Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
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Copies of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) prepared for this action are available from NMFS at the mailing addresses above or from the Alaska Region website at
Federal regulations at 50 CFR part 679 implement the FMP and govern the groundfish fisheries in the BSAI. The Council prepared the FMP and NMFS approved it under the MSA. General regulations governing U.S. fisheries also appear at 50 CFR part 600.
The FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS, after consultation with the Council, to specify annually the total allowable catch (TAC) for each target species and the “other species” category, the sum of which must be within the optimum yield range of 1.4 million to 2.0 million metric tons (mt) (see § 679.20(a)(1)(i)). Regulations at § 679.20(c)(1) further require NMFS to publish proposed harvest specifications in the
Under § 679.20(c)(3), NMFS will publish the final harvest specifications for 2007 and 2008 after (1) considering comments received within the comment period (see DATES), (2) consulting with the Council at its December 2006 meeting, and (3) considering new information presented in the DEIS and the final 2006 SAFE reports prepared for the 2007 and 2008 groundfish fisheries.
The following paragraphs identify actions that are currently under consideration by the Council and that, if submitted to and approved by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary), could change the 2007 and 2008 final harvest specifications. The existing 2007 harvest specifications will be updated in early 2007 when final harvest specifications for 2007 and new harvest specifications for 2008 are implemented.
In April 2006, the Council adopted Amendment 85 to the FMP. Amendment 85 would revise the BSAI Pacific cod sector allocations. If approved by the Secretary, final regulations implementing Amendment 85 are anticipated to be effective for the 2008 fishing year. In June 2006, the Council adopted Amendment 80 to the FMP. Amendment 80 would provide specific groundfish allocations to the non-American Fisheries Act (AFA) trawl catcher/processor sector and allow the formation of cooperatives. If approved by the Secretary, final regulations implementing Amendment 80 also are anticipated to be effective for the 2008 fishing year. The Council also adopted Amendment 84 that would modify current regulations for managing incidental catch of Chinook and chum salmon and may change the PSC limits. The Council also is considering two proposals. One would allocate the Pacific cod TAC by Bering Sea subarea and Aleutian Islands (AI) subarea instead of a combined BSAI TAC. The other would separate some species from the “other rockfish” or “other species” categories so individual overfishing levels (OFLs), acceptable biological catch (ABCs), and TACs may be established.
The proposed ABC levels are based on the best available biological information, including projected biomass trends, information on assumed distribution of stock biomass, and revised technical methods used to calculate stock biomass. In general, the development of ABCs and OFLs involves sophisticated statistical analyses of fish populations and is based on a successive series of six levels, or tiers, of reliable information available to fishery scientists. Tier one represents the highest level of data quality available while tier six represents the lowest level of data quality available.
Appendix A to the final SAFE report for the 2005 BSAI groundfish fisheries dated November 2005 (see
In October 2006, the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), Advisory Panel, and the Council reviewed the Plan Team's preliminary projections as the basis for the 2007 and 2008 proposed ABC, OFL, and TAC amounts. The SSC concurred with the Plan Team's recommendations. For stocks in tiers 1-3, the Plan Team used 2006 estimated fishing mortality rates in stock projection models to estimate OFLs and ABCs for 2007. For Bering Sea pollock, the projection model used a tier 3 model, but the projection used in December 2005 (as recommended by the SSC) used a tier 1 model. The SSC recommended that in the future projections should use the same approach that is approved by the Council in December of the previous year. The public should be aware that a tier 1 projection model may be used in December 2006 for Bering Sea pollock for ABC and OFL amounts. The Plan Team estimated 2007 TACs based on ABC constraints and past Council actions. The Plan Team estimated 2007 TACs were treated as the projected 2007 fishing mortality rates to derive estimates of OFLs and ABCs for 2008. For stocks in tiers 4-6, for which there are no population projection models, the Plan Team used the OFL and ABC amounts from 2006 for 2007 and 2008.
The Council adopted the OFL and ABC amounts recommended by the SSC (Table 1). The Council recommended that all the 2007 proposed TAC amounts be set equal to the ABC amounts except for reduced TAC amounts for AI subarea and Bogoslof pollock, Pacific cod, Alaska plaice, arrowtooth flounder, rock sole, flathead sole, “other flatfish,” northern rockfish, Atka mackerel, squid, and “other species.” The Council recommended that all the 2008 proposed TAC amounts be set equal to the ABC amounts except for TAC decreases for AI subarea and Bogoslof pollock, Pacific cod, sablefish, Alaska plaice, northern rockfish, and “other species.” As in previous years, the Plan Team, Advisory Panel, SSC, and Council recommended that total removals of Pacific cod from the BSAI not exceed ABC recommendations. Accordingly, the Council recommended that the 2007 and 2008 Pacific cod TACs be adjusted downward from the ABCs by amounts equal to 3 percent of the ABC. This adjustment is necessary to account for the guideline harvest level (GHL) established for Pacific cod by the State of Alaska (State) for a State-managed fishery that occurs in State waters in the AI subarea. Finally, the Council recommended using the 2006 and 2007 PSC allowances for the 2007 and 2008 proposed PSC allowances. The Council will reconsider the OFL, ABC, TAC, and PSC amounts in December 2006 after the Plan Team incorporates new status of groundfish stocks information into a final 2006 SAFE report for the 2007 and 2008 BSAI groundfish fishery. None of the Council's recommended proposed TACs for 2007 or 2008 exceeds the recommended 2007 or 2008 proposed ABC for any species category. NMFS finds the Council's recommended 2007 and 2008 proposed OFL, ABC, and TAC amounts consistent with the best available information on the biological condition of the groundfish stocks.
On July 11, 2006, the President signed the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2006 (Coast Guard Act). Section 416(a) of the Coast Guard Act revises section 305(i)(1) of the MSA (16 U.S.C. 1855(i)(1)) by replacing all of the existing language in this section with new language. New section 305(i)(1)(B)(i) of the MSA addresses allocations to the CDQ Program. It requires that “the annual percentage of the total allowable catch, guideline harvest level, or other annual catch limit allocated to the program in each directed fishery of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands shall be the percentage approved by the Secretary, or established by Federal law, as of March 1, 2006, for the program.”
Prior to these amendments, section 305(i)(1)(A) of the MSA stated that “a percentage of the total allowable catch of any Bering Sea fishery is allocated to the program.” Since 1998, NMFS has allocated to the CDQ Program a percentage of each groundfish TAC category, except squid. The allocation of squid to the CDQ Program was discontinued in 2001 under Amendment 66 to the FMP (45 FR 13672, March 7, 2001).
As a result of the changes to section 305(i)(1), the MSA requires apportionments to the CDQ reserves of those directed fishery TAC categories for which a percentage was approved by the Secretary or established by Federal law as of March 1, 2006. In 2006, the only TAC category for which a percentage was not approved or established for the CDQ Program was squid. Therefore, squid would continue to not be allocated to the CDQ Program. For the TAC categories other than squid, those that did not have a directed fishery in the BSAI in 2006 were Bogoslof pollock, trawl sablefish, Bering Sea Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, shortraker rockfish, rougheye rockfish, “other rockfish,” and “other species.” Therefore, based on NMFS' interpretation of the MSA, apportionments from these TAC categories to the CDQ Program will no longer be made. Catch in the CDQ fisheries of species in TAC categories that are not allocated to the CDQ Program will be managed under the regulations and fishery status that applies to the TAC category in the non-CDQ groundfish fisheries. Retention of species closed to directed fishing would either be limited to maximum retainable amounts or all catch of the species would be required to be discarded. Notices of closures to directed fishing and retention requirements for these species would apply to the CDQ and non-CDQ sectors. The catch of these species in the CDQ fisheries would not constrain the catch of other CDQ species unless catch by all sectors approached an OFL.
Table 1 lists the 2007 and 2008 proposed OFL, ABC, TAC, initial TAC (ITAC), and CDQ amounts for groundfish in the BSAI. The proposed apportionment of TAC amounts among fisheries and seasons is discussed below.
Section 679.20(b)(1)(i) of the CFR requires placement of 15 percent of the TAC for each target species or species group, except for pollock and the hook-and-line and pot gear allocation of sablefish, in a non-specified reserve. Section 679.20(b)(1)(iii)(A) of the CFR and section 305(i)(1)(B)(i) of the MSA further requires the allocation of one half of each TAC amount that is placed in the non-specified reserve (7.5 percent) be allocated to the groundfish CDQ reserve, with the exception of Bogoslof pollock, Bering Sea Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, shortraker rockfish, rougheye rockfish, “other rockfish,” squid, “other species,” and the trawl gear allocation of sablefish, as explained above. Section 679.20(b)(1)(iii)(B) requires 20 percent of the hook-and-line and pot gear allocation of sablefish be allocated to the fixed gear sablefish CDQ reserve. Sections 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A), 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(2)(i), and 679.31(a) also require the allocation of 10 percent of the BSAI pollock TACs to the pollock CDQ directed fishing allowance. The entire Bogoslof District pollock TAC is allocated as an ICA (see § 679.20(a)(5)(ii)). With the exception of the hook-and-line and pot gear sablefish CDQ reserve, the regulations do not further apportion the CDQ reserves by gear. Section 679.21(e)(1)(i) requires withholding of 7.5 percent of each PSC limit, with the exception of herring, as a PSQ reserve for the CDQ fisheries. Sections 679.30 and 679.31 set forth the regulations governing the management of the CDQ and PSQ reserves.
Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(1), NMFS proposes a pollock ICA of 3.35 percent of the Bering Sea pollock TAC after subtraction of the 10 percent CDQ reserve. This allowance is based on NMFS' examination of the pollock incidental catch, including the incidental catch by CDQ vessels, in target fisheries other than pollock from 1999 through 2005. During this 7-year period, the incidental catch of pollock ranged from a low of 2.7 percent in 2003 to a high of 5 percent in 1999, with a 7-year average of 3.5 percent. Because these incidental percentages are contingent on the relative amounts of other groundfish TACs, NMFS will be better able to assess the ICA amount when the Council makes final ABC and TAC amount recommendations in December. Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(2)(i) and (ii), NMFS proposes a pollock ICA of 1,600 mt for the AI subarea pollock after subtraction of the 10 percent CDQ directed fishing allowance. This allowance is based on NMFS' examination of the pollock incidental catch, including the incidental catch by CDQ vessels, in target fisheries other than pollock from 2003 through 2005. During this 3-year period, the incidental catch of pollock ranged from a low of 8 percent in 2005 to a high of 10 percent in 2003, with a 3-year average of 8 percent.
The regulations do not designate the remainder of the non-specified reserve by species or species group, and any amount of the reserve may be reapportioned to a target species or the “other species” category during the year, providing that such reapportionments do not result in overfishing (see § 679.20(b)(1)(ii)).
Section 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A) requires that the pollock TAC apportioned to the Bering Sea subarea, after subtraction of 10 percent for the CDQ program and 3.35 percent for the ICA, be allocated as a directed fishing allowance (DFA) as follows: 50 percent to the inshore sector, 40 percent to the catcher/processor sector, and 10 percent to the mothership sector. In the Bering Sea subarea, 40 percent of the DFA is allocated to the A season (January 20-June 10) and 60 percent of the DFA is allocated to the B season (June 10-November 1). In October 2006, the State's Board of Fish adopted a proposal for a 3,000 mt pollock fishery in State waters of the AI subarea. However, this action by the State does not require a downward adjustment of the federal AI subarea pollock TAC because the combined TAC and GHL (22,000 mt) are less than the proposed ABC of 29,400 mt. The AI directed pollock fishery allocation to the Aleut Corporation is the amount of pollock remaining in the AI subarea after subtracting 1,900 mt for the CDQ DFA (10 percent) and 1,600 mt for the ICA. In the AI subarea, 40 percent of the ABC is allocated to the A season and the remainder of the directed pollock fishery is allocated to the B season. Table 2 lists these 2007 and 2008 proposed amounts.
Section 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(4) also includes several specific requirements regarding pollock allocations. First, 8.5 percent of the pollock allocated to the catcher/processor sector will be available for harvest by AFA catcher vessels with catcher/processor sector endorsements, unless the Regional Administrator receives a cooperative contract that provides for the distribution of harvest among AFA catcher/processors and AFA catcher vessels in a manner agreed to by all members. Second, AFA catcher/processors not listed in the AFA are limited to harvesting not more than 0.5 percent of the pollock allocated to the catcher/processor sector. Table 2 lists the 2007 and 2008 proposed allocations of pollock TAC. Tables 8 through 11 list the AFA catcher/processor and catcher vessel harvesting sideboard limits. In past years, the proposed harvest specifications included text and tables describing pollock allocations to the Bering Sea subarea inshore pollock cooperatives and open access sector. These allocations are based on the submission of AFA inshore cooperative applications due to NMFS on December 1 of each calendar year. Because AFA inshore cooperative applications for 2007 have not been submitted to NMFS, thereby preventing NMFS from calculating 2007 allocations, NMFS has not included inshore cooperative text and tables in these proposed harvest specifications. NMFS will post AFA inshore cooperative allocations on the Alaska Region website at
Table 2 also lists proposed seasonal apportionments of pollock and harvest limits within the Steller Sea Lion Conservation Area (SCA). The harvest of pollock within the SCA, as defined at § 679.22(a)(7)(vii), is limited to 28 percent of the DFA until April 1. The remaining 12 percent of the 40 percent of the annual DFA allocated to the A season may be taken outside the SCA before April 1 or inside the SCA after April 1. If less than 28 percent of the annual DFA is taken inside the SCA before April 1, the remainder will be available to be taken inside the SCA after April 1. The A season pollock SCA harvest limit will be apportioned to each sector in proportion to each sector's allocated percentage of the DFA. Table 2 lists by sector these 2007 and 2008 proposed amounts.
Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(8)(i), up to 2 percent of the Eastern Aleutian District and the Bering Sea subarea Atka mackerel ITAC may be allocated to jig gear. The amount of this allocation is determined annually by the Council based on several criteria, including the anticipated harvest capacity of the jig gear fleet. The Council recommended and NMFS proposes that 1 percent of the Atka mackerel ITAC in the Eastern Aleutian District and the Bering Sea subarea be allocated to jig gear in 2007 and 2008. Based on the proposed 2007 ITAC of 6,375 mt, the jig gear allocation would be 64 mt for 2007. Based on the proposed 2008 ITAC of 10,975 mt, the jig gear allocation would be 110 mt for 2008.
Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(A) apportions the Atka mackerel ITAC into two equal seasonal allowances. After subtraction of the jig gear allocation, the first allowance is made available for directed fishing from January 1 (January 20 for trawl gear) to April 15 (A season), and the second seasonal allowance is made available from September 1 to November 1 (B season; Table 3).
Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(C)(
Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(7)(i)(A), 2 percent of the Pacific cod ITAC is allocated to vessels using jig gear, 51 percent to vessels using hook-and-line or pot gear, and 47 percent to vessels using trawl gear. Section 679.20(a)(7)(i)(B) further allocates the portion of the Pacific cod ITAC allocated to trawl gear as 50 percent to catcher vessels and 50 percent to catcher/processors. Section 679.20(a)(7)(i)(C)(1) sets aside a portion of the Pacific cod ITAC allocated to hook-and-line or pot gear as an ICA of Pacific cod in directed fisheries for groundfish using these gear types. The Regional Administrator proposes an ICA of 500 mt for 2007 and 2008 based on anticipated incidental catch in these fisheries. The remainder of the Pacific cod ITAC is further allocated to vessels using hook-and-line or pot gear as the following DFAs: 80 percent to hook-and-line catcher/processors, 0.3 percent to hook-and-line catcher vessels, 3.3 percent to pot catcher/processors, 15 percent to pot catcher vessels, and 1.4 percent to catcher vessels under 60 feet (18.3 m) length overall (LOA) using hook-and-line or pot gear.
Due to concerns about the potential impact of the Pacific cod fishery on Steller sea lions and their critical habitat, the Pacific cod ITAC is apportioned into seasonal allowances to disperse the Pacific cod fisheries over the fishing year (see §§ 679.20(a)(7)(iii)(A) and 679.23(e)(5)). For pot and most hook-and-line gear, the first seasonal allowance of 60 percent of the ITAC is made available for directed fishing from January 1 to June 10, and the second seasonal allowance of 40 percent of the ITAC is made available from June 10 (September 1 for pot gear) to December 31. No seasonal harvest constraints are imposed on the Pacific cod fishery by catcher vessels less than 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA using hook-and-line or pot gear. For trawl gear, the first season is January 20 to April 1 and is allocated 60 percent of the ITAC. The second season, April 1 to June 10, and the third season, June 10 to November 1, are each allocated 20 percent of the ITAC. The trawl catcher vessel allocation is further allocated as 70 percent in the first season, 10 percent in the second season, and 20 percent in the third season. The trawl catcher/processor allocation is allocated 50 percent in the first season, 30 percent in the second season, and 20 percent in the third season. For jig gear, the first and third seasonal allowances are each allocated 40 percent of the ITAC and the second seasonal allowance is allocated 20 percent of the ITAC. Table 4 lists the 2007 and 2008 proposed allocations and seasonal apportionments of the Pacific cod ITAC. In accordance with § 679.20(a)(7)(ii)(D) and (a)(7)(iii)(B), any unused portion of a seasonal Pacific cod allowance will become available at the beginning of the next seasonal allowance.
Sections 679.20(a)(4)(iii) and (iv) require the allocation of sablefish TACs for the Bering Sea and AI subareas between trawl gear and hook-and-line or pot gear. Gear allocations of the TACs for the Bering Sea subarea are 50 percent for trawl gear and 50 percent for hook-and-line or pot gear and for the AI subarea are 25 percent for trawl gear and 75 percent for hook-and-line or pot gear. Section 679.20(b)(1)(iii)(B) requires apportionment of 20 percent of the hook-and-line and pot gear allocation of sablefish to the CDQ reserve. The Council recommended that only trawl sablefish TAC be established biennially. The harvest specifications for the hook-and-line gear and pot gear sablefish Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) fisheries will be limited to the 2007 fishing year to ensure those fisheries are conducted concurrent with the halibut IFQ fishery. Concurrent sablefish and halibut IFQ fisheries would reduce the potential for discards of halibut and sablefish in those fisheries. The sablefish IFQ fisheries would remain closed at the beginning of each fishing year until the final harvest specifications for the sablefish IFQ fisheries are in effect. Table 5 lists the 2007 and 2008 proposed gear allocations of the sablefish TAC and CDQ reserve amoun