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, 52442-52453 [2019-21262]

Download as PDF 52442 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 191 / Wednesday, October 2, 2019 / Proposed Rules (c) Area closures. As described in the FMP, for the red snapper private angling component, a state with an active delegation may request that NMFS establish an area closure in the EEZ off that state that prohibits the private angling component from harvesting or possessing red snapper. If NMFS determines that the request is within the scope of the analysis in the FMP, NMFS will publish a notice in the Federal Register to implement the requested closure for the fishing year. ■ 6. In § 622.34, revise paragraph (b) to read as follows: § 622.34 Seasonal and area closures designed to protect Gulf reef fish. * * * * * (b) Seasonal closure of the recreational sector for red snapper. The recreational sector for red snapper in or from the Gulf EEZ is closed from January 1 through May 31, each year. During the closure, the bag and possession limit for red snapper in or from the Gulf EEZ is zero. See § 622.23(a)(1) regarding the fishing season for states with an active delegation of state management of the red snapper private angling component. A person subject to the private angling component bag limit under an active delegation of state management must be in compliance with the fishing license (permit) requirements of the state in which they intend to land the fish and may not possess red snapper in the Gulf EEZ when that state season is closed. * * * * * ■ 7. In § 622.37, revise paragraph (a)(1) to read as follows: § 622.37 Size limits. khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS * * * * * (a) * * * (1) Red snapper—16 inches (40.6 cm), TL, for a fish taken by a person subject to the bag limit specified in § 622.38 (b)(3) and 13 inches (33.0 cm), TL, for a fish taken by a person not subject to the bag limit. See § 622.23(a)(1) regarding the minimum size limit for states with an active delegation of state management of the red snapper private angling component. A person subject to the private angling component bag limit under an active delegation of state management must be in compliance with the fishing license (permit) requirements of the state in which they intend to land the fish and may not possess red snapper in the Gulf EEZ that are smaller than may be possessed in that state. Additionally, fish taken by persons subject to the private angling component bag limit under state VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:10 Oct 01, 2019 Jkt 250001 management may not be less than 14 inches (35.6 cm), TL, in the Gulf EEZ. * * * * * ■ 8. In § 622.38, revise paragraph (b)(3) to read as follows: § 622.38 Bag and possession limits. * * * * * (b) * * * (3) Red snapper—2. However, no red snapper may be retained by the captain or crew of a vessel operating as a charter vessel or headboat. The bag limit for such captain and crew is zero. See § 622.23(a)(1) regarding the bag limit applicability for states with an active delegation of state management of the red snapper private angling component. A person subject to the private angling component bag limit under an active delegation of state management must be in compliance with the fishing license (permit) requirements of the state in which they intend to land the fish and may not possess more red snapper in the Gulf EEZ than may be possessed in that state. * * * * * ■ 9. In § 622.39, revise paragraphs (a)(2)(i)(B) and (C) to read as follows: § 622.39 Quotas. * * * * * (a) * * * (2) * * * (i) * * * (B) Federal charter vessel/headboat component quota. The Federal charter vessel/headboat component quota applies to vessels that have been issued a valid Federal charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf reef fish any time during the fishing year. A person aboard a vessel that has been issued a charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf reef fish any time during the fishing year may not harvest or possess red snapper in or from the Gulf EEZ when the Federal charter vessel/headboat component is closed. The Federal charter vessel/ headboat component quota is 3.130 million lb (1.420 million kg), round weight. (C) Private angling component quota. The private angling component quota applies to vessels that fish under the bag limit and have not been issued a Federal charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf reef fish any time during the fishing year. The private angling component quota is 4.269 million lb (1.936 million kg), round weight. * * * * * ■ 10. In § 622.41, add a sentence to the end of paragraph (q)(2)(i) and revise paragraph (q)(2)(iii) to read as follows: PO 00000 Frm 00059 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 § 622.41 Annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), and accountability measures (AMs). * * * * * (q) * * * (2) * * * (i) * * * See § 622.23(a)(1) regarding the fishing season for the private angling component for states with an active delegation. * * * * * (iii) * * * (A) [Reserved] (B) Federal charter vessel/headboat component ACT. The Federal charter vessel/headboat component ACT applies to vessels that have been issued a valid Federal charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf reef fish any time during the fishing year. A person aboard a vessel that has been issued a charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf reef fish any time during the fishing year may not harvest or possess red snapper in or from the Gulf EEZ when the Federal charter vessel/headboat component is closed. For the 2019 fishing year, the component ACT is 2.848 million lb (1.292 million kg), round weight. For the 2020 and subsequent fishing years, the component ACT is 2.504 million lb (1.136 million lb), round weight. (C) Private angling component ACT. The private angling component ACT applies to vessels that fish under the bag limit and have not been issued a Federal charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf reef fish any time during the fishing year. The component ACT is 3.415 million lb (1.549 million kg), round weight. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2019–21259 Filed 10–1–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 190925–0043] 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: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: E:\FR\FM\02OCP1.SGM 02OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 191 / Wednesday, October 2, 2019 / Proposed Rules NMFS proposes regulations to implement 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). This proposed rule would require that the operator of a federally permitted catcher vessel using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska retain and land all rockfish (Sebastes and Sebastolobus species) caught while fishing for groundfish or Pacific halibut. This action is necessary to improve identification of rockfish species catch by vessels using electronic monitoring, provide more precise estimates of rockfish catch, reduce waste and incentives to discard rockfish, reduce overall enforcement burden, and promote more consistent management between State and Federal fisheries. This proposed rule is 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: Submit comments on or before November 1, 2019. ADDRESSES: Submit your comments, identified by FDMS Docket Number NOAA–NMFS–2019–0068, by either of the following methods: • 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: NMFS may not consider comments if they are sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the comment period ends. All comments received are a part of the public record and NMFS will post the comments for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender 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 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:10 Oct 01, 2019 Jkt 250001 the GOA FMP (collectively Amendments 119/107), the Regulatory Impact Review (RIR; referred to as the Analysis), and the National Environmental Policy Act Categorical Exclusion evaluation document prepared for this action may be obtained from www.regulations.gov. Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this rule may be submitted by mail to NMFS at the above address; and by email to OIRA_ Submission@omb.eop.gov or by fax to (202)–395–5806. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Josh Keaton (907) 586–7228. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Authority for Action NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic zone of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and Gulf of Alaska (GOA) under the BSAI FMP and GOA FMP. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared the BSAI FMP and GOA FMP under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Regulations governing U.S. fisheries and implementing the BSAI FMP and GOA FMP appear at 50 CFR parts 600 and 679. This proposed rule would implement Amendments 119/107. The Council submitted Amendments 119/107 for review by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary), and a Notice of Availability (NOA) of Amendments 119/107 was published in the Federal Register on August 22, 2019 (84 FR 43783), with comments invited through October 21, 2019. Comments submitted on this proposed rule by the end of the comment period (see DATES) will be considered by NMFS and addressed in the response to comments in the final rule. Comments submitted on this proposed rule may address Amendments 119/107 or this proposed rule. However, all comments addressing Amendments 119/107 must be received by October 21, 2019, to be considered in the approval/disapproval decision on Amendments 119/107. Commenters do not need to submit the same comments on both the NOA and this proposed rule. All relevant written comments received by October 21, 2019, whether specifically directed to the FMP amendments, this proposed rule, or both, will be considered by NMFS in the approval/disapproval decision for Amendments 119/107 and addressed in PO 00000 Frm 00060 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 52443 the response to comments in the final rule. Background In April 2019, the Council adopted Amendments 119/107. If approved by the Secretary, Amendments 119/107 would require that catcher vessels (CVs) using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear in groundfish and halibut fisheries of the Federal exclusive economic zone (EEZ) retain and land all rockfish. This proposed rule would also establish a means to limit the amount of rockfish that can enter commerce through barter, sale, or trade through the implementation of a maximum commerce allowance. Additionally, this proposed rule would require full retention of rockfish by CVs using hookand-line, pot, or jig gear even if the rockfish species is prohibited for directed fishing or on prohibited species status (as defined in § 679.20(d)(2)). When on prohibited species status, these retained rockfish would be prohibited from entering commerce, except as fish meal. In this proposed rule ‘‘rockfish’’ is defined as any species of the genera Sebastes or Sebastolobus except Sebastes ciliates (dark rockfish) in the BSAI and GOA and Sebastes melanops (black rockfish) and Sebastes mystinus (blue rockfish) in the GOA (see § 679.2). This preamble also uses the term ‘‘prohibited species status’’ to mean status conferred by a NMFS management action issued under § 679.20(d)(2) that prohibits retention of a species. The following sections of this preamble provide a brief description of (1) rockfish management for CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear; (2) the need for the action; (3) the elements of this proposed rule; and (4) the regulatory changes made by this proposed rule. Description of Rockfish Management and Fisheries for CVs Using Hook-andLine, Pot, or Jig Gear Rockfish Management 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, E:\FR\FM\02OCP1.SGM 02OCP1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 52444 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 191 / Wednesday, October 2, 2019 / Proposed Rules 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 as the primary tool to regulate rockfish catch. These retention limits are referred to as the maximum retainable amount (MRA). The MRA is the proportion or percentage of retained catch of a species prohibited for 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 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, discarding rockfish is prohibited unless rockfish are required to be discarded (§ 679.7(f)(8)). 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) because the TAC for that species has been reached. The MRA percentages were established to discourage vessel operators from targeting rockfish and other species while fishing for halibut or groundfish species open to directed fishing. However, in some fishing areas the natural incidental catch rate of rockfish may be much higher than the specified MRA, forcing vessel operators to discard rockfish that they cannot avoid catching. MRA calculations can be challenging for a vessel operator to compute correctly, since rates for different rockfish species vary depending on the target fishery and the management area in which a vessel is fishing. The inconsistency of MRA regulations between Federal and State of VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:10 Oct 01, 2019 Jkt 250001 Alaska (State) fisheries, between different rockfish species, and different management areas makes it difficult for a vessel operator to ensure their compliance with retention and discard requirements. Since almost no rockfish survive being caught and brought to the surface, for CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear, at-sea discards are estimated and then deducted from that species TAC. Because some species are infrequently caught, accurate estimation of catch for those species is difficult. This results in high variance in the estimates of at-sea discards on smaller CVs. High variance most commonly occurs on smaller CVs that deploy hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear. This high variance can result in less accurate estimates of total catch of rockfish species, and can result in more restrictive management measures. Overall, this action would not affect the status of a rockfish stock in the BSAI or GOA. The acceptable biological catch and TAC for rockfish species would continue to be established through the annual harvest specifications process. The processes by which NMFS manages the catch of a rockfish species to stay within its TAC would not change under the alternatives considered for this action. Fisheries for CVs Using Hook-and-Line, Pot, or Jig Gear Hook-and-line gear, pot gear, and jig gear are commonly used in groundfish fisheries in the BSAI and GOA. Hookand-line gear is a stationary, buoyed, and anchored line with hooks attached. Pot gear is a portable structure designed to capture and retain fish alive in the water. Jig gear is a single, non-buoyed, non-anchored line with hooks attached. CVs that operate in the BSAI and GOA use hook-and-line, pot, and jig gear to prosecute primarily Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, and sablefish. There is also some directed fishing for rockfish using hook-and-line and jig gear. Many other species are caught with hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear; however, most of these species are incidental to the four main target species. CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear fish throughout the year. As discussed in Section 2.7.1.1 of the Analysis, approximately 200 CVs use hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear in the BSAI, and approximately 950 CVs use hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear in the GOA. Some CVs participate in all three main target fisheries, and some operate in both the BSAI and GOA. Pacific cod fisheries using hook-andline, pot, or jig gear mostly occur in January through March and September through December. Rockfish incidental PO 00000 Frm 00061 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 catch in these fisheries is generally low, at less than one percent of total groundfish catch, in the BSAI, and approximately one percent of total groundfish catch in the GOA (see Section 2.7.1.3 of the Analysis). IFQ Pacific halibut and sablefish fisheries occur from March through November. Rockfish incidental catch in the Pacific halibut fishery in the BSAI is approximately three percent of the total groundfish and halibut catch. Rockfish incidental catch in the Pacific halibut fishery of the GOA is approximately five percent of total groundfish and halibut catch. The IFQ sablefish fishery in the BSAI and GOA has a rockfish incidental catch rate of approximately 10 percent. These are average rates across the entire fleet and a broad geographic area. Depending on where a vessel operator is fishing, the rate can be higher or lower. Need for This Action The Council recommended, and NMFS proposes, requiring full retention of all rockfish caught by CVs 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. Improve Identification of Rockfish Species Catch by Vessels Using EM In 2018, NMFS developed regulations to allow small fixed gear CVs in partial observer coverage to opt into EM coverage for the calendar year rather than carrying an observer. The data collected from EM systems deployed on CVs is used to obtain catch and discard information from these CVs. NMFS approved 168 CVs for EM coverage for 2019. EM studies focused on the accuracy of species identification have shown that in most cases it is possible to identify fish to the species or species group required for management. However, some rockfish species are difficult to identify and continue to be challenging for EM to identify. These rockfish species include shortraker rockfish (Sebastes borealis), rougheye rockfish (Sebastes aleutianus), blackspotted rockfish (Sebastes melanostictus), and various other rockfish species that are less commonly caught. This proposed rule could improve the identification of E:\FR\FM\02OCP1.SGM 02OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 191 / Wednesday, October 2, 2019 / Proposed Rules rockfish species by requiring all catch to be retained and landed where it could be verified, thereby reducing potential errors in catch composition. khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Provide More Precise Estimates of Rockfish Catch Under § 679.5(e), all groundfish and halibut that is landed (i.e., caught, retained and delivered) in the EEZ must be sorted, weighed, and reported through the Interagency Electronic Reporting System (eLandings) or other NMFS approved software. Information about the at-sea discard of rockfish are collected through the North Pacific Observer Program. Estimates of rockfish discarded at-sea are recorded by fisheries observers or EM and used to calculate the at-sea discard rate. NMFS applies these rates to the catch made by vessels fishing in groundfish and halibut fisheries in the same reporting area, target fishery, and time period. Most rockfish species have specialized habitat needs, which means they are more sparsely distributed than most other groundfish species. As a result, at-sea discard rates can be variable, which results in less precise estimates of total rockfish removals (see Section 2.7.1.3 of the Analysis). Requiring the complete retention of all rockfish caught by CVs using hook-andline, pot, or jig gear would allow the total catch of rockfish to be sorted, weighed, and reported via eLandings instead of extrapolated from at-sea discard rates. Therefore, this proposed rule would likely result in much better information on the incidental catch of rockfish by CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear. Reduce Waste and Incentives To Discard Rockfish As discussed in Section 2.7.1.4 of the Analysis, more rockfish catch is retained than discarded. Since the majority of rockfish do not survive being caught, discards of rockfish increases waste. Many factors affect why a vessel operator discards rockfish. The most common reason for discards, inferred by available data, is regulatory discard. These discards occur when an MRA is exceeded during a fishing trip or if a rockfish species is on prohibited species status. Some vessel operators have expressed dissatisfaction with the current regulations requiring them to discard dead fish that could otherwise be used for human consumption. These concerns were consistently mentioned during public comment during the development of this proposed action. The existing MRA regulations may result in vessel operators discarding rockfish to avoid enforcement actions VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:10 Oct 01, 2019 Jkt 250001 resulting from MRA overages. Removing the MRA regulations associated with rockfish caught by CVs using hook-andline, pot, or jig gear and requiring full retention could reduce waste. Reduce Overall Enforcement Burden This proposed rule would no longer require CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear to comply with MRA regulations for rockfish. This would likely reduce the number of enforcement cases associated with rockfish MRA violations, and therefore, allow the NMFS Office of Law Enforcement (NMFS OLE) to pursue other priorities. Overall, this proposed rule simplifies current regulations and promotes more consistency in the regulations. This alone is likely to increase compliance and reduce enforcement burden (see Section 2.7.2.11 of the Analysis). Federal fisheries in the BSAI and GOA have many regulations that require vessel operators to retain certain species. Due to the broad geographic area in which fisheries occur in the BSAI and GOA, monitoring vessels while they are actively fishing presents logistical challenges. However, the use of at-sea observers, EM, vessel boarding, and monitoring of offloads can assist in monitoring compliance of full retention requirements. Promote More Consistent Management Between State and Federal Fisheries Rockfish retention requirements for CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear differ between fisheries in Federal waters and State waters. Vessel operators that fish in both Federal waters and State waters are subject to two different sets of regulations concerning management of rockfish incidental catch. Sections 2.6.4 and 2.7.2.5 of the Analysis illustrates the complexity of rockfish retention requirements. A vessel operator may fish in multiple areas and have differing retention requirements in a single trip. This creates confusion that may result in unintentional non-compliance or unnecessary rockfish discards. The State already has full retention requirements for all rockfish in some areas, which include parts of the Eastern GOA, Prince William Sound, and Cook Inlet. This proposed rule would establish Federal regulations that are very similar, although not identical, to existing State regulations on management of rockfish incidental catch in these management areas. Federal and State management inconsistencies may be eliminated, if the State mirrors Federal full retention requirements in all areas. PO 00000 Frm 00062 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 52445 Elements of This Proposed Rule The Analysis for this proposed rule is based on the most recent and best scientific information available, consistent with National Standard 2 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, recognizing that some information (such as operational costs) are unavailable (see Section 3.1 of the Analysis). This proposed rule has two main provisions. The first provision would require the operator of a CV required to have a federal fishery permit using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear to retain and land all rockfish that are caught while fishing for groundfish or halibut in the EEZ of the BSAI and GOA, even if a species of rockfish is on prohibited species status. The second provision addresses the disposition of retained amounts of rockfish. 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. This proposed rule would implement a limit 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. Section 2.7.2.4 of the Analysis discusses establishing an MCA in detail. The selection of the appropriate MCA percentage has some trade-offs. Low MCA percentages prioritize the avoidance of rockfish while fishing, but increases the number of trips that may have retained rockfish that cannot be sold. This could affect a vessel operator’s compliance with full rockfish retention. Higher MCA percentages could result in more retention compliance. However, higher MCA percentages could also result in increased rockfish catch as vessel operators could seek areas with higher rockfish incidental catch, or change fishing behavior to engage in top-off fishing. ‘‘Top-off fishing’’ occurs when a vessel operator deliberately targets a valuable species that is closed to directed fishing in an attempt to reach the full MRA of that species. The Council and NMFS considered a range of MCA percentages, and this rule proposes an MCA of 15 percent. This percentage balances the concern that an MCA that is too restrictive could E:\FR\FM\02OCP1.SGM 02OCP1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 52446 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 191 / Wednesday, October 2, 2019 / Proposed Rules increase effects on vessels and processors and create incentives to discard rockfish, with the concern that a less restrictive MCA could incentivize vessel operators to engage in top-off fishing of rockfish species and increase rockfish catch. Section 2.7.2.4 of the Analysis identified that a 15-percent MCA would allow vessel operators, for 84 to 89 percent of the trips that were analyzed, to sell all rockfish caught. The 15-percent MCA could limit financial incentives for vessel operators to catch more rockfish (Section 2.7.2.4 of the Analysis). For the remaining 11 to 16 percent of the trips that were analyzed, vessel operators would be able to sell most rockfish that were caught. Amounts in excess of the MCA would not be allowed to enter commerce, with the exception of fish meal. Fish meal is considered a processed fish product that enters commerce. The Council recommended allowing rockfish in excess of the selected MCA to be processed into meal to address concerns raised by processors in communities such as Kodiak, Alaska. Vessel operators delivering fish to Kodiak and similar Alaska communities have limited options for discarding fish delivered to a processor that is unable to process retained rockfish or other species for human consumption. Allowing rockfish in excess of the MCA to be processed into meal is unlikely to provide any financial incentives to target rockfish, due to the low value of fish meal. Section 2.7.2.2 of the Analysis discusses fish meal and the impacts of full retention on processors in more detail. This proposed rule would require full retention of rockfish even if NMFS prohibits retention of a rockfish species. When NMFS prohibits retention of a rockfish species, the MCA for that rockfish species would be zero percent. This is discussed in detail in Section 2.7.2.6 of the Analysis. The NMFS OLE expressed concern that there could be compliance issues if the Council did not recommend full retention when a rockfish species is on prohibited species status. The lack of a full retention requirement when a rockfish species is on prohibited species status could increase non-compliance of the retention limits by creating confusion and potential loopholes that would affect the ability to enforce the limits established under this proposed action. The primary goal of an action to prohibit retention is to remove financial incentives for vessel operators to continue to harvest a species. To remove some of the financial incentives that may result in top-off fishing when a rockfish species is placed on prohibited VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:10 Oct 01, 2019 Jkt 250001 species status, the MCA for that species would be set to zero. This would remove financial incentives to harvest more rockfish than the true incidental catch and could result in CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear avoiding areas that have high incidental catch rates of those species. Amounts of rockfish that are retained, but in excess of the MCA, could not be sold. However, this surplus rockfish could be used by vessel crew, donated, processed into fish meal, or discarded by processing plant personnel. The Council anticipates that most rockfish landed are likely to be processed; however, the decision to purchase, process, or discard rockfish is at the discretion of each individual processor. The Council also anticipates that most rockfish caught in excess of the MCA will be used in some way through personal use or charitable donations, thereby reducing waste and increasing the use of incidentally caught rockfish. Providing options such as retaining rockfish for personal use or donating it to charitable organizations would give vessel operators who dislike discarding dead fish an incentive for complying with the regulations associated with full retention of rockfish. During the February 2019 Council meeting, public comments identified a concern about the potential for increased retention of yelloweye rockfish (S. ruberrimus) due to its relatively high value compared to other rockfish species. Yelloweye rockfish has a value that is two to three times more than other rockfish species. Potentially, vessel operators could change their fishing behavior to target yelloweye rockfish up to the 15-percent MCA. Section 2.7.2.4.1 of the Analysis provides additional detail on yelloweye rockfish value and retention rates. Based on these concerns, this proposed rule would establish a separate limit for yelloweye rockfish of 5 percent MCA in all areas, except the Southeast Outside District of the GOA (SEO) defined in Figure 3 of part 679. This limit would be established within the 15-percent overall MCA for all rockfish species. This more restrictive MCA for yelloweye rockfish, within the overall 15-percent MCA for all other rockfish, is intended to limit the incentive for vessel operators to target yelloweye rockfish. To aid the reader in understanding this provision, we provide the following example of how an MCA would be calculated and applied: A vessel operator retains all rockfish during an IFQ halibut trip and delivers 1,000 pounds of halibut and 200 pounds of various rockfish species, of which 50 pounds is yelloweye rockfish. The MCA PO 00000 Frm 00063 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 for rockfish is 150 pounds (1,000 * 0.15). The MCA for yelloweye rockfish is 50 pounds (1,000 * 0.05). The vessel operator could sell all yelloweye rockfish and 100 pounds of other rockfish species. Fifty pounds of rockfish could not enter commerce but could be donated or used by vessel crew. To assist in resolving inconsistencies in management between State and Federal fisheries in the SEO, the Council recommended that current full retention requirements for demersal shelf rockfish (DSR) in the SEO remain unchanged. In the SEO (one of seven area in the GOA), vessel operators would be required to retain all rockfish, however the MCA would be different in the SEO from other areas of the GOA. The MCA for DSR species in the SEO would be limited to 10 percent of the aggregate round weight of retained IFQ halibut and groundfish, excluding sablefish, and one percent of the aggregate round weight of retained sablefish. This is necessary to avoid inconsistency in management between Federal and State fisheries as discussed in Sections 2.6.5 and 2.6.6 of the Analysis. Regulatory Changes Made by the Proposed Rule The following provides a brief summary of the regulatory changes that would be made by this proposed rule. This proposed rule would— • Revise § 679.5(c)(3)(iv)(A)(3) to clarify that CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear are not required to record MRAs for rockfish since MRAs do not apply in full retention requirements. • Add § 679.7(a)(5) to prohibit discard of rockfish from CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear. • Revise § 679.7(f)(8) to clarify that rockfish are not required to be discarded. • Revise § 679.20(d)(1)(iii)(B) to clarify that rockfish are not required to be discarded when rockfish are closed to directed fishing. • Revise § 679.20(d)(2) to clarify that rockfish are still required to be retained by CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear, even if a species is on prohibited species status. • Revise § 679.20(j) to include the full retention requirement, description of the MCA, and requirements for disposal of rockfish in excess of the MCA. • Revise Table 10 and Table 11 to 50 CFR part 679 by adding a footnote to the rockfish column referencing § 679.20(j). Classification Pursuant to Sections 304(b)(1)(A) and 305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the E:\FR\FM\02OCP1.SGM 02OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 191 / Wednesday, October 2, 2019 / Proposed Rules NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is consistent with Amendments 119/107, other provisions of the MagnusonStevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration of comments received during the public comment period. This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for the purposes of Executive Order 12866. Regulatory Impact Review (RIR) 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). NMFS is recommending Amendments 119/107 and the regulatory revisions in this proposed rule 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. khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) This Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) was prepared for this action, 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. The IRFA describes the action; the reasons why this action is proposed; the objectives and legal basis for this proposed rule; the number and description of directly regulated small entities to which this proposed rule would apply; the recordkeeping, reporting, and other compliance requirements of this proposed rule; and the relevant Federal rules that may duplicate, overlap, or conflict with this proposed rule. The IRFA also describes significant alternatives to this proposed rule that would accomplish the stated objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and any other applicable statutes, and that would minimize any significant economic impact of this proposed rule on small entities. The description of the proposed action, its purpose, and the legal basis are explained in the preamble and are not repeated here. For RFA purposes only, NMFS has established a small business size standard for businesses, including their affiliates, whose primary industry is commercial fishing (see 50 CFR 200.2). A business primarily engaged in commercial fishing (NAICS code 11411) is classified as a small business if it is independently owned and operated, is not dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and has combined annual receipts not in excess VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:10 Oct 01, 2019 Jkt 250001 of $11 million for all its affiliated operations worldwide. Number and Description of Small Entities Directly Regulated by the Proposed Action NMFS estimates that the entities directly regulated by this proposed rule are CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear in the BSAI and GOA. The thresholds applied to determine if an entity or group of entities are ‘‘small’’ under the RFA depend on the industry classification for the entity or entities. Based on the 2016 fishing season, 169 CVs were active using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear in the BSAI, and 949 CVs were active using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear in the GOA. Of these CVs, 136 in the BSAI and 932 in the GOA are considered small entities. Description of Significant Alternatives That Minimize Adverse Impacts on Small Entities Several aspects of this rule directly regulate small entities. Small entities would be required to comply with the requirements to retain rockfish. A full retention requirement for CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear could have operational implications for vessel operators. Since a CV using hook-andline, pot, or jig gear would be required to retain all incidental catch of rockfish, this could reduce the CV’s hold space, thereby displacing more valuable target species. Because this action would allow most of a CV’s rockfish catch to enter commerce, the cost of requiring retention is estimated to be largely offset by the value of the rockfish. Therefore, the costs are expected to be minimal. Section 2.7.2 of the Analysis describes the proposed requirements for requiring rockfish retention. The Council and NMFS determined that the benefits of the proposed revised regulations outweigh the costs of these additional requirements on the existing fleet. This proposed rule would meet the objectives of the action while minimizing adverse impacts on fishery participants. This proposed rule would require full retention of all rockfish species by CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear in the BSAI and GOA. The management measures include full retention of rockfish even if the species is on prohibited species status, but these retained rockfish would be prohibited from entering commerce (i.e., being sold). Most of the expected effects sections in the Analysis focus on hookand-line gear due to the amount of rockfish incidental catch encountered by hook-and-line gear compared to pot and jig gears. Section 2.7.2.1 of the Analysis indicates that the impact of PO 00000 Frm 00064 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 52447 requiring CVs using pot or jig gear to retain and land all rockfish catch would likely be minimal in relation to CVs using hook-and-line gear. There are no significant alternatives to this proposed rule that would accomplish the objectives of requiring full retention of all rockfish species by CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear in the BSAI and GOA. Recordkeeping, Reporting, and Other Compliance Requirements The proposed rule contains no new recordkeeping or recording requirements. As explained in the ‘‘Provide More Precise Estimates of Rockfish Catch’’ section of this proposed rule, landed fish must be reported under existing Federal and State regulations. A more detailed explanation of current recordkeeping and reporting requirements for CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear can be found at § 679.5. Therefore, this proposed rule would meet the objectives of the action while minimizing the reporting burden for fishery participants. Federal Rules That May Duplicate, Overlapping, or Conflict With the Proposed Action No duplication, overlap, or conflict between this proposed action and existing Federal rules has been identified. This proposed rule references collection-of-information requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), which have been approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under OMB Control Number 0648–0515 (Alaska Interagency Electronic Reporting System (IERS)). 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. 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: https:// www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAMain. E:\FR\FM\02OCP1.SGM 02OCP1 52448 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 191 / Wednesday, October 2, 2019 / Proposed Rules List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679 Alaska, Fisheries, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. (i) * * * (A) [Reserved] * * * * * (ii) * * * (A) [Reserved] * * * * * ■ 4. In § 679.20, revise paragraphs (d)(1)(iii)(B), (d)(2), and (j) to read as follows: Dated: September 25, 2019. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 679 is proposed to be amended as follows: § 679.20 PART 679—FISHERIES OF THE EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE OFF ALASKA 1. The authority citation for part 679 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.; 1801 et seq.; 3631 et seq.; Pub. L. 108–447; Pub. L. 111–281. 2. In § 679.5, revise paragraph (c)(3)(iv)(A)(3) to read as follows: ■ § 679.5 (R&R). Recordkeeping and reporting * * * * * (c) * * * (3) * * * (iv) * * * (A) * * * (3) Retain and record discard quantities over the MRA. When a CV is fishing in an IFQ fishery and the fishery for Pacific cod is closed to directed fishing but not in PSC status in that reporting area as described in § 679.20, the operator must retain and record up to and including the maximum retainable amount (MRA) for Pacific cod as defined in Tables 10 or 11 to this part. Quantities over this amount must be discarded and recorded as discard in the logbook. * * * * * ■ 3. In § 679.7, add paragraph (a)(5), and remove and reserve paragraphs (f)(8)(i)(A) and (f)(8)(ii)(A) to read as follows: § 679.7 Prohibitions. khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS * * * * * (a) * * * (5) Rockfish by catcher vessels using hook-and-line, jig, or pot gear. (i) For any person, to discard rockfish from a catcher vessel required to have a Federal fisheries permit that is fishing for groundfish or IFQ or CDQ halibut using hook-and-line, jig, or pot gear in the BSAI and GOA until that fish has been landed. (ii) Exceed the maximum commerce allowance amount established under § 679.20(j). * * * * * (f) * * * (8) * * * VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:10 Oct 01, 2019 Jkt 250001 General limitations. * * * * * (d) * * * (1) * * * (iii) * * * (B) Retention of incidental species. Except as described in § 679.20(e)(3)(iii) and § 679.20(j), if directed fishing for a target species or species group is prohibited, a vessel may not retain that incidental species in an amount that exceeds the maximum retainable amount, as calculated under paragraphs (e) and (f) of this section, at any time during a fishing trip. * * * * * (2) Groundfish as prohibited species closure. When the Regional Administrator determines that the TAC of any target species specified under paragraph (c) of this section, or the share of any TAC assigned to any type of gear, has been or will be achieved prior to the end of a year, NMFS will publish notification in the Federal Register requiring that target species be treated in the same manner as a prohibited species, as described under § 679.21(a), for the remainder of the year, except rockfish species caught by catcher vessels using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear as described in § 679.20(j) * * * * * (j) Full retention of rockfish by catcher vessels using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear—(1) Retention and landing requirements. The operator of a catcher vessel that is required to have a Federal fisheries permit using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear, must retain and land all rockfish that is caught while fishing for groundfish or IFQ or CDQ halibut in the BSAI and GOA. (2) Maximum commerce allowance (MCA) for rockfish in the BSAI and GOA. Except as described in § 679.20(j)(4), when rockfish is closed to directed fishing, the operator of a catcher vessel that is required to have a Federal fisheries permit under § 679.4(b), or the manager of a shoreside processor that is required to have a Federal processor permit under § 679.4(f), must dispose of rockfish retained and landed in accordance with paragraph (j)(1) of this section as follows: (i) A person may sell, barter, or trade a round weight equivalent amount of PO 00000 Frm 00065 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 rockfish that is less than or equal to 15 percent of the aggregate round weight equivalent of IFQ halibut and groundfish species, other than rockfish, that are landed during the same fishing trip. (ii) A person may sell, barter, or trade a round weight equivalent amount of yelloweye rockfish that is less than or equal to 5 percent of the aggregate round weight equivalent of IFQ halibut and groundfish species, other than rockfish, that are landed during the same fishing trip. The aggregate amount of all rockfish species sold, bartered, or traded cannot exceed the MCA established under paragraph (j)(2)(i) of this section. (iii) Amounts of rockfish retained by catcher vessels under paragraphs (j)(2)(i) and (ii) of this section that are in excess of the limits specified in paragraphs (j)(2)(i) and (ii) of this section may be put to any use, including but not limited to personal consumption or donation, but must not enter commerce through sale, barter, or trade except as fish meal. (3) MCA of DSR in Southeast Outside District of the GOA (SEO) when closed to directed fishing. When DSR is closed to directed fishing in the SEO, the operator of a catcher vessel that is required to have a Federal fisheries permit under § 679.4(b), or the manager of a shoreside processor that is required to have a Federal processor permit under § 679.4(f), must dispose of DSR retained and landed in accordance with paragraph (j)(1) of this section as follows: (i) A person may sell, barter, or trade a round weight equivalent amount of DSR that is less than or equal to 10 percent of the aggregate round weight equivalent of IFQ halibut and groundfish species, other than sablefish, that are landed during the same fishing trip. The aggregate amount of all rockfish species sold, bartered, or traded cannot exceed the MCA established under paragraph (j)(2)(i) of this section. (ii) A person may sell, barter, or trade a round weight equivalent amount of DSR that is less than or equal to 1 percent of the aggregate round weight equivalent of IFQ sablefish that are landed during the same fishing trip. The aggregate amount of all rockfish species sold, bartered, or traded cannot exceed the MCA established under paragraph (j)(2)(i) of this section. (iii) Amounts of DSR retained by catcher vessels under paragraph (j)(1) of this section that are in excess of the limits specified in paragraphs (j)(3)(i) and (ii) of this section may be put to any use, including but not limited to personal consumption or donation, but must not enter commerce through sale, barter, or trade except as fish meal. E:\FR\FM\02OCP1.SGM 02OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 191 / Wednesday, October 2, 2019 / Proposed Rules khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS (4) MCA for rockfish when on prohibited species status. When a rockfish species is placed on prohibited species status under § 679.20(d)(2), the MCA is set to 0 percent and no amount of that rockfish species may enter commerce through sale, barter, or trade except as fish meal. The operator of a VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:10 Oct 01, 2019 Jkt 250001 catcher vessel that is required to have a Federal fisheries permit under § 679.4(b), or the manager of a shoreside processor that is required to have a Federal processor permit under § 679.4(f), may put rockfish retained and landed in excess of the MCA specified in this paragraph to any use, including PO 00000 Frm 00066 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 52449 but not limited to personal consumption or donation, but such rockfish must not enter commerce through sale, barter, or trade except as fish meal. 5. Revise Table 10 to part 679 to read as follows: ■ BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\02OCP1.SGM 02OCP1 VerDate Sep<11>2014 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 191 / Wednesday, October 2, 2019 / Proposed Rules 16:10 Oct 01, 2019 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00067 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\02OCP1.SGM 02OCP1 EP02OC19.027</GPH> khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 52450 VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:10 Oct 01, 2019 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00068 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\02OCP1.SGM 02OCP1 52451 EP02OC19.028</GPH> khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 191 / Wednesday, October 2, 2019 / Proposed Rules Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 191 / Wednesday, October 2, 2019 / Proposed Rules 6. Revise Table 11 to part 679 to read as follows: ■ VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:10 Oct 01, 2019 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00069 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\02OCP1.SGM 02OCP1 EP02OC19.029</GPH> khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 52452 52453 [FR Doc. 2019–21262 Filed 10–1–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–C VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:10 Oct 01, 2019 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00070 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 E:\FR\FM\02OCP1.SGM 02OCP1 EP02OC19.030</GPH> khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 191 / Wednesday, October 2, 2019 / Proposed Rules

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 191 (Wednesday, October 2, 2019)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 52442-52453]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-21262]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

[Docket No. 190925-0043]
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: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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[[Page 52443]]

SUMMARY: NMFS proposes regulations to implement 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). This 
proposed rule would require that the operator of a federally permitted 
catcher vessel using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear in the Bering Sea 
and Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska retain and land all rockfish 
(Sebastes and Sebastolobus species) caught while fishing for groundfish 
or Pacific halibut. This action is necessary to improve identification 
of rockfish species catch by vessels using electronic monitoring, 
provide more precise estimates of rockfish catch, reduce waste and 
incentives to discard rockfish, reduce overall enforcement burden, and 
promote more consistent management between State and Federal fisheries. 
This proposed rule is 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: Submit comments on or before November 1, 2019.

ADDRESSES: Submit your comments, identified by FDMS Docket Number NOAA-
NMFS-2019-0068, by either of the following methods:
     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: NMFS may not consider comments if they are sent by 
any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after 
the comment period ends. All comments received are a part of the public 
record and NMFS will post the comments for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address), confidential business information, 
or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender 
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 (collectively Amendments 119/107), the Regulatory Impact 
Review (RIR; referred to as the Analysis), and the National 
Environmental Policy Act Categorical Exclusion evaluation document 
prepared for this action may be obtained from www.regulations.gov.
    Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other 
aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this 
rule may be submitted by mail to NMFS at the above address; and by 
email to [email protected] or by fax to (202)-395-5806.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Authority for Action

    NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic 
zone of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and Gulf of Alaska 
(GOA) under the BSAI FMP and GOA FMP. The North Pacific Fishery 
Management Council (Council) prepared the BSAI FMP and GOA FMP under 
the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 
Regulations governing U.S. fisheries and implementing the BSAI FMP and 
GOA FMP appear at 50 CFR parts 600 and 679.
    This proposed rule would implement Amendments 119/107. The Council 
submitted Amendments 119/107 for review by the Secretary of Commerce 
(Secretary), and a Notice of Availability (NOA) of Amendments 119/107 
was published in the Federal Register on August 22, 2019 (84 FR 43783), 
with comments invited through October 21, 2019. Comments submitted on 
this proposed rule by the end of the comment period (see DATES) will be 
considered by NMFS and addressed in the response to comments in the 
final rule. Comments submitted on this proposed rule may address 
Amendments 119/107 or this proposed rule. However, all comments 
addressing Amendments 119/107 must be received by October 21, 2019, to 
be considered in the approval/disapproval decision on Amendments 119/
107. Commenters do not need to submit the same comments on both the NOA 
and this proposed rule. All relevant written comments received by 
October 21, 2019, whether specifically directed to the FMP amendments, 
this proposed rule, or both, will be considered by NMFS in the 
approval/disapproval decision for Amendments 119/107 and addressed in 
the response to comments in the final rule.

Background

    In April 2019, the Council adopted Amendments 119/107. If approved 
by the Secretary, Amendments 119/107 would require that catcher vessels 
(CVs) using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear in groundfish and halibut 
fisheries of the Federal exclusive economic zone (EEZ) retain and land 
all rockfish. This proposed rule would also establish a means to limit 
the amount of rockfish that can enter commerce through barter, sale, or 
trade through the implementation of a maximum commerce allowance. 
Additionally, this proposed rule would require full retention of 
rockfish by CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear even if the 
rockfish species is prohibited for directed fishing or on prohibited 
species status (as defined in Sec.  679.20(d)(2)). When on prohibited 
species status, these retained rockfish would be prohibited from 
entering commerce, except as fish meal.
    In this proposed rule ``rockfish'' is defined as any species of the 
genera Sebastes or Sebastolobus except Sebastes ciliates (dark 
rockfish) in the BSAI and GOA and Sebastes melanops (black rockfish) 
and Sebastes mystinus (blue rockfish) in the GOA (see Sec.  679.2). 
This preamble also uses the term ``prohibited species status'' to mean 
status conferred by a NMFS management action issued under Sec.  
679.20(d)(2) that prohibits retention of a species.
    The following sections of this preamble provide a brief description 
of (1) rockfish management for CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig 
gear; (2) the need for the action; (3) the elements of this proposed 
rule; and (4) the regulatory changes made by this proposed rule.

Description of Rockfish Management and Fisheries for CVs Using Hook-
and-Line, Pot, or Jig Gear

Rockfish Management

    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,

[[Page 52444]]

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 as the primary tool to regulate rockfish catch. These 
retention limits are referred to as the maximum retainable amount 
(MRA). The MRA is the proportion or percentage of retained catch of a 
species prohibited for 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 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, discarding rockfish is prohibited unless 
rockfish are required to be discarded (Sec.  679.7(f)(8)). 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) because the TAC for that 
species has been reached.
    The MRA percentages were established to discourage vessel operators 
from targeting rockfish and other species while fishing for halibut or 
groundfish species open to directed fishing. However, in some fishing 
areas the natural incidental catch rate of rockfish may be much higher 
than the specified MRA, forcing vessel operators to discard rockfish 
that they cannot avoid catching. MRA calculations can be challenging 
for a vessel operator to compute correctly, since rates for different 
rockfish species vary depending on the target fishery and the 
management area in which a vessel is fishing. The inconsistency of MRA 
regulations between Federal and State of Alaska (State) fisheries, 
between different rockfish species, and different management areas 
makes it difficult for a vessel operator to ensure their compliance 
with retention and discard requirements.
    Since almost no rockfish survive being caught and brought to the 
surface, for CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear, at-sea discards 
are estimated and then deducted from that species TAC. Because some 
species are infrequently caught, accurate estimation of catch for those 
species is difficult. This results in high variance in the estimates of 
at-sea discards on smaller CVs. High variance most commonly occurs on 
smaller CVs that deploy hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear. This high 
variance can result in less accurate estimates of total catch of 
rockfish species, and can result in more restrictive management 
measures.
    Overall, this action would not affect the status of a rockfish 
stock in the BSAI or GOA. The acceptable biological catch and TAC for 
rockfish species would continue to be established through the annual 
harvest specifications process. The processes by which NMFS manages the 
catch of a rockfish species to stay within its TAC would not change 
under the alternatives considered for this action.

Fisheries for CVs Using Hook-and-Line, Pot, or Jig Gear

    Hook-and-line gear, pot gear, and jig gear are commonly used in 
groundfish fisheries in the BSAI and GOA. Hook-and-line gear is a 
stationary, buoyed, and anchored line with hooks attached. Pot gear is 
a portable structure designed to capture and retain fish alive in the 
water. Jig gear is a single, non-buoyed, non-anchored line with hooks 
attached. CVs that operate in the BSAI and GOA use hook-and-line, pot, 
and jig gear to prosecute primarily Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, and 
sablefish. There is also some directed fishing for rockfish using hook-
and-line and jig gear. Many other species are caught with hook-and-
line, pot, or jig gear; however, most of these species are incidental 
to the four main target species.
    CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear fish throughout the year. 
As discussed in Section 2.7.1.1 of the Analysis, approximately 200 CVs 
use hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear in the BSAI, and approximately 950 
CVs use hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear in the GOA. Some CVs 
participate in all three main target fisheries, and some operate in 
both the BSAI and GOA.
    Pacific cod fisheries using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear mostly 
occur in January through March and September through December. Rockfish 
incidental catch in these fisheries is generally low, at less than one 
percent of total groundfish catch, in the BSAI, and approximately one 
percent of total groundfish catch in the GOA (see Section 2.7.1.3 of 
the Analysis).
    IFQ Pacific halibut and sablefish fisheries occur from March 
through November. Rockfish incidental catch in the Pacific halibut 
fishery in the BSAI is approximately three percent of the total 
groundfish and halibut catch. Rockfish incidental catch in the Pacific 
halibut fishery of the GOA is approximately five percent of total 
groundfish and halibut catch. The IFQ sablefish fishery in the BSAI and 
GOA has a rockfish incidental catch rate of approximately 10 percent. 
These are average rates across the entire fleet and a broad geographic 
area. Depending on where a vessel operator is fishing, the rate can be 
higher or lower.

Need for This Action

    The Council recommended, and NMFS proposes, requiring full 
retention of all rockfish caught by CVs 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.

Improve Identification of Rockfish Species Catch by Vessels Using EM

    In 2018, NMFS developed regulations to allow small fixed gear CVs 
in partial observer coverage to opt into EM coverage for the calendar 
year rather than carrying an observer. The data collected from EM 
systems deployed on CVs is used to obtain catch and discard information 
from these CVs. NMFS approved 168 CVs for EM coverage for 2019.
    EM studies focused on the accuracy of species identification have 
shown that in most cases it is possible to identify fish to the species 
or species group required for management. However, some rockfish 
species are difficult to identify and continue to be challenging for EM 
to identify. These rockfish species include shortraker rockfish 
(Sebastes borealis), rougheye rockfish (Sebastes aleutianus), 
blackspotted rockfish (Sebastes melanostictus), and various other 
rockfish species that are less commonly caught. This proposed rule 
could improve the identification of

[[Page 52445]]

rockfish species by requiring all catch to be retained and landed where 
it could be verified, thereby reducing potential errors in catch 
composition.

Provide More Precise Estimates of Rockfish Catch

    Under Sec.  679.5(e), all groundfish and halibut that is landed 
(i.e., caught, retained and delivered) in the EEZ must be sorted, 
weighed, and reported through the Interagency Electronic Reporting 
System (eLandings) or other NMFS approved software. Information about 
the at-sea discard of rockfish are collected through the North Pacific 
Observer Program. Estimates of rockfish discarded at-sea are recorded 
by fisheries observers or EM and used to calculate the at-sea discard 
rate. NMFS applies these rates to the catch made by vessels fishing in 
groundfish and halibut fisheries in the same reporting area, target 
fishery, and time period.
    Most rockfish species have specialized habitat needs, which means 
they are more sparsely distributed than most other groundfish species. 
As a result, at-sea discard rates can be variable, which results in 
less precise estimates of total rockfish removals (see Section 2.7.1.3 
of the Analysis). Requiring the complete retention of all rockfish 
caught by CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear would allow the 
total catch of rockfish to be sorted, weighed, and reported via 
eLandings instead of extrapolated from at-sea discard rates. Therefore, 
this proposed rule would likely result in much better information on 
the incidental catch of rockfish by CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or 
jig gear.

Reduce Waste and Incentives To Discard Rockfish

    As discussed in Section 2.7.1.4 of the Analysis, more rockfish 
catch is retained than discarded. Since the majority of rockfish do not 
survive being caught, discards of rockfish increases waste. Many 
factors affect why a vessel operator discards rockfish. The most common 
reason for discards, inferred by available data, is regulatory discard. 
These discards occur when an MRA is exceeded during a fishing trip or 
if a rockfish species is on prohibited species status. Some vessel 
operators have expressed dissatisfaction with the current regulations 
requiring them to discard dead fish that could otherwise be used for 
human consumption. These concerns were consistently mentioned during 
public comment during the development of this proposed action.
    The existing MRA regulations may result in vessel operators 
discarding rockfish to avoid enforcement actions resulting from MRA 
overages. Removing the MRA regulations associated with rockfish caught 
by CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear and requiring full 
retention could reduce waste.

Reduce Overall Enforcement Burden

    This proposed rule would no longer require CVs using hook-and-line, 
pot, or jig gear to comply with MRA regulations for rockfish. This 
would likely reduce the number of enforcement cases associated with 
rockfish MRA violations, and therefore, allow the NMFS Office of Law 
Enforcement (NMFS OLE) to pursue other priorities. Overall, this 
proposed rule simplifies current regulations and promotes more 
consistency in the regulations. This alone is likely to increase 
compliance and reduce enforcement burden (see Section 2.7.2.11 of the 
Analysis).
    Federal fisheries in the BSAI and GOA have many regulations that 
require vessel operators to retain certain species. Due to the broad 
geographic area in which fisheries occur in the BSAI and GOA, 
monitoring vessels while they are actively fishing presents logistical 
challenges. However, the use of at-sea observers, EM, vessel boarding, 
and monitoring of offloads can assist in monitoring compliance of full 
retention requirements.

Promote More Consistent Management Between State and Federal Fisheries

    Rockfish retention requirements for CVs using hook-and-line, pot, 
or jig gear differ between fisheries in Federal waters and State 
waters. Vessel operators that fish in both Federal waters and State 
waters are subject to two different sets of regulations concerning 
management of rockfish incidental catch. Sections 2.6.4 and 2.7.2.5 of 
the Analysis illustrates the complexity of rockfish retention 
requirements. A vessel operator may fish in multiple areas and have 
differing retention requirements in a single trip. This creates 
confusion that may result in unintentional non-compliance or 
unnecessary rockfish discards.
    The State already has full retention requirements for all rockfish 
in some areas, which include parts of the Eastern GOA, Prince William 
Sound, and Cook Inlet. This proposed rule would establish Federal 
regulations that are very similar, although not identical, to existing 
State regulations on management of rockfish incidental catch in these 
management areas. Federal and State management inconsistencies may be 
eliminated, if the State mirrors Federal full retention requirements in 
all areas.

Elements of This Proposed Rule

    The Analysis for this proposed rule is based on the most recent and 
best scientific information available, consistent with National 
Standard 2 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, recognizing that some 
information (such as operational costs) are unavailable (see Section 
3.1 of the Analysis).
    This proposed rule has two main provisions. The first provision 
would require the operator of a CV required to have a federal fishery 
permit using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear to retain and land all 
rockfish that are caught while fishing for groundfish or halibut in the 
EEZ of the BSAI and GOA, even if a species of rockfish is on prohibited 
species status.
    The second provision addresses the disposition of retained amounts 
of rockfish. 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. This proposed 
rule would implement a limit 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. Section 2.7.2.4 of 
the Analysis discusses establishing an MCA in detail.
    The selection of the appropriate MCA percentage has some trade-
offs. Low MCA percentages prioritize the avoidance of rockfish while 
fishing, but increases the number of trips that may have retained 
rockfish that cannot be sold. This could affect a vessel operator's 
compliance with full rockfish retention. Higher MCA percentages could 
result in more retention compliance. However, higher MCA percentages 
could also result in increased rockfish catch as vessel operators could 
seek areas with higher rockfish incidental catch, or change fishing 
behavior to engage in top-off fishing. ``Top-off fishing'' occurs when 
a vessel operator deliberately targets a valuable species that is 
closed to directed fishing in an attempt to reach the full MRA of that 
species.
    The Council and NMFS considered a range of MCA percentages, and 
this rule proposes an MCA of 15 percent. This percentage balances the 
concern that an MCA that is too restrictive could

[[Page 52446]]

increase effects on vessels and processors and create incentives to 
discard rockfish, with the concern that a less restrictive MCA could 
incentivize vessel operators to engage in top-off fishing of rockfish 
species and increase rockfish catch. Section 2.7.2.4 of the Analysis 
identified that a 15-percent MCA would allow vessel operators, for 84 
to 89 percent of the trips that were analyzed, to sell all rockfish 
caught. The 15-percent MCA could limit financial incentives for vessel 
operators to catch more rockfish (Section 2.7.2.4 of the Analysis). For 
the remaining 11 to 16 percent of the trips that were analyzed, vessel 
operators would be able to sell most rockfish that were caught. Amounts 
in excess of the MCA would not be allowed to enter commerce, with the 
exception of fish meal.
    Fish meal is considered a processed fish product that enters 
commerce. The Council recommended allowing rockfish in excess of the 
selected MCA to be processed into meal to address concerns raised by 
processors in communities such as Kodiak, Alaska. Vessel operators 
delivering fish to Kodiak and similar Alaska communities have limited 
options for discarding fish delivered to a processor that is unable to 
process retained rockfish or other species for human consumption. 
Allowing rockfish in excess of the MCA to be processed into meal is 
unlikely to provide any financial incentives to target rockfish, due to 
the low value of fish meal. Section 2.7.2.2 of the Analysis discusses 
fish meal and the impacts of full retention on processors in more 
detail.
    This proposed rule would require full retention of rockfish even if 
NMFS prohibits retention of a rockfish species. When NMFS prohibits 
retention of a rockfish species, the MCA for that rockfish species 
would be zero percent. This is discussed in detail in Section 2.7.2.6 
of the Analysis. The NMFS OLE expressed concern that there could be 
compliance issues if the Council did not recommend full retention when 
a rockfish species is on prohibited species status. The lack of a full 
retention requirement when a rockfish species is on prohibited species 
status could increase non-compliance of the retention limits by 
creating confusion and potential loopholes that would affect the 
ability to enforce the limits established under this proposed action. 
The primary goal of an action to prohibit retention is to remove 
financial incentives for vessel operators to continue to harvest a 
species. To remove some of the financial incentives that may result in 
top-off fishing when a rockfish species is placed on prohibited species 
status, the MCA for that species would be set to zero. This would 
remove financial incentives to harvest more rockfish than the true 
incidental catch and could result in CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or 
jig gear avoiding areas that have high incidental catch rates of those 
species.
    Amounts of rockfish that are retained, but in excess of the MCA, 
could not be sold. However, this surplus rockfish could be used by 
vessel crew, donated, processed into fish meal, or discarded by 
processing plant personnel. The Council anticipates that most rockfish 
landed are likely to be processed; however, the decision to purchase, 
process, or discard rockfish is at the discretion of each individual 
processor. The Council also anticipates that most rockfish caught in 
excess of the MCA will be used in some way through personal use or 
charitable donations, thereby reducing waste and increasing the use of 
incidentally caught rockfish. Providing options such as retaining 
rockfish for personal use or donating it to charitable organizations 
would give vessel operators who dislike discarding dead fish an 
incentive for complying with the regulations associated with full 
retention of rockfish.
    During the February 2019 Council meeting, public comments 
identified a concern about the potential for increased retention of 
yelloweye rockfish (S. ruberrimus) due to its relatively high value 
compared to other rockfish species. Yelloweye rockfish has a value that 
is two to three times more than other rockfish species. Potentially, 
vessel operators could change their fishing behavior to target 
yelloweye rockfish up to the 15-percent MCA. Section 2.7.2.4.1 of the 
Analysis provides additional detail on yelloweye rockfish value and 
retention rates. Based on these concerns, this proposed rule would 
establish a separate limit for yelloweye rockfish of 5 percent MCA in 
all areas, except the Southeast Outside District of the GOA (SEO) 
defined in Figure 3 of part 679. This limit would be established within 
the 15-percent overall MCA for all rockfish species. This more 
restrictive MCA for yelloweye rockfish, within the overall 15-percent 
MCA for all other rockfish, is intended to limit the incentive for 
vessel operators to target yelloweye rockfish. To aid the reader in 
understanding this provision, we provide the following example of how 
an MCA would be calculated and applied:
    A vessel operator retains all rockfish during an IFQ halibut trip 
and delivers 1,000 pounds of halibut and 200 pounds of various rockfish 
species, of which 50 pounds is yelloweye rockfish. The MCA for rockfish 
is 150 pounds (1,000 * 0.15). The MCA for yelloweye rockfish is 50 
pounds (1,000 * 0.05). The vessel operator could sell all yelloweye 
rockfish and 100 pounds of other rockfish species. Fifty pounds of 
rockfish could not enter commerce but could be donated or used by 
vessel crew.
    To assist in resolving inconsistencies in management between State 
and Federal fisheries in the SEO, the Council recommended that current 
full retention requirements for demersal shelf rockfish (DSR) in the 
SEO remain unchanged. In the SEO (one of seven area in the GOA), vessel 
operators would be required to retain all rockfish, however the MCA 
would be different in the SEO from other areas of the GOA. The MCA for 
DSR species in the SEO would be limited to 10 percent of the aggregate 
round weight of retained IFQ halibut and groundfish, excluding 
sablefish, and one percent of the aggregate round weight of retained 
sablefish. This is necessary to avoid inconsistency in management 
between Federal and State fisheries as discussed in Sections 2.6.5 and 
2.6.6 of the Analysis.

Regulatory Changes Made by the Proposed Rule

    The following provides a brief summary of the regulatory changes 
that would be made by this proposed rule. This proposed rule would--
     Revise Sec.  679.5(c)(3)(iv)(A)(3) to clarify that CVs 
using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear are not required to record MRAs 
for rockfish since MRAs do not apply in full retention requirements.
     Add Sec.  679.7(a)(5) to prohibit discard of rockfish from 
CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear.
     Revise Sec.  679.7(f)(8) to clarify that rockfish are not 
required to be discarded.
     Revise Sec.  679.20(d)(1)(iii)(B) to clarify that rockfish 
are not required to be discarded when rockfish are closed to directed 
fishing.
     Revise Sec.  679.20(d)(2) to clarify that rockfish are 
still required to be retained by CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig 
gear, even if a species is on prohibited species status.
     Revise Sec.  679.20(j) to include the full retention 
requirement, description of the MCA, and requirements for disposal of 
rockfish in excess of the MCA.
     Revise Table 10 and Table 11 to 50 CFR part 679 by adding 
a footnote to the rockfish column referencing Sec.  [thinsp]679.20(j).

Classification

    Pursuant to Sections 304(b)(1)(A) and 305(d) of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act, the

[[Page 52447]]

NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is 
consistent with Amendments 119/107, other provisions of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration 
of comments received during the public comment period.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
the purposes of Executive Order 12866.

Regulatory Impact Review (RIR)

    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). NMFS is recommending Amendments 119/107 and the 
regulatory revisions in this proposed rule 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 Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) was prepared 
for this action, 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. The IRFA describes the 
action; the reasons why this action is proposed; the objectives and 
legal basis for this proposed rule; the number and description of 
directly regulated small entities to which this proposed rule would 
apply; the recordkeeping, reporting, and other compliance requirements 
of this proposed rule; and the relevant Federal rules that may 
duplicate, overlap, or conflict with this proposed rule. The IRFA also 
describes significant alternatives to this proposed rule that would 
accomplish the stated objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and any 
other applicable statutes, and that would minimize any significant 
economic impact of this proposed rule on small entities. The 
description of the proposed action, its purpose, and the legal basis 
are explained in the preamble and are not repeated here.
    For RFA purposes only, NMFS has established a small business size 
standard for businesses, including their affiliates, whose primary 
industry is commercial fishing (see 50 CFR 200.2). A business primarily 
engaged in commercial fishing (NAICS code 11411) is classified as a 
small business if it is independently owned and operated, is not 
dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and has 
combined annual receipts not in excess of $11 million for all its 
affiliated operations worldwide.
Number and Description of Small Entities Directly Regulated by the 
Proposed Action
    NMFS estimates that the entities directly regulated by this 
proposed rule are CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear in the BSAI 
and GOA. The thresholds applied to determine if an entity or group of 
entities are ``small'' under the RFA depend on the industry 
classification for the entity or entities. Based on the 2016 fishing 
season, 169 CVs were active using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear in 
the BSAI, and 949 CVs were active using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear 
in the GOA. Of these CVs, 136 in the BSAI and 932 in the GOA are 
considered small entities.
Description of Significant Alternatives That Minimize Adverse Impacts 
on Small Entities
    Several aspects of this rule directly regulate small entities. 
Small entities would be required to comply with the requirements to 
retain rockfish. A full retention requirement for CVs using hook-and-
line, pot, or jig gear could have operational implications for vessel 
operators. Since a CV using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear would be 
required to retain all incidental catch of rockfish, this could reduce 
the CV's hold space, thereby displacing more valuable target species. 
Because this action would allow most of a CV's rockfish catch to enter 
commerce, the cost of requiring retention is estimated to be largely 
offset by the value of the rockfish. Therefore, the costs are expected 
to be minimal.
    Section 2.7.2 of the Analysis describes the proposed requirements 
for requiring rockfish retention. The Council and NMFS determined that 
the benefits of the proposed revised regulations outweigh the costs of 
these additional requirements on the existing fleet. This proposed rule 
would meet the objectives of the action while minimizing adverse 
impacts on fishery participants.
    This proposed rule would require full retention of all rockfish 
species by CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear in the BSAI and 
GOA. The management measures include full retention of rockfish even if 
the species is on prohibited species status, but these retained 
rockfish would be prohibited from entering commerce (i.e., being sold). 
Most of the expected effects sections in the Analysis focus on hook-
and-line gear due to the amount of rockfish incidental catch 
encountered by hook-and-line gear compared to pot and jig gears. 
Section 2.7.2.1 of the Analysis indicates that the impact of requiring 
CVs using pot or jig gear to retain and land all rockfish catch would 
likely be minimal in relation to CVs using hook-and-line gear.
    There are no significant alternatives to this proposed rule that 
would accomplish the objectives of requiring full retention of all 
rockfish species by CVs using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear in the 
BSAI and GOA.
Recordkeeping, Reporting, and Other Compliance Requirements
    The proposed rule contains no new recordkeeping or recording 
requirements. As explained in the ``Provide More Precise Estimates of 
Rockfish Catch'' section of this proposed rule, landed fish must be 
reported under existing Federal and State regulations. A more detailed 
explanation of current recordkeeping and reporting requirements for CVs 
using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear can be found at Sec.  679.5. 
Therefore, this proposed rule would meet the objectives of the action 
while minimizing the reporting burden for fishery participants.
Federal Rules That May Duplicate, Overlapping, or Conflict With the 
Proposed Action
    No duplication, overlap, or conflict between this proposed action 
and existing Federal rules has been identified.
    This proposed rule references collection-of-information 
requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), which have 
been approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under OMB 
Control Number 0648-0515 (Alaska Interagency Electronic Reporting 
System (IERS)).
    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.
    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 [email protected], 
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: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAMain.

[[Page 52448]]

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679

    Alaska, Fisheries, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: September 25, 2019.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 679 is proposed to 
be amended as follows:

PART 679--FISHERIES OF THE EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE OFF ALASKA

0
1. The authority citation for part 679 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.; 1801 et seq.; 3631 et seq.; 
Pub. L. 108-447; Pub. L. 111-281.

0
2. In Sec.  679.5, revise paragraph (c)(3)(iv)(A)(3) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  679.5  Recordkeeping and reporting (R&R).

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (3) * * *
    (iv) * * *
    (A) * * *
    (3) Retain and record discard quantities over the MRA. When a CV is 
fishing in an IFQ fishery and the fishery for Pacific cod is closed to 
directed fishing but not in PSC status in that reporting area as 
described in Sec.  679.20, the operator must retain and record up to 
and including the maximum retainable amount (MRA) for Pacific cod as 
defined in Tables 10 or 11 to this part. Quantities over this amount 
must be discarded and recorded as discard in the logbook.
* * * * *
0
3. In Sec.  679.7, add paragraph (a)(5), and remove and reserve 
paragraphs (f)(8)(i)(A) and (f)(8)(ii)(A) to read as follows:


Sec.  679.7  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (5) Rockfish by catcher vessels using hook-and-line, jig, or pot 
gear.
    (i) For any person, to discard rockfish from a catcher vessel 
required to have a Federal fisheries permit that is fishing for 
groundfish or IFQ or CDQ halibut using hook-and-line, jig, or pot gear 
in the BSAI and GOA until that fish has been landed.
    (ii) Exceed the maximum commerce allowance amount established under 
Sec.  679.20(j).
* * * * *
    (f) * * *
    (8) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) [Reserved]
* * * * *
    (ii) * * *
    (A) [Reserved]
* * * * *
0
 4. In Sec.  679.20, revise paragraphs (d)(1)(iii)(B), (d)(2), and (j) 
to read as follows:


Sec.  679.20  General limitations.

* * * * *
    (d) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (iii) * * *
    (B) Retention of incidental species. Except as described in Sec.  
679.20(e)(3)(iii) and Sec.  679.20(j), if directed fishing for a target 
species or species group is prohibited, a vessel may not retain that 
incidental species in an amount that exceeds the maximum retainable 
amount, as calculated under paragraphs (e) and (f) of this section, at 
any time during a fishing trip.
* * * * *
    (2) Groundfish as prohibited species closure. When the Regional 
Administrator determines that the TAC of any target species specified 
under paragraph (c) of this section, or the share of any TAC assigned 
to any type of gear, has been or will be achieved prior to the end of a 
year, NMFS will publish notification in the Federal Register requiring 
that target species be treated in the same manner as a prohibited 
species, as described under Sec.  679.21(a), for the remainder of the 
year, except rockfish species caught by catcher vessels using hook-and-
line, pot, or jig gear as described in Sec.  679.20(j)
* * * * *
    (j) Full retention of rockfish by catcher vessels using hook-and-
line, pot, or jig gear--(1) Retention and landing requirements. The 
operator of a catcher vessel that is required to have a Federal 
fisheries permit using hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear, must retain and 
land all rockfish that is caught while fishing for groundfish or IFQ or 
CDQ halibut in the BSAI and GOA.
    (2) Maximum commerce allowance (MCA) for rockfish in the BSAI and 
GOA. Except as described in Sec.  679.20(j)(4), when rockfish is closed 
to directed fishing, the operator of a catcher vessel that is required 
to have a Federal fisheries permit under Sec.  679.4(b), or the manager 
of a shoreside processor that is required to have a Federal processor 
permit under Sec.  679.4(f), must dispose of rockfish retained and 
landed in accordance with paragraph (j)(1) of this section as follows:
    (i) A person may sell, barter, or trade a round weight equivalent 
amount of rockfish that is less than or equal to 15 percent of the 
aggregate round weight equivalent of IFQ halibut and groundfish 
species, other than rockfish, that are landed during the same fishing 
trip.
    (ii) A person may sell, barter, or trade a round weight equivalent 
amount of yelloweye rockfish that is less than or equal to 5 percent of 
the aggregate round weight equivalent of IFQ halibut and groundfish 
species, other than rockfish, that are landed during the same fishing 
trip. The aggregate amount of all rockfish species sold, bartered, or 
traded cannot exceed the MCA established under paragraph (j)(2)(i) of 
this section.
    (iii) Amounts of rockfish retained by catcher vessels under 
paragraphs (j)(2)(i) and (ii) of this section that are in excess of the 
limits specified in paragraphs (j)(2)(i) and (ii) of this section may 
be put to any use, including but not limited to personal consumption or 
donation, but must not enter commerce through sale, barter, or trade 
except as fish meal.
    (3) MCA of DSR in Southeast Outside District of the GOA (SEO) when 
closed to directed fishing. When DSR is closed to directed fishing in 
the SEO, the operator of a catcher vessel that is required to have a 
Federal fisheries permit under Sec.  679.4(b), or the manager of a 
shoreside processor that is required to have a Federal processor permit 
under Sec.  679.4(f), must dispose of DSR retained and landed in 
accordance with paragraph (j)(1) of this section as follows:
    (i) A person may sell, barter, or trade a round weight equivalent 
amount of DSR that is less than or equal to 10 percent of the aggregate 
round weight equivalent of IFQ halibut and groundfish species, other 
than sablefish, that are landed during the same fishing trip. The 
aggregate amount of all rockfish species sold, bartered, or traded 
cannot exceed the MCA established under paragraph (j)(2)(i) of this 
section.
    (ii) A person may sell, barter, or trade a round weight equivalent 
amount of DSR that is less than or equal to 1 percent of the aggregate 
round weight equivalent of IFQ sablefish that are landed during the 
same fishing trip. The aggregate amount of all rockfish species sold, 
bartered, or traded cannot exceed the MCA established under paragraph 
(j)(2)(i) of this section.
    (iii) Amounts of DSR retained by catcher vessels under paragraph 
(j)(1) of this section that are in excess of the limits specified in 
paragraphs (j)(3)(i) and (ii) of this section may be put to any use, 
including but not limited to personal consumption or donation, but must 
not enter commerce through sale, barter, or trade except as fish meal.

[[Page 52449]]

    (4) MCA for rockfish when on prohibited species status. When a 
rockfish species is placed on prohibited species status under Sec.  
679.20(d)(2), the MCA is set to 0 percent and no amount of that 
rockfish species may enter commerce through sale, barter, or trade 
except as fish meal. The operator of a catcher vessel that is required 
to have a Federal fisheries permit under Sec.  679.4(b), or the manager 
of a shoreside processor that is required to have a Federal processor 
permit under Sec.  679.4(f), may put rockfish retained and landed in 
excess of the MCA specified in this paragraph to any use, including but 
not limited to personal consumption or donation, but such rockfish must 
not enter commerce through sale, barter, or trade except as fish meal.
0
5. Revise Table 10 to part 679 to read as follows:
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P

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6. Revise Table 11 to part 679 to read as follows:

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[FR Doc. 2019-21262 Filed 10-1-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-C