Pacific Halibut Fisheries; Catch Sharing Plan, 41197-41200 [2020-14831]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 132 / Thursday, July 9, 2020 / Rules and Regulations Katherine B. Fox, Assistant Administrator for Mitigation, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration—FEMA Resilience,Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency. [FR Doc. 2020–14380 Filed 7–8–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 9110–12–P Authority for Action DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 200706–0177] RIN 0648–BJ92 Pacific Halibut Fisheries; Catch Sharing Plan National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: NMFS issues this final rule to revise regulations for the commercial individual fishing quota (IFQ) Pacific halibut (halibut) fisheries for the 2020 IFQ fishing year. This final rule removes limits on the maximum amount of halibut IFQ that may be harvested by a vessel, commonly known as vessel use caps, in IFQ regulatory areas 4B (Aleutian Islands), 4C (Central Bering Sea), and 4D (Eastern Bering Sea). This final rule is necessary because immediate action is needed to ensure allocations of halibut IFQ can be harvested by the limited number of vessels operating in these areas due to travel restrictions and health mandates. This action is within the authority of the Secretary of Commerce to establish additional regulations governing the taking of halibut which are in addition to, and not in conflict with, those adopted by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC). This emergency rule is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the IFQ Program, the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982, and other applicable laws. DATES: Effective July 8, 2020, through December 31, 2020. ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the Regulatory Impact Review (RIR), also referred to as the Analysis, prepared for this final rule are available from http:// www.regulations.gov or from the NMFS Alaska Region website at http:// alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. Additional requests for information regarding halibut may be obtained by contacting the International Pacific jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:50 Jul 08, 2020 Jkt 250001 Halibut Commission, 2320 W Commodore Way, Suite 300, Seattle, WA 98199–1287; or Sustainable Fisheries Division, NMFS Alaska Region, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802; Sustainable Fisheries Division. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Glenn Merrill, 907–586–7228. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The IPHC and NMFS manage fishing for halibut through regulations established under the authority of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 (Halibut Act). The IPHC promulgates regulations governing the halibut fishery under the Convention between the United States and Canada for the Preservation of the Halibut Fishery of the Northern Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea (Convention). The IPHC’s regulations are subject to approval by the Secretary of State with the concurrence of the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary). NMFS publishes the IPHC’s regulations as annual management measures pursuant to 50 CFR 300.62. The 2020 IPHC annual management measures were implemented on March 13, 2020 (85 FR 14586). Subsequently, the IPHC recommended limited revisions to the 2020 annual management measures. The Secretary of State, with the concurrence of the Secretary of Commerce, accepted these revised measures and published revised regulations on June 19, 2020 (85 FR 37023). The Halibut Act, 16 U.S.C. 773c(a) and (b), provides the Secretary with general responsibility to carry out the Convention and the Halibut Act. The Halibut Act, 16 U.S.C. 773c(c), also provides the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) with authority to develop regulations, including limited access regulations, that are in addition to, and not in conflict with, approved IPHC regulations. Regulations recommended by the Council may be implemented by NMFS only after approval by the Secretary. The Council has exercised this authority in developing halibut management programs for the subsistence, sport, and commercial halibut fisheries. The Secretary exercised its authority to implement the commercial IFQ halibut fishery management program (58 FR 59375; November 9, 1993). The IFQ Program for the halibut fishery is implemented by Federal regulations at 50 CFR part 679. The IFQ Program for the sablefish fishery is implemented by the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) Fishery PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 41197 Management Plan (FMP) and Federal regulations at 50 CFR part 679 under the authority of section 303(b) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The halibut IFQ fishery is managed in specific areas defined by the IPHC. These IFQ regulatory areas (Areas) are: Area 2A (California, Oregon, and Washington); Area 2B (British Columbia); Area 2C (Southeast Alaska), Area 3A (Central Gulf of Alaska), Area 3B (Western Gulf of Alaska), and Area 4 (subdivided into five areas, 4A through 4E, in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands of Western Alaska). These Areas are described at 50 CFR part 679, Figure 15. NMFS also allocates halibut to the Western Alaska Community Development Quota (CDQ Program) in Areas 4B, 4C, 4D, and 4E (§ 679.31(a)(2)). Halibut is allocated to the CDQ Program in Areas 4B, 4C, 4D, and 4E and those allocations are not subject to a vessel use cap. Throughout this preamble, the term ‘‘vessel use cap’’ refers to regulations applicable to the halibut IFQ fishery. Background This final rule implements regulations to remove vessel use caps in Areas 4B, 4C, and 4D. The IPHC has not recommended regulations to establish vessel use caps in Areas off Alaska (Areas 2C through 4). The existing vessel use caps were recommended by the Council and implemented by NMFS as part of the IFQ Program (58 FR 59375; November 9, 1993) as regulations that are in addition to, and not in conflict with, those adopted by the IPHC, consistent with the Halibut Act (16 U.S.C. 773c(c)). The following sections describe the IFQ Program, halibut IFQ vessel use caps, the rationale and effects of temporarily removing vessel use caps in Areas 4B, 4C, and 4D, and the regulations implemented under this final rule. IFQ Program Commercial halibut and sablefish fisheries in Alaska are subject to regulation under the IFQ Program and the CDQ Program (50 CFR part 679). A key objective of the IFQ Program is to support the social and economic character of the fisheries and the coastal fishing communities where many of these fisheries are based. For more information about the IFQ Program, please refer to Section 2.3.1 of the Analysis. Because this rule is specific to the halibut IFQ fishery, reference to the IFQ Program in this preamble is specific to halibut unless otherwise noted. E:\FR\FM\09JYR1.SGM 09JYR1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES 41198 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 132 / Thursday, July 9, 2020 / Rules and Regulations Under the IFQ Program, access to the commercial halibut fisheries is limited to those persons holding quota share (QS). Quota share is an exclusive, revocable privilege that allows the holder to harvest a specific percentage of the annual commercial catch limit in the halibut fishery. In addition, QS is designated for specific geographic areas of harvest, a specific vessel operation type (catcher vessel (CV) or catcher/ processor), and for a specific range of vessel sizes that may be used to harvest the sablefish or halibut (vessel category). Out of the four vessel categories of halibut QS category A shares are designated for catcher/processors, include vessels that process their catch at sea (i.e., freezer longline vessels), and do not have a vessel length designation whereas, Category B, C, and D shares are designated to be fished on CVs that meet specific length designations (§ 679.40(a)(5)). NMFS annually issues IFQ permits to each QS holder. An annual IFQ permit authorizes the permit holder to harvest a specified amount of the IFQ species in an Area from a specific operation type and vessel category. IFQ is expressed in pounds (lb) and is based on the amount of QS held in relation to the total QS pool for each Area with an assigned catch. The IFQ Program established: (1) Limits on the maximum amount of QS that a person could use (i.e., be used to receive annual IFQ) (§ 679.42(f)); (2) limits on the number of small amounts of indivisible QS units, known as QS blocks, that a person can hold (§ 679.42(g)); (3) limits on the ability of IFQ assigned to one CV vessel category (i.e., vessel category B, C, or D IFQ) to be fished on a different (i.e., larger) vessel category with some limited exceptions (§ 679.42(a)(2)); and (4) limits on the maximum amount of halibut IFQ that may be harvested by a vessel during an IFQ fishing year (§ 679.42(h)). All of these limitations were established to retain the owneroperator nature of the CV halibut IFQ fisheries, limit consolidation of QS, and ensure the annual IFQ is not harvested on a small number of larger vessels. In addition, the IFQ Program includes transfer restrictions to retain the owneroperator nature of the CV halibut IFQ fisheries. Only qualified individuals and initial recipients of QS are eligible to hold CV QS and they are required to be on the vessel when the IFQ is being fished, with a few limited exceptions (§ 679.41(h)(2)). On June 25, 2020, NMFS published an emergency rule to modify the temporary transfer provision of the IFQ Program for the commercial halibut and sablefish VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:50 Jul 08, 2020 Jkt 250001 fisheries for the 2020 IFQ fishing year (85 FR 38100). That emergency rule allows QS holders to transfer IFQ to otherwise eligible recipients. This transfer flexibility promotes the complete and efficient harvest of the IFQ fisheries. Furthermore, the rule temporarily alleviates unforeseen economic and social consequences stemming from recent restrictions on the IFQ fisheries that are detailed in the rule’s preamble (85 FR 38100). That emergency rule does not modify other provisions of the IFQ Program. That emergency rule facilitates the transfer of IFQ to fishery participants and allows additional harvest opportunities, but it does not relieve any vessel use caps that may constrain fishing operations. Halibut IFQ Vessel Use Caps The IFQ Program established vessel use caps to limit the maximum amount of halibut that could be harvested on any one vessel to help ensure that a diversity of vessels were engaged in the halibut fishery, to prevent the possibility of the IFQ fishery being conducted from a small number of vessels, and to address concerns about the socio-economic impacts of consolidation under the IFQ Program. For additional detail on vessel use caps, see the preamble to the proposed rule for the IFQ Program (57 FR 57130; December 3, 1992). This final rule refers to halibut catch limits, commercial halibut allocations, and vessel use caps in net pounds or net metric tons. Net pounds and net metric tons are defined as the weight of halibut from which the gills, entrails, head, and ice and slime have been removed. This terminology is used in this final rule to be consistent with the IPHC, which establishes catch limits and calculates mortality in net pounds. Relevant to this final rule, regulations at § 679.42(h)(1) state that ‘‘No vessel may be used, during any fishing year, to harvest more IFQ halibut than one-half percent of the combined total catch limits of halibut for IFQ regulatory areas 2C, 3A, 3B, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, and 4E’’. Applying this regulation to 2020, yields a vessel use cap of 80,396 lbs (36.5 mt). This vessel use cap applies to vessels harvesting IFQ halibut in Areas 4B, 4C and 4D. In addition, regulations at § 679.42(h)(1)(ii) state that ‘‘No vessel may be used, during any fishing year, to harvest more than 50,000 lb (22.7 mt) of IFQ halibut derived from QS held by a CQE.’’ Compared to the § 679.42(h)(1) vessel use cap, § 679.42(h)(1)(ii) imposes an even more restrictive vessel use cap to vessels that are harvesting IFQ halibut derived from QS held by a PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 community quota entity (CQE). A CQE is a NMFS-approved non-profit organization that represents a small, remote, coastal communities that meet specific criteria to purchase and hold CV halibut QS on behalf of an eligible community. The CQE holds QS and leases the IFQ derived from the underlying QS to community residents. Relevant to this final rule, a CQE is authorized to hold halibut QS in Area 4B on behalf of the community of Adak, Alaska (79 FR 8870; February 14, 2014). Any vessel harvesting halibut IFQ derived from the QS held by the Adak CQE is subject to this more restrictive 50,000 lb (22.7 mt) vessel use cap. Rationale and Effects of Temporarily Removing Vessel Use Caps in Areas 4B, 4C, and 4D On May 15, 2020, the Council held a special meeting to consider, among other things, requests from IFQ fishery stakeholders to remove vessel use caps applicable to the halibut and sablefish IFQ fisheries. These requests, and the May 15, 2020 special meeting of the Council were prompted by challenges posed by travel restrictions and health mandates (See Sections 1 and 2.3 of the Analysis). The Council recommended, and NMFS issues this final rule after considering a range of factors. These factors include, but are not limited to: • The unforeseen complications that government-issued travel restrictions and health mandates imposed on fishing operations in the 2020 fishing year, particularly in the remote BSAI halibut IFQ fishery. These restrictions and mandates may restrict the ability for vessels and crew to operate and fully harvest their IFQ (Sections 2.3 and 2.5 of the Analysis); • The relatively large proportion of vessels participating in the Area 4B, 4C, and 4D halibut IFQ fishery that are operating near the current vessel use cap, thereby limiting the amount of ‘‘headroom’’ available to accommodate additional IFQ if it is transferred to persons eligible to harvest IFQ on vessels operating in those Areas (Section 2.3 of the Analysis); • The minimum number of vessels required to fully harvest the IFQ held by the affected CQE exceeds the number of vessels owned by residents of the community (Sections 2.3.8 and 2.5 of the Analysis); • Reduced ex-vessel prices due to poor market conditions that may further limit the number of vessels that can economically harvest their halibut IFQ in Areas 4B, 4C, and 4D (Sections 2.3 and 2.3.9 of the Analysis); E:\FR\FM\09JYR1.SGM 09JYR1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 132 / Thursday, July 9, 2020 / Rules and Regulations • Local quarantine or other health measures at specific remote ports in Areas 4B, 4C, or 4D (e.g., Saint Paul, Alaska located in Area 4C) that may further limit the ability of smaller vessels to operate because processing facilities and vessel services are not available (Section 2.3 of the Analysis). The reader is referred to the Analysis, particularly Sections 2.3 and 2.5, for additional detail on the range of factors considered and the anticipated effects of removing the vessel use caps in Areas 4B, 4C, and 4D for both CQE-associated vessels and non-CQE-associated vessels. After reviewing these factors, the Council recommended ‘‘emergency action’’ to remove vessel use caps for the halibut IFQ fishery in Areas 4B, 4C, and 4D. Although the Council recommended emergency action, NMFS is implementing the Council’s recommendation with this final rule because there is no specific emergency action authority in the Halibut Act. The Council did not recommend, and this final rule does not include, measures to relieve the vessel use caps for the sablefish IFQ fishery, or for other halibut Areas due to the larger number of vessels that are currently active in the sablefish IFQ fishery and these other halibut Areas, and information indicating that halibut harvests in these other Areas would not be constrained under the current vessel use caps (Section 2.3.5 of the Analysis). The Council and NMFS also considered the potential impacts on halibut conservation and management if vessel use caps vessels in Areas 4B, 4C, and 4D are relieved for the 2020 IFQ fishing year. This final rule removes vessel use caps in specific Areas (Areas 4B, 4C, and 4D) because the vessel use caps may restrict the harvest of halibut in these Areas, and less restrictive management measures are needed immediately to ensure the more complete harvest of the halibut resource during the 2020 IFQ fishing year. This final rule is responsive to the unforeseen circumstances in the fishery in 2020 and does not modify the vessel use cap provisions in future years consistent with the Council’s goals in implementing vessel use caps in this fishery. This final rule would not modify other elements of the IFQ Program. This final rule would not increase or otherwise modify the 2020 halibut catch limits adopted by the IPHC and implemented by NMFS (85 FR 14586, March 13, 2020). This final rule would not modify any other conservation measure recommended by the IPHC and adopted by NMFS, nor any other conservation measure implemented by NMFS independent of VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:50 Jul 08, 2020 Jkt 250001 the IPHC. This final rule would not modify other limitations on the use of QS and IFQ described in the previous sections of this preamble. Regulations Implemented Under This Final Rule After considering the best available information, the Convention, the status of the halibut resource, and the potential social and economic costs of the maintaining the vessel use cap limits described in this preamble, this final rule adds a new provision at 50 CFR 679.41(h)(1)(iii) to remove vessel use caps for vessels harvesting IFQ halibut in Areas 4B, 4C, and 4D during the 2020 IFQ fishing year. This final rule applies to vessels harvesting IFQ halibut for the CQE in Area 4B as well as other vessels harvesting IFQ halibut in Area 4B, 4C, and 4D. Classification Regulations governing the U.S. fisheries for Pacific halibut are developed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC), the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), and the Secretary of Commerce. Section 5 of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 (Halibut Act, 16 U.S.C. 773c) allows the Regional Council having authority for a particular geographical area to develop regulations governing the allocation and catch of halibut in U.S. Convention waters as long as those regulations do not conflict with IPHC regulations. The final action is consistent with the Council’s authority to allocate halibut catches among fishery participants in the waters in and off Alaska. This final rule is consistent with the objective of the Convention to develop the stocks of halibut of the Northern Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea to levels that will permit the optimum yield from that fishery, and to maintain the stocks at those levels. The Council and NMFS considered the best available information for the management measures implemented by this final rule. Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), there is good cause to waive prior notice and an opportunity for public comment on this action, as notice and comment would be impracticable and contrary to the public interest. Without adoption of this final rule, the halibut catch limits in Areas 4B, 4C and 4D may not be fully harvested based on the best available information. Further, it is imperative to publish these regulations as soon as possible during the 2020 IFQ fishing year to allow for the greatest opportunity for IFQ holders to PO 00000 Frm 00031 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 41199 coordinate with vessel operators to ensure that the halibut IFQ allocations in Areas 4B, 4C, and 4D are fully harvested. Because of the timing of the 2020 halibut IFQ fishery, which began on March 14, 2020, and ends on November 15, 2020, it is impracticable to complete rulemaking during the 2020 halibut fishery with a public review and comment period. This final rule implements provisions to remove vessel use caps in Areas 4B, 4C, and 4D consistent with the recommendations made by the Council at its special meeting that concluded on May 15, 2020. NMFS must ensure that the prosecution of a fishery would not result in substantial harm to the halibut resource that could occur if the additional time necessary to provide for prior notice and comment and agency processing delayed the effectiveness of this action beyond its publication in the Federal Register. There also is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to make the rule effective immediately upon filing with the Office of the Federal Register. These management measures must be effective upon the final rule’s publication in the Federal Register because the 2020 halibut IFQ fishery was opened on March 14, 2020, and closes on November 15, 2020. Similar to the reasoning of waiving prior notice and comment, a longer effective period maximizes these measures’ beneficial economic effects and reduces harm to the fishery resource. Conversely, a 30day cooling off period will shorten and reduce these measure’s economic and fishery resource benefits because the benefits are only realized during the remainder of the 2020 fishing year. These management measures are necessary to prevent substantial harm to the halibut resource. Accordingly, it is impracticable and contrary to the public interest to delay for 30 days the effective date of this rule. Therefore, good cause exists to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), and to make the rule effective upon filing with the Office of the Federal Register. This final rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. Because prior notice and opportunity for public comment are not required for this rule by 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), or any other law, the analytical requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq., are inapplicable. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679 Alaska, Fisheries, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. E:\FR\FM\09JYR1.SGM 09JYR1 41200 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 132 / Thursday, July 9, 2020 / Rules and Regulations Dated: July 6, 2020. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. PART 679—FISHERIES OF THE EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE OFF ALASKA 1. The authority citation for 50 CFR part 679 continues to read as follows: ■ For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 679 is amended 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 679.42, add paragraph (h)(1)(iii) to read as follows: ■ § 679.42 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES * VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:50 Jul 08, 2020 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Limitations on use of QS and IFQ. * Frm 00032 * * Fmt 4700 * Sfmt 9990 (h) * * * (1) * * * (iii) Notwithstanding the vessel use caps specified in paragraphs (h)(1) introductory text and (h)(1)(ii) of this section, vessel use caps do not apply to vessels harvesting IFQ halibut in IFQ regulatory areas 4B, 4C, and 4D during the 2020 IFQ fishing year. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2020–14831 Filed 7–8–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\09JYR1.SGM 09JYR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 132 (Thursday, July 9, 2020)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 41197-41200]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-14831]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

[Docket No. 200706-0177]
RIN 0648-BJ92


Pacific Halibut Fisheries; Catch Sharing Plan

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS issues this final rule to revise regulations for the 
commercial individual fishing quota (IFQ) Pacific halibut (halibut) 
fisheries for the 2020 IFQ fishing year. This final rule removes limits 
on the maximum amount of halibut IFQ that may be harvested by a vessel, 
commonly known as vessel use caps, in IFQ regulatory areas 4B (Aleutian 
Islands), 4C (Central Bering Sea), and 4D (Eastern Bering Sea). This 
final rule is necessary because immediate action is needed to ensure 
allocations of halibut IFQ can be harvested by the limited number of 
vessels operating in these areas due to travel restrictions and health 
mandates. This action is within the authority of the Secretary of 
Commerce to establish additional regulations governing the taking of 
halibut which are in addition to, and not in conflict with, those 
adopted by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC). This 
emergency rule is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the 
IFQ Program, the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982, and other 
applicable laws.

DATES: Effective July 8, 2020, through December 31, 2020.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the Regulatory Impact Review (RIR), 
also referred to as the Analysis, prepared for this final rule are 
available from http://www.regulations.gov or from the NMFS Alaska 
Region website at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.
    Additional requests for information regarding halibut may be 
obtained by contacting the International Pacific Halibut Commission, 
2320 W Commodore Way, Suite 300, Seattle, WA 98199-1287; or Sustainable 
Fisheries Division, NMFS Alaska Region, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 
99802; Sustainable Fisheries Division.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Glenn Merrill, 907-586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Authority for Action

    The IPHC and NMFS manage fishing for halibut through regulations 
established under the authority of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 
1982 (Halibut Act). The IPHC promulgates regulations governing the 
halibut fishery under the Convention between the United States and 
Canada for the Preservation of the Halibut Fishery of the Northern 
Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea (Convention). The IPHC's regulations are 
subject to approval by the Secretary of State with the concurrence of 
the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary). NMFS publishes the IPHC's 
regulations as annual management measures pursuant to 50 CFR 300.62. 
The 2020 IPHC annual management measures were implemented on March 13, 
2020 (85 FR 14586). Subsequently, the IPHC recommended limited 
revisions to the 2020 annual management measures. The Secretary of 
State, with the concurrence of the Secretary of Commerce, accepted 
these revised measures and published revised regulations on June 19, 
2020 (85 FR 37023).
    The Halibut Act, 16 U.S.C. 773c(a) and (b), provides the Secretary 
with general responsibility to carry out the Convention and the Halibut 
Act. The Halibut Act, 16 U.S.C. 773c(c), also provides the North 
Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) with authority to develop 
regulations, including limited access regulations, that are in addition 
to, and not in conflict with, approved IPHC regulations. Regulations 
recommended by the Council may be implemented by NMFS only after 
approval by the Secretary.
    The Council has exercised this authority in developing halibut 
management programs for the subsistence, sport, and commercial halibut 
fisheries. The Secretary exercised its authority to implement the 
commercial IFQ halibut fishery management program (58 FR 59375; 
November 9, 1993). The IFQ Program for the halibut fishery is 
implemented by Federal regulations at 50 CFR part 679. The IFQ Program 
for the sablefish fishery is implemented by the Bering Sea and Aleutian 
Islands (BSAI) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and Federal regulations at 
50 CFR part 679 under the authority of section 303(b) of the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
    The halibut IFQ fishery is managed in specific areas defined by the 
IPHC. These IFQ regulatory areas (Areas) are: Area 2A (California, 
Oregon, and Washington); Area 2B (British Columbia); Area 2C (Southeast 
Alaska), Area 3A (Central Gulf of Alaska), Area 3B (Western Gulf of 
Alaska), and Area 4 (subdivided into five areas, 4A through 4E, in the 
Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands of Western Alaska). These Areas are 
described at 50 CFR part 679, Figure 15. NMFS also allocates halibut to 
the Western Alaska Community Development Quota (CDQ Program) in Areas 
4B, 4C, 4D, and 4E (Sec.  679.31(a)(2)). Halibut is allocated to the 
CDQ Program in Areas 4B, 4C, 4D, and 4E and those allocations are not 
subject to a vessel use cap. Throughout this preamble, the term 
``vessel use cap'' refers to regulations applicable to the halibut IFQ 
fishery.

Background

    This final rule implements regulations to remove vessel use caps in 
Areas 4B, 4C, and 4D. The IPHC has not recommended regulations to 
establish vessel use caps in Areas off Alaska (Areas 2C through 4). The 
existing vessel use caps were recommended by the Council and 
implemented by NMFS as part of the IFQ Program (58 FR 59375; November 
9, 1993) as regulations that are in addition to, and not in conflict 
with, those adopted by the IPHC, consistent with the Halibut Act (16 
U.S.C. 773c(c)).
    The following sections describe the IFQ Program, halibut IFQ vessel 
use caps, the rationale and effects of temporarily removing vessel use 
caps in Areas 4B, 4C, and 4D, and the regulations implemented under 
this final rule.

IFQ Program

    Commercial halibut and sablefish fisheries in Alaska are subject to 
regulation under the IFQ Program and the CDQ Program (50 CFR part 679). 
A key objective of the IFQ Program is to support the social and 
economic character of the fisheries and the coastal fishing communities 
where many of these fisheries are based. For more information about the 
IFQ Program, please refer to Section 2.3.1 of the Analysis. Because 
this rule is specific to the halibut IFQ fishery, reference to the IFQ 
Program in this preamble is specific to halibut unless otherwise noted.

[[Page 41198]]

    Under the IFQ Program, access to the commercial halibut fisheries 
is limited to those persons holding quota share (QS). Quota share is an 
exclusive, revocable privilege that allows the holder to harvest a 
specific percentage of the annual commercial catch limit in the halibut 
fishery. In addition, QS is designated for specific geographic areas of 
harvest, a specific vessel operation type (catcher vessel (CV) or 
catcher/processor), and for a specific range of vessel sizes that may 
be used to harvest the sablefish or halibut (vessel category). Out of 
the four vessel categories of halibut QS category A shares are 
designated for catcher/processors, include vessels that process their 
catch at sea (i.e., freezer longline vessels), and do not have a vessel 
length designation whereas, Category B, C, and D shares are designated 
to be fished on CVs that meet specific length designations (Sec.  
679.40(a)(5)).
    NMFS annually issues IFQ permits to each QS holder. An annual IFQ 
permit authorizes the permit holder to harvest a specified amount of 
the IFQ species in an Area from a specific operation type and vessel 
category. IFQ is expressed in pounds (lb) and is based on the amount of 
QS held in relation to the total QS pool for each Area with an assigned 
catch.
    The IFQ Program established: (1) Limits on the maximum amount of QS 
that a person could use (i.e., be used to receive annual IFQ) (Sec.  
679.42(f)); (2) limits on the number of small amounts of indivisible QS 
units, known as QS blocks, that a person can hold (Sec.  679.42(g)); 
(3) limits on the ability of IFQ assigned to one CV vessel category 
(i.e., vessel category B, C, or D IFQ) to be fished on a different 
(i.e., larger) vessel category with some limited exceptions (Sec.  
679.42(a)(2)); and (4) limits on the maximum amount of halibut IFQ that 
may be harvested by a vessel during an IFQ fishing year (Sec.  
679.42(h)). All of these limitations were established to retain the 
owner-operator nature of the CV halibut IFQ fisheries, limit 
consolidation of QS, and ensure the annual IFQ is not harvested on a 
small number of larger vessels. In addition, the IFQ Program includes 
transfer restrictions to retain the owner-operator nature of the CV 
halibut IFQ fisheries. Only qualified individuals and initial 
recipients of QS are eligible to hold CV QS and they are required to be 
on the vessel when the IFQ is being fished, with a few limited 
exceptions (Sec.  679.41(h)(2)).
    On June 25, 2020, NMFS published an emergency rule to modify the 
temporary transfer provision of the IFQ Program for the commercial 
halibut and sablefish fisheries for the 2020 IFQ fishing year (85 FR 
38100). That emergency rule allows QS holders to transfer IFQ to 
otherwise eligible recipients. This transfer flexibility promotes the 
complete and efficient harvest of the IFQ fisheries. Furthermore, the 
rule temporarily alleviates unforeseen economic and social consequences 
stemming from recent restrictions on the IFQ fisheries that are 
detailed in the rule's preamble (85 FR 38100). That emergency rule does 
not modify other provisions of the IFQ Program. That emergency rule 
facilitates the transfer of IFQ to fishery participants and allows 
additional harvest opportunities, but it does not relieve any vessel 
use caps that may constrain fishing operations.

Halibut IFQ Vessel Use Caps

    The IFQ Program established vessel use caps to limit the maximum 
amount of halibut that could be harvested on any one vessel to help 
ensure that a diversity of vessels were engaged in the halibut fishery, 
to prevent the possibility of the IFQ fishery being conducted from a 
small number of vessels, and to address concerns about the socio-
economic impacts of consolidation under the IFQ Program. For additional 
detail on vessel use caps, see the preamble to the proposed rule for 
the IFQ Program (57 FR 57130; December 3, 1992).
    This final rule refers to halibut catch limits, commercial halibut 
allocations, and vessel use caps in net pounds or net metric tons. Net 
pounds and net metric tons are defined as the weight of halibut from 
which the gills, entrails, head, and ice and slime have been removed. 
This terminology is used in this final rule to be consistent with the 
IPHC, which establishes catch limits and calculates mortality in net 
pounds.
    Relevant to this final rule, regulations at Sec.  679.42(h)(1) 
state that ``No vessel may be used, during any fishing year, to harvest 
more IFQ halibut than one-half percent of the combined total catch 
limits of halibut for IFQ regulatory areas 2C, 3A, 3B, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 
and 4E''. Applying this regulation to 2020, yields a vessel use cap of 
80,396 lbs (36.5 mt). This vessel use cap applies to vessels harvesting 
IFQ halibut in Areas 4B, 4C and 4D.
    In addition, regulations at Sec.  679.42(h)(1)(ii) state that ``No 
vessel may be used, during any fishing year, to harvest more than 
50,000 lb (22.7 mt) of IFQ halibut derived from QS held by a CQE.'' 
Compared to the Sec.  679.42(h)(1) vessel use cap, Sec.  
679.42(h)(1)(ii) imposes an even more restrictive vessel use cap to 
vessels that are harvesting IFQ halibut derived from QS held by a 
community quota entity (CQE). A CQE is a NMFS-approved non-profit 
organization that represents a small, remote, coastal communities that 
meet specific criteria to purchase and hold CV halibut QS on behalf of 
an eligible community. The CQE holds QS and leases the IFQ derived from 
the underlying QS to community residents. Relevant to this final rule, 
a CQE is authorized to hold halibut QS in Area 4B on behalf of the 
community of Adak, Alaska (79 FR 8870; February 14, 2014). Any vessel 
harvesting halibut IFQ derived from the QS held by the Adak CQE is 
subject to this more restrictive 50,000 lb (22.7 mt) vessel use cap.

Rationale and Effects of Temporarily Removing Vessel Use Caps in Areas 
4B, 4C, and 4D

    On May 15, 2020, the Council held a special meeting to consider, 
among other things, requests from IFQ fishery stakeholders to remove 
vessel use caps applicable to the halibut and sablefish IFQ fisheries. 
These requests, and the May 15, 2020 special meeting of the Council 
were prompted by challenges posed by travel restrictions and health 
mandates (See Sections 1 and 2.3 of the Analysis).
    The Council recommended, and NMFS issues this final rule after 
considering a range of factors. These factors include, but are not 
limited to:
     The unforeseen complications that government-issued travel 
restrictions and health mandates imposed on fishing operations in the 
2020 fishing year, particularly in the remote BSAI halibut IFQ fishery. 
These restrictions and mandates may restrict the ability for vessels 
and crew to operate and fully harvest their IFQ (Sections 2.3 and 2.5 
of the Analysis);
     The relatively large proportion of vessels participating 
in the Area 4B, 4C, and 4D halibut IFQ fishery that are operating near 
the current vessel use cap, thereby limiting the amount of ``headroom'' 
available to accommodate additional IFQ if it is transferred to persons 
eligible to harvest IFQ on vessels operating in those Areas (Section 
2.3 of the Analysis);
     The minimum number of vessels required to fully harvest 
the IFQ held by the affected CQE exceeds the number of vessels owned by 
residents of the community (Sections 2.3.8 and 2.5 of the Analysis);
     Reduced ex-vessel prices due to poor market conditions 
that may further limit the number of vessels that can economically 
harvest their halibut IFQ in Areas 4B, 4C, and 4D (Sections 2.3 and 
2.3.9 of the Analysis);

[[Page 41199]]

     Local quarantine or other health measures at specific 
remote ports in Areas 4B, 4C, or 4D (e.g., Saint Paul, Alaska located 
in Area 4C) that may further limit the ability of smaller vessels to 
operate because processing facilities and vessel services are not 
available (Section 2.3 of the Analysis).
    The reader is referred to the Analysis, particularly Sections 2.3 
and 2.5, for additional detail on the range of factors considered and 
the anticipated effects of removing the vessel use caps in Areas 4B, 
4C, and 4D for both CQE-associated vessels and non-CQE-associated 
vessels.
    After reviewing these factors, the Council recommended ``emergency 
action'' to remove vessel use caps for the halibut IFQ fishery in Areas 
4B, 4C, and 4D. Although the Council recommended emergency action, NMFS 
is implementing the Council's recommendation with this final rule 
because there is no specific emergency action authority in the Halibut 
Act.
    The Council did not recommend, and this final rule does not 
include, measures to relieve the vessel use caps for the sablefish IFQ 
fishery, or for other halibut Areas due to the larger number of vessels 
that are currently active in the sablefish IFQ fishery and these other 
halibut Areas, and information indicating that halibut harvests in 
these other Areas would not be constrained under the current vessel use 
caps (Section 2.3.5 of the Analysis).
    The Council and NMFS also considered the potential impacts on 
halibut conservation and management if vessel use caps vessels in Areas 
4B, 4C, and 4D are relieved for the 2020 IFQ fishing year. This final 
rule removes vessel use caps in specific Areas (Areas 4B, 4C, and 4D) 
because the vessel use caps may restrict the harvest of halibut in 
these Areas, and less restrictive management measures are needed 
immediately to ensure the more complete harvest of the halibut resource 
during the 2020 IFQ fishing year. This final rule is responsive to the 
unforeseen circumstances in the fishery in 2020 and does not modify the 
vessel use cap provisions in future years consistent with the Council's 
goals in implementing vessel use caps in this fishery. This final rule 
would not modify other elements of the IFQ Program. This final rule 
would not increase or otherwise modify the 2020 halibut catch limits 
adopted by the IPHC and implemented by NMFS (85 FR 14586, March 13, 
2020). This final rule would not modify any other conservation measure 
recommended by the IPHC and adopted by NMFS, nor any other conservation 
measure implemented by NMFS independent of the IPHC. This final rule 
would not modify other limitations on the use of QS and IFQ described 
in the previous sections of this preamble.

Regulations Implemented Under This Final Rule

    After considering the best available information, the Convention, 
the status of the halibut resource, and the potential social and 
economic costs of the maintaining the vessel use cap limits described 
in this preamble, this final rule adds a new provision at 50 CFR 
679.41(h)(1)(iii) to remove vessel use caps for vessels harvesting IFQ 
halibut in Areas 4B, 4C, and 4D during the 2020 IFQ fishing year. This 
final rule applies to vessels harvesting IFQ halibut for the CQE in 
Area 4B as well as other vessels harvesting IFQ halibut in Area 4B, 4C, 
and 4D.

Classification

    Regulations governing the U.S. fisheries for Pacific halibut are 
developed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC), the 
Pacific Fishery Management Council, the North Pacific Fishery 
Management Council (Council), and the Secretary of Commerce. Section 5 
of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 (Halibut Act, 16 U.S.C. 
773c) allows the Regional Council having authority for a particular 
geographical area to develop regulations governing the allocation and 
catch of halibut in U.S. Convention waters as long as those regulations 
do not conflict with IPHC regulations. The final action is consistent 
with the Council's authority to allocate halibut catches among fishery 
participants in the waters in and off Alaska.
    This final rule is consistent with the objective of the Convention 
to develop the stocks of halibut of the Northern Pacific Ocean and 
Bering Sea to levels that will permit the optimum yield from that 
fishery, and to maintain the stocks at those levels. The Council and 
NMFS considered the best available information for the management 
measures implemented by this final rule.
    Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), there is good cause to waive prior 
notice and an opportunity for public comment on this action, as notice 
and comment would be impracticable and contrary to the public interest. 
Without adoption of this final rule, the halibut catch limits in Areas 
4B, 4C and 4D may not be fully harvested based on the best available 
information. Further, it is imperative to publish these regulations as 
soon as possible during the 2020 IFQ fishing year to allow for the 
greatest opportunity for IFQ holders to coordinate with vessel 
operators to ensure that the halibut IFQ allocations in Areas 4B, 4C, 
and 4D are fully harvested. Because of the timing of the 2020 halibut 
IFQ fishery, which began on March 14, 2020, and ends on November 15, 
2020, it is impracticable to complete rulemaking during the 2020 
halibut fishery with a public review and comment period. This final 
rule implements provisions to remove vessel use caps in Areas 4B, 4C, 
and 4D consistent with the recommendations made by the Council at its 
special meeting that concluded on May 15, 2020. NMFS must ensure that 
the prosecution of a fishery would not result in substantial harm to 
the halibut resource that could occur if the additional time necessary 
to provide for prior notice and comment and agency processing delayed 
the effectiveness of this action beyond its publication in the Federal 
Register.
    There also is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to make the rule 
effective immediately upon filing with the Office of the Federal 
Register. These management measures must be effective upon the final 
rule's publication in the Federal Register because the 2020 halibut IFQ 
fishery was opened on March 14, 2020, and closes on November 15, 2020. 
Similar to the reasoning of waiving prior notice and comment, a longer 
effective period maximizes these measures' beneficial economic effects 
and reduces harm to the fishery resource. Conversely, a 30-day cooling 
off period will shorten and reduce these measure's economic and fishery 
resource benefits because the benefits are only realized during the 
remainder of the 2020 fishing year. These management measures are 
necessary to prevent substantial harm to the halibut resource. 
Accordingly, it is impracticable and contrary to the public interest to 
delay for 30 days the effective date of this rule. Therefore, good 
cause exists to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness pursuant to 5 
U.S.C. 553(d)(3), and to make the rule effective upon filing with the 
Office of the Federal Register.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    Because prior notice and opportunity for public comment are not 
required for this rule by 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), or any other law, the 
analytical requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601 
et seq., are inapplicable.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679

    Alaska, Fisheries, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.


[[Page 41200]]


    Dated: July 6, 2020.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

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

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

0
1. The authority citation for 50 CFR 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 679.42, add paragraph (h)(1)(iii) to read as follows:


Sec.  679.42  Limitations on use of QS and IFQ.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (iii) Notwithstanding the vessel use caps specified in paragraphs 
(h)(1) introductory text and (h)(1)(ii) of this section, vessel use 
caps do not apply to vessels harvesting IFQ halibut in IFQ regulatory 
areas 4B, 4C, and 4D during the 2020 IFQ fishing year.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2020-14831 Filed 7-8-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P