Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries Off West Coast States; Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery; 2019-2020 Biennial Specifications and Management Measures; Inseason Adjustments, 16911-16913 [2020-06268]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 58 / Wednesday, March 25, 2020 / Rules and Regulations DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 660 [Docket No. 180625576–8999–02] RIN 0648–BJ68 Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries Off West Coast States; Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery; 2019–2020 Biennial Specifications and Management Measures; Inseason Adjustments National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule; inseason adjustments to biennial groundfish management measures. AGENCY: This final rule announces routine inseason adjustments to the harvest limits for incidental halibut retention in the primary sablefish fishery. SUMMARY: DATES: Effective March 25, 2020. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karen Palmigiano, phone: 206–526– 4491 or email: karen.palmigiano@ noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Electronic Access This rule is accessible via the internet at the Office of the Federal Register website at https:// www.federalregister.gov. Background information and documents are available at the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s website at http:// www.pcouncil.org/. khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with RULES Background The Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (PCGFMP) and its implementing regulations at title 50 in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 660, subparts C through G, regulate fishing for over 90 species of groundfish off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. The Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) develops groundfish harvest specifications and management measures for two-year periods (i.e., a biennium). NMFS published the final VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:49 Mar 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 rule to implement harvest specifications and management measures for the 2019–2020 biennium for most species managed under the PCGFMP on December 12, 2018 (83 FR 63970). In general, the management measures set at the start of the biennial harvest specifications cycle help the various sectors of the fishery reach, but not exceed, the annual catch limit (ACL) for each stock. The Council, in coordination with Pacific Coast Treaty Indian Tribes and the States of Washington, Oregon, and California, recommends adjustments to the management measures during the fishing year to achieve this goal. At its March 3–9, 2020, meeting, the Council recommended decreasing the amount of Pacific halibut that vessels in the sablefish primary fishery north of Point Chehalis, Washington (WA) may take incidentally to ensure that catch of Pacific halibut stays within the allocated amount. The Council developed a Catch Sharing Plan for the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) Regulatory Area 2A, as provided for in the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982. The Catch Sharing Plan allocates the Area 2A annual total allowable catch (TAC) for Pacific halibut among fisheries off Washington, Oregon, and California. Pacific halibut is generally a prohibited species for vessels fishing in Pacific coast groundfish fisheries, unless explicitly allowed in groundfish regulations. Under the Catch Sharing Plan, the primary sablefish fishery north of Point Chehalis, WA (46°53.30′ N lat.) is allocated any excess portion of the Washington recreational allocation above 214,110 lbs [97.1 metric tons (mt)] up to 50,000 pounds [22.7 mt] provided a minimum of 10,000 lbs [4.5 mt] is available. If the Area 2A catch limit is 1.5 million pounds [680.4 mt] or more, the maximum allocation increases to 70,000 lbs [31.8 mt]. If the amount above 214,110 lbs [97.1 mt] is less than 10,000 lbs [4.5 mt] or greater than 50,000 lbs [22.7 mt] (or 70,000 lbs [31.8 mt]), the excess is allocated back to the Washington recreational fisheries. The sablefish primary fishery season is open from April 1 to October 31, though the fishery may close for individual participants prior to October 31 once they reach the cumulative limit PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 16911 associated with their tier assignment(s). Regulations at § 660.231(b)(3)(iv) allow vessels fishing in the sablefish primary fishery with a permit from the IPHC to retain halibut up to a set landing limit, which may be reviewed and modified throughout the sablefish primary fishery season to allow for attainment but not exceedance of the Pacific halibut allocation. Recent Incidental Halibut Catch in the Primary Sablefish Fishery On April 29, 2019, NMFS implemented a 2019 Area 2A Pacific halibut TAC of 1,500,000 lb [680.4 mt] and a 2019 Pacific halibut incidental catch limit of 70,000 lb [31.8 mt] for the limited entry fixed gear sablefish primary fishery north of Point Chehalis, WA (84 FR 17960; April 29, 2019). For the start of the 2019 primary sablefish fishery, the incidental halibut landing limit was 200 lb [91 kg] dressed weight of halibut, for every 1,000 lb [454 kg] dressed weight of sablefish landed, and up to an additional two halibut in excess of this limit (October 9, 2018; 83 FR 50510). At the June 2019 Council meeting, the Council approved an increase in the landing limit to allow for full utilization of the incidental catch limit. NMFS published a rule on August 2, 2019 (84 FR 37780) that raised the landing limit to 250 lb [113 kg] dressed weight of halibut per 1,000 lb [454 kg] dressed weight of sablefish landed, and up to an additional two halibut in excess of this limit. At the time the Council recommended the 250 lb [113 kg] limit, the model predicted that total Pacific halibut catch in the primary sablefish fishery would be 54,214 lb [24.6 mt], or 77.4 percent of the 2019 incidental limit. At the March 2020 Council meeting, the Groundfish Management Team (GMT) informed the Council that the sablefish primary fishery north of Pt. Chehalis, WA exceeded its 70,000 lb [31.8 mt] allowance for Pacific halibut in 2019 by 13 percent, or 9,360 lb [4,246 kg]. Incidental catch likely exceeded the limit because there were more trips where vessels were catching a higher percentage of the incidental trip limit after it was raised in August 2019 (Table 1). This table demonstrates a significant shift in the number of trips (from 20 to 44) that retained 75 percent or more of the incidental halibut limit. E:\FR\FM\25MRR1.SGM 25MRR1 16912 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 58 / Wednesday, March 25, 2020 / Rules and Regulations TABLE 1—NUMBER OF TRIPS IN 2019 BY TRIP LIMIT AND PERCENTAGE OF THE INCIDENTAL HALIBUT LIMIT ATTAINED Vessel landing by percentage of the incidental halibut limit Incidental halibut retention amount 0–50 percent 200 lb [91 kg]—limit before August 2019 ................................................ 250 lb [113 kg]—limit after August 2019 ................................................. The increase in trips with vessels catching more of the incidental halibut limit once the limit was raised in August 2019 could be indicative of vessels targeting Pacific halibut. The number of trips with vessels catching more than 90 percent of the incidental 50–75 percent 44 25 75–90 percent 3 5 halibut landing limit increased from 13 trips out of 67 trips (19 percent of trips) before the trip limit was increased to 30 trips out of 104 trips (29 percent of trips) after the trip limit was increased to 250 lb [113 kg]. The modeling efforts that supported the change in the landing 90–100 percent 7 14 13 30 limit in 2019 did not accurately predict this change in fishery behavior. In general, due to the volatility in Pacific halibut landings from year-to-year in the primary sablefish fishery (see Table 2), it can be difficult to model projected landings accurately. TABLE 2—INCIDENTAL HALIBUT LIMITS AND LANDINGS IN THE PRIMARY SABLEFISH FISHERY FROM 2014–2019 Incidental limit in net weight (lb) khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with RULES 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 ................................................................................................................................... ................................................................................................................................... ................................................................................................................................... ................................................................................................................................... ................................................................................................................................... ................................................................................................................................... The 2020 incidental halibut limit for the sablefish primary fishery is 70,000 lb [31.8 mt] (March 13, 2020; 85 FR 14586). If the current incidental halibut limit were to remain in place, the GMT’s model projects halibut landings in the sablefish primary fishery north of Point Chehalis, WA would likely exceed the incidental halibut allocation again in 2020. Therefore, industry requested the GMT analyze a lower landing limit to ensure attainment stays within the allocation for halibut in the sablefish primary fishery. The GMT analyzed a limit of 200 lb [91 kg] dressed weight of halibut, for every 1,000 lb [454 kg] dressed weight of sablefish landed. Under this limit, the highest projected attainment would be 71,500 lb [32.43 mt]. However, this is likely an overestimate as data suggests the lower incidental trip limit will likely deter vessels from targeting halibut while fishing in the primary sablefish fishery. Additionally, the GMT has the ability to track incidental catch of halibut inseason and can recommend the Council adjust the limit through additional inseason action if necessary to ensure the incidental catch of Pacific halibut attains but does not exceed the 2020 allocation. Therefore, in order to allow incidental halibut catch in the sablefish primary fishery, the Council recommended and NMFS is revising incidental halibut retention regulations at § 660.231(b)(3)(iv) to decrease the VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:49 Mar 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 incidental halibut catch limit. The limit will be reduced from 250 lb [113 kg] dressed weight of halibut for every 1,000 lb [454 kg] dressed weight of sablefish landed and up to two additional halibut in excess of the 250 lb [113 kg] per 1,000 lb [454 kg] limit per landing to 200 lb [91 kg] dressed weight of halibut for every 1,000 lb [454 kg] dressed weight of sablefish landed and up to two additional halibut in excess of the 200 lb [91 kg] per 1,000 lb [454 kg] limit per landing. We expect that this decrease will allow total catch of Pacific halibut to approach, but not exceed, the 2020 allocation for the sablefish primary fishery north of Point Chehalis, WA (70,000 lb or 31.8 mt) and provide opportunity for industry to attain a high percentage of the sablefish primary fishery allocation. Classification This action is taken under the authority of 50 CFR 660.60(c) and the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. The aggregate data upon which these actions are based are available for public inspection by contacting Karen Palmigiano in NMFS West Coast Region (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, above), or view at the NMFS West Coast Groundfish website: http:// www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/ fisheries/groundfish/index.html. PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Landings in net weight (lb) 70,000 50,000 70,000 49,686 10,348 14,274 79,360 43,716 35,866 29,448 9,763 12,067 Percent attainment of limit 113 87 51 59 94 85 Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b), NMFS finds good cause to waive prior public notice and an opportunity for public comment on this action, as notice and comment would be impracticable and contrary to the public interest. The sablefish primary fishery opens on April 1. Management and enforcement of the incidental landing limit will be easier for participants if the new limit is in place for the start of the season, rather than a few weeks in as would be the case if implementation of this rule was delayed. No aspect of this action is controversial, and changes of this nature were anticipated in the final rule for the 2019–2020 harvest specifications and management measures which published on December 12, 2018 (83 FR 63970). At its March 2020 meeting, the Council recommended the decrease to the incidental halibut retention limit for vessels fishing in the sablefish primary fishery north of Point Chehalis be implemented as soon as possible so that the limit is in place for the start of the fishery on April 1, 2020. New catch data through 2019 that was not available and thus not considered during the 2019– 2020 biennial harvest specifications process, projects that maintaining the status quo limit of 250 lb (113 kg) for incidental halibut retention would likely result in the sablefish primary fishery north of Point Chehalis, WA exceeding its 2020 allocation. Reducing the limit will likely result in less targeting than may have taken place late E:\FR\FM\25MRR1.SGM 25MRR1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 58 / Wednesday, March 25, 2020 / Rules and Regulations in 2019 and, therefore, help ensure the 2020 allocation is not exceeded. Delaying implementation to allow for public comment could result in confusion amongst industry if the new limit is implemented shortly after the start of the season on April 1. Additionally, if the new limit is not implemented until closer to the end of the season after a full rulemaking the sablefish primary fishery north of Point Chehalis would likely exceed its 2020 allocation of halibut. Therefore, providing a comment period for this action could limit the benefits to the fishery, and the vessels that participate in it as they rely on the halibut retention allowance throughout the entire season. Therefore, the NMFS finds reason to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(1) so that this final rule may become effective upon publication in the Federal Register. The adjustments to management measures in this document affect commercial fisheries by decreasing the incidental halibut retention limit in the sablefish primary fishery north of Point Chehalis, WA. This adjustment was requested by the Council’s advisory bodies, as well as members of industry during the Council’s March 2020 meeting, and recommended unanimously by the Council. No aspect of this action is controversial, and changes of this nature were anticipated in the biennial harvest specifications and management measures established through a notice and comment rulemaking for 2019–2020 (82 FR 63970). List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 660 Fisheries, Fishing, Indian fisheries. Dated: March 20, 2020. He´le`ne M.N. Scalliet, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 660 is amended as follows: PART 660—FISHERIES OFF WEST COAST STATES 1. The authority citation for part 660 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq., and 16 U.S.C. 7001 et seq. 2. In § 660.231, revise paragraph (b)(3)(iv) to read as follows: khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with RULES ■ § 660.231 Limited entry fixed gear sablefish primary fishery. * * * * * (b) * * * (3) * * * (iv) Incidental Pacific halibut retention north of Pt. Chehalis, WA VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:49 Mar 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 (46°53.30′ N. lat.). From April 1 through October 31, vessels authorized to participate in the sablefish primary fishery, licensed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission for commercial fishing in Area 2A (waters off Washington, Oregon, California), and fishing with longline gear north of Pt. Chehalis, WA (46°53.30′ N. lat.) may possess and land up to 200 pounds (91 kg) dressed weight of Pacific halibut for every 1,000 pounds (454 kg) dressed weight of sablefish landed and up to 2 additional Pacific halibut in excess of the 200-pounds-per-1,000-pound limit per landing. ‘‘Dressed’’ Pacific halibut in this area means halibut landed eviscerated with their heads on. Pacific halibut taken and retained in the sablefish primary fishery north of Pt. Chehalis may only be landed north of Pt. Chehalis and may not be possessed or landed south of Pt. Chehalis. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2020–06268 Filed 3–24–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 200221–0062; RTID 0648– XY091] Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Pollock in the West Yakutat District in the Gulf of Alaska National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; modification of closure AGENCY: NMFS is opening directed fishing for pollock in the West Yakutat District of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). This action is necessary to fully use the 2020 total allowable catch of pollock in the West Yakutat District of the GOA. DATES: Effective 1200 hours, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), March 24, 2020, through 2400 hours, A.l.t., December 31, 2020. Comments must be received at the following address no later than 4:30 p.m., A.l.t., April 7, 2020. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by FDMS Docket Number NOAA–NMFS–2019– 0102 by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2019SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 16913 0102, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Address written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Records Office. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802–1668. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and NMFS will post the comments for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Josh Keaton, 907–586–7228. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the groundfish fishery in the GOA exclusive economic zone according to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (FMP) prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council under authority of the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Regulations governing fishing by U.S. vessels in accordance with the FMP appear at subpart H of 50 CFR part 600 and 50 CFR part 679. The 2020 total allowable catch (TAC) of pollock in the West Yakutat District of the GOA is 5,554 metric tons (mt) as established by the final 2020 and 2021 harvest specifications for groundfish in the GOA (85 FR 13802, March 10, 2020). NMFS closed directed fishing for pollock in the West Yakutat District of the GOA under § 679.20(d)(1)(iii) on March 13, 2020 (85 FR 15392, March 18, 2020). As of March 17, 2020, NMFS has determined that approximately 780 mt of pollock remains in the West Yakutat District of the GOA. Therefore, in accordance with § 679.25(a)(1)(i), (a)(2)(i)(C), and (a)(2)(iii)(D), and to fully utilize the 2020 TAC of pollock in the West Yakutat District of the GOA, NMFS is terminating the previous closure and is reopening directed fishing for pollock in the West Yakutat District of the GOA, effective 1200 hours, A.l.t., March 24, 2020. The Administrator, Alaska Region (Regional Administrator) considered the following factors in reaching this E:\FR\FM\25MRR1.SGM 25MRR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 58 (Wednesday, March 25, 2020)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 16911-16913]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-06268]



[[Page 16911]]

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 660

[Docket No. 180625576-8999-02]
RIN 0648-BJ68


Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries Off West Coast States; 
Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery; 2019-2020 Biennial Specifications and 
Management Measures; Inseason Adjustments

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

ACTION: Final rule; inseason adjustments to biennial groundfish 
management measures.

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SUMMARY: This final rule announces routine inseason adjustments to the 
harvest limits for incidental halibut retention in the primary 
sablefish fishery.

DATES: Effective March 25, 2020.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karen Palmigiano, phone: 206-526-4491 
or email: [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Electronic Access

    This rule is accessible via the internet at the Office of the 
Federal Register website at https://www.federalregister.gov. Background 
information and documents are available at the Pacific Fishery 
Management Council's website at http://www.pcouncil.org/.

Background

    The Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (PCGFMP) and 
its implementing regulations at title 50 in the Code of Federal 
Regulations (CFR), part 660, subparts C through G, regulate fishing for 
over 90 species of groundfish off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and 
California. The Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) develops 
groundfish harvest specifications and management measures for two-year 
periods (i.e., a biennium). NMFS published the final rule to implement 
harvest specifications and management measures for the 2019-2020 
biennium for most species managed under the PCGFMP on December 12, 2018 
(83 FR 63970).
    In general, the management measures set at the start of the 
biennial harvest specifications cycle help the various sectors of the 
fishery reach, but not exceed, the annual catch limit (ACL) for each 
stock. The Council, in coordination with Pacific Coast Treaty Indian 
Tribes and the States of Washington, Oregon, and California, recommends 
adjustments to the management measures during the fishing year to 
achieve this goal. At its March 3-9, 2020, meeting, the Council 
recommended decreasing the amount of Pacific halibut that vessels in 
the sablefish primary fishery north of Point Chehalis, Washington (WA) 
may take incidentally to ensure that catch of Pacific halibut stays 
within the allocated amount.
    The Council developed a Catch Sharing Plan for the International 
Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) Regulatory Area 2A, as provided for 
in the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982. The Catch Sharing Plan 
allocates the Area 2A annual total allowable catch (TAC) for Pacific 
halibut among fisheries off Washington, Oregon, and California. Pacific 
halibut is generally a prohibited species for vessels fishing in 
Pacific coast groundfish fisheries, unless explicitly allowed in 
groundfish regulations.
    Under the Catch Sharing Plan, the primary sablefish fishery north 
of Point Chehalis, WA (46[deg]53.30' N lat.) is allocated any excess 
portion of the Washington recreational allocation above 214,110 lbs 
[97.1 metric tons (mt)] up to 50,000 pounds [22.7 mt] provided a 
minimum of 10,000 lbs [4.5 mt] is available. If the Area 2A catch limit 
is 1.5 million pounds [680.4 mt] or more, the maximum allocation 
increases to 70,000 lbs [31.8 mt]. If the amount above 214,110 lbs 
[97.1 mt] is less than 10,000 lbs [4.5 mt] or greater than 50,000 lbs 
[22.7 mt] (or 70,000 lbs [31.8 mt]), the excess is allocated back to 
the Washington recreational fisheries.
    The sablefish primary fishery season is open from April 1 to 
October 31, though the fishery may close for individual participants 
prior to October 31 once they reach the cumulative limit associated 
with their tier assignment(s). Regulations at Sec.  660.231(b)(3)(iv) 
allow vessels fishing in the sablefish primary fishery with a permit 
from the IPHC to retain halibut up to a set landing limit, which may be 
reviewed and modified throughout the sablefish primary fishery season 
to allow for attainment but not exceedance of the Pacific halibut 
allocation.

Recent Incidental Halibut Catch in the Primary Sablefish Fishery

    On April 29, 2019, NMFS implemented a 2019 Area 2A Pacific halibut 
TAC of 1,500,000 lb [680.4 mt] and a 2019 Pacific halibut incidental 
catch limit of 70,000 lb [31.8 mt] for the limited entry fixed gear 
sablefish primary fishery north of Point Chehalis, WA (84 FR 17960; 
April 29, 2019). For the start of the 2019 primary sablefish fishery, 
the incidental halibut landing limit was 200 lb [91 kg] dressed weight 
of halibut, for every 1,000 lb [454 kg] dressed weight of sablefish 
landed, and up to an additional two halibut in excess of this limit 
(October 9, 2018; 83 FR 50510). At the June 2019 Council meeting, the 
Council approved an increase in the landing limit to allow for full 
utilization of the incidental catch limit. NMFS published a rule on 
August 2, 2019 (84 FR 37780) that raised the landing limit to 250 lb 
[113 kg] dressed weight of halibut per 1,000 lb [454 kg] dressed weight 
of sablefish landed, and up to an additional two halibut in excess of 
this limit. At the time the Council recommended the 250 lb [113 kg] 
limit, the model predicted that total Pacific halibut catch in the 
primary sablefish fishery would be 54,214 lb [24.6 mt], or 77.4 percent 
of the 2019 incidental limit.
    At the March 2020 Council meeting, the Groundfish Management Team 
(GMT) informed the Council that the sablefish primary fishery north of 
Pt. Chehalis, WA exceeded its 70,000 lb [31.8 mt] allowance for Pacific 
halibut in 2019 by 13 percent, or 9,360 lb [4,246 kg]. Incidental catch 
likely exceeded the limit because there were more trips where vessels 
were catching a higher percentage of the incidental trip limit after it 
was raised in August 2019 (Table 1). This table demonstrates a 
significant shift in the number of trips (from 20 to 44) that retained 
75 percent or more of the incidental halibut limit.

[[Page 16912]]



     Table 1--Number of Trips in 2019 by Trip Limit and Percentage of the Incidental Halibut Limit Attained
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                 Vessel landing by percentage of the incidental halibut limit
    Incidental halibut  retention amount     -------------------------------------------------------------------
                                               0-50 percent    50-75 percent    75-90 percent    90-100 percent
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
200 lb [91 kg]--limit before August 2019....              44                3                7                13
250 lb [113 kg]--limit after August 2019....              25                5               14                30
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The increase in trips with vessels catching more of the incidental 
halibut limit once the limit was raised in August 2019 could be 
indicative of vessels targeting Pacific halibut. The number of trips 
with vessels catching more than 90 percent of the incidental halibut 
landing limit increased from 13 trips out of 67 trips (19 percent of 
trips) before the trip limit was increased to 30 trips out of 104 trips 
(29 percent of trips) after the trip limit was increased to 250 lb [113 
kg]. The modeling efforts that supported the change in the landing 
limit in 2019 did not accurately predict this change in fishery 
behavior. In general, due to the volatility in Pacific halibut landings 
from year-to-year in the primary sablefish fishery (see Table 2), it 
can be difficult to model projected landings accurately.

         Table 2--Incidental Halibut Limits and Landings in the Primary Sablefish Fishery From 2014-2019
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                      Percent
                                                              Incidental limit   Landings in net   attainment of
                                                             in net weight (lb)    weight (lb)         limit
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2019.......................................................              70,000           79,360             113
2018.......................................................              50,000           43,716              87
2017.......................................................              70,000           35,866              51
2016.......................................................              49,686           29,448              59
2015.......................................................              10,348            9,763              94
2014.......................................................              14,274           12,067              85
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The 2020 incidental halibut limit for the sablefish primary fishery 
is 70,000 lb [31.8 mt] (March 13, 2020; 85 FR 14586). If the current 
incidental halibut limit were to remain in place, the GMT's model 
projects halibut landings in the sablefish primary fishery north of 
Point Chehalis, WA would likely exceed the incidental halibut 
allocation again in 2020. Therefore, industry requested the GMT analyze 
a lower landing limit to ensure attainment stays within the allocation 
for halibut in the sablefish primary fishery. The GMT analyzed a limit 
of 200 lb [91 kg] dressed weight of halibut, for every 1,000 lb [454 
kg] dressed weight of sablefish landed. Under this limit, the highest 
projected attainment would be 71,500 lb [32.43 mt]. However, this is 
likely an overestimate as data suggests the lower incidental trip limit 
will likely deter vessels from targeting halibut while fishing in the 
primary sablefish fishery. Additionally, the GMT has the ability to 
track incidental catch of halibut inseason and can recommend the 
Council adjust the limit through additional inseason action if 
necessary to ensure the incidental catch of Pacific halibut attains but 
does not exceed the 2020 allocation.
    Therefore, in order to allow incidental halibut catch in the 
sablefish primary fishery, the Council recommended and NMFS is revising 
incidental halibut retention regulations at Sec.  660.231(b)(3)(iv) to 
decrease the incidental halibut catch limit. The limit will be reduced 
from 250 lb [113 kg] dressed weight of halibut for every 1,000 lb [454 
kg] dressed weight of sablefish landed and up to two additional halibut 
in excess of the 250 lb [113 kg] per 1,000 lb [454 kg] limit per 
landing to 200 lb [91 kg] dressed weight of halibut for every 1,000 lb 
[454 kg] dressed weight of sablefish landed and up to two additional 
halibut in excess of the 200 lb [91 kg] per 1,000 lb [454 kg] limit per 
landing. We expect that this decrease will allow total catch of Pacific 
halibut to approach, but not exceed, the 2020 allocation for the 
sablefish primary fishery north of Point Chehalis, WA (70,000 lb or 
31.8 mt) and provide opportunity for industry to attain a high 
percentage of the sablefish primary fishery allocation.

Classification

    This action is taken under the authority of 50 CFR 660.60(c) and 
the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 and is exempt from review 
under Executive Order 12866. The aggregate data upon which these 
actions are based are available for public inspection by contacting 
Karen Palmigiano in NMFS West Coast Region (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT, above), or view at the NMFS West Coast Groundfish website: 
http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/groundfish/index.html.
    Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b), NMFS finds good cause to waive prior 
public notice and an opportunity for public comment on this action, as 
notice and comment would be impracticable and contrary to the public 
interest. The sablefish primary fishery opens on April 1. Management 
and enforcement of the incidental landing limit will be easier for 
participants if the new limit is in place for the start of the season, 
rather than a few weeks in as would be the case if implementation of 
this rule was delayed. No aspect of this action is controversial, and 
changes of this nature were anticipated in the final rule for the 2019-
2020 harvest specifications and management measures which published on 
December 12, 2018 (83 FR 63970).
    At its March 2020 meeting, the Council recommended the decrease to 
the incidental halibut retention limit for vessels fishing in the 
sablefish primary fishery north of Point Chehalis be implemented as 
soon as possible so that the limit is in place for the start of the 
fishery on April 1, 2020. New catch data through 2019 that was not 
available and thus not considered during the 2019-2020 biennial harvest 
specifications process, projects that maintaining the status quo limit 
of 250 lb (113 kg) for incidental halibut retention would likely result 
in the sablefish primary fishery north of Point Chehalis, WA exceeding 
its 2020 allocation. Reducing the limit will likely result in less 
targeting than may have taken place late

[[Page 16913]]

in 2019 and, therefore, help ensure the 2020 allocation is not 
exceeded.
    Delaying implementation to allow for public comment could result in 
confusion amongst industry if the new limit is implemented shortly 
after the start of the season on April 1. Additionally, if the new 
limit is not implemented until closer to the end of the season after a 
full rulemaking the sablefish primary fishery north of Point Chehalis 
would likely exceed its 2020 allocation of halibut. Therefore, 
providing a comment period for this action could limit the benefits to 
the fishery, and the vessels that participate in it as they rely on the 
halibut retention allowance throughout the entire season.
    Therefore, the NMFS finds reason to waive the 30-day delay in 
effectiveness pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(1) so that this final rule 
may become effective upon publication in the Federal Register. The 
adjustments to management measures in this document affect commercial 
fisheries by decreasing the incidental halibut retention limit in the 
sablefish primary fishery north of Point Chehalis, WA. This adjustment 
was requested by the Council's advisory bodies, as well as members of 
industry during the Council's March 2020 meeting, and recommended 
unanimously by the Council. No aspect of this action is controversial, 
and changes of this nature were anticipated in the biennial harvest 
specifications and management measures established through a notice and 
comment rulemaking for 2019-2020 (82 FR 63970).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 660

    Fisheries, Fishing, Indian fisheries.

    Dated: March 20, 2020.
H[eacute]l[egrave]ne M.N. Scalliet,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 660 is amended 
as follows:

PART 660--FISHERIES OFF WEST COAST STATES

0
1. The authority citation for part 660 continues to read as follows:

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

0
2. In Sec.  660.231, revise paragraph (b)(3)(iv) to read as follows:


Sec.  660.231   Limited entry fixed gear sablefish primary fishery.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (3) * * *
    (iv) Incidental Pacific halibut retention north of Pt. Chehalis, WA 
(46[deg]53.30' N. lat.). From April 1 through October 31, vessels 
authorized to participate in the sablefish primary fishery, licensed by 
the International Pacific Halibut Commission for commercial fishing in 
Area 2A (waters off Washington, Oregon, California), and fishing with 
longline gear north of Pt. Chehalis, WA (46[deg]53.30' N. lat.) may 
possess and land up to 200 pounds (91 kg) dressed weight of Pacific 
halibut for every 1,000 pounds (454 kg) dressed weight of sablefish 
landed and up to 2 additional Pacific halibut in excess of the 200-
pounds-per-1,000-pound limit per landing. ``Dressed'' Pacific halibut 
in this area means halibut landed eviscerated with their heads on. 
Pacific halibut taken and retained in the sablefish primary fishery 
north of Pt. Chehalis may only be landed north of Pt. Chehalis and may 
not be possessed or landed south of Pt. Chehalis.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2020-06268 Filed 3-24-20; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P