Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Reclassifying Sculpin Species in the Groundfish Fisheries of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska, 41427-41438 [2020-14856]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 133 / Friday, July 10, 2020 / Rules and Regulations would maintain the current level of the fee at 1.25 percent of the ex-vessel value of the fish landings subject to the fee. Alternative 2 included fee options up to 2 percent, that would be applied equally across all fisheries included in the program (i.e., gear types). Alternative 3 included fee options up to 2 percent that would be implemented differentially across the fisheries included in the program (i.e., gear types). This action increases the observer fee to 1.65 percent of ex-vessel value for all landings subject to the observer fee. Some of the fee levels considered under Alternatives 2 and 3 would have implemented a fee percentage lower than this action for some or all directed regulated or directly affected small entities. However, the Council recommendation to increase the observer fee is necessary to increase fee revenues to deploy observers and EM at coverage rates adequate to meet the Council’s and NMFS’ monitoring objectives in future years. In addition, the Council recommended and NMFS agrees that a single observer fee percentage applied equally to the ex-vessel value of all of the landed catch subject to the observer fee continues to be fair and equitable. Recordkeeping, Reporting, and Other Compliance Requirements This action does not contain recordkeeping, reporting, or other compliance requirements. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679 Alaska, Fisheries, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Observers. Dated: June 22, 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 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. 2. In § 679.55, revise paragraph (f) to read as follows: jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES ■ § 679.55 Observer fees. * * * * * (f) Observer fee percentage. The observer fee percentage is 1.25 percent through December 31, 2020. Beginning VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:12 Jul 09, 2020 Jkt 250001 January 1, 2021, the observer fee percentage is 1.65 percent. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2020–13775 Filed 7–9–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 200702–0176] Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Reclassifying Sculpin Species 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: Final rule. AGENCY: NMFS issues regulations to implement Amendment 121 to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) Management Area (BSAI FMP) and Amendment 110 to the FMP for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) (GOA FMP), collectively referred to as Amendments 121/110. This final rule prohibits directed fishing for sculpins by federally permitted groundfish fishermen and specifies a sculpin retention limit in the GOA and BSAI groundfish fisheries. This action is necessary to properly classify sculpins in the BSAI and GOA FMPs. This final rule is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), Amendments 121/110, the BSAI and GOA FMPs, and other applicable laws. DATES: Effective August 10, 2020. ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the Environmental Assessment and the Regulatory Impact Review (collectively referred to as the ‘‘Analysis’’) prepared for this final rule may be obtained from www.regulations.gov. Electronic copies of the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analyses for the BSAI and GOA Groundfish Harvest Specifications for 2020–2021 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 final rule may be submitted via mail to NMFS PO 00000 Frm 00107 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Alaska Region, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802–1668, Attn: Glenn Merrill; in person at NMFS Alaska Region, 709 West 9th Street, Room 401, Juneau, AK; via internet on www.reginfo.gov/public/ do/PRAMain. Find this particular information collection by selecting ‘‘Currently under Review—Open for Public Comments’’ or by using the search function. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Megan Mackey, 907–586–7228. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Authority for Action RIN 0648–BJ49 SUMMARY: 41427 NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the BSAI and GOA under the BSAI and GOA FMPs (the FMPs), respectively. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared the FMPs under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Regulations governing U.S. fisheries and implementing the BSAI and GOA FMPs appear at 50 CFR parts 600 and 679. This final rule implements Amendments 121/110 to the BSAI and GOA FMPs, respectively. The Council submitted Amendments 121/110 for review by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary), and a Notice of Availability (NOA) of Amendments 121/110 was published in the Federal Register on March 23, 2020, with comments invited through May 22, 2020 (85 FR 16310). The proposed rule to implement Amendments 121/110 was published in the Federal Register on April 23, 2020 with comments invited through May 26, 2020 (85 FR 22703). NMFS received three comment letters from three members of the public. The comments are summarized and responded to under the heading ‘‘Comments and Responses’’ below. A detailed review of the provisions and rationale for this action is provided in the preamble to the proposed rule (85 FR 22703; April 23, 2020) and is briefly summarized in this final rule. Background In October 2019, the Council voted to recommend Amendments 121/110 to reclassify sculpins as non-target ecosystem component (EC) species, not in need of conservation and management. Sculpins are currently classified as target species in the FMPs, though as discussed below, sculpins are currently only caught incidental to other target fisheries. To implement Amendments 121/110, NMFS proposes regulations to prohibit directed fishing for sculpins by federally permitted groundfish fishermen and to specify a E:\FR\FM\10JYR1.SGM 10JYR1 41428 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 133 / Friday, July 10, 2020 / Rules and Regulations jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES sculpin retention limit in the GOA and BSAI groundfish fisheries. The following sections of this preamble provide (1) groundfish stock classification in the FMPs and a brief history of this final action; (2) the National Standards (NS) guidance for determining which species require conservation and management; (3) a description of Amendments 121/110; (4) the regulatory changes made by this final rule; and (5) the comments received and NMFS responses to those comments. Stock Classification in FMPs and a Brief History of This Final Action Among other requirements, FMPs must comply with the MagnusonStevens Act NS (16 U.S.C. 1851). NMFS has implemented regulations to provide guidance on the interpretation and application of these NS. Relevant to this final rule, the NS guidelines at 50 CFR 600.305(d)(11), (12) and (13) define three classifications for stocks in an FMP: (1) Target stocks in need of conservation and management that fishers seek to catch; (2) non-target stocks in need of conservation and management that are caught incidentally during the pursuit of target stocks; and (3) EC species that do not require conservation and management, but may be listed in an FMP in order to achieve ecosystem management objectives. Sculpins are currently classified as target species in the groundfish FMPs and directed fishing for sculpins is allowed. However, sculpins are not a target species for any groundfish fishery in the BSAI or GOA. Sculpins are only caught incidental to other target groundfish species. Sculpins are incidentally caught primarily in the BSAI by vessels using trawl gear directed fishing for yellowfin sole, rock sole, and Atka mackerel, as well as by vessels directed fishing for Pacific cod with hook-and-line, pot, and trawl gear (Table 3–4 and Table 3–5 of the Analysis). Sculpins are caught primarily in the GOA by vessels in the Pacific cod and shallow-water flatfish directed fisheries, and IFQ halibut fisheries (Table 3–6 of the Analysis). For both the BSAI and GOA, sculpins are managed as a Tier 5 species, which is the least preferred method of specifying an overfishing limit when limited biological reference points are available. Only Tier 6 species, for which no biological reference points are available, are below Tier 5 in terms of limited information available. Nonetheless, specification of OFL for Tier 5 species reflects the best estimate possible for sculpins with the available VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:12 Jul 09, 2020 Jkt 250001 data. As described in Section 3.2.3 of the Analysis, model estimates of sculpin abundance in the BSAI and GOA have been fairly stable over the years with no conservation concerns apparent. Stock assessments provide the scientific basis for determining whether a stock is experiencing overfishing (i.e., when a stock’s recent harvest rate exceeds sustainable levels) or overfished (i.e., already depleted), and for calculating a sustainable harvest rate and forecasting catches that correspond to that rate. For stocks in Tiers 4–6, no determination can be made of overfished status or approaching an overfished condition as information is insufficient to estimate the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) stock level. Therefore, it is not possible to determine whether the sculpin complex is overfished or whether it is approaching an overfished condition because it is managed under Tier 5. However, in the absence of directed fishing, they are very unlikely to be overfished. Sculpins, in general, are not retained. As noted in Section 3.2.2 of the Analysis, sculpin catch has been substantially below ABC and OFL, and has been a small proportion of the biomass each year. Determining Which Species Require Conservation and Management Section 302(h)(1) of the MagnusonStevens Act requires a council to prepare an FMP for each fishery under its authority that is in need of conservation and management. ‘‘Conservation and management’’ is defined in section 3(5) of the MagnusonStevens Act. The NS guidelines at § 600.305(c) (revised on October 18, 2016; 81 FR 718585) provide direction for determining which stocks will require conservation and management and provide direction to regional councils and NMFS for how to consider these factors in making this determination. Specifically, the guidelines direct regional councils and NMFS to consider a non-exhaustive list of ten factors when deciding whether stocks require conservation and management. Section 2.2.1 in the Analysis considers each of the 10 factors’ relevance to sculpins. One of the factors a Council must consider when determining whether a stock requires conservation and management is whether maintaining it as a target species will improve or maintain the condition of the stock. The analysis shows that while sculpins are currently classified as a target species in the FMPs, there has been no directed fishing for sculpins since they were included in the FMPs. Sculpins are not PO 00000 Frm 00108 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 important to commercial, recreational, or subsistence users, nor are they important to the National or regional economy. There are no developing fisheries for sculpins in the EEZ off Alaska nor in waters of the State of Alaska. Because there is no directed fishing and incidental fishing-related mortality is low, there is very little probability that sculpins will become overfished. Sculpins are very unlikely to be in need of rebuilding, and are not targeted as a major food product in Alaska. There are no conservation concerns for sculpins since they are not targeted, are rarely retained, and future uses of sculpins remain available. Therefore, maintaining sculpins as a target species in the BSAI and GOA FMPs is not likely to change stock condition. Amendments 121/110 In October of 2019, the Council recommended, and NMFS now implements, Amendments 121/110 to reclassify sculpins as EC category species in the FMPs. Based on a review of the best available scientific information, and after considering NS guidelines, the Council and NMFS determined that sculpins are not in need of conservation and management, and that classifying sculpins in the EC category is an appropriate action. While the Council determined that sculpins are not in need of conservation and management as defined by the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the NS guidelines, the Council and NMFS determined that there are benefits to retaining sculpins as an EC species complex in the FMPs because they are a component of the ecosystem as benthic predators. Amendments 121/110 will establish the sculpins EC species complex in the groundfish FMPs to clarify that they are non-target species and not in need of conservation and management. Recordkeeping and reporting requirements will be maintained to monitor the effects of incidental catch of sculpins in the groundfish fisheries. Amendments 121/110 will allow NMFS to prohibit directed fishing for sculpins and limit the retention and commercial sale of sculpins. Commercial sale of retained sculpins will be allowed, subject to MRAs, only if the retained catch is processed into fishmeal, in accordance with current Federal regulations at § 679.20(i)(5). The limitation on processing and sale of EC species as anything other than fishmeal is status quo for all species moved to the EC; however, the Council is considering changing this limitation for squid and may also consider it for sculpin species E:\FR\FM\10JYR1.SGM 10JYR1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 133 / Friday, July 10, 2020 / Rules and Regulations to allow them to be processed and sold in other product forms, and that would be addressed with a subsequent action. By virtue of being classified as EC species, catch specifications for sculpins (i.e., OFLs, ABCs, and TACs) will no longer be required. Though the Council determined, and NMFS concurs, that sculpins are not in need of conservation and management, sculpin population status and bycatch should be monitored to continually assess vulnerability of sculpins to the groundfish fisheries. Therefore, this final rule retains recordkeeping and reporting requirements for sculpin bycatch. This final rule prohibits directed fishing for sculpins to meet the intent of Amendments 121/110 that sculpins are not a target species complex. Because the definition of directed fishing at § 679.2 is based on a MRA, this final rule specifies a retention limit for sculpins so that NMFS could implement the prohibition on directed fishing to meet the intent of Amendments 121/110. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES Final Rule In addition to classifying sculpins as an EC species in the FMPs under Amendments 121/110, the Council recommended and NMFS issues regulations to limit and monitor the incidental catch of sculpins. This final rule will— • Prohibit directed fishing for sculpins in the BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries; • Maintain recordkeeping and reporting of sculpins in the BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries, but modify the regulations for clarity; and • Specify a sculpins retention limit, or MRA, of 20 percent in the BSAI and GOA Federal groundfish fisheries. To prohibit directed fishing, this final rule revises §§ 679.20(i) and 679.22(i) to prohibit directed fishing for sculpins at all times in the BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries. To clarify definitions, this final rule adds a definition for sculpins at § 679.2 and adds an instruction to § 679.5 to use the sculpin species code in Table 2c to 50 CFR part 679 (Table 2c) to record and report sculpin catch. These revisions will maintain NMFS’ ability to monitor the catch, retention, and discard of sculpins. Section 679.20 provides the general limitations for the BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries. Because a TAC will no longer be specified for sculpins, this final rule will remove sculpins from § 679.20(b)(2), which specifies the amount of the TAC that is reserved for inseason management flexibility. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:12 Jul 09, 2020 Jkt 250001 The MRA is the proportion or percentage of retained catch of a species closed for directed fishing (incidental catch species) to the retained catch of a species open for directed fishing (basis species). This final rule will move sculpins out of the basis species category and into the incidental catch species category consistent with the prohibition on directed fishing for sculpins under this final rule. In developing this final rule, the Council and NMFS considered a range of sculpins MRA percentages: 2 Percent, 10 percent, and 20 percent. Sculpins, in general, are not retained, and fishery observer data indicate that the retention rate has been below 10 percent in the BSAI and below 20 percent in the GOA. As noted in Section 3.2.2 of the Analysis, sculpin catch has been substantially below ABC and OFL, and has been a small proportion of the biomass each year. Because there are no conservation concerns for sculpins and retention of sculpins has been low, a lower MRA will not further discourage targeting, but may result in increased regulatory discards of sculpins. Therefore, the Council recommended and NMFS specifies a MRA for sculpins of 20 percent in both the BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries. Comments and Responses NMFS received three unique comments from three members of the public on the proposed rule, with only two comments being relevant to this action. Therefore, only those two comments are addressed here. Comment 1: NMFS should prohibit commercial fishing and only permit subsistence fishing. Response: This comment is outside of the scope of this action. This final rule addresses the management of sculpins and is not intended to broadly manage commercial or subsistence fisheries. NMFS manages commercial, recreational and subsistence fisheries consistent with the provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable law. Comment 2: This regulation is necessary for the proper and prompt performance of the functions of NMFS. It should be implemented right away, especially if this action will be located in wetlands. Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment and is implementing this final rule in a timely manner. This action only pertains to fisheries in the marine environment and has no applicability to wetlands. PO 00000 Frm 00109 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 41429 Changes From the Proposed Rule No changes were made from the proposed rule. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this final rule is consistent with Amendments 121/110, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable laws. This final rule has been determined to be not significant for the purposes of Executive Order 12866. This final rule is not an Executive Order 13771 regulatory action because this rule is not significant under 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 implements Amendments 121/ 110 and the regulatory revisions in this final rule based on those measures that maximized net benefits to the Nation. Specific aspects of the economic analysis are discussed below in the Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis section. Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) This section contains the FRFA for this final rule. Section 604 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) requires that, when an agency promulgates a final rule under section 553 of Title 5 of the U.S. Code, after being required by that section or any other law to publish a general notice of proposed rulemaking, the agency shall prepare a FRFA. Section 604 describes the required contents of a FRFA: (1) A statement of the need for and objectives of the rule; (2) a statement of the significant issues raised by the public comments in response to the IRFA, a statement of the assessment of the agency of such issues, and a statement of any changes made in the proposed rule as a result of such comments; (3) the response of the agency to any comments filed by the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration (SBA) in response to the proposed rule, and a detailed statement of any changes made to the proposed rule in the final rule as a result of the comments; (4) a description of and an estimate of the number of small entities to which the rule will apply or an explanation of why no such estimate is available; (5) a description of the projected reporting, recordkeeping, and other compliance requirements of the E:\FR\FM\10JYR1.SGM 10JYR1 41430 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 133 / Friday, July 10, 2020 / Rules and Regulations rule, including an estimate of the classes of small entities that will be subject to the requirement and the type of professional skills necessary for preparation of the report or record; and (6) a description of the steps the agency has taken to minimize the significant economic impact on small entities consistent with the stated objectives of applicable statutes including a statement of the factual, policy, and legal reasons for selecting the alternative adopted in this final rule and why each one of the other significant alternatives to the rule considered by the agency which affect the impact on small entities was rejected. A description of this final rule and the need for and objectives of the rule are contained in the preamble to this final rule and the preamble to the proposed rule (85 FR 22703, April 23, 2020), and are not repeated here. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES Public and Chief Counsel for Advocacy Comments on the Proposed Rule NMFS published the proposed rule on April 23, 2020. An IRFA was prepared and summarized in the ‘‘Classification’’ section of the preamble to the proposed rule. The comment period closed on May 26, 2020, for the proposed rule and on May 22, 2020, for the notice of availability for the amendments. NMFS received three unique comments from three members of the public on the proposed rule and Amendments 121/ 110. The Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the SBA did not file any comments on the proposed rule. NMFS received no comments specifically on the IRFA. Number and Description of Small Entities Regulated by This Final Rule This final rule directly regulates any vessel operator harvesting sculpins in the federally managed groundfish fisheries 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. Businesses classified as primarily engaged in commercial fishing are considered small entities if they have combined annual gross receipts not in excess of $11.0 million for all affiliated operations worldwide (50 CFR 200.2). The most recent estimates of the number of fishing vessels participating in the BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries that are small entities are provided in Table 2 in the IRFAs for the BSAI and GOA Harvest Specifications for 2020–2021 (see ADDRESSES). In 2018, there were 182 catcher vessels and 3 catcher/processors in the BSAI, and 756 catcher vessels and 3 catcher/processors in the GOA. These estimates likely overstate the number of VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:12 Jul 09, 2020 Jkt 250001 small entities in the groundfish fisheries off Alaska because some of these vessels are affiliated through common ownership or membership in a cooperative and the affiliated vessels together would exceed the $11.0 million annual gross receipts threshold for small entities. For operators of vessels currently participating in these fisheries, the economic impacts of this final rule are primarily beneficial or neutral. Removing sculpins from the BSAI target species category will remove the sculpins TAC from inclusion in the 2 million metric ton optimum yield (OY) cap in the BSAI. The amount of the OY cap that has been reserved for sculpins will be available to increase the TAC limit or limits for other BSAI target species. This effect will benefit participants in the BSAI fisheries that experience TAC increases relative to what the TACs would have been without this final rule. Some of the entities that experience benefits from increased TACs in the future may be small entities. The effects on target species TACs will be neutral for the GOA fisheries, as the OY has not constrained TACs in the GOA to date. Therefore, removing the sculpins TAC in the GOA will not allow for an increase in the TAC for another target species. The only potential adverse economic impact that has been identified for this final rule is that vessel owners or operators who may wish to conduct directed fishing for sculpins in the future, and who may wish to retain more sculpins than they would be allowed to retain under the 20 percent MRA, will not be able to do so. This potential adverse impact will not affect any current participants relative to opportunities available to them because there has been no directed fishing for sculpins. Therefore, no current participants will lose an economic opportunity that is available to them today or has been available to them. Recordkeeping, Reporting, and Other Compliance Requirements Under this final rule, requirements for recording and reporting the catch and discard of sculpins in logbooks or on catch or production reports will be maintained as they are in existing regulations. The final rule will make only minor modifications to clarify the recordkeeping and reporting requirements in § 679.5, Table 2a to 50 CFR part 679, and Table 2c to 50 CFR part 679. Therefore, moving sculpins from the target species category to the EC category will not change recordkeeping and reporting costs for PO 00000 Frm 00110 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 fishery participants or impose any additional or new costs on participants. Duplicate, Overlapping, or Conflicting Federal Rules No duplication, overlap, or conflict between this final rule and existing Federal rules has been identified. Description of Significant Alternatives That Minimize Adverse Impacts on Small Entities The Council and NMFS considered two alternatives. Among the two alternatives, Alternative 2 Option 3 (the preferred alternative) provides the most economic benefits to current participants in the BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries. The primary economic benefit of this final rule is to reduce the potential constraints imposed by the OFLs, ABCs, and TACs for sculpins on BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries. Among the three options considered for the sculpins MRA (2 percent, 10 percent, and 20 percent), the 20 percent MRA that was selected minimizes the economic impact on any fishing vessel that is a small entity because it provides the greatest opportunity to retain sculpins as incidental catch in other groundfish fisheries. Alternative 1 is the no action alternative and would have continued to classify sculpins as target species in the groundfish FMPs. OFLs, ABCs, and TACs would have continued to be set for sculpins as a species group in both the BSAI and GOA. Relative to Alternative 2, Alternative 1 could be considered less beneficial to small entities because all catch specifications would need to be maintained, and current constraints on the BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries would continue. However, Alternative 2 (this final rule) also could be considered more restrictive to small entities than Alternative 1 if the prohibition on directed fishing for sculpins under the final rule limits future participants’ ability to conduct directed fishing for sculpins more so than would occur under the status quo. Alternative 1 would have allowed NMFS to determine annually whether to open a directed fishery for sculpins. Alternative 2 classifies sculpins in the BSAI and GOA in the EC category and implements a regulation prohibiting directed fishing for sculpins that can only be revised through subsequent rulemaking. However, the Council recommended and NMFS concurs that the benefits of the final rule to current fishery participants, including small entities, outweigh the potential future adverse impacts of the prohibition E:\FR\FM\10JYR1.SGM 10JYR1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 133 / Friday, July 10, 2020 / Rules and Regulations against directed fishing for sculpins. In addition, this provision can be reevaluated by the Council and NMFS in the future if fishery participants want to develop directed fisheries for sculpins. Collection-of-Information Requirements This final rule contains a collectionof-information requirement subject to review and approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). This requirement has been submitted to OMB for approval under OMB Control Numbers 0648–0213 and 0648–0515. This final rule will make minor revisions to the information collection requirements to clarify the location of the species code for sculpins in the tables to 50 CFR part 679 to note that sculpins should be reported as nontarget EC species rather than target species. The requirements for recording and reporting the catch and discard of sculpins in logbooks or on catch or production reports will not change. These minor revisions do not change the public reporting burden or costs. Send comments on these or any other aspects of the collection of information to NMFS Alaska Region (see ADDRESSES), or to OIRA by visiting www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAMain. Find this particular information collection by selecting ‘‘Currently under Review—Open for Public Comments: Or by using the search function. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person is required to respond to, and no person shall be subject to 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 http://www.reginfo.gov/ public/do/PRASearch#. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679 Alaska, Fisheries, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. Dated: July 6, 2020. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES For reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS amends 50 CFR part 679 as follows: 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.; Public Law 108–447; Public Law 111–281. 2. In § 679.2, add a definition for ‘‘Sculpins’’ in alphabetical order to read as follows: ■ § 679.2 Definitions. * * * * * Sculpins (see Table 2c to this part and § 679.20(i)). * * * * * ■ 3. In § 679.5, revise paragraphs (a)(3) introductory text, (c)(3)(vi)(F), and (c)(4)(vi)(E) to read as follows: § 679.5 (R&R). Recordkeeping and reporting (a) * * * (3) Fish to be recorded and reported. The operator or manager must record and report the following information (see paragraphs (a)(3)(i) through (iv) of this section) for all groundfish (see Table 2a to this part), prohibited species (see Table 2b to this part), forage fish (see Table 2c to this part), grenadiers (see Table 2c to this part), squids (see Table 2c to this part), and sculpins (see Table 2c to this part). The operator or manager may record and report the following information (see paragraphs (a)(3)(i) through (iv) of this section) for non-groundfish (see Table 2d to this part): * * * * * (c) * * * (3) * * * (vi) * * * (F) Species codes. The operator must record and report required information for all groundfish (see Table 2a to this part), prohibited species (see Table 2b to this part), forage fish (see Table 2c to this part), grenadiers (see Table 2c to this part), squids (see Table 2c to this part), and sculpins (see Table 2c to this part). The operator may record and report information for non-groundfish (see Table 2d to this part). * * * * * (4) * * * (vi) * * * (E) Species codes. The operator must record and report required information 41431 for all groundfish (see Table 2a to this part), prohibited species (see Table 2b to this part), forage fish (see Table 2c to this part), grenadiers (see Table 2c to this part), squids (see Table 2c to this part), and sculpins (see Table 2c to this part). The operator may record and report information for non-groundfish (see Table 2d to this part). * * * * * 4. In § 679.20, revise paragraphs (b)(2) introductory text, (i) heading, and (i)(3) through (5) to read as follows: ■ § 679.20 General limitations. * * * * * (b) * * * (2) GOA. Initial reserves are established for pollock, Pacific cod, flatfish, octopuses, and sharks, which are equal to 20 percent of the TACs for these species or species groups. * * * * * (i) Forage fish, grenadiers, squids, and sculpins. * * * (3) Closure to directed fishing. Directed fishing for forage fish, grenadiers, squids, and sculpins is prohibited at all times in the BSAI and GOA. (4) Limits on sale, barter, trade, and processing. The sale, barter, trade, or processing of forage fish, grenadiers, squids, and sculpins is prohibited, except as provided in paragraph (i)(5) of this section. (5) Allowable fishmeal production. Retained catch of forage fish, grenadiers, squids, or sculpins not exceeding the maximum retainable amount may be processed into fishmeal for sale, barter, or trade. * * * * * 5. In § 679.22, revise paragraph (i) to read as follows: ■ § 679.22 Closures. * * * * * (i) Forage fish, grenadiers, squids, and sculpins closures. See § 679.20(i)(3). 6. Revise Table 2a to part 679 to read as follows: ■ TABLE 2a TO PART 679—SPECIES CODES: FMP GROUNDFISH Species description Code Atka mackerel (greenling) .......................................................................................................................................................................... Flatfish, miscellaneous (flatfish species without separate codes) ............................................................................................................ FLOUNDER: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:12 Jul 09, 2020 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00111 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\10JYR1.SGM 10JYR1 193 120 41432 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 133 / Friday, July 10, 2020 / Rules and Regulations TABLE 2a TO PART 679—SPECIES CODES: FMP GROUNDFISH—Continued jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES Species description Code Alaska plaice ...................................................................................................................................................................................... Arrowtooth .......................................................................................................................................................................................... Bering ................................................................................................................................................................................................. Kamchatka .......................................................................................................................................................................................... Starry .................................................................................................................................................................................................. Octopuses .................................................................................................................................................................................................. Pacific cod ................................................................................................................................................................................................. Pollock ....................................................................................................................................................................................................... ROCKFISH: Aurora (Sebastes aurora) ................................................................................................................................................................... Black (BSAI) (S. melanops) ............................................................................................................................................................... Blackgill (S. melanostomus) ............................................................................................................................................................... Blue (BSAI) (S. mystinus) .................................................................................................................................................................. Bocaccio (S. paucispinis) ................................................................................................................................................................... Canary (S. pinniger) ........................................................................................................................................................................... Chilipepper (S. goodei) ....................................................................................................................................................................... China (S. nebulosus) .......................................................................................................................................................................... Copper (S. caurinus) .......................................................................................................................................................................... Darkblotched (S. crameri) .................................................................................................................................................................. Dusky (S. variabilis) ............................................................................................................................................................................ Greenstriped (S. elongatus) ............................................................................................................................................................... Harlequin (S. variegatus) .................................................................................................................................................................... Northern (S. polyspinis) ...................................................................................................................................................................... Pacific Ocean Perch (S. alutus) ......................................................................................................................................................... Pygmy (S. wilsoni) .............................................................................................................................................................................. Quillback (S. maliger) ......................................................................................................................................................................... Redbanded (S. babcocki) ................................................................................................................................................................... Redstripe (S. proriger) ........................................................................................................................................................................ Rosethorn (S. helvomaculatus) .......................................................................................................................................................... Rougheye (S. aleutianus) ................................................................................................................................................................... Sharpchin (S. zacentrus) .................................................................................................................................................................... Shortbelly (S. jordani) ......................................................................................................................................................................... Shortraker (S. borealis) ...................................................................................................................................................................... Silvergray (S. brevispinis) ................................................................................................................................................................... Splitnose (S. diploproa) ...................................................................................................................................................................... Stripetail (S. saxicola) ......................................................................................................................................................................... Thornyhead (all Sebastolobus species) ............................................................................................................................................. Tiger (S. nigrocinctus) ........................................................................................................................................................................ Vermilion (S. miniatus) ....................................................................................................................................................................... Widow (S. entomelas) ........................................................................................................................................................................ Yelloweye (S. ruberrimus) .................................................................................................................................................................. Yellowmouth (S. reedi) ....................................................................................................................................................................... Yellowtail (S. flavidus) ........................................................................................................................................................................ Sablefish (blackcod) .................................................................................................................................................................................. SHARKS: Other (if salmon, spiny dogfish or Pacific sleeper shark—use specific species code) ..................................................................... Pacific sleeper .................................................................................................................................................................................... Salmon ................................................................................................................................................................................................ Spiny dogfish ...................................................................................................................................................................................... SKATES: Alaska (Bathyraja parmifera) .............................................................................................................................................................. Aleutian (B. aleutica) .......................................................................................................................................................................... Whiteblotched (B. maculate) .............................................................................................................................................................. Big (Raja binoculata) .......................................................................................................................................................................... Longnose (R. rhina) ............................................................................................................................................................................ Other (if Alaska, Aleutian, whiteblotched, big, or longnose skate—use specific species code) ....................................................... SOLE: Butter .................................................................................................................................................................................................. Dover .................................................................................................................................................................................................. English ................................................................................................................................................................................................ Flathead .............................................................................................................................................................................................. Petrale ................................................................................................................................................................................................ Rex ..................................................................................................................................................................................................... Rock .................................................................................................................................................................................................... Sand ................................................................................................................................................................................................... Yellowfin ............................................................................................................................................................................................. Turbot, Greenland .............................................................................................................................................................................. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:12 Jul 09, 2020 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00112 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\10JYR1.SGM 10JYR1 133 121 116 117 129 870 110 270 185 142 177 167 137 146 178 149 138 159 172 135 176 136 141 179 147 153 158 150 151 166 181 152 157 182 183 143 148 184 156 145 175 155 710 689 692 690 691 703 704 705 702 701 700 126 124 128 122 131 125 123 132 127 134 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 133 / Friday, July 10, 2020 / Rules and Regulations 41433 7. Revise Table 2c to part 679 to read as follows: ■ TABLE 2c TO PART 679—SPECIES CODES: FMP FORAGE FISH SPECIES (ALL SPECIES OF THE FOLLOWING FAMILIES), GRENADIER SPECIES, SQUIDS, AND SCULPINS Species identification Code FORAGE FISH: Bristlemouths, lightfishes, and anglemouths (family Gonostomatidae) ............................................................................................. Capelin smelt (family Osmeridae) ...................................................................................................................................................... Deep-sea smelts (family Bathylagidae) .............................................................................................................................................. Eulachon smelt (family Osmeridae) ................................................................................................................................................... Gunnels (family Pholidae) .................................................................................................................................................................. Krill (order Euphausiacea) .................................................................................................................................................................. Lanternfishes (family Myctophidae) .................................................................................................................................................... Pacific Sand fish (family Trichodontidae) ........................................................................................................................................... Pacific Sand lance (family Ammodytidae) .......................................................................................................................................... Pricklebacks, war-bonnets, eelblennys, cockscombs and Shannys (family Stichaeidae) ................................................................. Surf smelt (family Osmeridae) ............................................................................................................................................................ GRENADIERS: Giant Grenadiers (Albatrossia pectoralis) .......................................................................................................................................... Other Grenadiers ................................................................................................................................................................................ SQUID: Squids ................................................................................................................................................................................................. SCULPINS: Sculpins .............................................................................................................................................................................................. 8. Revise Table 10 to part 679 to read as follows: ■ jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:12 Jul 09, 2020 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00113 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\10JYR1.SGM 10JYR1 209 516 773 511 207 800 772 206 774 208 515 214 213 875 160 VerDate Sep<11>2014 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 133 / Friday, July 10, 2020 / Rules and Regulations 16:12 Jul 09, 2020 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00114 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\10JYR1.SGM 10JYR1 ER10JY20.004</GPH> jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES 41434 VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:12 Jul 09, 2020 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00115 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\10JYR1.SGM 10JYR1 41435 ER10JY20.005</GPH> jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 133 / Friday, July 10, 2020 / Rules and Regulations Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 133 / Friday, July 10, 2020 / Rules and Regulations BILLING CODE 3510–22–C 9. Revise Table 11 to part 679 to read as follows: ■ BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:12 Jul 09, 2020 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00116 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\10JYR1.SGM 10JYR1 ER10JY20.006</GPH> jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES 41436 VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:12 Jul 09, 2020 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00117 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\10JYR1.SGM 10JYR1 41437 ER10JY20.007</GPH> jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 133 / Friday, July 10, 2020 / Rules and Regulations Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 133 / Friday, July 10, 2020 / Rules and Regulations [FR Doc. 2020–14856 Filed 7–9–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–C VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:12 Jul 09, 2020 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00118 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 E:\FR\FM\10JYR1.SGM 10JYR1 ER10JY20.008</GPH> jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES 41438

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 133 (Friday, July 10, 2020)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 41427-41438]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-14856]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

[Docket No. 200702-0176]
RIN 0648-BJ49


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; 
Reclassifying Sculpin Species 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: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS issues regulations to implement Amendment 121 to the 
Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and 
Aleutian Islands (BSAI) Management Area (BSAI FMP) and Amendment 110 to 
the FMP for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) (GOA FMP), 
collectively referred to as Amendments 121/110. This final rule 
prohibits directed fishing for sculpins by federally permitted 
groundfish fishermen and specifies a sculpin retention limit in the GOA 
and BSAI groundfish fisheries. This action is necessary to properly 
classify sculpins in the BSAI and GOA FMPs. This final rule is intended 
to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), Amendments 121/
110, the BSAI and GOA FMPs, and other applicable laws.

DATES: Effective August 10, 2020.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the Environmental Assessment and the 
Regulatory Impact Review (collectively referred to as the ``Analysis'') 
prepared for this final rule may be obtained from www.regulations.gov.
    Electronic copies of the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analyses 
for the BSAI and GOA Groundfish Harvest Specifications for 2020-2021 
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 
final rule may be submitted via mail to NMFS Alaska Region, P.O. Box 
21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668, Attn: Glenn Merrill; in person at NMFS 
Alaska Region, 709 West 9th Street, Room 401, Juneau, AK; via internet 
on www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAMain. Find this particular information 
collection by selecting ``Currently under Review--Open for Public 
Comments'' or by using the search function.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Megan Mackey, 907-586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Authority for Action

    NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic 
zone (EEZ) of the BSAI and GOA under the BSAI and GOA FMPs (the FMPs), 
respectively. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) 
prepared the FMPs under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 
U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Regulations governing U.S. fisheries and 
implementing the BSAI and GOA FMPs appear at 50 CFR parts 600 and 679.
    This final rule implements Amendments 121/110 to the BSAI and GOA 
FMPs, respectively. The Council submitted Amendments 121/110 for review 
by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary), and a Notice of Availability 
(NOA) of Amendments 121/110 was published in the Federal Register on 
March 23, 2020, with comments invited through May 22, 2020 (85 FR 
16310). The proposed rule to implement Amendments 121/110 was published 
in the Federal Register on April 23, 2020 with comments invited through 
May 26, 2020 (85 FR 22703). NMFS received three comment letters from 
three members of the public. The comments are summarized and responded 
to under the heading ``Comments and Responses'' below.
    A detailed review of the provisions and rationale for this action 
is provided in the preamble to the proposed rule (85 FR 22703; April 
23, 2020) and is briefly summarized in this final rule.

Background

    In October 2019, the Council voted to recommend Amendments 121/110 
to reclassify sculpins as non-target ecosystem component (EC) species, 
not in need of conservation and management. Sculpins are currently 
classified as target species in the FMPs, though as discussed below, 
sculpins are currently only caught incidental to other target 
fisheries. To implement Amendments 121/110, NMFS proposes regulations 
to prohibit directed fishing for sculpins by federally permitted 
groundfish fishermen and to specify a

[[Page 41428]]

sculpin retention limit in the GOA and BSAI groundfish fisheries. The 
following sections of this preamble provide (1) groundfish stock 
classification in the FMPs and a brief history of this final action; 
(2) the National Standards (NS) guidance for determining which species 
require conservation and management; (3) a description of Amendments 
121/110; (4) the regulatory changes made by this final rule; and (5) 
the comments received and NMFS responses to those comments.

Stock Classification in FMPs and a Brief History of This Final Action

    Among other requirements, FMPs must comply with the Magnuson-
Stevens Act NS (16 U.S.C. 1851). NMFS has implemented regulations to 
provide guidance on the interpretation and application of these NS. 
Relevant to this final rule, the NS guidelines at 50 CFR 
600.305(d)(11), (12) and (13) define three classifications for stocks 
in an FMP: (1) Target stocks in need of conservation and management 
that fishers seek to catch; (2) non-target stocks in need of 
conservation and management that are caught incidentally during the 
pursuit of target stocks; and (3) EC species that do not require 
conservation and management, but may be listed in an FMP in order to 
achieve ecosystem management objectives.
    Sculpins are currently classified as target species in the 
groundfish FMPs and directed fishing for sculpins is allowed. However, 
sculpins are not a target species for any groundfish fishery in the 
BSAI or GOA. Sculpins are only caught incidental to other target 
groundfish species. Sculpins are incidentally caught primarily in the 
BSAI by vessels using trawl gear directed fishing for yellowfin sole, 
rock sole, and Atka mackerel, as well as by vessels directed fishing 
for Pacific cod with hook-and-line, pot, and trawl gear (Table 3-4 and 
Table 3-5 of the Analysis). Sculpins are caught primarily in the GOA by 
vessels in the Pacific cod and shallow-water flatfish directed 
fisheries, and IFQ halibut fisheries (Table 3-6 of the Analysis).
    For both the BSAI and GOA, sculpins are managed as a Tier 5 
species, which is the least preferred method of specifying an 
overfishing limit when limited biological reference points are 
available. Only Tier 6 species, for which no biological reference 
points are available, are below Tier 5 in terms of limited information 
available. Nonetheless, specification of OFL for Tier 5 species 
reflects the best estimate possible for sculpins with the available 
data. As described in Section 3.2.3 of the Analysis, model estimates of 
sculpin abundance in the BSAI and GOA have been fairly stable over the 
years with no conservation concerns apparent.
    Stock assessments provide the scientific basis for determining 
whether a stock is experiencing overfishing (i.e., when a stock's 
recent harvest rate exceeds sustainable levels) or overfished (i.e., 
already depleted), and for calculating a sustainable harvest rate and 
forecasting catches that correspond to that rate. For stocks in Tiers 
4-6, no determination can be made of overfished status or approaching 
an overfished condition as information is insufficient to estimate the 
Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) stock level. Therefore, it is not 
possible to determine whether the sculpin complex is overfished or 
whether it is approaching an overfished condition because it is managed 
under Tier 5. However, in the absence of directed fishing, they are 
very unlikely to be overfished. Sculpins, in general, are not retained. 
As noted in Section 3.2.2 of the Analysis, sculpin catch has been 
substantially below ABC and OFL, and has been a small proportion of the 
biomass each year.

Determining Which Species Require Conservation and Management

    Section 302(h)(1) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act requires a council to 
prepare an FMP for each fishery under its authority that is in need of 
conservation and management. ``Conservation and management'' is defined 
in section 3(5) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The NS guidelines at Sec.  
600.305(c) (revised on October 18, 2016; 81 FR 718585) provide 
direction for determining which stocks will require conservation and 
management and provide direction to regional councils and NMFS for how 
to consider these factors in making this determination. Specifically, 
the guidelines direct regional councils and NMFS to consider a non-
exhaustive list of ten factors when deciding whether stocks require 
conservation and management.
    Section 2.2.1 in the Analysis considers each of the 10 factors' 
relevance to sculpins. One of the factors a Council must consider when 
determining whether a stock requires conservation and management is 
whether maintaining it as a target species will improve or maintain the 
condition of the stock. The analysis shows that while sculpins are 
currently classified as a target species in the FMPs, there has been no 
directed fishing for sculpins since they were included in the FMPs. 
Sculpins are not important to commercial, recreational, or subsistence 
users, nor are they important to the National or regional economy. 
There are no developing fisheries for sculpins in the EEZ off Alaska 
nor in waters of the State of Alaska. Because there is no directed 
fishing and incidental fishing-related mortality is low, there is very 
little probability that sculpins will become overfished. Sculpins are 
very unlikely to be in need of rebuilding, and are not targeted as a 
major food product in Alaska. There are no conservation concerns for 
sculpins since they are not targeted, are rarely retained, and future 
uses of sculpins remain available. Therefore, maintaining sculpins as a 
target species in the BSAI and GOA FMPs is not likely to change stock 
condition.

Amendments 121/110

    In October of 2019, the Council recommended, and NMFS now 
implements, Amendments 121/110 to reclassify sculpins as EC category 
species in the FMPs. Based on a review of the best available scientific 
information, and after considering NS guidelines, the Council and NMFS 
determined that sculpins are not in need of conservation and 
management, and that classifying sculpins in the EC category is an 
appropriate action. While the Council determined that sculpins are not 
in need of conservation and management as defined by the Magnuson-
Stevens Act and the NS guidelines, the Council and NMFS determined that 
there are benefits to retaining sculpins as an EC species complex in 
the FMPs because they are a component of the ecosystem as benthic 
predators.
    Amendments 121/110 will establish the sculpins EC species complex 
in the groundfish FMPs to clarify that they are non-target species and 
not in need of conservation and management. Recordkeeping and reporting 
requirements will be maintained to monitor the effects of incidental 
catch of sculpins in the groundfish fisheries. Amendments 121/110 will 
allow NMFS to prohibit directed fishing for sculpins and limit the 
retention and commercial sale of sculpins. Commercial sale of retained 
sculpins will be allowed, subject to MRAs, only if the retained catch 
is processed into fishmeal, in accordance with current Federal 
regulations at Sec.  679.20(i)(5). The limitation on processing and 
sale of EC species as anything other than fishmeal is status quo for 
all species moved to the EC; however, the Council is considering 
changing this limitation for squid and may also consider it for sculpin 
species

[[Page 41429]]

to allow them to be processed and sold in other product forms, and that 
would be addressed with a subsequent action. By virtue of being 
classified as EC species, catch specifications for sculpins (i.e., 
OFLs, ABCs, and TACs) will no longer be required.
    Though the Council determined, and NMFS concurs, that sculpins are 
not in need of conservation and management, sculpin population status 
and bycatch should be monitored to continually assess vulnerability of 
sculpins to the groundfish fisheries. Therefore, this final rule 
retains recordkeeping and reporting requirements for sculpin bycatch. 
This final rule prohibits directed fishing for sculpins to meet the 
intent of Amendments 121/110 that sculpins are not a target species 
complex. Because the definition of directed fishing at Sec.  679.2 is 
based on a MRA, this final rule specifies a retention limit for 
sculpins so that NMFS could implement the prohibition on directed 
fishing to meet the intent of Amendments 121/110.

Final Rule

    In addition to classifying sculpins as an EC species in the FMPs 
under Amendments 121/110, the Council recommended and NMFS issues 
regulations to limit and monitor the incidental catch of sculpins. This 
final rule will--
     Prohibit directed fishing for sculpins in the BSAI and GOA 
groundfish fisheries;
     Maintain recordkeeping and reporting of sculpins in the 
BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries, but modify the regulations for 
clarity; and
     Specify a sculpins retention limit, or MRA, of 20 percent 
in the BSAI and GOA Federal groundfish fisheries.
    To prohibit directed fishing, this final rule revises Sec. Sec.  
679.20(i) and 679.22(i) to prohibit directed fishing for sculpins at 
all times in the BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries.
    To clarify definitions, this final rule adds a definition for 
sculpins at Sec.  679.2 and adds an instruction to Sec.  679.5 to use 
the sculpin species code in Table 2c to 50 CFR part 679 (Table 2c) to 
record and report sculpin catch. These revisions will maintain NMFS' 
ability to monitor the catch, retention, and discard of sculpins.
    Section 679.20 provides the general limitations for the BSAI and 
GOA groundfish fisheries. Because a TAC will no longer be specified for 
sculpins, this final rule will remove sculpins from Sec.  679.20(b)(2), 
which specifies the amount of the TAC that is reserved for inseason 
management flexibility.
    The MRA is the proportion or percentage of retained catch of a 
species closed for directed fishing (incidental catch species) to the 
retained catch of a species open for directed fishing (basis species). 
This final rule will move sculpins out of the basis species category 
and into the incidental catch species category consistent with the 
prohibition on directed fishing for sculpins under this final rule.
    In developing this final rule, the Council and NMFS considered a 
range of sculpins MRA percentages: 2 Percent, 10 percent, and 20 
percent. Sculpins, in general, are not retained, and fishery observer 
data indicate that the retention rate has been below 10 percent in the 
BSAI and below 20 percent in the GOA. As noted in Section 3.2.2 of the 
Analysis, sculpin catch has been substantially below ABC and OFL, and 
has been a small proportion of the biomass each year. Because there are 
no conservation concerns for sculpins and retention of sculpins has 
been low, a lower MRA will not further discourage targeting, but may 
result in increased regulatory discards of sculpins. Therefore, the 
Council recommended and NMFS specifies a MRA for sculpins of 20 percent 
in both the BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries.

Comments and Responses

    NMFS received three unique comments from three members of the 
public on the proposed rule, with only two comments being relevant to 
this action. Therefore, only those two comments are addressed here.
    Comment 1: NMFS should prohibit commercial fishing and only permit 
subsistence fishing.
    Response: This comment is outside of the scope of this action. This 
final rule addresses the management of sculpins and is not intended to 
broadly manage commercial or subsistence fisheries. NMFS manages 
commercial, recreational and subsistence fisheries consistent with the 
provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable law.
    Comment 2: This regulation is necessary for the proper and prompt 
performance of the functions of NMFS. It should be implemented right 
away, especially if this action will be located in wetlands.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment and is implementing this 
final rule in a timely manner. This action only pertains to fisheries 
in the marine environment and has no applicability to wetlands.

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    No changes were made from the proposed rule.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS 
Assistant Administrator has determined that this final rule is 
consistent with Amendments 121/110, other provisions of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act, and other applicable laws.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for the 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    This final rule is not an Executive Order 13771 regulatory action 
because this rule is not significant under 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 implements Amendments 121/110 and the regulatory 
revisions in this final rule based on those measures that maximized net 
benefits to the Nation. Specific aspects of the economic analysis are 
discussed below in the Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis section.

Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA)

    This section contains the FRFA for this final rule. Section 604 of 
the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) requires that, when an agency 
promulgates a final rule under section 553 of Title 5 of the U.S. Code, 
after being required by that section or any other law to publish a 
general notice of proposed rulemaking, the agency shall prepare a FRFA. 
Section 604 describes the required contents of a FRFA: (1) A statement 
of the need for and objectives of the rule; (2) a statement of the 
significant issues raised by the public comments in response to the 
IRFA, a statement of the assessment of the agency of such issues, and a 
statement of any changes made in the proposed rule as a result of such 
comments; (3) the response of the agency to any comments filed by the 
Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration (SBA) 
in response to the proposed rule, and a detailed statement of any 
changes made to the proposed rule in the final rule as a result of the 
comments; (4) a description of and an estimate of the number of small 
entities to which the rule will apply or an explanation of why no such 
estimate is available; (5) a description of the projected reporting, 
recordkeeping, and other compliance requirements of the

[[Page 41430]]

rule, including an estimate of the classes of small entities that will 
be subject to the requirement and the type of professional skills 
necessary for preparation of the report or record; and (6) a 
description of the steps the agency has taken to minimize the 
significant economic impact on small entities consistent with the 
stated objectives of applicable statutes including a statement of the 
factual, policy, and legal reasons for selecting the alternative 
adopted in this final rule and why each one of the other significant 
alternatives to the rule considered by the agency which affect the 
impact on small entities was rejected.
    A description of this final rule and the need for and objectives of 
the rule are contained in the preamble to this final rule and the 
preamble to the proposed rule (85 FR 22703, April 23, 2020), and are 
not repeated here.
Public and Chief Counsel for Advocacy Comments on the Proposed Rule
    NMFS published the proposed rule on April 23, 2020. An IRFA was 
prepared and summarized in the ``Classification'' section of the 
preamble to the proposed rule. The comment period closed on May 26, 
2020, for the proposed rule and on May 22, 2020, for the notice of 
availability for the amendments. NMFS received three unique comments 
from three members of the public on the proposed rule and Amendments 
121/110. The Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the SBA did not file any 
comments on the proposed rule. NMFS received no comments specifically 
on the IRFA.
Number and Description of Small Entities Regulated by This Final Rule
    This final rule directly regulates any vessel operator harvesting 
sculpins in the federally managed groundfish fisheries 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. Businesses classified as 
primarily engaged in commercial fishing are considered small entities 
if they have combined annual gross receipts not in excess of $11.0 
million for all affiliated operations worldwide (50 CFR 200.2). The 
most recent estimates of the number of fishing vessels participating in 
the BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries that are small entities are 
provided in Table 2 in the IRFAs for the BSAI and GOA Harvest 
Specifications for 2020-2021 (see ADDRESSES). In 2018, there were 182 
catcher vessels and 3 catcher/processors in the BSAI, and 756 catcher 
vessels and 3 catcher/processors in the GOA. These estimates likely 
overstate the number of small entities in the groundfish fisheries off 
Alaska because some of these vessels are affiliated through common 
ownership or membership in a cooperative and the affiliated vessels 
together would exceed the $11.0 million annual gross receipts threshold 
for small entities.
    For operators of vessels currently participating in these 
fisheries, the economic impacts of this final rule are primarily 
beneficial or neutral. Removing sculpins from the BSAI target species 
category will remove the sculpins TAC from inclusion in the 2 million 
metric ton optimum yield (OY) cap in the BSAI. The amount of the OY cap 
that has been reserved for sculpins will be available to increase the 
TAC limit or limits for other BSAI target species. This effect will 
benefit participants in the BSAI fisheries that experience TAC 
increases relative to what the TACs would have been without this final 
rule. Some of the entities that experience benefits from increased TACs 
in the future may be small entities. The effects on target species TACs 
will be neutral for the GOA fisheries, as the OY has not constrained 
TACs in the GOA to date. Therefore, removing the sculpins TAC in the 
GOA will not allow for an increase in the TAC for another target 
species.
    The only potential adverse economic impact that has been identified 
for this final rule is that vessel owners or operators who may wish to 
conduct directed fishing for sculpins in the future, and who may wish 
to retain more sculpins than they would be allowed to retain under the 
20 percent MRA, will not be able to do so. This potential adverse 
impact will not affect any current participants relative to 
opportunities available to them because there has been no directed 
fishing for sculpins. Therefore, no current participants will lose an 
economic opportunity that is available to them today or has been 
available to them.
Recordkeeping, Reporting, and Other Compliance Requirements
    Under this final rule, requirements for recording and reporting the 
catch and discard of sculpins in logbooks or on catch or production 
reports will be maintained as they are in existing regulations. The 
final rule will make only minor modifications to clarify the 
recordkeeping and reporting requirements in Sec.  679.5, Table 2a to 50 
CFR part 679, and Table 2c to 50 CFR part 679. Therefore, moving 
sculpins from the target species category to the EC category will not 
change recordkeeping and reporting costs for fishery participants or 
impose any additional or new costs on participants.
Duplicate, Overlapping, or Conflicting Federal Rules
    No duplication, overlap, or conflict between this final rule and 
existing Federal rules has been identified.
Description of Significant Alternatives That Minimize Adverse Impacts 
on Small Entities
    The Council and NMFS considered two alternatives. Among the two 
alternatives, Alternative 2 Option 3 (the preferred alternative) 
provides the most economic benefits to current participants in the BSAI 
and GOA groundfish fisheries. The primary economic benefit of this 
final rule is to reduce the potential constraints imposed by the OFLs, 
ABCs, and TACs for sculpins on BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries. Among 
the three options considered for the sculpins MRA (2 percent, 10 
percent, and 20 percent), the 20 percent MRA that was selected 
minimizes the economic impact on any fishing vessel that is a small 
entity because it provides the greatest opportunity to retain sculpins 
as incidental catch in other groundfish fisheries.
    Alternative 1 is the no action alternative and would have continued 
to classify sculpins as target species in the groundfish FMPs. OFLs, 
ABCs, and TACs would have continued to be set for sculpins as a species 
group in both the BSAI and GOA. Relative to Alternative 2, Alternative 
1 could be considered less beneficial to small entities because all 
catch specifications would need to be maintained, and current 
constraints on the BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries would continue. 
However, Alternative 2 (this final rule) also could be considered more 
restrictive to small entities than Alternative 1 if the prohibition on 
directed fishing for sculpins under the final rule limits future 
participants' ability to conduct directed fishing for sculpins more so 
than would occur under the status quo. Alternative 1 would have allowed 
NMFS to determine annually whether to open a directed fishery for 
sculpins.
    Alternative 2 classifies sculpins in the BSAI and GOA in the EC 
category and implements a regulation prohibiting directed fishing for 
sculpins that can only be revised through subsequent rulemaking. 
However, the Council recommended and NMFS concurs that the benefits of 
the final rule to current fishery participants, including small 
entities, outweigh the potential future adverse impacts of the 
prohibition

[[Page 41431]]

against directed fishing for sculpins. In addition, this provision can 
be re-evaluated by the Council and NMFS in the future if fishery 
participants want to develop directed fisheries for sculpins.

Collection-of-Information Requirements

    This final rule contains a collection-of-information requirement 
subject to review and approval by the Office of Management and Budget 
(OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). This requirement has 
been submitted to OMB for approval under OMB Control Numbers 0648-0213 
and 0648-0515. This final rule will make minor revisions to the 
information collection requirements to clarify the location of the 
species code for sculpins in the tables to 50 CFR part 679 to note that 
sculpins should be reported as non-target EC species rather than target 
species. The requirements for recording and reporting the catch and 
discard of sculpins in logbooks or on catch or production reports will 
not change. These minor revisions do not change the public reporting 
burden or costs.
    Send comments on these or any other aspects of the collection of 
information to NMFS Alaska Region (see ADDRESSES), or to OIRA by 
visiting www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAMain. Find this particular 
information collection by selecting ``Currently under Review--Open for 
Public Comments: Or by using the search function.
    Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person is required 
to respond to, and no person shall be subject to 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 http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRASearch#.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679

    Alaska, Fisheries, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

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

    For reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS amends 50 CFR part 679 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.; 
Public Law 108-447; Public Law 111-281.


0
2. In Sec.  679.2, add a definition for ``Sculpins'' in alphabetical 
order to read as follows:


Sec.  679.2  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Sculpins (see Table 2c to this part and Sec.  679.20(i)).
* * * * *

0
3. In Sec.  679.5, revise paragraphs (a)(3) introductory text, 
(c)(3)(vi)(F), and (c)(4)(vi)(E) to read as follows:


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

    (a) * * *
    (3) Fish to be recorded and reported. The operator or manager must 
record and report the following information (see paragraphs (a)(3)(i) 
through (iv) of this section) for all groundfish (see Table 2a to this 
part), prohibited species (see Table 2b to this part), forage fish (see 
Table 2c to this part), grenadiers (see Table 2c to this part), squids 
(see Table 2c to this part), and sculpins (see Table 2c to this part). 
The operator or manager may record and report the following information 
(see paragraphs (a)(3)(i) through (iv) of this section) for non-
groundfish (see Table 2d to this part):
* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (3) * * *
    (vi) * * *
    (F) Species codes. The operator must record and report required 
information for all groundfish (see Table 2a to this part), prohibited 
species (see Table 2b to this part), forage fish (see Table 2c to this 
part), grenadiers (see Table 2c to this part), squids (see Table 2c to 
this part), and sculpins (see Table 2c to this part). The operator may 
record and report information for non-groundfish (see Table 2d to this 
part).
* * * * *
    (4) * * *
    (vi) * * *
    (E) Species codes. The operator must record and report required 
information for all groundfish (see Table 2a to this part), prohibited 
species (see Table 2b to this part), forage fish (see Table 2c to this 
part), grenadiers (see Table 2c to this part), squids (see Table 2c to 
this part), and sculpins (see Table 2c to this part). The operator may 
record and report information for non-groundfish (see Table 2d to this 
part).
* * * * *

0
4. In Sec.  679.20, revise paragraphs (b)(2) introductory text, (i) 
heading, and (i)(3) through (5) to read as follows:


Sec.  679.20  General limitations.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (2) GOA. Initial reserves are established for pollock, Pacific cod, 
flatfish, octopuses, and sharks, which are equal to 20 percent of the 
TACs for these species or species groups.
* * * * *
    (i) Forage fish, grenadiers, squids, and sculpins. * * *
    (3) Closure to directed fishing. Directed fishing for forage fish, 
grenadiers, squids, and sculpins is prohibited at all times in the BSAI 
and GOA.
    (4) Limits on sale, barter, trade, and processing. The sale, 
barter, trade, or processing of forage fish, grenadiers, squids, and 
sculpins is prohibited, except as provided in paragraph (i)(5) of this 
section.
    (5) Allowable fishmeal production. Retained catch of forage fish, 
grenadiers, squids, or sculpins not exceeding the maximum retainable 
amount may be processed into fishmeal for sale, barter, or trade.
* * * * *

0
5. In Sec.  679.22, revise paragraph (i) to read as follows:


Sec.  679.22  Closures.

* * * * *
    (i) Forage fish, grenadiers, squids, and sculpins closures. See 
Sec.  679.20(i)(3).

0
6. Revise Table 2a to part 679 to read as follows:

           Table 2a to Part 679--Species Codes: FMP Groundfish
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                     Species description                         Code
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Atka mackerel (greenling)...................................         193
Flatfish, miscellaneous (flatfish species without separate           120
 codes).....................................................
FLOUNDER:

[[Page 41432]]

 
    Alaska plaice...........................................         133
    Arrowtooth..............................................         121
    Bering..................................................         116
    Kamchatka...............................................         117
    Starry..................................................         129
Octopuses...................................................         870
Pacific cod.................................................         110
Pollock.....................................................         270
ROCKFISH:
    Aurora (Sebastes aurora)................................         185
    Black (BSAI) (S. melanops)..............................         142
    Blackgill (S. melanostomus).............................         177
    Blue (BSAI) (S. mystinus)...............................         167
    Bocaccio (S. paucispinis)...............................         137
    Canary (S. pinniger)....................................         146
    Chilipepper (S. goodei).................................         178
    China (S. nebulosus)....................................         149
    Copper (S. caurinus)....................................         138
    Darkblotched (S. crameri)...............................         159
    Dusky (S. variabilis)...................................         172
    Greenstriped (S. elongatus).............................         135
    Harlequin (S. variegatus)...............................         176
    Northern (S. polyspinis)................................         136
    Pacific Ocean Perch (S. alutus).........................         141
    Pygmy (S. wilsoni)......................................         179
    Quillback (S. maliger)..................................         147
    Redbanded (S. babcocki).................................         153
    Redstripe (S. proriger).................................         158
    Rosethorn (S. helvomaculatus)...........................         150
    Rougheye (S. aleutianus)................................         151
    Sharpchin (S. zacentrus)................................         166
    Shortbelly (S. jordani).................................         181
    Shortraker (S. borealis)................................         152
    Silvergray (S. brevispinis).............................         157
    Splitnose (S. diploproa)................................         182
    Stripetail (S. saxicola)................................         183
    Thornyhead (all Sebastolobus species)...................         143
    Tiger (S. nigrocinctus).................................         148
    Vermilion (S. miniatus).................................         184
    Widow (S. entomelas)....................................         156
    Yelloweye (S. ruberrimus)...............................         145
    Yellowmouth (S. reedi)..................................         175
    Yellowtail (S. flavidus)................................         155
Sablefish (blackcod)........................................         710
SHARKS:
    Other (if salmon, spiny dogfish or Pacific sleeper               689
     shark--use specific species code)......................
    Pacific sleeper.........................................         692
    Salmon..................................................         690
    Spiny dogfish...........................................         691
SKATES:
    Alaska (Bathyraja parmifera)............................         703
    Aleutian (B. aleutica)..................................         704
    Whiteblotched (B. maculate).............................         705
    Big (Raja binoculata)...................................         702
    Longnose (R. rhina).....................................         701
    Other (if Alaska, Aleutian, whiteblotched, big, or               700
     longnose skate--use specific species code).............
SOLE:
    Butter..................................................         126
    Dover...................................................         124
    English.................................................         128
    Flathead................................................         122
    Petrale.................................................         131
    Rex.....................................................         125
    Rock....................................................         123
    Sand....................................................         132
    Yellowfin...............................................         127
    Turbot, Greenland.......................................         134
------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 41433]]


0
7. Revise Table 2c to part 679 to read as follows:

    Table 2c to Part 679--Species Codes: FMP Forage Fish Species (All
   Species of the Following Families), Grenadier Species, Squids, and
                                Sculpins
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                   Species identification                        Code
------------------------------------------------------------------------
FORAGE FISH:
    Bristlemouths, lightfishes, and anglemouths (family              209
     Gonostomatidae)........................................
    Capelin smelt (family Osmeridae)........................         516
    Deep-sea smelts (family Bathylagidae)...................         773
    Eulachon smelt (family Osmeridae).......................         511
    Gunnels (family Pholidae)...............................         207
    Krill (order Euphausiacea)..............................         800
    Lanternfishes (family Myctophidae)......................         772
    Pacific Sand fish (family Trichodontidae)...............         206
    Pacific Sand lance (family Ammodytidae).................         774
    Pricklebacks, war-bonnets, eelblennys, cockscombs and            208
     Shannys (family Stichaeidae)...........................
    Surf smelt (family Osmeridae)...........................         515
GRENADIERS:
    Giant Grenadiers (Albatrossia pectoralis)...............         214
    Other Grenadiers........................................         213
SQUID:
    Squids..................................................         875
SCULPINS:
    Sculpins................................................         160
------------------------------------------------------------------------


0
8. Revise Table 10 to part 679 to read as follows:
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P

[[Page 41434]]

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[[Page 41435]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR10JY20.005


[[Page 41436]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR10JY20.006

BILLING CODE 3510-22-C

0
9. Revise Table 11 to part 679 to read as follows:
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P

[[Page 41437]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR10JY20.007


[[Page 41438]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR10JY20.008

[FR Doc. 2020-14856 Filed 7-9-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-C