Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries Off West Coast States; Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery; 2021-2022 Biennial Specifications and Management Measures; Inseason Adjustments, 72863-72873 [2021-27901]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 244 / Thursday, December 23, 2021 / Rules and Regulations Dated: December 17, 2021. Samuel D. Rauch, III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs,National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2021–27773 Filed 12–22–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 660 [Docket No. 201204–0325] RIN 0648–BL10 Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries Off West Coast States; Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery; 2021–2022 Biennial Specifications and Management Measures; Inseason Adjustments National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule; inseason adjustments to biennial groundfish management measures. AGENCY: This final rule announces routine inseason adjustments to management measures in commercial and recreational groundfish fisheries. This action is intended to allow commercial and recreational fishery participants to access more abundant groundfish stocks while protecting rebuilding stocks. DATES: This final rule is effective January 1, 2022. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sean E. Matson, (206) 526–6140, email: sean.matson@noaa.gov. ADDRESSES: SUMMARY: Electronic Access This rule is accessible via the internet at the Office of the Federal Register website at https:// www.federalregister.gov. Background information and documents are available at the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s website at https:// www.pcouncil.org/. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with RULES1 Background The Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (PCGFMP) and its implementing regulations at title 50 in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 660, subparts C through G, regulate fishing for over 90 species of groundfish off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:16 Dec 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 and California. The Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) develops groundfish harvest specifications and management measures for two year periods (i.e., a biennium). NMFS published the final rule to implement harvest specifications and management measures for the 2021–2022 biennium for most species managed under the PCGFMP on December 11, 2020 (85 FR 79880). In general, the management measures set at the start of the biennial harvest specifications cycle help the various sectors of the fishery attain, but not exceed, the catch limits for each stock. The Council, in coordination with Pacific Coast Treaty Indian Tribes and the States of Washington, Oregon, and California, recommends adjustments to the management measures during the fishing year to achieve this goal. At its meeting on November 15–22, 2021, the Council made recommendations for the 2022 fishing year, which included decreasing trip limits for the Limited Entry (LE) and Open Access (OA) fixed gear (FG) sablefish, Daily Trip Limit (DTL) fisheries north of 36° N latitude. The Council also recommended increasing trip limits for the fixed gear lingcod fishery, north of 42° N latitude (LE and OA), beginning January 1, 2022, and for the remainder of the 2022 fishing year unless superseded by a subsequent action. Additionally, the Council recommended new sub-bag limits and sub-trip limits, in recreational and nontrawl commercial fisheries respectively, for two nearshore species, quillback rockfish and copper rockfish, as well as the shelf species vermillion rockfish. Pacific Coast groundfish fisheries are managed using harvest specifications or limits (e.g., overfishing limits [OFL], acceptable biological catch [ABC], annual catch limits [ACL] and harvest guidelines [HG]) recommended biennially by the Council and based on the best scientific information available at that time (50 CFR 660.60(b)). During development of the harvest specifications, the Council also recommends management measures (e.g., trip limits, area closures, and bag limits) that are meant to manage catch so as not to exceed the harvest specifications. The harvest specifications and management measures developed for the 2021–2022 biennium used data through the 2020 fishing year. Each of the adjustments to management measures discussed below are based on updated fisheries information that was unavailable when the analysis for the current harvest specifications was completed. As new fisheries data become available, PO 00000 Frm 00085 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 72863 projected impacts of management measures are updated, and the management measures themselves may need to be adjusted so as to help harvesters achieve but not exceed the harvest limits. Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) is an important commercial species on the West Coast, targeted by vessels using both bottom trawl and fixed gear (longlines and pots/traps). The sablefish stock is managed with a coast-wide OFL and ABC, but with separate ACLs north and south of 36° N latitude. In 2022, the ACL for sablefish north of 36° N latitude is 6,566 metric tons (mt) with a fishery HG of 5,872 mt. The fishery HG north of 36° N latitude is further divided between the LE FG and OA sectors with 90.6 percent, or 5,320 mt, allocated to the LE sector and 9.4 percent, or 552 mt, allocated to the OA sector. The LE share is divided so that 58 percent is allocated to trawl and 42 percent is allocated to FG. The LE FG share is further divided between the sablefish primary (tier) fishery (85% or 1,899 mt) and the daily trip limit (DTL) fisheries (15% or 335 mt), as shown in Table 2c to title 50, part 660, subpart C. The sablefish DTL fisheries are individually managed using landing targets (Table 1), which have accounted for discard mortality a priori, by subtracting 4.5 percent from the DTL catch share. This same method of accounting for discard mortality to calculate the landing target is also used in managing the OA sablefish DTL fishery, north of 36° N latitude (Table 1). Lingcod (Ophiodon elongates) is another important commercial species on the West Coast, and like sablefish, caught by vessels with both trawl and fixed gear (longlines and pots/traps). The lingcod stock is managed separately north and south of 40°10′ N latitude, with a northern ACL of 4,958 mt in 2022, a fishery HG of 4,679.6 mt, and a northern trawl fixed gear allocation of 2,105.8, or 45 percent of the HG, and a northern non-trawl allocation of 2,573.8, or 55 percent. Lingcod north of 40°10′ N latitude are additionally managed north and south of 42° N latitude, typically with different trip limits set north and south of that management line. Quillback rockfish (Sebastes maliger) off California (CA), are currently managed as part of the Minor Nearshore Rockfish complex, which is split north and south of 40°10′ N latitude. A stock assessment conducted in 2021 indicated the stock is not healthy, and interim measures to reduce mortality are warranted while broader measures are being developed as part of the 2023– 2024 groundfish biennial harvest specifications and management E:\FR\FM\23DER1.SGM 23DER1 72864 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 244 / Thursday, December 23, 2021 / Rules and Regulations jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with RULES1 measures. For 2022, the Minor Nearshore Rockfish complex south of 40°10′ N latitude has an ACL of 1,010 mt, with a contribution ACL value for quillback rockfish of 4.18 mt. The Minor Nearshore Rockfish complex north of 40°10′ N latitude has an ACL of 93.4 mt, with a contribution ACL value for quillback rockfish of 9.74 mt. Quillback rockfish are caught in both recreational and commercial fisheries; while considered a deeper nearshore rockfish species, commonly found in waters shallower than 30 fathoms, they can be encountered in deeper waters, and depth-based encounter rates are largely driven by depth restrictions on the fishery. The Minor Nearshore Rockfish complexes, including quillback rockfish, are managed using trip limits in the commercial fixed gear fishery and bag limits in recreational fishery. Copper rockfish (Sebastes caurinus) off CA are also currently managed as part of the Minor Nearshore Rockfish complex, south of 40°10′ N latitude; as well as the Minor Nearshore Rockfish complex north of 40°10′ N latitude, but only in the area between 42° and 40°10′ N latitude. Copper rockfish are a deeper nearshore rockfish species, but can commonly be found both in shallow nearshore waters, as well as deeper waters considered as the ‘‘shelf.’’ They are caught in both recreational and commercial fisheries. Copper rockfish were also the subject of a 2021 stock assessment which indicated localized depletion within the stock off California. For 2022, the Minor Nearshore Rockfish complex, south of 40°10′ N latitude has an ACL of 1,233.2 mt, and copper rockfish has a component ACL of 202 mt within the southern complex. The Minor Nearshore Rockfish complex, north of 40°10′ N latitude has an ACL of 77 mt, and copper rockfish has an ACL contribution of 8.06 mt within the northern complex. Vermillion rockfish (Sebastes miniatus) off CA are currently managed VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:16 Dec 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 as part of the Minor Shelf Rockfish complex, south of 40°10′ N latitude; as well as the Minor Shelf Rockfish complex north of 40°10′ N latitude, but only in the area between 42° and 40°10′ N lat. For 2022, the southern complex has an ACL of 1,428 mt, and vermillion has an ACL contribution of 209.5 mt; the northern complex has an ACL of 1,450 mt, and vermillion has an ACL contribution of 7.6 mt within it. Request, Analysis, and Council Recommendation Sablefish At the November 2021 Council meeting, the Council’s Groundfish Management Team (GMT) analyzed updated fishery data, and produced model-based projections for the fixed gear, LE and OA DTL fisheries north of 36° N lat., for the 2022 fishing year. Model projections for 2022 using the current sablefish trip limits in regulation indicated that catch would dramatically exceed target levels, unless lower limits were adopted. The GMT modeled lower alternative trip limits, uniformly distributed among bimonthly periods throughout the year, as requested by the Groundfish Advisory Subpanel (GAP). The intent of setting sablefish trip limits is to optimize harvest opportunities, within each annual sector target, for vessels targeting sablefish, under a mix of daily, weekly, and bimonthly landings accumulation limits (commonly referred to collectively as ‘‘trip limits’’). To evaluate potential decreases to sablefish trip limits, the GMT made model-based projections of landings under current regulations, as well as alternative sablefish trip limits, including the limits ultimately recommended by the Council, throughout the year in 2022. Table 1 shows the projected sablefish landings, the sablefish harvest targets, and the projected attainment percentage by fishery under both the current trip PO 00000 Frm 00086 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 limits and the Council’s recommended adjusted trip limits. These projections were based on the most recent catch information available through early November 2021. Industry did not request changes to sablefish trip limits for the LE or OA DTL fisheries south of 36° N latitude. Therefore, NMFS and the Council did not consider changes for those fisheries. As shown in Table 1, under the current trip limits, models predict that landings of sablefish would be far above the harvest targets for LE fixed gear sablefish DTL fishery north of 36° N lat., at approximately 236 percent attainment, under an average price assumption. Under the Council’s recommended trip limits, sablefish attainment is projected to be within the sector target, in the LE DTL fishery north of 36° N latitude, at approximately 99 percent attainment under an average price assumption. The GMT modeled trip limit options for the OA DTL fishery, north of 36° N latitude which were somewhat lower than the LE trip limits. OA trip limits are typically set lower than in LE, maintaining a higher level of access per vessel for those fishing under a limited entry permit. Trip limits being somewhat lower in the OA fishery also helps to buffer against sometimes high variability in participation, a feature typically not present in the LE fishery. As shown in Table 1, under the current trip limits, models predict approximately 74 percent attainment, under an average price assumption for OA fixed gear sablefish DTL fishery north of 36° N lat. Under the Council’s recommended trip limits, sablefish attainment is projected at approximately 70 percent attainment (under the same price structure). In this case, the lower projected attainment may also provide something of a buffer, given the higher uncertainty of the OA model, compared with the LE model, and historic potential for volatility in the OA fishery. E:\FR\FM\23DER1.SGM 23DER1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 244 / Thursday, December 23, 2021 / Rules and Regulations Lingcod The Council also recommended changes to trip limits in 2022 for lingcod north of 42° N latitude, after request from industry and analysis by the GMT. Trip limit increases were recommended to provide additional opportunity and increase attainment (current lingcod attainment in 2021 is just 17 percent of the ACL), as well as minimize regulatory discard because trip limits are being met by vessels in the first few weeks of the bimonthly period, which results in waste and lost revenue. Table 2 shows the current and recommended trip limits for lingcod north of 42° N latitude. Table 3 shows the projected impacts of those limits to total mortality, and percent attainment of the non-trawl allocation, north of 42° N latitude. Projected impacts to lingcod fishing mortality from the recommended trip limits are approximately 3.5 percent higher than for current limits. Based on the analysis by the GMT, the higher 72865 landing limits are predicted to convert fish that would otherwise be discarded, into landings and revenue, rather than incentivize additional effort. By maintaining a very similar level of effort, and total fishing mortality, this modest increase in trip limits is predicted to increase bycatch of yelloweye rockfish by only a trace amount (<0.03 mt). Yelloweye rockfish is managed under a rebuilding plan, and is a constraint to fixed-gear lingcod attainment. TABLE 2—CURRENT AND RECOMMENDED TRIP LIMITS FOR LINGCOD NORTH OF 42° N LATITUDE Fishery Area Jan–Feb Current ............................ LE ................... N of 42° N lat. ................. OA .................. jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with RULES1 Recommended ................ VerDate Sep<11>2014 Mar–Apr May–Jun Jul–Aug 5,000 lb (2,268 kg)/2 months 2,000 lb (907 kg)/month 2,500 lb (1,134 kg)/month 5,000 lb (2,268 kg)/2 months OA .................. 2,500 lb (1,134 kg)/month Jkt 256001 PO 00000 Frm 00087 Fmt 4700 Nov–Dec 4,000 lb (1,814 kg)/2 months LE ................... 19:16 Dec 22, 2021 Sep–Oct Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\23DER1.SGM 23DER1 ER23DE21.013</GPH> Option 72866 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 244 / Thursday, December 23, 2021 / Rules and Regulations TABLE 3—PROJECTED IMPACTS FOR CURRENT AND RECOMMENDED TRIP LIMITS, COMPARED TO THE NON-TRAWL ALLOCATION FOR LINGCOD NORTH OF 42° N LATITUDE Mortality estimate (mt) LE + OA (mt) Option Sector Area Current ................................................ LE ................... North of 42° N lat .............................. OA .................. 80.3 Recommended ................................... LE ................... 27.5 OA .................. 82.4 Quillback, Copper, and Vermillion Rockfish The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommended in the November 2021 PFMC meeting that the Council take inseason action to reduce fishing mortality of quillback, copper, and vermillion rockfish off of California (CA). The recommendation is in response to results of the recent stock assessments. Additionally, CDFW recommended that the Council reduce the existing recreational sub-bag limit of vermillion rockfish, due to recent high catches of this species, south of 40°10′ N lat. The Council, in response, recommended the following inseason changes to non-trawl fisheries off California for 2022, with the goal of reducing total mortality for quillback rockfish, copper rockfish, and vermilion rockfish. 25.8 Quillback Rockfish CDFW staff analyzed potential management measure changes to reduce total fishing mortality of quillback rockfish off CA in both recreational and commercial fisheries, in response to results of the 2021 stock assessment. A range of new quillback-specific sub-trip limits were analyzed in order to reduce fishing mortality in the commercial fishery; current and recommended commercial options appear in Table 4. For the recreational fishery, analysts examined changes to recreational regulations for quillback rockfish that would minimize impacts on fishing opportunities for other groundfish species, applying depth-dependent discard mortality rates for those fish discarded in excess of a recommended sub-bag limit, assuming the existing season by area fishery structure, and maintaining the current mixed species (i.e., Minor Nearshore Rockfish Non-trawl allocation (mt) Attainment of allocation (percent) 106.1 2,799.8 3.8 109.9 2,799.8 3.9 complex) total bag limit of rockfish of 10 fish. Quillback rockfish are caught in recreational fisheries as a small part of a mixed species bag, and more than 50 percent of anglers who catch quillback, catch only one fish. Results from the CDFW analysis of current regulations and of measures recommended by the Council appear in Table 4. Combined recommended management measures, between recreational and commercial fisheries statewide, were predicted to result in a 1.6 mt, or 12 percent reduction in estimated total fishing mortality. CDFW also plans to add quillback rockfish to the list of species with additional tracking effort, including frequent inseason projections, to make up for reporting lags, and produce estimates of catch to the current date, to accurately inform future inseason actions, if necessary. TABLE 4—COMBINED PROJECTED RECREATIONAL AND COMMERCIAL IMPACTS STATEWIDE, FOR QUILLBACK ROCKFISH BASED ON COMBINATIONS OF CURRENT, AND RECOMMENDED MANAGEMENT MEASURES FOR BOTH COMMERCIAL AND RECREATIONAL FISHERIES (MT, TOTAL PROJECTED MORTALITY) * Commercial Fishery/option Current— no sub-trip limit Recreational: Current—no sub-bag limit .................................................................................................................... Recommended—statewide one fish sub-bag limit ............................................................................... 13.5 11.4 Recommended— statewide 75 lb (34 kg)/2 months 14 11.9 jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with RULES1 * For example, the projection of the total mortality of quillback rockfish that corresponds to implementation of Council-recommended options, including both commercial and recreational catch, appears in the lower right cell (11.9 mt). Council recommendations for quillback rockfish off CA included: • Sub-bag limit of one quillback rockfish in the CA recreational fishery. • Minor nearshore rockfish trip limits between 42°–40° 10′ N lat. of 2,000 lb/ 2 months, of which no more than 75 lb (34 kg) can be quillback rockfish. • Deeper nearshore rockfish sub-trip limits south of 40° 10′ N lat. will be 2,000 lb/2 months, of which no more than 75 lb (34 kg) can be quillback rockfish. VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:16 Dec 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 Copper Rockfish CDFW staff analyzed potential management measure changes to reduce total fishing mortality of copper rockfish off CA in both recreational and commercial fisheries in 2022, in response to results of the 2021 stock assessment. Copper rockfish are managed as part of the same nearshore rockfish complexes as quillback, are an important part of the same commercial and recreational fisheries as quillback, PO 00000 Frm 00088 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 and the analysis was approached in similar fashion. Copper rockfish is a popular recreational species, also caught as part of a mixed species bag. Similar to quillback rockfish, analysts examined changes to recreational regulations to reduce total fishing mortality of copper rockfish without disproportionately impacting fishing opportunities for other rockfish species, applying depthdependent discard mortality rates for those fish discarded in excess of a recommended sub-bag limit, assuming E:\FR\FM\23DER1.SGM 23DER1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 244 / Thursday, December 23, 2021 / Rules and Regulations the existing season by area fishery structure, and maintaining the current mixed species, total bag limit of rockfish of 10 fish. In the commercial fishery, like quillback, copper rockfish is also part of deeper nearshore fisheries managed using permits, and nearshore rockfish complex trip limits, in areas between 42° and 40° 10′ N lat., and south of 40° 10′ N lat., caught with limited entry fixed, and open access gears. A range of new copper-specific sub-trip limits were analyzed in order to reduce fishing mortality in the commercial fishery. Results from the CDFW analysis of current regulations in addition to measures recommended by the Council appear in Table 5. Combined recommended management measures, between recreational and commercial fisheries statewide, were predicted to 72867 result in a 50 mt, or 25 percent reduction in estimated total fishing mortality. CDFW also plans to add copper rockfish to the list of species with additional tracking effort, including frequent inseason projections, to make up for reporting lags, and produce estimates of catch to the current date. TABLE 5—COMBINED PROJECTED RECREATIONAL AND COMMERCIAL IMPACTS FOR COPPER ROCKFISH STATEWIDE, BASED ON COMBINATIONS OF CURRENT, AND RECOMMENDED MANAGEMENT MEASURES FOR BOTH RECREATIONAL AND COMMERCIAL FISHERIES (MT, TOTAL PROJECTED MORTALITY) * Commercial Fishery/option Current— no sub-trip limit Recreational: Current—no sub-bag limit .................................................................................................................... Recommended—statewide one fish sub-bag limit ............................................................................... Recommended— statewide 75 lb (34 kg)/2 months 202 158.2 195.9 152.2 * For example, the projection that corresponds to implementation of Council-recommended options for both commercial and recreational appears in the lower right cell (152.2 mt). Council recommendation: • A (new) sub-bag limit of one copper rockfish in the California recreational fishery. • Minor nearshore rockfish trip limits between 42°–40° 10′ N lat. will be 2,000 lb/2 months, of which no more than 75 lb (34 kg) can be copper rockfish. • Deeper nearshore rockfish sub-trip limits south of 40° 10′ N lat. will be 2,000 lb/2 months, of which no more than 75 lb (34 kg) can be copper rockfish. Vermilion Rockfish Current estimates of total catch of vermilion rockfish south of 40°10′ N lat. in 2021 equal 228.7 mt, which translates to 109 percent of the ACL contribution to the complex ACL. CDFW and the Council expect total catch of vermilion rockfish in 2022 to be similar to 2021. Vermillion rockfish is primarily taken in the recreational fishery, and catch projections were made by CDFW staff. Projections for status quo, and the recommended action appear in Table 6. The recommended action is projected to reduce catch of vermillion rockfish south of 40°10′ N lat. to within the OFL contribution (Table 6), and bring it closer to within the ACL contribution value. TABLE 6—COMBINED PROJECTED RECREATIONAL AND COMMERCIAL IMPACTS FOR VERMILLION ROCKFISH STATEWIDE, BASED ON ALTERNATIVE MANAGEMENT MEASURES (CURRENT AND RECOMMENDED) FOR RECREATIONAL FISHERIES (MT, TOTAL PROJECTED MORTALITY) * Commercial catch (current, mt) Fishery/option Difference between bag limits Recreational: Current: statewide 5-fish sub-bag limit .................................... 270.5 ........................ Recommended: 4-fish sub-bag limit ........................................ 251.2 19.3 2022 OFL contribution 269.3 Percent of OFL contribution 100.4 93.3 2022 ACL contribution 209.5 Percent of ACL contribution 129.1 119.9 * For example, projected combined catch, assuming the Council-recommended option for recreational fisheries, together with the current commercial limits, appears in row two, column one (251.2 mt, which corresponds to 93.3 percent attainment of the OFL contribution). Council recommendation: • Reduce the vermilion rockfish five fish sub-bag limit, to four fish, in the CA recreational fishery. jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with RULES1 Summary of Changes Trip limit decreases for sablefish are intended to reduce attainment of the LE and OA DTL fisheries to within their respective fishery targets in the coming 2022 fishing year. Both fisheries contribute to attainment of the nontrawl HG for sablefish north of 36° N latitude, and maintaining these fisheries’ catch levels within their VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:16 Dec 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 specific targets is important to preserving compliance with the harvest guideline and ACL for this highly economically important and typically highly attained species. The trip limit decreases do not change projected impacts to co-occurring rebuilding species as analyzed in the 2021–2022 harvest specifications because the projected impacts to those species assume that the entire sablefish ACL is harvested. Recommended increases to lingcod north of 42° N latitude are intended to both increase fisher opportunity, and PO 00000 Frm 00089 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 convert regulatory discards into landings and associated revenue, and are not predicted to increase effort or bycatch of co-occurring rebuilding species by more than a trace amount (<0.03 mt of yelloweye rockfish). Therefore, the Council recommended, and NMFS is implementing, by modifying Table 2, North and South to part 660, subpart E, trip limit changes for the LEFG fishery north of 40°10′ N lat., as well as Table 3, North and South to part 660, subpart F to increase the limits as shown in Table 1 (sablefish), and Table 2 (lingcod) in this rule. E:\FR\FM\23DER1.SGM 23DER1 72868 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 244 / Thursday, December 23, 2021 / Rules and Regulations jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with RULES1 Recommended commercial sub-trip limits for quillback, copper, and vermillion rockfish are intended to reduce fishing mortality off CA, due to new information from stock assessments that indicate overfishing in the case of quillback rockfish, precautionary status in the case of copper rockfish, as well as expected repeated exceedance of the ACL and OFL contribution reference points, as during 2015–2019 and 2021 for vermillion rockfish. Therefore, the Council recommended and NMFS is implementing, changes by modifying Table 2, South to part 660, subpart E, as well as Table 3, South to part 660, subpart F, as shown in tables 4, 5 and 6 in this rule. Recommended recreational sub-bag limits for quillback, copper, and vermillion rockfish are intended to reduce fishing mortality for those stocks off CA in 2022, due to new stock assessments for this species. Therefore, the Council recommended and NMFS is implementing these changes by modifying 50 CFR 660.360(c)(3)(ii)(B) the changes shown in table 6 in this rule. Classification This final rule makes routine inseason adjustments to groundfish fishery management measures, based on the best scientific information available, consistent with the PCGFMP and its implementing regulations. This action is taken under the authority of 50 CFR 660.60(c) and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. The aggregate data upon which these actions are based are available for public inspection by contacting Dr. Sean Matson in the West Coast Region (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, above), or view at the NMFS West Coast Groundfish website: https:// www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/ fisheries/groundfish/. Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b), NMFS finds good cause to waive prior public notice and an opportunity for public comment on this action, as notice and comment would be impracticable and contrary to the public interest. The adjustments to management measures in this document modify trip limits for fisheries off of Washington, Oregon, and California to keep catch within allocations. No aspect of this action is controversial, and changes of this nature were anticipated in the final rule for the VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:16 Dec 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 2021–2022 harvest specifications and management measures which published on December 11, 2020 (85 FR 79880). As stated earlier, the Council recommended reduced sablefish limits for 2022 to keep catch within harvest targets and allocations for their respective fisheries, and within the ACL. New information became available at the November 2021 Council meeting showing that updated 2022 catch projections using the most recent available data were much higher than projections made during the harvest specifications process due to a combination of changing fishery conditions, and trip limit changes made during the 2021 fishing year. The updated trip limits being implemented in this rule are anticipated to provide for landings and fishing community revenue, while maintaining harvest within scientifically informed conservation limits, concomitant with the goals of the Magnuson Stevens Act. The Council recommended increased lingcod landing limits to provide additional fisher opportunity and discourage regulatory discard. New information became available at the November 2021 Council meeting indicating that low attainment of lingcod could be somewhat improved in 2022 by increasing landing limits, without attracting undue additional effort, and while discouraging regulatory discard. Implementing the recommended trip limits is projected to ameliorate this, increase attainment rate of the allocation, and enable additional fish to be landed rather than wasted, producing more fisher and community revenue. Additionally, the Council recommended new sub-bag limits, and sub-trip limits in recreational and commercial fisheries, respectively, for three nearshore rockfish species: Quillback rockfish, copper rockfish, and vermillion rockfish. These changes are necessary to reduce fishing mortality of the three stocks, in order to address recent unfavorable stock biomass as demonstrated through new stock assessments (quillback and copper rockfish), and to reduce catch to within management reference points (vermillion rockfish). Delaying implementation to allow for public comment would, in the case of lingcod, reduce the economic benefits to the commercial fishing industry and the businesses that rely on that industry PO 00000 Frm 00090 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 because it is unlikely the new regulations would in that case publish and be implemented before the beginning of the 2022 calendar year. For sablefish, quillback rockfish, copper rockfish, and vermillion rockfish off of California, delaying implementation could cause conservation issues, and unsustainable harvest at the levels established in the past, using what is now out of date information. Therefore, providing a comment period for this action could both significantly limit the economic benefits to the fishery, and at the same time hamper the adherence to scientifically informed reference points, created to ensure sustainability of the affected fisheries. Therefore, the NMFS finds reason to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(1) so that this final rule may become effective upon publication in the Federal Register. The adjustments to management measures in this document were requested by the Council’s advisory bodies, as well as members of industry during the Council’s November 2021 meeting, and recommended unanimously by the Council. No aspect of this action is controversial, and changes of this nature were anticipated in the biennial harvest specifications and management measures established through a notice and comment rulemaking for 2021–2022 (85 FR 79880; December 11, 2021). List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 660 Fisheries, Fishing, and Indian Fisheries. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq., and 16 U.S.C. 7001 et seq. Dated: December 20, 2021. Ngagne Jafnar Gueye, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 660 is amended as follows: PART 660—FISHERIES OFF WEST COAST STATES 1. The authority citation for part 660 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq., and 16 U.S.C. 7001 et seq. 2. Revise Table 2 (North) to part 660, subpart E, to read as follows: ■ BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\23DER1.SGM 23DER1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 244 / Thursday, December 23, 2021 / Rules and Regulations 72869 3. Revise Table 2 (South) to part 660, subpart E, to read as follows: VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:16 Dec 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 PO 00000 Frm 00091 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\23DER1.SGM 23DER1 ER23DE21.008</GPH> jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with RULES1 ■ Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 244 / Thursday, December 23, 2021 / Rules and Regulations 4. Revise Table 3 (North) to part 660, subpart F, to read as follows: ■ VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:16 Dec 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 PO 00000 Frm 00092 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\23DER1.SGM 23DER1 ER23DE21.009</GPH> jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with RULES1 72870 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 244 / Thursday, December 23, 2021 / Rules and Regulations 72871 5. Revise Table 3 (South) to part 660, subpart F, to read as follows: VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:16 Dec 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 PO 00000 Frm 00093 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\23DER1.SGM 23DER1 ER23DE21.010</GPH> jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with RULES1 ■ VerDate Sep<11>2014 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 244 / Thursday, December 23, 2021 / Rules and Regulations 19:16 Dec 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 PO 00000 Frm 00094 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\23DER1.SGM 23DER1 ER23DE21.011</GPH> jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with RULES1 72872 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 244 / Thursday, December 23, 2021 / Rules and Regulations § 660.360 Recreational fishery— management measures. * * * * (c) * * * (3) * * * (ii) * * * (B) Bag limits, hook limits. In times and areas when the recreational season jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with RULES1 * VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:16 Dec 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 for the RCG Complex is open, there is a limit of 2 hooks and 1 line when fishing for the RCG complex. The bag limit is 10 RCG Complex fish per day coastwide, with a sub-bag limit of 4 fish for vermilion rockfish, 1 fish for quillback rockfish, and 1 fish for copper rockfish. These sub-bag limits count towards the bag limit for the RCG Complex and are not in addition to that PO 00000 Frm 00095 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 limit. Retention of yelloweye rockfish, bronzespotted rockfish, and cowcod is prohibited. Multi-day limits are authorized by a valid permit issued by California and must not exceed the daily limit multiplied by the value of days in the fishing trip. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2021–27901 Filed 12–22–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–C E:\FR\FM\23DER1.SGM 23DER1 ER23DE21.012</GPH> 6. In § 660.360, revise paragraph (c)(3)(ii)(B) to read as follows: ■ 72873

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 244 (Thursday, December 23, 2021)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 72863-72873]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-27901]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 660

[Docket No. 201204-0325]
RIN 0648-BL10


Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries Off West Coast States; 
Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery; 2021-2022 Biennial Specifications and 
Management Measures; Inseason Adjustments

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

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

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: This final rule announces routine inseason adjustments to 
management measures in commercial and recreational groundfish 
fisheries. This action is intended to allow commercial and recreational 
fishery participants to access more abundant groundfish stocks while 
protecting rebuilding stocks.

DATES: This final rule is effective January 1, 2022.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sean E. Matson, (206) 526-6140, email: 
[email protected].

ADDRESSES: 

Electronic Access

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (PCGFMP) and 
its implementing regulations at title 50 in the Code of Federal 
Regulations (CFR), part 660, subparts C through G, regulate fishing for 
over 90 species of groundfish off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and 
California. The Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) develops 
groundfish harvest specifications and management measures for two year 
periods (i.e., a biennium). NMFS published the final rule to implement 
harvest specifications and management measures for the 2021-2022 
biennium for most species managed under the PCGFMP on December 11, 2020 
(85 FR 79880). In general, the management measures set at the start of 
the biennial harvest specifications cycle help the various sectors of 
the fishery attain, but not exceed, the catch limits for each stock. 
The Council, in coordination with Pacific Coast Treaty Indian Tribes 
and the States of Washington, Oregon, and California, recommends 
adjustments to the management measures during the fishing year to 
achieve this goal.
    At its meeting on November 15-22, 2021, the Council made 
recommendations for the 2022 fishing year, which included decreasing 
trip limits for the Limited Entry (LE) and Open Access (OA) fixed gear 
(FG) sablefish, Daily Trip Limit (DTL) fisheries north of 36[deg] N 
latitude. The Council also recommended increasing trip limits for the 
fixed gear lingcod fishery, north of 42[deg] N latitude (LE and OA), 
beginning January 1, 2022, and for the remainder of the 2022 fishing 
year unless superseded by a subsequent action. Additionally, the 
Council recommended new sub-bag limits and sub-trip limits, in 
recreational and non-trawl commercial fisheries respectively, for two 
nearshore species, quillback rockfish and copper rockfish, as well as 
the shelf species vermillion rockfish.
    Pacific Coast groundfish fisheries are managed using harvest 
specifications or limits (e.g., overfishing limits [OFL], acceptable 
biological catch [ABC], annual catch limits [ACL] and harvest 
guidelines [HG]) recommended biennially by the Council and based on the 
best scientific information available at that time (50 CFR 660.60(b)). 
During development of the harvest specifications, the Council also 
recommends management measures (e.g., trip limits, area closures, and 
bag limits) that are meant to manage catch so as not to exceed the 
harvest specifications. The harvest specifications and management 
measures developed for the 2021-2022 biennium used data through the 
2020 fishing year. Each of the adjustments to management measures 
discussed below are based on updated fisheries information that was 
unavailable when the analysis for the current harvest specifications 
was completed. As new fisheries data become available, projected 
impacts of management measures are updated, and the management measures 
themselves may need to be adjusted so as to help harvesters achieve but 
not exceed the harvest limits.
    Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) is an important commercial species 
on the West Coast, targeted by vessels using both bottom trawl and 
fixed gear (longlines and pots/traps). The sablefish stock is managed 
with a coast-wide OFL and ABC, but with separate ACLs north and south 
of 36[deg] N latitude. In 2022, the ACL for sablefish north of 36[deg] 
N latitude is 6,566 metric tons (mt) with a fishery HG of 5,872 mt. The 
fishery HG north of 36[deg] N latitude is further divided between the 
LE FG and OA sectors with 90.6 percent, or 5,320 mt, allocated to the 
LE sector and 9.4 percent, or 552 mt, allocated to the OA sector. The 
LE share is divided so that 58 percent is allocated to trawl and 42 
percent is allocated to FG. The LE FG share is further divided between 
the sablefish primary (tier) fishery (85% or 1,899 mt) and the daily 
trip limit (DTL) fisheries (15% or 335 mt), as shown in Table 2c to 
title 50, part 660, subpart C. The sablefish DTL fisheries are 
individually managed using landing targets (Table 1), which have 
accounted for discard mortality a priori, by subtracting 4.5 percent 
from the DTL catch share. This same method of accounting for discard 
mortality to calculate the landing target is also used in managing the 
OA sablefish DTL fishery, north of 36[deg] N latitude (Table 1).
    Lingcod (Ophiodon elongates) is another important commercial 
species on the West Coast, and like sablefish, caught by vessels with 
both trawl and fixed gear (longlines and pots/traps). The lingcod stock 
is managed separately north and south of 40[deg]10' N latitude, with a 
northern ACL of 4,958 mt in 2022, a fishery HG of 4,679.6 mt, and a 
northern trawl fixed gear allocation of 2,105.8, or 45 percent of the 
HG, and a northern non-trawl allocation of 2,573.8, or 55 percent. 
Lingcod north of 40[deg]10' N latitude are additionally managed north 
and south of 42[deg] N latitude, typically with different trip limits 
set north and south of that management line.
    Quillback rockfish (Sebastes maliger) off California (CA), are 
currently managed as part of the Minor Nearshore Rockfish complex, 
which is split north and south of 40[deg]10' N latitude. A stock 
assessment conducted in 2021 indicated the stock is not healthy, and 
interim measures to reduce mortality are warranted while broader 
measures are being developed as part of the 2023-2024 groundfish 
biennial harvest specifications and management

[[Page 72864]]

measures. For 2022, the Minor Nearshore Rockfish complex south of 
40[deg]10' N latitude has an ACL of 1,010 mt, with a contribution ACL 
value for quillback rockfish of 4.18 mt. The Minor Nearshore Rockfish 
complex north of 40[deg]10' N latitude has an ACL of 93.4 mt, with a 
contribution ACL value for quillback rockfish of 9.74 mt. Quillback 
rockfish are caught in both recreational and commercial fisheries; 
while considered a deeper nearshore rockfish species, commonly found in 
waters shallower than 30 fathoms, they can be encountered in deeper 
waters, and depth-based encounter rates are largely driven by depth 
restrictions on the fishery. The Minor Nearshore Rockfish complexes, 
including quillback rockfish, are managed using trip limits in the 
commercial fixed gear fishery and bag limits in recreational fishery.
    Copper rockfish (Sebastes caurinus) off CA are also currently 
managed as part of the Minor Nearshore Rockfish complex, south of 
40[deg]10' N latitude; as well as the Minor Nearshore Rockfish complex 
north of 40[deg]10' N latitude, but only in the area between 42[deg] 
and 40[deg]10' N latitude. Copper rockfish are a deeper nearshore 
rockfish species, but can commonly be found both in shallow nearshore 
waters, as well as deeper waters considered as the ``shelf.'' They are 
caught in both recreational and commercial fisheries. Copper rockfish 
were also the subject of a 2021 stock assessment which indicated 
localized depletion within the stock off California. For 2022, the 
Minor Nearshore Rockfish complex, south of 40[deg]10' N latitude has an 
ACL of 1,233.2 mt, and copper rockfish has a component ACL of 202 mt 
within the southern complex. The Minor Nearshore Rockfish complex, 
north of 40[deg]10' N latitude has an ACL of 77 mt, and copper rockfish 
has an ACL contribution of 8.06 mt within the northern complex.
    Vermillion rockfish (Sebastes miniatus) off CA are currently 
managed as part of the Minor Shelf Rockfish complex, south of 
40[deg]10' N latitude; as well as the Minor Shelf Rockfish complex 
north of 40[deg]10' N latitude, but only in the area between 42[deg] 
and 40[deg]10' N lat. For 2022, the southern complex has an ACL of 
1,428 mt, and vermillion has an ACL contribution of 209.5 mt; the 
northern complex has an ACL of 1,450 mt, and vermillion has an ACL 
contribution of 7.6 mt within it.[FEDREG][VOL]*[/VOL][NO]*[/
NO][DATE]*[/DATE][RULES][RULE][PREAMB][AGENCY]*[/AGENCY][SUBJECT]*[/
SUBJECT][/PREAMB][SUPLINF][HED]*[/HED]

Request, Analysis, and Council Recommendation

Sablefish

    At the November 2021 Council meeting, the Council's Groundfish 
Management Team (GMT) analyzed updated fishery data, and produced 
model-based projections for the fixed gear, LE and OA DTL fisheries 
north of 36[deg] N lat., for the 2022 fishing year. Model projections 
for 2022 using the current sablefish trip limits in regulation 
indicated that catch would dramatically exceed target levels, unless 
lower limits were adopted. The GMT modeled lower alternative trip 
limits, uniformly distributed among bimonthly periods throughout the 
year, as requested by the Groundfish Advisory Subpanel (GAP).
    The intent of setting sablefish trip limits is to optimize harvest 
opportunities, within each annual sector target, for vessels targeting 
sablefish, under a mix of daily, weekly, and bimonthly landings 
accumulation limits (commonly referred to collectively as ``trip 
limits''). To evaluate potential decreases to sablefish trip limits, 
the GMT made model-based projections of landings under current 
regulations, as well as alternative sablefish trip limits, including 
the limits ultimately recommended by the Council, throughout the year 
in 2022. Table 1 shows the projected sablefish landings, the sablefish 
harvest targets, and the projected attainment percentage by fishery 
under both the current trip limits and the Council's recommended 
adjusted trip limits. These projections were based on the most recent 
catch information available through early November 2021. Industry did 
not request changes to sablefish trip limits for the LE or OA DTL 
fisheries south of 36[deg] N latitude. Therefore, NMFS and the Council 
did not consider changes for those fisheries.
    As shown in Table 1, under the current trip limits, models predict 
that landings of sablefish would be far above the harvest targets for 
LE fixed gear sablefish DTL fishery north of 36[deg] N lat., at 
approximately 236 percent attainment, under an average price 
assumption. Under the Council's recommended trip limits, sablefish 
attainment is projected to be within the sector target, in the LE DTL 
fishery north of 36[deg] N latitude, at approximately 99 percent 
attainment under an average price assumption.
    The GMT modeled trip limit options for the OA DTL fishery, north of 
36[deg] N latitude which were somewhat lower than the LE trip limits. 
OA trip limits are typically set lower than in LE, maintaining a higher 
level of access per vessel for those fishing under a limited entry 
permit. Trip limits being somewhat lower in the OA fishery also helps 
to buffer against sometimes high variability in participation, a 
feature typically not present in the LE fishery. As shown in Table 1, 
under the current trip limits, models predict approximately 74 percent 
attainment, under an average price assumption for OA fixed gear 
sablefish DTL fishery north of 36[deg] N lat. Under the Council's 
recommended trip limits, sablefish attainment is projected at 
approximately 70 percent attainment (under the same price structure). 
In this case, the lower projected attainment may also provide something 
of a buffer, given the higher uncertainty of the OA model, compared 
with the LE model, and historic potential for volatility in the OA 
fishery.

[[Page 72865]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR23DE21.013

Lingcod

    The Council also recommended changes to trip limits in 2022 for 
lingcod north of 42[deg] N latitude, after request from industry and 
analysis by the GMT. Trip limit increases were recommended to provide 
additional opportunity and increase attainment (current lingcod 
attainment in 2021 is just 17 percent of the ACL), as well as minimize 
regulatory discard because trip limits are being met by vessels in the 
first few weeks of the bimonthly period, which results in waste and 
lost revenue. Table 2 shows the current and recommended trip limits for 
lingcod north of 42[deg] N latitude. Table 3 shows the projected 
impacts of those limits to total mortality, and percent attainment of 
the non-trawl allocation, north of 42[deg] N latitude. Projected 
impacts to lingcod fishing mortality from the recommended trip limits 
are approximately 3.5 percent higher than for current limits. Based on 
the analysis by the GMT, the higher landing limits are predicted to 
convert fish that would otherwise be discarded, into landings and 
revenue, rather than incentivize additional effort. By maintaining a 
very similar level of effort, and total fishing mortality, this modest 
increase in trip limits is predicted to increase bycatch of yelloweye 
rockfish by only a trace amount (<0.03 mt). Yelloweye rockfish is 
managed under a rebuilding plan, and is a constraint to fixed-gear 
lingcod attainment.

                                  Table 2--Current and Recommended Trip Limits for Lingcod North of 42[deg] N Latitude
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Option                    Fishery             Area          Jan-Feb      Mar-Apr      May-Jun      Jul-Aug        Sep-Oct         Nov-Dec
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Current.......................  LE................  N of 42[deg] N               4,000 lb (1,814 kg)/2 months
                                                     lat..
                                    5,000 lb (2,268 kg)/2 months
                               --------------------                  -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                OA................                                  2,000 lb (907 kg)/month
                                      2,500 lb (1,134 kg)/month
---------------------------------------------------                  -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Recommended...................  LE................                                               5,000 lb (2,268 kg)/2 months
                               --------------------                  -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                OA................                                                 2,500 lb (1,134 kg)/month
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 72866]]


    Table 3--Projected Impacts for Current and Recommended Trip Limits, Compared to the Non-Trawl Allocation for Lingcod North of 42[deg] N Latitude
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                            Non-trawl     Attainment of
               Option                          Sector                     Area              Mortality     LE + OA  (mt)    allocation       allocation
                                                                                         estimate  (mt)                       (mt)          (percent)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Current.............................  LE......................  North of 42[deg] N lat.            25.8           106.1         2,799.8              3.8
                                     --------------------------                         ----------------
                                      OA......................                                     80.3
---------------------------------------------------------------                         ----------------------------------------------------------------
Recommended.........................  LE......................                                     27.5           109.9         2,799.8              3.9
                                     --------------------------                         ----------------
                                      OA......................                                     82.4
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Quillback, Copper, and Vermillion Rockfish

    The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommended 
in the November 2021 PFMC meeting that the Council take inseason action 
to reduce fishing mortality of quillback, copper, and vermillion 
rockfish off of California (CA). The recommendation is in response to 
results of the recent stock assessments. Additionally, CDFW recommended 
that the Council reduce the existing recreational sub-bag limit of 
vermillion rockfish, due to recent high catches of this species, south 
of 40[deg]10' N lat. The Council, in response, recommended the 
following inseason changes to non-trawl fisheries off California for 
2022, with the goal of reducing total mortality for quillback rockfish, 
copper rockfish, and vermilion rockfish.[FEDREG][VOL]*[/VOL][NO]*[/
NO][DATE]*[/DATE][RULES][RULE][PREAMB][AGENCY]*[/AGENCY][SUBJECT]*[/
SUBJECT][/PREAMB][SUPLINF][HED]*[/HED]
Quillback Rockfish
    CDFW staff analyzed potential management measure changes to reduce 
total fishing mortality of quillback rockfish off CA in both 
recreational and commercial fisheries, in response to results of the 
2021 stock assessment. A range of new quillback-specific sub-trip 
limits were analyzed in order to reduce fishing mortality in the 
commercial fishery; current and recommended commercial options appear 
in Table 4.
    For the recreational fishery, analysts examined changes to 
recreational regulations for quillback rockfish that would minimize 
impacts on fishing opportunities for other groundfish species, applying 
depth-dependent discard mortality rates for those fish discarded in 
excess of a recommended sub-bag limit, assuming the existing season by 
area fishery structure, and maintaining the current mixed species 
(i.e., Minor Nearshore Rockfish complex) total bag limit of rockfish of 
10 fish. Quillback rockfish are caught in recreational fisheries as a 
small part of a mixed species bag, and more than 50 percent of anglers 
who catch quillback, catch only one fish.
    Results from the CDFW analysis of current regulations and of 
measures recommended by the Council appear in Table 4. Combined 
recommended management measures, between recreational and commercial 
fisheries statewide, were predicted to result in a 1.6 mt, or 12 
percent reduction in estimated total fishing mortality. CDFW also plans 
to add quillback rockfish to the list of species with additional 
tracking effort, including frequent inseason projections, to make up 
for reporting lags, and produce estimates of catch to the current date, 
to accurately inform future inseason actions, if necessary.

     Table 4--Combined Projected Recreational and Commercial Impacts
 Statewide, for Quillback Rockfish Based on Combinations of Current, and
  Recommended Management Measures for Both Commercial and Recreational
               Fisheries (mt, Total Projected Mortality) *
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                 Commercial
                                   -------------------------------------
          Fishery/option                                 Recommended--
                                    Current-- no sub-   statewide 75 lb
                                        trip limit      (34 kg)/2 months
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Recreational:
    Current--no sub-bag limit.....               13.5                 14
    Recommended--statewide one                   11.4               11.9
     fish sub-bag limit...........
------------------------------------------------------------------------
* For example, the projection of the total mortality of quillback
  rockfish that corresponds to implementation of Council-recommended
  options, including both commercial and recreational catch, appears in
  the lower right cell (11.9 mt).

    Council recommendations for quillback rockfish off CA included:
     Sub-bag limit of one quillback rockfish in the CA 
recreational fishery.
     Minor nearshore rockfish trip limits between 42[deg]-
40[deg] 10' N lat. of 2,000 lb/2 months, of which no more than 75 lb 
(34 kg) can be quillback rockfish.
     Deeper nearshore rockfish sub-trip limits south of 40[deg] 
10' N lat. will be 2,000 lb/2 months, of which no more than 75 lb (34 
kg) can be quillback rockfish.
Copper Rockfish
    CDFW staff analyzed potential management measure changes to reduce 
total fishing mortality of copper rockfish off CA in both recreational 
and commercial fisheries in 2022, in response to results of the 2021 
stock assessment. Copper rockfish are managed as part of the same 
nearshore rockfish complexes as quillback, are an important part of the 
same commercial and recreational fisheries as quillback, and the 
analysis was approached in similar fashion.
    Copper rockfish is a popular recreational species, also caught as 
part of a mixed species bag. Similar to quillback rockfish, analysts 
examined changes to recreational regulations to reduce total fishing 
mortality of copper rockfish without disproportionately impacting 
fishing opportunities for other rockfish species, applying depth-
dependent discard mortality rates for those fish discarded in excess of 
a recommended sub-bag limit, assuming

[[Page 72867]]

the existing season by area fishery structure, and maintaining the 
current mixed species, total bag limit of rockfish of 10 fish.
    In the commercial fishery, like quillback, copper rockfish is also 
part of deeper nearshore fisheries managed using permits, and nearshore 
rockfish complex trip limits, in areas between 42[deg] and 40[deg] 10' 
N lat., and south of 40[deg] 10' N lat., caught with limited entry 
fixed, and open access gears. A range of new copper-specific sub-trip 
limits were analyzed in order to reduce fishing mortality in the 
commercial fishery.
    Results from the CDFW analysis of current regulations in addition 
to measures recommended by the Council appear in Table 5. Combined 
recommended management measures, between recreational and commercial 
fisheries statewide, were predicted to result in a 50 mt, or 25 percent 
reduction in estimated total fishing mortality. CDFW also plans to add 
copper rockfish to the list of species with additional tracking effort, 
including frequent inseason projections, to make up for reporting lags, 
and produce estimates of catch to the current date.

   Table 5--Combined Projected Recreational and Commercial Impacts for
    Copper Rockfish Statewide, Based on Combinations of Current, and
  Recommended Management Measures for Both Recreational and Commercial
               Fisheries (mt, Total Projected Mortality) *
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                               Commercial
                              ------------------------------------------
        Fishery/option         Current-- no sub-  Recommended--statewide
                                   trip limit     75 lb (34 kg)/2 months
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Recreational:
    Current--no sub-bag limit                202                 195.9
    Recommended--statewide                 158.2                 152.2
     one fish sub-bag limit..
------------------------------------------------------------------------
* For example, the projection that corresponds to implementation of
  Council-recommended options for both commercial and recreational
  appears in the lower right cell (152.2 mt).

    Council recommendation:
     A (new) sub-bag limit of one copper rockfish in the 
California recreational fishery.
     Minor nearshore rockfish trip limits between 42[deg]-
40[deg] 10' N lat. will be 2,000 lb/2 months, of which no more than 75 
lb (34 kg) can be copper rockfish.
     Deeper nearshore rockfish sub-trip limits south of 40[deg] 
10' N lat. will be 2,000 lb/2 months, of which no more than 75 lb (34 
kg) can be copper rockfish.
Vermilion Rockfish
    Current estimates of total catch of vermilion rockfish south of 
40[deg]10' N lat. in 2021 equal 228.7 mt, which translates to 109 
percent of the ACL contribution to the complex ACL. CDFW and the 
Council expect total catch of vermilion rockfish in 2022 to be similar 
to 2021. Vermillion rockfish is primarily taken in the recreational 
fishery, and catch projections were made by CDFW staff. Projections for 
status quo, and the recommended action appear in Table 6. The 
recommended action is projected to reduce catch of vermillion rockfish 
south of 40[deg]10' N lat. to within the OFL contribution (Table 6), 
and bring it closer to within the ACL contribution value.

Table 6--Combined Projected Recreational and Commercial Impacts for Vermillion Rockfish Statewide, Based on Alternative Management Measures (Current and
                                        Recommended) for Recreational Fisheries (mt, Total Projected Mortality) *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                  Commercial      Difference                     Percent of                  Percent of
                        Fishery/option                               catch        between bag      2022 OFL          OFL        2022 ACL         ACL
                                                                 (current, mt)      limits       contribution   contribution  contribution  contribution
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Recreational:
    Current: statewide 5-fish sub-bag limit...................           270.5  ..............           269.3         100.4         209.5         129.1
                                                               --------------------------------                --------------              -------------
    Recommended: 4-fish sub-bag limit.........................           251.2            19.3                          93.3                       119.9
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* For example, projected combined catch, assuming the Council-recommended option for recreational fisheries, together with the current commercial
  limits, appears in row two, column one (251.2 mt, which corresponds to 93.3 percent attainment of the OFL contribution).

    Council recommendation:
     Reduce the vermilion rockfish five fish sub-bag limit, to 
four fish, in the CA recreational fishery.

Summary of Changes

    Trip limit decreases for sablefish are intended to reduce 
attainment of the LE and OA DTL fisheries to within their respective 
fishery targets in the coming 2022 fishing year. Both fisheries 
contribute to attainment of the non-trawl HG for sablefish north of 
36[deg] N latitude, and maintaining these fisheries' catch levels 
within their specific targets is important to preserving compliance 
with the harvest guideline and ACL for this highly economically 
important and typically highly attained species. The trip limit 
decreases do not change projected impacts to co-occurring rebuilding 
species as analyzed in the 2021-2022 harvest specifications because the 
projected impacts to those species assume that the entire sablefish ACL 
is harvested.[FEDREG][VOL]*[/VOL][NO]*[/NO][DATE]*[/
DATE][RULES][RULE][PREAMB][AGENCY]*[/AGENCY][SUBJECT]*[/SUBJECT][/
PREAMB][SUPLINF][HED]*[/HED]
    Recommended increases to lingcod north of 42[deg] N latitude are 
intended to both increase fisher opportunity, and convert regulatory 
discards into landings and associated revenue, and are not predicted to 
increase effort or bycatch of co-occurring rebuilding species by more 
than a trace amount (<0.03 mt of yelloweye rockfish). Therefore, the 
Council recommended, and NMFS is implementing, by modifying Table 2, 
North and South to part 660, subpart E, trip limit changes for the LEFG 
fishery north of 40[deg]10' N lat., as well as Table 3, North and South 
to part 660, subpart F to increase the limits as shown in Table 1 
(sablefish), and Table 2 (lingcod) in this rule.

[[Page 72868]]

    Recommended commercial sub-trip limits for quillback, copper, and 
vermillion rockfish are intended to reduce fishing mortality off CA, 
due to new information from stock assessments that indicate overfishing 
in the case of quillback rockfish, precautionary status in the case of 
copper rockfish, as well as expected repeated exceedance of the ACL and 
OFL contribution reference points, as during 2015-2019 and 2021 for 
vermillion rockfish. Therefore, the Council recommended and NMFS is 
implementing, changes by modifying Table 2, South to part 660, subpart 
E, as well as Table 3, South to part 660, subpart F, as shown in tables 
4, 5 and 6 in this rule.
    Recommended recreational sub-bag limits for quillback, copper, and 
vermillion rockfish are intended to reduce fishing mortality for those 
stocks off CA in 2022, due to new stock assessments for this species. 
Therefore, the Council recommended and NMFS is implementing these 
changes by modifying 50 CFR 660.360(c)(3)(ii)(B) the changes shown in 
table 6 in this rule.

Classification

    This final rule makes routine inseason adjustments to groundfish 
fishery management measures, based on the best scientific information 
available, consistent with the PCGFMP and its implementing regulations.
    This action is taken under the authority of 50 CFR 660.60(c) and is 
exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.
    The aggregate data upon which these actions are based are available 
for public inspection by contacting Dr. Sean Matson in the West Coast 
Region (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, above), or view at the 
NMFS West Coast Groundfish website: https://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/groundfish/.
    Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b), NMFS finds good cause to waive prior 
public notice and an opportunity for public comment on this action, as 
notice and comment would be impracticable and contrary to the public 
interest. The adjustments to management measures in this document 
modify trip limits for fisheries off of Washington, Oregon, and 
California to keep catch within allocations. No aspect of this action 
is controversial, and changes of this nature were anticipated in the 
final rule for the 2021-2022 harvest specifications and management 
measures which published on December 11, 2020 (85 FR 79880).
    As stated earlier, the Council recommended reduced sablefish limits 
for 2022 to keep catch within harvest targets and allocations for their 
respective fisheries, and within the ACL. New information became 
available at the November 2021 Council meeting showing that updated 
2022 catch projections using the most recent available data were much 
higher than projections made during the harvest specifications process 
due to a combination of changing fishery conditions, and trip limit 
changes made during the 2021 fishing year.
    The updated trip limits being implemented in this rule are 
anticipated to provide for landings and fishing community revenue, 
while maintaining harvest within scientifically informed conservation 
limits, concomitant with the goals of the Magnuson Stevens Act.
    The Council recommended increased lingcod landing limits to provide 
additional fisher opportunity and discourage regulatory discard. New 
information became available at the November 2021 Council meeting 
indicating that low attainment of lingcod could be somewhat improved in 
2022 by increasing landing limits, without attracting undue additional 
effort, and while discouraging regulatory discard. Implementing the 
recommended trip limits is projected to ameliorate this, increase 
attainment rate of the allocation, and enable additional fish to be 
landed rather than wasted, producing more fisher and community revenue.
    Additionally, the Council recommended new sub-bag limits, and sub-
trip limits in recreational and commercial fisheries, respectively, for 
three nearshore rockfish species: Quillback rockfish, copper rockfish, 
and vermillion rockfish. These changes are necessary to reduce fishing 
mortality of the three stocks, in order to address recent unfavorable 
stock biomass as demonstrated through new stock assessments (quillback 
and copper rockfish), and to reduce catch to within management 
reference points (vermillion rockfish).
    Delaying implementation to allow for public comment would, in the 
case of lingcod, reduce the economic benefits to the commercial fishing 
industry and the businesses that rely on that industry because it is 
unlikely the new regulations would in that case publish and be 
implemented before the beginning of the 2022 calendar year. For 
sablefish, quillback rockfish, copper rockfish, and vermillion rockfish 
off of California, delaying implementation could cause conservation 
issues, and unsustainable harvest at the levels established in the 
past, using what is now out of date information. Therefore, providing a 
comment period for this action could both significantly limit the 
economic benefits to the fishery, and at the same time hamper the 
adherence to scientifically informed reference points, created to 
ensure sustainability of the affected fisheries.
    Therefore, the NMFS finds reason to waive the 30-day delay in 
effectiveness pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(1) so that this final rule 
may become effective upon publication in the Federal Register. The 
adjustments to management measures in this document were requested by 
the Council's advisory bodies, as well as members of industry during 
the Council's November 2021 meeting, and recommended unanimously by the 
Council. No aspect of this action is controversial, and changes of this 
nature were anticipated in the biennial harvest specifications and 
management measures established through a notice and comment rulemaking 
for 2021-2022 (85 FR 79880; December 11, 2021).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 660

    Fisheries, Fishing, and Indian Fisheries.

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

    Dated: December 20, 2021.
Ngagne Jafnar Gueye,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

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

PART 660--FISHERIES OFF WEST COAST STATES

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

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

[FEDREG][VOL]*[/VOL][NO]*[/NO][DATE]*[/
DATE][RULES][RULE][PREAMB][AGENCY]*[/AGENCY][SUBJECT]*[/SUBJECT][/

PREAMB][SUPLINF][HED]*[/HED]0
2. Revise Table 2 (North) to part 660, subpart E, to read as follows:
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P

[[Page 72869]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR23DE21.008


0
3. Revise Table 2 (South) to part 660, subpart E, to read as follows:

[[Page 72870]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR23DE21.009


0
4. Revise Table 3 (North) to part 660, subpart F, to read as follows:

[[Page 72871]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR23DE21.010


0
5. Revise Table 3 (South) to part 660, subpart F, to read as follows:

[[Page 72872]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR23DE21.011


[[Page 72873]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR23DE21.012


0
6. In Sec.  660.360, revise paragraph (c)(3)(ii)(B) to read as follows:


Sec.  660.360   Recreational fishery--management measures.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (3) * * *
    (ii) * * *
    (B) Bag limits, hook limits. In times and areas when the 
recreational season for the RCG Complex is open, there is a limit of 2 
hooks and 1 line when fishing for the RCG complex. The bag limit is 10 
RCG Complex fish per day coastwide, with a sub-bag limit of 4 fish for 
vermilion rockfish, 1 fish for quillback rockfish, and 1 fish for 
copper rockfish. These sub-bag limits count towards the bag limit for 
the RCG Complex and are not in addition to that limit. Retention of 
yelloweye rockfish, bronzespotted rockfish, and cowcod is prohibited. 
Multi-day limits are authorized by a valid permit issued by California 
and must not exceed the daily limit multiplied by the value of days in 
the fishing trip.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2021-27901 Filed 12-22-21; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-C