Rockfish. A vessel operator 
may sell, barter, or trade a round weight equivalent amount of rockfish 
that is less than or equal to the maximum commerce allowance 
established in regulations. The MCA is calculated as a percent of the 
aggregate round weight equivalent of IFQ halibut and groundfish 
species, other than rockfish, that are landed during the same fishing 
trip.''

Background

    Rockfish are commercially important groundfish comprising 29 
commonly caught species. Most of these species inhabit rocky areas in 
shallow to moderately deep waters that overlap with groundfish and 
halibut fisheries. Many rockfish species are sought for their 
commercial value. Except for thornyhead rockfish (Sebastolobus spp.), 
rockfish have a closed swim bladder, which regulates buoyancy. Quick 
changes in pressure that occur when rockfish are caught and brought to 
the surface damage internal organs, therefore rockfish are susceptible 
to high mortality when brought to the surface from depth. Virtually no 
rockfish survive once caught without using special handling procedures 
to return the rockfish to depth as soon as possible.
    Many rockfish species are commonly caught as incidental catch by 
vessels directed fishing for other species using hook-and-line, pot, or 
jig gear. NMFS prohibits directed fishing for most rockfish species at 
the beginning of the year because the amount of the total allowable 
catch (TAC) for rockfish species or species groups do not support 
directed fishing. If a TAC is reached, NMFS prohibits retention of the 
species.
    Since directed fishing by CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear 
is already prohibited for nearly all species of rockfish, NMFS limits 
retention through the MRA as the primary tool to regulate rockfish 
catch. The MRA is the proportion or percentage of retained catch of a 
species closed to directed fishing (incidental catch species) to the 
retained catch of a species open for directed fishing (basis species). 
When NMFS prohibits directed fishing for a groundfish species, 
retention of the catch of that species is allowed up to an

[[Page 43785]]

MRA based on percentages set forth in Table 10 and Table 11 to 50 CFR 
part 679. Section 679.20(d)(iii)(B) requires vessel operators to 
discard at sea any rockfish that exceeds the MRA. For the individual 
fishing quota (IFQ) halibut and IFQ sablefish fisheries, when IFQ 
halibut or IFQ sablefish is on board, retention of rockfish is already 
mandatory unless rockfish are required to be discarded because catch is 
in excess of the MRA or the rockfish is in prohibited species status 
(Sec.  679.7(f)(8)).

Full Retention

    Since the majority of rockfish do not survive being caught, 
discards of rockfish increases waste. Rockfish must be discarded for 
two reasons: (1) When rockfish catch is in excess of an MRA; and (2) 
when a rockfish species is prohibited from being retained (in a 
prohibited species status). Amendments 119/107 would require full 
retention of all rockfish that are caught by CVs using hook-and-line, 
pot, or jig gear and remove the requirements for catcher vessels using 
hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear to discard rockfish.
    The Council recommended, and NMFS proposes, requiring full 
retention of all rockfish caught by CVs required to have a federal 
fishery permit using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear targeting 
groundfish and halibut in the GOA and BSAI for a number of reasons. 
These reasons include (1) improving the identification of rockfish 
species catch by vessels using electronic monitoring (EM); (2) 
providing more precise estimates of rockfish catch; (3) reducing waste 
and incentives to discard rockfish; (4) reducing overall enforcement 
burden; and (5) promoting more consistent management between State and 
Federal fisheries. These recommended revisions are described in more 
detail in the Analysis and the forthcoming proposed rule for Amendments 
119/107.

Maximum Commerce Allowance

    There is a need to establish a limit or allowance on the sale of 
rockfish caught as incidental catch that both provides an incentive for 
vessel operators to retain all rockfish and avoids elevated rates of 
rockfish incidental catch because rockfish MRAs would not apply under 
the proposed full retention requirement. These amendments would 
implement a new fishery management method known as the maximum commerce 
allowance (MCA). The MCA would be calculated when groundfish and 
halibut are landed at a processor. The MCA would limit the amount of 
rockfish allowed to enter commerce through barter, sale, or trade. 
Rockfish that cannot be sold could be consumed by vessel crew, donated 
to non-profits, processed into fishmeal, or discarded by the processing 
plant.
    To address concerns raised by processors, the Council recommended 
allowing rockfish in excess of the MCA to be processed into meal. 
Allowing rockfish in excess of the MCA to be processed into meal is 
unlikely to provide any additional financial incentives to target 
rockfish due to the low value of fishmeal.
    Before adopting its preferred alternatives for Amendment 119/107, 
the Council considered a range of alternatives and options. The Council 
determined, and NMFS agrees, that the alternative and options selected 
by the Council will improve estimates of rockfish catch, increase 
utilization of rockfish incidental catch, reduce overall enforcement 
burden, reduce regulatory complexity and promote more consistent 
management of rockfish between the State of Alaska and Federal 
fisheries.
    NMFS is soliciting public comments on proposed Amendments 119/107 
through the end of the comment period (see DATES). NMFS intends to 
publish in the Federal Register and seek public comment on the proposed 
rule that would implement Amendments 119/107 following NMFS's 
evaluation of the proposed rule under the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
    Respondents do not need to submit the same comments on Amendments 
119/107 and the proposed rule. All relevant written comments received 
by the end of the applicable comment period, whether specifically 
directed to the FMP amendments or the proposed rule will be considered 
by NMFS in the approval/disapproval decision for Amendments 119/107 and 
addressed in the response to comments in the final decision. Comments 
received after the end of the applicable comment period will not be 
considered in the approval/disapproval decision on Amendments 119/107. 
To be considered, comments must be received, not just postmarked or 
otherwise transmitted, by the last day of the comment period (see 
DATES).

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

    Dated: August 19, 2019.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2019-18130 Filed 8-21-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P