Pacific Halibut Fisheries; Catch Sharing Plan, 20638-20641 [2021-08242]

Download as PDF 20638 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 75 / Wednesday, April 21, 2021 / Rules and Regulations DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 300 [Docket No. 210415–0082] RIN 0648–BK27 Pacific Halibut Fisheries; Catch Sharing Plan National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: This final rule implements the Pacific Halibut Catch Sharing Plan for the International Pacific Halibut Commission’s regulatory Area 2A off of Washington, Oregon, and California. In addition, this final rule implements management measures governing the 2021 recreational fisheries that are not implemented through the International Pacific Halibut Commission. These measures include the recreational fishery seasons, allocations, and management measures for Area 2A. These actions are intended to conserve Pacific halibut and provide angler opportunity where available. DATES: This rule is effective on April 20, 2021. ADDRESSES: Additional information regarding this action may be obtained by contacting the Sustainable Fisheries Division, NMFS West Coast Region, 1201 NE Lloyd Boulevard, Suite 1100, Portland, OR 97232. For information regarding all halibut fisheries and general regulations not contained in this rule, contact the International Pacific Halibut Commission, 2320 W Commodore Way, Suite 300, Seattle, WA 98199–1287. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kathryn Blair, phone: 503–231–6858, fax: 503–231–6893, or email: kathryn.blair@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with RULES SUMMARY: Background The Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 (Halibut Act) gives the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) responsibility for implementing the provisions of the Halibut Convention between the United States and Canada (16 U.S.C. 773–773k). The Halibut Act requires that the Secretary adopt regulations to carry out the purposes and objectives of the Halibut Convention and Halibut Act (16 U.S.C. 773(c)). The Halibut Act also authorizes the regional fishery management councils having authority VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:25 Apr 20, 2021 Jkt 253001 for a particular geographic area to develop regulations in addition to, but not in conflict with, regulations issued by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) to govern the Pacific halibut catch in U.S. Convention waters (16 U.S.C. 773c(c)). At its January 25–29, 2021 annual meeting, the IPHC recommended an Area 2A catch limit of 1,510,000 pounds (lb) (684.9 metric tons (mt)) for 2021. This catch limit is derived from the Area 2A total constant exploitation yield (TCEY) of 1,650,000 lb (748.4 mt), which includes commercial discards and bycatch estimates calculated using a formula developed by the IPHC. The Area 2A catch limit and commercial fishery allocations are adopted by the IPHC and were published in the Federal Register on March 9, 2021 (86 FR 13475) after acceptance by the Secretary of State, with concurrence from the Secretary of Commerce, in accordance with 50 CFR 300.62. Additionally, the March 9, 2021 (86 FR 13475) final rule contains annual domestic management measures and IPHC regulations that are published each year under NMFS’ authority to implement the Halibut Convention (50 CFR 300.62). Since 1988, the Council has developed and NMFS has approved annual Catch Sharing Plans that allocate the IPHC regulatory Area 2A Pacific halibut catch limit between treaty Indian and non-Indian harvesters, and among non-Indian commercial and recreational (sport) fisheries. In 1995, the Council recommended, and NMFS approved, a long-term Area 2A Catch Sharing Plan (60 FR 14651; March 20, 1995). NMFS has been approving adjustments to the Area 2A Catch Sharing Plan based on Council recommendations each year to address the changing needs of these fisheries. While the full Catch Sharing Plan is not published in the Federal Register, it is made available on the Council and NMFS websites. This rule approves the Council’s 2021 Catch Sharing Plan for IPHC regulatory Area 2A. The 2021 Catch Sharing Plan was developed through the Council’s public process. This rule implements recreational Pacific halibut fishery management measures for 2021, which include season opening and closing dates, retention of groundfish species, allowable gear, and opening closed areas that are set in NMFS regulations. Further details of the changes made for the 2021 Catch Sharing Plan are described in the proposed rule and are not repeated here. As described above, NMFS is adopting recreational fishery management measures, including PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 season dates for the 2021 fishery. The Catch Sharing Plan includes a framework for setting days open for fishing by subarea; under this framework, each state submits final recommended season dates annually to NMFS during the proposed rule comment period. This final rule contains dates for the recreational fisheries (though referred to as ‘‘sport’’ in IPHC documents, ‘‘recreational’’ will be used in this rule) based on the 2021 Catch Sharing Plan as recommended by the Council and the recommended dates submitted by the states during public comment on the proposed rule. 2021 Annual Recreational Management Measures The recreational fishing subareas, subquotas, fishing dates, and daily bag limits are as follows, except as modified under the inseason actions consistent with 50 CFR 300.63(c). All recreational fishing in Area 2A is managed on a ‘‘port of landing’’ basis, whereby any halibut landed into a port counts toward the quota for the area in which that port is located, and the regulations governing the area of landing apply, regardless of the specific area of catch. Washington Puget Sound and the U.S. Convention Waters in the Strait of Juan de Fuca The quota for the area in Puget Sound and the U.S. waters in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, east of a line extending from 48°17.30′ N lat., 124°23.70′ W long. north to 48°24.10′ N lat., 124°23.70′ W long., is 78,291 lb (35.5 mt). (a) The fishing seasons are: (i) For the area in Puget Sound and the U.S. waters in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, east of a line at approximately 123°49.60′ W long., fishing is open April 22–24, April 29–May 1; May 6–8, 13–15, 20–22, 28–30; June 3–5, 10–12, 17–19, and 24–26, or until there is not sufficient quota for another full day of fishing and the area is closed by the IPHC. Any closure will be announced on the NMFS hotline at (206) 526–6667 or 800–662–9825. (ii) For the area in U.S. waters in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, approximately between 124°23.70′ W long. and 123°49.60′ W long., fishing is open May 6, 8, 13, 15, 20, 22, 28–30; June 3–5, 10– 12, 17–19, 24–26, or until there is not sufficient quota for another full day of fishing and the area is closed by the IPHC. Any closure will be announced on the NMFS hotline at (206) 526–6667 or 800–662–9825. (b) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per person. E:\FR\FM\21APR1.SGM 21APR1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 75 / Wednesday, April 21, 2021 / Rules and Regulations Washington North Coast Subarea The quota for landings into ports in the area off the north Washington coast, west of a line at approximately 124°23.70′ W long. and north of the Queets River (47°31.70′ N lat.), is 128,928 lb (58.5 mt). (a) The fishing seasons are: (i) Fishing is open May 6, 8, 13, 15, 20, 22, 28, 30; June 3, 5, 10, 12, 17, 19, 24, and 26, or until there is not sufficient quota for another full day of fishing and the area is closed by the IPHC. Any closure will be announced on the NMFS hotline at (206) 526–6667 or 800–662–9825. (b) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per person. (c) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is prohibited within the North Coast Recreational Yelloweye Rockfish Conservation Area (YRCA). It is unlawful for recreational fishing vessels to take and retain, possess, or land halibut taken with recreational gear within the North Coast Recreational YRCA. A vessel fishing with recreational gear in the North Coast Recreational YRCA may not be in possession of any halibut. Recreational vessels may transit through the North Coast Recreational YRCA with or without halibut on board. The North Coast Recreational YRCA is a C-shaped area off the northern Washington coast intended to protect yelloweye rockfish. The North Coast Recreational YRCA is defined in groundfish regulations at 50 CFR 660.70(b). khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with RULES Washington South Coast Subarea The quota for landings into ports in the area between the Queets River, WA (47°31.70′ N lat.), and Leadbetter Point, WA (46°38.17′ N lat.), is 63,636 lb (28.9 mt). (a) This subarea is divided between the all-depth fishery (the Washington South coast primary fishery), and the incidental nearshore fishery in the area from 47°31.70′ N lat. south to 46°58.00′ N lat. and east of a boundary line approximating the 30-fathom (fm) (55meters (m)) depth contour. This area (the Washington South coast, northern nearshore area) is defined by straight lines connecting all of the following points in the order stated as described by the following coordinates: (1) 47°31.70′ N lat, 124°37.03′ W long; (2) 47°25.67′ N lat, 124°34.79′ W long; (3) 47°12.82′ N lat, 124°29.12′ W long; (4) 46°58.00′ N lat, 124°24.24′ W long. The primary fishery season dates are May 6, 9, 13, 16, 20, 23, 27; June 17, 20, 24, 27, or until there is not sufficient quota for another full day of fishing and the area is closed by the IPHC. Any VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:25 Apr 20, 2021 Jkt 253001 closure will be announced on the NMFS hotline at (206) 526–6667 or 800–662– 9825. If sufficient quota remains, the fishing season in the nearshore area commences the Saturday subsequent to the closure of the primary fishery and continues seven days per week until 63,636 lb (28.9 mt) is projected to be taken by the two fisheries combined and the fishery is closed by the IPHC or on September 30, whichever is earlier. If the fishery is closed prior to September 30, and there is insufficient quota remaining to reopen the Washington South coast, northern nearshore area for another fishing day, then any remaining quota may be transferred in-season to another Washington coastal subarea by NMFS. (b) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per person. (c) Seaward of the boundary line approximating the 30-fm (55-m) depth contour and during days open to the primary fishery, lingcod may be taken, retained and possessed when allowed by groundfish regulations at 50 CFR 660.360(c). (d) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is allowed within the South Coast Recreational YRCA and Westport Offshore Recreational YRCA. The South Coast Recreational YRCA is defined at 50 CFR 660.70(e). The Westport Offshore Recreational YRCA is defined at 50 CFR 660.70(f). Columbia River Subarea The quota for landings into ports in the area between Leadbetter Point, WA (46°38.17′ N lat.), and Cape Falcon, OR (45°46.00′ N lat.), is 18,662 lb (8.5 mt) (a) This subarea is divided into an alldepth fishery and a nearshore fishery. The nearshore fishery is allocated 500 lb (0.23 mt) of the subarea allocation. The nearshore fishery extends from Leadbetter Point (46°38.17′ N lat., 124°15.88′ W long.) to the Columbia River (46°16.00′ N lat., 124°15.88′ W long.) by connecting the following coordinates in Washington: 46°38.17′ N lat., 124°15.88′ W long. 46°16.00′ N lat., 124°15.88′ W long., and connecting to the boundary line approximating the 40fm (73-m) depth contour in Oregon. The nearshore fishery opens May 10, and continues on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday each week until the nearshore allocation is taken, or on September 30, whichever is earlier. The all-depth fishing season is open May 6, 9, 13, 16, 20, 23, 27; June 3, 6, 10, 13, 17, 20, 24, 27, or until there is not sufficient quota for another full day of fishing and the area is closed by the IPHC, or on September 30, whichever is earlier. Any closure will be announced on the NMFS hotline at (206) 526–6667 PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 20639 or 800–662–9825. Subsequent to this closure, if there is insufficient quota remaining in the Columbia River subarea for another fishing day, then any remaining quota may be transferred inseason to another Washington and/or Oregon subarea by NMFS. Any remaining quota would be transferred to each state in proportion to its contribution. (b) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per person. (c) Pacific Coast groundfish may not be taken and retained, possessed or landed when halibut are on board the vessel, except sablefish, Pacific cod, flatfish species, yellowtail rockfish, widow rockfish, canary rockfish, redstriped rockfish, greenstriped rockfish, silvergray rockfish, chilipepper, bocaccio, blue/deacon rockfish, and lingcod caught north of the Washington-Oregon border (46°16.00′ N lat.) may be retained when allowed by Pacific Coast groundfish regulations, during days open to the alldepth Pacific halibut fishery. Longleader gear (as defined at 50 CFR 660.351) may be used to retain groundfish during the all-depth Pacific halibut fishery south of the WashingtonOregon border, when allowed by Pacific Coast groundfish regulations. (d) Taking, retaining, possessing, or landing halibut on groundfish trips is allowed in the nearshore area on days not open to all-depth Pacific halibut fisheries. Oregon Central Coast Subarea The quota for landings into ports in the area off Oregon between Cape Falcon (45°46.00′ N lat.) and Humbug Mountain (42°40.50′ N lat.), is 273,403 lb (124 mt). (a) The fishing seasons are: (i) The first season (the ‘‘inside 40fm’’ fishery) commences May 1, and continues 7 days a week, in the area shoreward of a boundary line approximating the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour, or until the sub-quota for the central Oregon ‘‘inside 40-fm’’ fishery of 32,808 lb (14.9 mt), or any inseason revised subquota is estimated to have been taken and the season is closed by the IPHC, or on October 31, whichever is earlier. The boundary line approximating the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour between 45°46.00′ N lat. and 42°40.50′ N lat. is defined at 50 CFR 660.71(o). (ii) The second season (spring season), which is for the ‘‘all-depth’’ fishery, is open May 13–15, 20–22; June 3–5, 10– 12, 17–19; and July 1–3. The allocation to the all-depth fishery is 172,244 lb (78.1 mt). If sufficient unharvested quota remains for additional fishing E:\FR\FM\21APR1.SGM 21APR1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with RULES 20640 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 75 / Wednesday, April 21, 2021 / Rules and Regulations days, the season will re-open July 15– 17 and 29–31. Notice of the re-opening will be announced on the NMFS hotline (206) 526–6667 or (800) 662–9825. (iii) The third season (summer season), which is for the ‘‘all-depth’’ fishery, will be open August 5–7, 19–21; September 2–4; 16–18, September 30October 2; October 14–16, 28–30; and will continue until the combined spring season and summer season quotas in the area between Cape Falcon and Humbug Mountain, OR, are estimated to have been taken and the area is closed by the IPHC. NMFS will announce on the NMFS hotline (206) 526–6667 or (800) 662–9825 in July whether the fishery will re-open for the summer season in August. Additional fishing days may be opened if sufficient quota remains after the last day of the first scheduled open period. If, after this date, an amount greater than or equal to 60,000 lb (27.2 mt) remains in the combined all-depth and inside 40-fm (73-m) quota, the fishery may re-open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, beginning August 5, 6, and 7, and ending when there is insufficient quota remaining, whichever is earlier. If, after September 7, an amount greater than or equal to 30,000 lb (13.6 mt) remains in the combined all-depth and inside 40-fm (73-m) quota, and the fishery is not already open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the fishery may re-open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, beginning September 9, 10, and 11, and ending October 31. After September 7, the bag limit may be increased to two fish of any size per person, per day. NMFS will announce on the NMFS hotline (206) 526–6667 or (800) 662–9825 whether the summer all-depth fishery will be open on such additional fishing days, what days the fishery will be open, and what the bag limit is. (b) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per person, unless otherwise specified. NMFS will announce on the NMFS hotline (206) 526–6667 or (800) 662–9825 any bag limit changes. (c) During days open to all-depth halibut fishing when the groundfish fishery is restricted by depth, when halibut are on board the vessel, no groundfish, except sablefish, Pacific cod, and other species of flatfish (sole, flounder, sanddab), may be taken and retained, possessed or landed, except with long-leader gear (as defined at § 660.351), when allowed by groundfish regulations. During days open to alldepth halibut fishing when the groundfish fishery is open to all depths, any groundfish species permitted under the groundfish regulations may be retained, possessed or landed if halibut VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:25 Apr 20, 2021 Jkt 253001 are on board the vessel. During days open to nearshore halibut fishing, flatfish species may be taken and retained seaward of the seasonal groundfish depth restrictions if halibut are on board the vessel. (d) When the all-depth halibut fishery is closed and halibut fishing is permitted only shoreward of a boundary line approximating the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour, halibut possession and retention by vessels operating seaward of a boundary line approximating the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour is prohibited. (e) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is prohibited within the Stonewall Bank YRCA. It is unlawful for recreational fishing vessels to take and retain, possess, or land halibut taken with recreational gear within the Stonewall Bank YRCA. A vessel fishing in the Stonewall Bank YRCA may not possess any halibut. Recreational vessels may transit through the Stonewall Bank YRCA with or without halibut on board. The Stonewall Bank YRCA is an area off central Oregon, near Stonewall Bank, intended to protect yelloweye rockfish. The Stonewall Bank YRCA is defined at 50 CFR 660.70(g). Southern Oregon Subarea The quota for landings into ports in the area south of Humbug Mountain, OR (42°40.50′ N lat.) to the Oregon/ California Border (42°00.00′ N lat.) is 8,000 lb (3.6 mt). (a) The fishing season commences on May 1, and continues 7 days per week until the subquota is taken, or October 31, whichever is earlier. (b) The daily bag limit is one halibut per person with no size limit. (c) During days open to the Pacific halibut fishery, when halibut are on board the vessel, no groundfish except sablefish, Pacific cod, and other species of flatfish (sole, flounder, sanddab), may be taken and retained, possessed or landed, except with long-leader gear (as defined at § 660.351) when allowed by groundfish regulations. California Coast Subarea The quota for landings into ports south of the Oregon/California Border (42°00.00′ N lat.) and along the California coast is 39,260 lb (17.8 mt). (a) The fishing season will be open May 1 through November 15, or until the subarea quota is estimated to have been taken and the season is closed by the IPHC, whichever is earlier. NMFS will announce any closure by the IPHC on the NMFS hotline (206) 526–6667 or (800) 662–9825. (b) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per person. PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Comments and Responses NMFS published the proposed rule on February 12, 2021 (86 FR 9312). NMFS accepted public comments on the Council’s recommended modifications to the 2021 Area 2A Catch Sharing Plan and the proposed 2021 annual management measures through March 15, 2021. NMFS received two comments from state agencies—the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and two comments from stakeholders. Comment 1: ODFW submitted a comment recommending final recreational fishing season dates for the 2021 season for the Central Oregon Coast subarea. ODFW hosted a public meeting and an online survey following the IPHC annual meeting. Based on stakeholder input, past effort, and tidal events posing a safety risk to anglers, ODFW recommended season dates for the spring and summer Central Oregon Coast fisheries. For spring, ODFW recommended open dates on May 13, 14, 15; May 20, 21, 22; June 3, 4, 5; June 10, 11, 12; June 17, 18, 19; and July 1, 2, 3. In the event that there is remaining subarea allocation following the initial open dates, ODFW recommended the spring fishery open on July 15, 16, 17 and July 29, 30, 31. ODFW recommended summer fishery dates on August 5, 6, 7; August 19, 20, 21; September 2, 3, 4; September 16, 17, 18; September 30, October 1, 2; October 14, 15, 16; and October 28, 29, 30; or until the total 2021 all-depth catch limit for the subarea is taken. Response: NMFS concurs that the ODFW-recommended season dates are appropriate. There are a few differences between the spring and summer season dates NMFS published in the proposed rule and those recommended by ODFW. However, based on the rationale provided by ODFW, NMFS has updated the recreational fishery season dates off of Oregon to those recommended by ODFW in this final rule. Comment 2: CDFW submitted a comment concurring with the season dates for the fisheries off of California that NMFS published in the proposed rule for the 2021 season. CDFW hosted an online survey following the IPHC annual meeting. Based on public comments received on Pacific halibut fisheries in California and fishing performance in recent years, CDFW recommended season dates of May 1– November 15, or until quota has been attained, whichever comes first. Response: NMFS concurs that these season dates are appropriate and affirms E:\FR\FM\21APR1.SGM 21APR1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 75 / Wednesday, April 21, 2021 / Rules and Regulations the recreational fishery season dates off of California in this final rule. Comment 3: NMFS received one public comment in support of approving the 2021 Pacific Halibut Catch Sharing Plan. This comment also expresses concern for the need of adequate enforcement. Response: NMFS concurs that approving the 2021 Pacific Halibut Catch Sharing Plan is appropriate. With regards to the commenters’ concern regarding enforcement, NMFS agrees that monitoring of our fisheries is an important component of sustainable fisheries management. NMFS notes that enforcement during the Pacific halibut fisheries is a multi-agency effort with state and federal entities. In 2020, there were 117 hours of air patrols, 1441 hours of at-sea patrols, and a total of 518 enforcement actions. Comment 4: NMFS received one public comment suggesting the Washington recreational fishing season start later in the summer for safer fishing weather, and be set to co-occur with recreational salmon fisheries. Response: NMFS does not concur with starting the fishing season later or shifting the season to align with recreational salmon fisheries in 2021. The season dates in the proposed rule were recommended by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to the Council at the November meeting, after WDFW engaged with their stakeholders through public meetings. NMFS concurs with WDFW’s season dates, as they are a consolidated recommendation from both the Council and Washington stakeholders. Changes From the Proposed Rule As described in the response to Comment 1 above, NMFS changed season dates off of Oregon in this final rule. khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with RULES Classification Regulations governing the U.S. fisheries for Pacific halibut are developed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC), the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), and the Secretary of Commerce. Section 5 of the Halibut Act (16 U.S.C. 773c) allows the Regional Council having authority for a particular geographical area to develop regulations governing the allocation and catch of VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:25 Apr 20, 2021 Jkt 253001 halibut in U.S. Convention waters as long as those regulations do not conflict with IPHC regulations. This action is consistent with the Council’s authority to allocate halibut catches among fishery participants in the waters in and off Washington, Oregon, and California. This final rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. NMFS finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in the date of effectiveness and make this rule effective on April 20, 2021, in time for the start of recreational Pacific halibut fisheries on April 22, 2021, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3). The 2021 Catch Sharing Plan provides the framework for the annual management measures and setting subarea allocations based on annual catch limits set by the IPHC. This rule implements 2021 Area 2A subarea allocations as published in the proposed rule (86 FR 9312, February 12, 2021) for the recreational Pacific halibut fishery based on the formulas set in the Catch Sharing Plan and using the 2021 Area 2A catch limit for Pacific halibut set by the IPHC and published by NMFS on March 9, 2021 (86 FR 13475). This rule relieves multiples restrictions: (1) Providing for the first opening of the recreational fishery subareas on April 22, 2021 for the Washington Puget Sound and the U.S. Convention Waters in the Strait of Juan de Fuca subarea; (2) based on the total Area 2A catch limit, the 2021 recreational fishery subarea allocations implemented in this rule are higher than in 2020, allowing for additional fishing opportunity; and (3) approving the changes to the Catch Sharing Plan to open previously closed areas and allow for retention of certain groundfish species. Additionally, delaying the effective date of this rule would be contrary to the public interest. The Council’s 2021 Catch Sharing Plan approved in this rule includes changes that respond to the needs of the fisheries in each state, including fisheries that begin in late April. A delay in the effectiveness of this rule for 30 days would result in the fisheries not opening on their intended timelines and on the dates the affected public are expecting. The recreational Pacific halibut fisheries have high participation, and some subareas close months before the end of the season due to quota attainment. If the fisheries do PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 20641 not open on their intended timelines, fishing opportunity is lost, potentially causing economic harm to communities at recreational fishing ports. The Council also recommended removing prohibition on fishing within two Rockfish Conservation Areas and allowing anglers fishing for halibut in the Columbia River and Oregon subareas to retain certain groundfish species in order to be consistent with changes implemented in the 2021–2022 groundfish harvest specifications final rule (85 FR 79880; December 11, 2020). This rule is needed for consistency with groundfish regulations, and to provide more angler opportunity by permitting retention of more groundfish species than were previously allowed in regulation. Therefore, allowing the 2020 Catch Sharing Plan to remain in place would not respond to the needs of the fishery and would be in conflict with the Council’s final recommendation for 2021. A delay in effectiveness could cause economic harm to the associated fishing communities by reducing fishing opportunity at the start of the fishing year. As a result of the potential harm to fishing communities that could be caused by delaying the effectiveness of this final rule, NMFS finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in the date of effectiveness and make this rule effective upon publication in the Federal Register. The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities for purposes of the Regulatory Flexibility Act. The factual basis for the certification was published in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. As a result, a regulatory flexibility analysis was not required and none was prepared. This rule contains no information collection requirements under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. Dated: April 16, 2021. Samuel D. Rauch, III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2021–08242 Filed 4–20–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\21APR1.SGM 21APR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 75 (Wednesday, April 21, 2021)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 20638-20641]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-08242]



[[Page 20638]]

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 300

[Docket No. 210415-0082]
RIN 0648-BK27


Pacific Halibut Fisheries; Catch Sharing Plan

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: This final rule implements the Pacific Halibut Catch Sharing 
Plan for the International Pacific Halibut Commission's regulatory Area 
2A off of Washington, Oregon, and California. In addition, this final 
rule implements management measures governing the 2021 recreational 
fisheries that are not implemented through the International Pacific 
Halibut Commission. These measures include the recreational fishery 
seasons, allocations, and management measures for Area 2A. These 
actions are intended to conserve Pacific halibut and provide angler 
opportunity where available.

DATES: This rule is effective on April 20, 2021.

ADDRESSES: Additional information regarding this action may be obtained 
by contacting the Sustainable Fisheries Division, NMFS West Coast 
Region, 1201 NE Lloyd Boulevard, Suite 1100, Portland, OR 97232. For 
information regarding all halibut fisheries and general regulations not 
contained in this rule, contact the International Pacific Halibut 
Commission, 2320 W Commodore Way, Suite 300, Seattle, WA 98199-1287.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kathryn Blair, phone: 503-231-6858, 
fax: 503-231-6893, or email: [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 (Halibut Act) gives the 
Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) responsibility for implementing the 
provisions of the Halibut Convention between the United States and 
Canada (16 U.S.C. 773-773k). The Halibut Act requires that the 
Secretary adopt regulations to carry out the purposes and objectives of 
the Halibut Convention and Halibut Act (16 U.S.C. 773(c)). The Halibut 
Act also authorizes the regional fishery management councils having 
authority for a particular geographic area to develop regulations in 
addition to, but not in conflict with, regulations issued by the 
International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) to govern the Pacific 
halibut catch in U.S. Convention waters (16 U.S.C. 773c(c)).
    At its January 25-29, 2021 annual meeting, the IPHC recommended an 
Area 2A catch limit of 1,510,000 pounds (lb) (684.9 metric tons (mt)) 
for 2021. This catch limit is derived from the Area 2A total constant 
exploitation yield (TCEY) of 1,650,000 lb (748.4 mt), which includes 
commercial discards and bycatch estimates calculated using a formula 
developed by the IPHC. The Area 2A catch limit and commercial fishery 
allocations are adopted by the IPHC and were published in the Federal 
Register on March 9, 2021 (86 FR 13475) after acceptance by the 
Secretary of State, with concurrence from the Secretary of Commerce, in 
accordance with 50 CFR 300.62. Additionally, the March 9, 2021 (86 FR 
13475) final rule contains annual domestic management measures and IPHC 
regulations that are published each year under NMFS' authority to 
implement the Halibut Convention (50 CFR 300.62).
    Since 1988, the Council has developed and NMFS has approved annual 
Catch Sharing Plans that allocate the IPHC regulatory Area 2A Pacific 
halibut catch limit between treaty Indian and non-Indian harvesters, 
and among non-Indian commercial and recreational (sport) fisheries. In 
1995, the Council recommended, and NMFS approved, a long-term Area 2A 
Catch Sharing Plan (60 FR 14651; March 20, 1995). NMFS has been 
approving adjustments to the Area 2A Catch Sharing Plan based on 
Council recommendations each year to address the changing needs of 
these fisheries. While the full Catch Sharing Plan is not published in 
the Federal Register, it is made available on the Council and NMFS 
websites.
    This rule approves the Council's 2021 Catch Sharing Plan for IPHC 
regulatory Area 2A. The 2021 Catch Sharing Plan was developed through 
the Council's public process. This rule implements recreational Pacific 
halibut fishery management measures for 2021, which include season 
opening and closing dates, retention of groundfish species, allowable 
gear, and opening closed areas that are set in NMFS regulations. 
Further details of the changes made for the 2021 Catch Sharing Plan are 
described in the proposed rule and are not repeated here.
    As described above, NMFS is adopting recreational fishery 
management measures, including season dates for the 2021 fishery. The 
Catch Sharing Plan includes a framework for setting days open for 
fishing by subarea; under this framework, each state submits final 
recommended season dates annually to NMFS during the proposed rule 
comment period. This final rule contains dates for the recreational 
fisheries (though referred to as ``sport'' in IPHC documents, 
``recreational'' will be used in this rule) based on the 2021 Catch 
Sharing Plan as recommended by the Council and the recommended dates 
submitted by the states during public comment on the proposed rule.

2021 Annual Recreational Management Measures

    The recreational fishing subareas, subquotas, fishing dates, and 
daily bag limits are as follows, except as modified under the inseason 
actions consistent with 50 CFR 300.63(c). All recreational fishing in 
Area 2A is managed on a ``port of landing'' basis, whereby any halibut 
landed into a port counts toward the quota for the area in which that 
port is located, and the regulations governing the area of landing 
apply, regardless of the specific area of catch.
Washington Puget Sound and the U.S. Convention Waters in the Strait of 
Juan de Fuca
    The quota for the area in Puget Sound and the U.S. waters in the 
Strait of Juan de Fuca, east of a line extending from 48[deg]17.30' N 
lat., 124[deg]23.70' W long. north to 48[deg]24.10' N lat., 
124[deg]23.70' W long., is 78,291 lb (35.5 mt).
    (a) The fishing seasons are:
    (i) For the area in Puget Sound and the U.S. waters in the Strait 
of Juan de Fuca, east of a line at approximately 123[deg]49.60' W 
long., fishing is open April 22-24, April 29-May 1; May 6-8, 13-15, 20-
22, 28-30; June 3-5, 10-12, 17-19, and 24-26, or until there is not 
sufficient quota for another full day of fishing and the area is closed 
by the IPHC. Any closure will be announced on the NMFS hotline at (206) 
526-6667 or 800-662-9825.
    (ii) For the area in U.S. waters in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, 
approximately between 124[deg]23.70' W long. and 123[deg]49.60' W 
long., fishing is open May 6, 8, 13, 15, 20, 22, 28-30; June 3-5, 10-
12, 17-19, 24-26, or until there is not sufficient quota for another 
full day of fishing and the area is closed by the IPHC. Any closure 
will be announced on the NMFS hotline at (206) 526-6667 or 800-662-
9825.
    (b) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person.

[[Page 20639]]

Washington North Coast Subarea
    The quota for landings into ports in the area off the north 
Washington coast, west of a line at approximately 124[deg]23.70' W 
long. and north of the Queets River (47[deg]31.70' N lat.), is 128,928 
lb (58.5 mt).
    (a) The fishing seasons are:
    (i) Fishing is open May 6, 8, 13, 15, 20, 22, 28, 30; June 3, 5, 
10, 12, 17, 19, 24, and 26, or until there is not sufficient quota for 
another full day of fishing and the area is closed by the IPHC. Any 
closure will be announced on the NMFS hotline at (206) 526-6667 or 800-
662-9825.
    (b) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person.
    (c) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is prohibited 
within the North Coast Recreational Yelloweye Rockfish Conservation 
Area (YRCA). It is unlawful for recreational fishing vessels to take 
and retain, possess, or land halibut taken with recreational gear 
within the North Coast Recreational YRCA. A vessel fishing with 
recreational gear in the North Coast Recreational YRCA may not be in 
possession of any halibut. Recreational vessels may transit through the 
North Coast Recreational YRCA with or without halibut on board. The 
North Coast Recreational YRCA is a C-shaped area off the northern 
Washington coast intended to protect yelloweye rockfish. The North 
Coast Recreational YRCA is defined in groundfish regulations at 50 CFR 
660.70(b).
Washington South Coast Subarea
    The quota for landings into ports in the area between the Queets 
River, WA (47[deg]31.70' N lat.), and Leadbetter Point, WA 
(46[deg]38.17' N lat.), is 63,636 lb (28.9 mt).
    (a) This subarea is divided between the all-depth fishery (the 
Washington South coast primary fishery), and the incidental nearshore 
fishery in the area from 47[deg]31.70' N lat. south to 46[deg]58.00' N 
lat. and east of a boundary line approximating the 30-fathom (fm) (55-
meters (m)) depth contour. This area (the Washington South coast, 
northern nearshore area) is defined by straight lines connecting all of 
the following points in the order stated as described by the following 
coordinates:
    (1) 47[deg]31.70' N lat, 124[deg]37.03' W long;
    (2) 47[deg]25.67' N lat, 124[deg]34.79' W long;
    (3) 47[deg]12.82' N lat, 124[deg]29.12' W long;
    (4) 46[deg]58.00' N lat, 124[deg]24.24' W long.
    The primary fishery season dates are May 6, 9, 13, 16, 20, 23, 27; 
June 17, 20, 24, 27, or until there is not sufficient quota for another 
full day of fishing and the area is closed by the IPHC. Any closure 
will be announced on the NMFS hotline at (206) 526-6667 or 800-662-
9825. If sufficient quota remains, the fishing season in the nearshore 
area commences the Saturday subsequent to the closure of the primary 
fishery and continues seven days per week until 63,636 lb (28.9 mt) is 
projected to be taken by the two fisheries combined and the fishery is 
closed by the IPHC or on September 30, whichever is earlier. If the 
fishery is closed prior to September 30, and there is insufficient 
quota remaining to reopen the Washington South coast, northern 
nearshore area for another fishing day, then any remaining quota may be 
transferred in-season to another Washington coastal subarea by NMFS.
    (b) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person.
    (c) Seaward of the boundary line approximating the 30-fm (55-m) 
depth contour and during days open to the primary fishery, lingcod may 
be taken, retained and possessed when allowed by groundfish regulations 
at 50 CFR 660.360(c).
    (d) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is allowed 
within the South Coast Recreational YRCA and Westport Offshore 
Recreational YRCA. The South Coast Recreational YRCA is defined at 50 
CFR 660.70(e). The Westport Offshore Recreational YRCA is defined at 50 
CFR 660.70(f).
Columbia River Subarea
    The quota for landings into ports in the area between Leadbetter 
Point, WA (46[deg]38.17' N lat.), and Cape Falcon, OR (45[deg]46.00' N 
lat.), is 18,662 lb (8.5 mt)
    (a) This subarea is divided into an all-depth fishery and a 
nearshore fishery. The nearshore fishery is allocated 500 lb (0.23 mt) 
of the subarea allocation. The nearshore fishery extends from 
Leadbetter Point (46[deg]38.17' N lat., 124[deg]15.88' W long.) to the 
Columbia River (46[deg]16.00' N lat., 124[deg]15.88' W long.) by 
connecting the following coordinates in Washington: 46[deg]38.17' N 
lat., 124[deg]15.88' W long. 46[deg]16.00' N lat., 124[deg]15.88' W 
long., and connecting to the boundary line approximating the 40-fm (73-
m) depth contour in Oregon. The nearshore fishery opens May 10, and 
continues on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday each week until the 
nearshore allocation is taken, or on September 30, whichever is 
earlier. The all-depth fishing season is open May 6, 9, 13, 16, 20, 23, 
27; June 3, 6, 10, 13, 17, 20, 24, 27, or until there is not sufficient 
quota for another full day of fishing and the area is closed by the 
IPHC, or on September 30, whichever is earlier. Any closure will be 
announced on the NMFS hotline at (206) 526-6667 or 800-662-9825. 
Subsequent to this closure, if there is insufficient quota remaining in 
the Columbia River subarea for another fishing day, then any remaining 
quota may be transferred inseason to another Washington and/or Oregon 
subarea by NMFS. Any remaining quota would be transferred to each state 
in proportion to its contribution.
    (b) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person.
    (c) Pacific Coast groundfish may not be taken and retained, 
possessed or landed when halibut are on board the vessel, except 
sablefish, Pacific cod, flatfish species, yellowtail rockfish, widow 
rockfish, canary rockfish, redstriped rockfish, greenstriped rockfish, 
silvergray rockfish, chilipepper, bocaccio, blue/deacon rockfish, and 
lingcod caught north of the Washington-Oregon border (46[deg]16.00' N 
lat.) may be retained when allowed by Pacific Coast groundfish 
regulations, during days open to the all-depth Pacific halibut fishery. 
Long-leader gear (as defined at 50 CFR 660.351) may be used to retain 
groundfish during the all-depth Pacific halibut fishery south of the 
Washington-Oregon border, when allowed by Pacific Coast groundfish 
regulations.
    (d) Taking, retaining, possessing, or landing halibut on groundfish 
trips is allowed in the nearshore area on days not open to all-depth 
Pacific halibut fisheries.
Oregon Central Coast Subarea
    The quota for landings into ports in the area off Oregon between 
Cape Falcon (45[deg]46.00' N lat.) and Humbug Mountain (42[deg]40.50' N 
lat.), is 273,403 lb (124 mt).
    (a) The fishing seasons are:
    (i) The first season (the ``inside 40-fm'' fishery) commences May 
1, and continues 7 days a week, in the area shoreward of a boundary 
line approximating the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour, or until the sub-
quota for the central Oregon ``inside 40-fm'' fishery of 32,808 lb 
(14.9 mt), or any inseason revised subquota is estimated to have been 
taken and the season is closed by the IPHC, or on October 31, whichever 
is earlier. The boundary line approximating the 40-fm (73-m) depth 
contour between 45[deg]46.00' N lat. and 42[deg]40.50' N lat. is 
defined at 50 CFR 660.71(o).
    (ii) The second season (spring season), which is for the ``all-
depth'' fishery, is open May 13-15, 20-22; June 3-5, 10-12, 17-19; and 
July 1-3. The allocation to the all-depth fishery is 172,244 lb (78.1 
mt). If sufficient unharvested quota remains for additional fishing

[[Page 20640]]

days, the season will re-open July 15-17 and 29-31. Notice of the re-
opening will be announced on the NMFS hotline (206) 526-6667 or (800) 
662-9825.
    (iii) The third season (summer season), which is for the ``all-
depth'' fishery, will be open August 5-7, 19-21; September 2-4; 16-18, 
September 30-October 2; October 14-16, 28-30; and will continue until 
the combined spring season and summer season quotas in the area between 
Cape Falcon and Humbug Mountain, OR, are estimated to have been taken 
and the area is closed by the IPHC. NMFS will announce on the NMFS 
hotline (206) 526-6667 or (800) 662-9825 in July whether the fishery 
will re-open for the summer season in August. Additional fishing days 
may be opened if sufficient quota remains after the last day of the 
first scheduled open period. If, after this date, an amount greater 
than or equal to 60,000 lb (27.2 mt) remains in the combined all-depth 
and inside 40-fm (73-m) quota, the fishery may re-open every Thursday, 
Friday and Saturday, beginning August 5, 6, and 7, and ending when 
there is insufficient quota remaining, whichever is earlier. If, after 
September 7, an amount greater than or equal to 30,000 lb (13.6 mt) 
remains in the combined all-depth and inside 40-fm (73-m) quota, and 
the fishery is not already open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 
the fishery may re-open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, beginning 
September 9, 10, and 11, and ending October 31. After September 7, the 
bag limit may be increased to two fish of any size per person, per day. 
NMFS will announce on the NMFS hotline (206) 526-6667 or (800) 662-9825 
whether the summer all-depth fishery will be open on such additional 
fishing days, what days the fishery will be open, and what the bag 
limit is.
    (b) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person, unless otherwise specified. NMFS will announce on the NMFS 
hotline (206) 526-6667 or (800) 662-9825 any bag limit changes.
    (c) During days open to all-depth halibut fishing when the 
groundfish fishery is restricted by depth, when halibut are on board 
the vessel, no groundfish, except sablefish, Pacific cod, and other 
species of flatfish (sole, flounder, sanddab), may be taken and 
retained, possessed or landed, except with long-leader gear (as defined 
at Sec.  660.351), when allowed by groundfish regulations. During days 
open to all-depth halibut fishing when the groundfish fishery is open 
to all depths, any groundfish species permitted under the groundfish 
regulations may be retained, possessed or landed if halibut are on 
board the vessel. During days open to nearshore halibut fishing, 
flatfish species may be taken and retained seaward of the seasonal 
groundfish depth restrictions if halibut are on board the vessel.
    (d) When the all-depth halibut fishery is closed and halibut 
fishing is permitted only shoreward of a boundary line approximating 
the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour, halibut possession and retention by 
vessels operating seaward of a boundary line approximating the 40-fm 
(73-m) depth contour is prohibited.
    (e) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is prohibited 
within the Stonewall Bank YRCA. It is unlawful for recreational fishing 
vessels to take and retain, possess, or land halibut taken with 
recreational gear within the Stonewall Bank YRCA. A vessel fishing in 
the Stonewall Bank YRCA may not possess any halibut. Recreational 
vessels may transit through the Stonewall Bank YRCA with or without 
halibut on board. The Stonewall Bank YRCA is an area off central 
Oregon, near Stonewall Bank, intended to protect yelloweye rockfish. 
The Stonewall Bank YRCA is defined at 50 CFR 660.70(g).
Southern Oregon Subarea
    The quota for landings into ports in the area south of Humbug 
Mountain, OR (42[deg]40.50' N lat.) to the Oregon/California Border 
(42[deg]00.00' N lat.) is 8,000 lb (3.6 mt).
    (a) The fishing season commences on May 1, and continues 7 days per 
week until the subquota is taken, or October 31, whichever is earlier.
    (b) The daily bag limit is one halibut per person with no size 
limit.
    (c) During days open to the Pacific halibut fishery, when halibut 
are on board the vessel, no groundfish except sablefish, Pacific cod, 
and other species of flatfish (sole, flounder, sanddab), may be taken 
and retained, possessed or landed, except with long-leader gear (as 
defined at Sec.  660.351) when allowed by groundfish regulations.
California Coast Subarea
    The quota for landings into ports south of the Oregon/California 
Border (42[deg]00.00' N lat.) and along the California coast is 39,260 
lb (17.8 mt).
    (a) The fishing season will be open May 1 through November 15, or 
until the subarea quota is estimated to have been taken and the season 
is closed by the IPHC, whichever is earlier. NMFS will announce any 
closure by the IPHC on the NMFS hotline (206) 526-6667 or (800) 662-
9825.
    (b) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person.

Comments and Responses

    NMFS published the proposed rule on February 12, 2021 (86 FR 9312). 
NMFS accepted public comments on the Council's recommended 
modifications to the 2021 Area 2A Catch Sharing Plan and the proposed 
2021 annual management measures through March 15, 2021. NMFS received 
two comments from state agencies--the Oregon Department of Fish and 
Wildlife (ODFW) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife 
(CDFW), and two comments from stakeholders.
    Comment 1: ODFW submitted a comment recommending final recreational 
fishing season dates for the 2021 season for the Central Oregon Coast 
subarea. ODFW hosted a public meeting and an online survey following 
the IPHC annual meeting. Based on stakeholder input, past effort, and 
tidal events posing a safety risk to anglers, ODFW recommended season 
dates for the spring and summer Central Oregon Coast fisheries. For 
spring, ODFW recommended open dates on May 13, 14, 15; May 20, 21, 22; 
June 3, 4, 5; June 10, 11, 12; June 17, 18, 19; and July 1, 2, 3. In 
the event that there is remaining subarea allocation following the 
initial open dates, ODFW recommended the spring fishery open on July 
15, 16, 17 and July 29, 30, 31. ODFW recommended summer fishery dates 
on August 5, 6, 7; August 19, 20, 21; September 2, 3, 4; September 16, 
17, 18; September 30, October 1, 2; October 14, 15, 16; and October 28, 
29, 30; or until the total 2021 all-depth catch limit for the subarea 
is taken.
    Response: NMFS concurs that the ODFW-recommended season dates are 
appropriate. There are a few differences between the spring and summer 
season dates NMFS published in the proposed rule and those recommended 
by ODFW. However, based on the rationale provided by ODFW, NMFS has 
updated the recreational fishery season dates off of Oregon to those 
recommended by ODFW in this final rule.
    Comment 2: CDFW submitted a comment concurring with the season 
dates for the fisheries off of California that NMFS published in the 
proposed rule for the 2021 season. CDFW hosted an online survey 
following the IPHC annual meeting. Based on public comments received on 
Pacific halibut fisheries in California and fishing performance in 
recent years, CDFW recommended season dates of May 1-November 15, or 
until quota has been attained, whichever comes first.
    Response: NMFS concurs that these season dates are appropriate and 
affirms

[[Page 20641]]

the recreational fishery season dates off of California in this final 
rule.
    Comment 3: NMFS received one public comment in support of approving 
the 2021 Pacific Halibut Catch Sharing Plan. This comment also 
expresses concern for the need of adequate enforcement.
    Response: NMFS concurs that approving the 2021 Pacific Halibut 
Catch Sharing Plan is appropriate. With regards to the commenters' 
concern regarding enforcement, NMFS agrees that monitoring of our 
fisheries is an important component of sustainable fisheries 
management. NMFS notes that enforcement during the Pacific halibut 
fisheries is a multi-agency effort with state and federal entities. In 
2020, there were 117 hours of air patrols, 1441 hours of at-sea 
patrols, and a total of 518 enforcement actions.
    Comment 4: NMFS received one public comment suggesting the 
Washington recreational fishing season start later in the summer for 
safer fishing weather, and be set to co-occur with recreational salmon 
fisheries.
    Response: NMFS does not concur with starting the fishing season 
later or shifting the season to align with recreational salmon 
fisheries in 2021. The season dates in the proposed rule were 
recommended by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to 
the Council at the November meeting, after WDFW engaged with their 
stakeholders through public meetings. NMFS concurs with WDFW's season 
dates, as they are a consolidated recommendation from both the Council 
and Washington stakeholders.

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    As described in the response to Comment 1 above, NMFS changed 
season dates off of Oregon in this final rule.

Classification

    Regulations governing the U.S. fisheries for Pacific halibut are 
developed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC), the 
Pacific Fishery Management Council, the North Pacific Fishery 
Management Council (Council), and the Secretary of Commerce. Section 5 
of the Halibut Act (16 U.S.C. 773c) allows the Regional Council having 
authority for a particular geographical area to develop regulations 
governing the allocation and catch of halibut in U.S. Convention waters 
as long as those regulations do not conflict with IPHC regulations. 
This action is consistent with the Council's authority to allocate 
halibut catches among fishery participants in the waters in and off 
Washington, Oregon, and California.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    NMFS finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in the date of 
effectiveness and make this rule effective on April 20, 2021, in time 
for the start of recreational Pacific halibut fisheries on April 22, 
2021, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3). The 2021 Catch Sharing Plan 
provides the framework for the annual management measures and setting 
subarea allocations based on annual catch limits set by the IPHC. This 
rule implements 2021 Area 2A subarea allocations as published in the 
proposed rule (86 FR 9312, February 12, 2021) for the recreational 
Pacific halibut fishery based on the formulas set in the Catch Sharing 
Plan and using the 2021 Area 2A catch limit for Pacific halibut set by 
the IPHC and published by NMFS on March 9, 2021 (86 FR 13475).
    This rule relieves multiples restrictions: (1) Providing for the 
first opening of the recreational fishery subareas on April 22, 2021 
for the Washington Puget Sound and the U.S. Convention Waters in the 
Strait of Juan de Fuca subarea; (2) based on the total Area 2A catch 
limit, the 2021 recreational fishery subarea allocations implemented in 
this rule are higher than in 2020, allowing for additional fishing 
opportunity; and (3) approving the changes to the Catch Sharing Plan to 
open previously closed areas and allow for retention of certain 
groundfish species.
    Additionally, delaying the effective date of this rule would be 
contrary to the public interest. The Council's 2021 Catch Sharing Plan 
approved in this rule includes changes that respond to the needs of the 
fisheries in each state, including fisheries that begin in late April. 
A delay in the effectiveness of this rule for 30 days would result in 
the fisheries not opening on their intended timelines and on the dates 
the affected public are expecting. The recreational Pacific halibut 
fisheries have high participation, and some subareas close months 
before the end of the season due to quota attainment. If the fisheries 
do not open on their intended timelines, fishing opportunity is lost, 
potentially causing economic harm to communities at recreational 
fishing ports. The Council also recommended removing prohibition on 
fishing within two Rockfish Conservation Areas and allowing anglers 
fishing for halibut in the Columbia River and Oregon subareas to retain 
certain groundfish species in order to be consistent with changes 
implemented in the 2021-2022 groundfish harvest specifications final 
rule (85 FR 79880; December 11, 2020). This rule is needed for 
consistency with groundfish regulations, and to provide more angler 
opportunity by permitting retention of more groundfish species than 
were previously allowed in regulation.
    Therefore, allowing the 2020 Catch Sharing Plan to remain in place 
would not respond to the needs of the fishery and would be in conflict 
with the Council's final recommendation for 2021. A delay in 
effectiveness could cause economic harm to the associated fishing 
communities by reducing fishing opportunity at the start of the fishing 
year. As a result of the potential harm to fishing communities that 
could be caused by delaying the effectiveness of this final rule, NMFS 
finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in the date of effectiveness 
and make this rule effective upon publication in the Federal Register.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities for purposes of the Regulatory Flexibility Act. The factual 
basis for the certification was published in the proposed rule and is 
not repeated here. As a result, a regulatory flexibility analysis was 
not required and none was prepared.
    This rule contains no information collection requirements under the 
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.

    Dated: April 16, 2021.
Samuel D. Rauch, III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2021-08242 Filed 4-20-21; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P