Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the GOA under the FMP. The Council prepared the FMP under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), 16 U.S.C. 1801
The FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS, after consultation with the Council, to specify and apportion the total allowable catch (TAC) for each target species and for the “other species” category, and the sum of which must be within the optimum yield (OY) range of 116,000 to 800,000 metric tons (mt). The final specifications set forth in Tables 1 through 27 of this document satisfy this requirement. For 2009, the sum of the TAC amounts is 242,727 mt. For 2010, the sum of the TAC amounts is 284,688 mt.
50 CFR 679.20(c)(1) further requires NMFS to publish and solicit public comment on proposed annual TACs, halibut PSC amounts, and seasonal allowances of pollock and inshore/offshore Pacific cod. The proposed GOA groundfish specifications and Pacific halibut PSC allowances for 2009 and 2010 were published in the
In December 2008, the Council, its Advisory Panel (AP), and its Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), reviewed current biological and harvest information about the condition of groundfish stocks in the GOA. This information was compiled by the Council's GOA Plan Team and was presented in the final 2008 SAFE report for the GOA groundfish fisheries, dated November 2008 (see
The final ABC levels are based on the best available biological and socioeconomic information, including projected biomass trends, information on assumed distribution of stock biomass, and revised methods used to calculate stock biomass. The FMP specifies the formulas, or tiers, to be used to compute ABCs and overfishing levels (OFLs). The formulas applicable to a particular stock or stock complex are determined by the level of reliable information available to fisheries scientists. This information is categorized into a successive series of six tiers with tier one representing the highest level of information quality available and tier six the lowest level of information quality available.
The final TAC recommendations were based on the ABCs as adjusted for other biological and socioeconomic considerations, including maintaining the sum of all TACs within the required OY range of 116,000 to 800,000 mt. The Council adopted the AP's TAC recommendations. The Council recommended TACs for 2009 and 2010 that are equal to ABCs for pollock, deep-water flatfish, rex sole, sablefish, Pacific ocean perch, shortraker rockfish, rougheye rockfish, northern rockfish, pelagic shelf rockfish, thornyhead rockfish, demersal shelf rockfish, big skate, longnose skate, and other skates. The Council recommended TACs for 2009 and 2010 that are less than the ABCs for Pacific cod, flathead sole, shallow-water flatfish, arrowtooth flounder, other rockfish, Atka mackerel, and “other species.” None of the Council's recommended TACs for 2009 and 2010 exceeds the final ABC for any species or species category. The 2009 and 2010 harvest specifications approved by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) are unchanged from those recommended by the Council and are consistent with the preferred harvest strategy alternative in the Final EIS. NMFS finds that the Council's recommended ABCs, OFLs, and TACs are consistent with the biological condition of the groundfish stocks as described in the 2008 SAFE report and
Tables 1 and 2 list the final 2009 and 2010 OFLs, ABCs, TACs, and area apportionments of groundfish in the GOA. The sums of the 2009 and 2010 ABCs are 516,055 mt and 562,762 mt, respectively, which are lower in 2009 and higher in 2010 than the 2008 ABC sum of 536,201 mt (73 FR 10562, February 27, 2008).
As in 2008, the SSC and Council recommended that the method of apportioning the sablefish ABC among management areas in 2009 and 2010 include commercial fishery and survey data. NMFS stock assessment scientists believe the use of unbiased commercial fishery data reflecting catch-per-unit-effort provides a desirable input for stock distribution assessments. NMFS evaluates the use of commercial fishery data annually to ensure unbiased information is included in stock distribution models. The Council's recommendation for sablefish area apportionments also takes into account the prohibition on the use of trawl gear in the Southeast Outside (SEO) District of the Eastern Regulatory Area and makes available 5 percent of the combined Eastern Regulatory Area ABCs to trawl gear for use as incidental catch in other directed groundfish fisheries in the West Yakutat (WYK) District (§ 679.20(a)(4)(i)).
Since the inception of a State of Alaska (State) managed pollock fishery in Prince William Sound (PWS), the GOA Plan Team has recommended the guideline harvest level (GHL) for the pollock fishery in PWS be deducted from the ABC for the western stock of pollock in the GOA in the Western/Central/West Yakutat (W/C/WYK) Area. For the 2009 and 2010 pollock fisheries in PWS, the State's GHL is 1,650 mt.
The apportionment of annual pollock TAC among the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA reflects the seasonal biomass distribution and is discussed in greater detail below. The annual pollock TAC in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA is apportioned among Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630, as well as equally among each of the following four seasons: the A season (January 20 through March 10), the B season (March 10 through May 31), the C season (August 25 through October 1), and the D season (October 1 through November 1) (50 CFR 679.23(d)(2)(i) through (iv) and 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)).
The SSC, AP, and Council adopted the Plan Team's OFL and ABC recommendations for all groundfish species, complexes, and categories.
The SSC, AP, and Council recommended apportionment of the ABC for Pacific cod in the GOA among regulatory areas based on the three most recent NMFS summer trawl surveys.
The 2009 and 2010 Pacific cod TACs are affected by the State's fishery for Pacific cod in State waters in the Central and Western Regulatory Areas, as well as in PWS. The SSC, AP, and Council recommended that the sum of all State and Federal water Pacific cod removals not exceed the ABC. Accordingly, the Council recommended reducing the 2009 and 2010 Pacific cod TACs from the ABCs in the Central and Western Regulatory Areas to account for State GHLs. Therefore, the 2009 Pacific cod TACs are less than the ABCs by the following amounts: (1) Eastern GOA, 221 mt; (2) Central GOA, 7,880 mt; and (3) Western GOA, 5,392 mt; the 2010 Pacific cod TACs are less than the ABCs by the following amounts: (1) Eastern GOA, 318 mt; (2) Central GOA, 11,329 mt; and (3) Western GOA, 7,751 mt. These amounts reflect the sum of the State's 2009 and 2010 GHLs in these areas, which are 10 percent, 25 percent, and 25 percent of the Eastern, Central, and Western GOA ABCs, respectively. The percentages of the ABCs used to calculate the 2009 and 2010 GHLs for the State managed Pacific cod fisheries are unchanged from 2008.
NMFS also is establishing seasonal apportionments of the annual Pacific cod TAC in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas. Sixty percent of the annual TAC is apportioned to the A season for hook-and-line, pot, and jig gear from January 1 through June 10, and for trawl gear from January 20 through June 10. Forty percent of the annual TAC is apportioned to the B season for hook-and-line, pot, and jig gear from September 1 through December 31, and for trawl gear from September 1 through November 1 (50 CFR 679.23(d)(3) and 679.20(a)(12)).
As in 2008, NMFS establishes for 2009 and 2010 an A season directed fishing allowance (DFA) for the Pacific cod fisheries in the GOA based on the management area TACs minus the recent average A season incidental catch of Pacific cod in each management area before June 10 (§ 679.20(d)(1)). The DFA and incidental catch before June 10 will be managed such that total harvest in the A season will be no more than 60 percent of the annual TAC. Incidental catch taken after June 10 will continue to accrue against the B season TAC. This action meets the intent of the Steller Sea Lion Protection Measures by achieving temporal dispersion of the Pacific cod removals and by reducing the likelihood of harvest exceeding 60 percent of the annual TAC in the A season (January 1 through June 10 for hook-and-line, pot, and jig gear; January 20 through June 10 for trawl gear). The seasonal apportionments of the annual Pacific cod TAC are discussed in greater detail below.
Amendment 79 to the GOA FMP was approved by the Secretary on August 20, 2008 (73 FR 49963, August 25, 2008). Amendment 79 requires that aggregate OFL, ABC, and TAC levels for the “other species” category be established as part of the annual groundfish harvest specification process. Previously only an annual TAC was established. NMFS is implementing an OFL of 8,720 mt and an ABC of 6,540 mt for 2009 and 2010 (see Tables 1 and 2). Stock assessments for the major taxonomic groups which comprise the “other species” category (sharks, sculpins, squid, and octopus) are included in 2008 SAFE report.
Following the publication of a proposed rule (73 FR 55010, September 24, 2008) and comment period to implement Amendment 77 to the GOA FMP the Secretary approved Amendment 77 on December 15, 2008 and NMFS published a final rule implementing the amendment on December 31, 2008 (73 FR 80307). Amendment 77 removed dark rockfish from the pelagic shelf rockfish (PSR) complex in the GOA FMP in order to allow the State of Alaska (State) to assume management of dark rockfish beginning in 2009. This action was necessary to allow the State to implement more responsive, regionally-based management measures than are currently possible under the FMP. The effect of removing dark rockfish from the PSR complex is to reduce the OFLs, ABCs, and TACs for the PSR complex in these harvest specifications. Compared to the final 2008 harvest specifications the OFL is reduced from 6,400 mt in 2008 to 5,803 mt in 2009 and to 5,420 mt in 2010. Compared to the final 2008
In October 2008, the Council's recommendations for the proposed 2009 and 2010 harvest specifications (73 FR 73222, December 2, 2008) were based largely upon information contained in the final 2007 SAFE report for the GOA groundfish fisheries, dated November 2007 (
The 2008 SAFE report, which was not available when the Council made its recommendations in October 2008, contains the best and most recent scientific information on the condition of the groundfish stocks. This report was considered in December 2008 by the Council when it made recommendations for the final 2009 and 2010 harvest specifications. Based on the final 2008 SAFE report, the sum of the 2009 final TACs for the GOA (242,727 mt) is 36,537 mt lower than the sum of the proposed 2009 TACs (279,264 mt). The largest 2009 decreases occurred for pollock, from 78,170 mt to 49,900 mt (36 percent decrease); for Pacific cod, from 50,269 mt to 41,807 mt (17 percent decrease); for sablefish, from 11,633 mt to 11,160 mt (4 percent decrease); for pelagic shelf rockfish, from 5,140 mt to 4,781 mt (7 percent decrease); and for demersal shelf rockfish, from 382 mt to 362 mt (5 percent decrease). The largest increases occurred for rex sole, from 8,468 mt to 8,996 mt (6 percent increase) and for Atka mackerel, from 1,500 mt to 2,000 mt (33 percent increase). Other increases or decreases in 2009 are within 2 percent of the proposed specifications.
The sum of the 2010 final TACs for the GOA (284,688 mt) is 5,424 mt higher than the sum of the proposed 2010 TACs (279,264 mt). The largest 2010 decreases occurred for pollock, from 78,170 mt to 74,330 mt (5 percent decrease); for sablefish, from 11,633 mt to 10,337 mt (11 percent decrease), for pelagic shelf rockfish, from 5,140 mt to 4,465 (13 percent decrease); and for demersal shelf rockfish, from 382 mt to 362 mt (5 percent decrease). The largest increases occurred for Pacific cod from 50,269 mt to 60,102 (20 percent increase); for deep-water flatfish from 9,172 mt to 9,793 (7 percent increase); for rex sole, from 8,468 mt to 8,827 mt (4 percent increase); and for Atka mackerel, from 1,500 mt to 2,000 mt (33 percent increase). Other increases or decreases in 2010 are within 2 percent of the proposed specifications.
Compared to the proposed 2009 and 2010 harvest specifications, the Council's final 2009 and 2010 TAC recommendations increase fishing opportunities for species for which the Council had sufficient information to raise TAC levels. For 2009, these include rex sole, Pacific ocean perch, and Atka mackerel. For 2010, TACs were increased for Pacific cod, deep-water flatfish, rex sole, flathead sole, Pacific ocean perch, and Atka mackerel. Conversely, the Council reduced TAC levels to provide greater protection for some species. In 2009, TACs were reduced for pollock, Pacific cod, sablefish, pelagic shelf rockfish, and demersal shelf rockfish. In 2010, TACs were again reduced for pollock, sablefish, pelagic shelf rockfish, and demersal shelf rockfish. The changes in the final rule from the proposed rule are based on the most recent scientific information and implement the harvest strategy described in the proposed rule for the harvest specifications. Tables 1 and 2 list the 2009 and 2010 final OFL, ABC, and TAC amounts for GOA groundfish, respectively.
Section 679.20(b)(2) requires 20 percent of each TAC for pollock, Pacific cod, flatfish, and the “other species” category be set aside in reserves for possible apportionment at a later date during the fishing year. In 2008, NMFS reapportioned all the reserves in the final harvest specifications. For 2009 and 2010, NMFS proposed reapportionment of all the reserves in the proposed 2009 and 2010 harvest specifications published in the
Section 679.20(a)(4)(i) and (ii) require allocations of sablefish TACs for each of the regulatory areas and districts to hook-and-line and trawl gear. In the Western and Central Regulatory Areas, 80 percent of each TAC is allocated to hook-and-line gear, and 20 percent of each TAC is allocated to trawl gear. In the Eastern Regulatory Area, 95 percent of the TAC is allocated to hook-and-line gear, and 5 percent is allocated to trawl gear. The trawl gear allocation in the Eastern Regulatory Area may only be used to support incidental catch of sablefish in directed fisheries for other target species (§ 679.20(a)(1)). In recognition of the trawl ban in the SEO District of the Eastern Regulatory Area, the Council recommended and NMFS concurs with the allocation of 5 percent of the combined Eastern Regulatory Area sablefish TAC to trawl gear in the WYK District and the remainder of the WYK sablefish TAC be available to vessels using hook-and-line gear. As a result, NMFS allocates 100 percent of the sablefish TAC in the SEO District to vessels using hook-and-line gear. The Council recommended that the hook-and-line sablefish TAC be established annually to ensure that the Individual Fishery Quota (IFQ) fishery is conducted concurrent with the halibut IFQ fishery and is based on the most recent survey information. This recommendation results in an allocation of 227 mt to trawl gear and 1,557 mt to hook-and-line gear in the WYK District in 2009, an allocation of 2,746 mt to hook-and-line gear in the SEO District in 2009, and 209 mt to trawl gear in the WYK District in 2010. Table 3 lists the allocations of the 2009 sablefish TACs to hook-and-line and trawl gear. Table 4 lists the allocations of the 2010 sablefish TACs to trawl gear. The Council recommended that only a trawl sablefish TAC be established for two years so that retention of incidental catch of sablefish by trawl gear could commence in January in the second year of the groundfish harvest specifications. However, since there is an annual assessment for sablefish and the final specifications are expected to be published before the IFQ season begins, the industry and Council recommended that the sablefish TAC be set on an annual basis so that the best and most recent scientific information could be considered in recommending the ABCs and TACs. Since sablefish is on bycatch status for trawl gear the entire fishing year and given that fishing for groundfish is prohibited prior to January 20, it is not likely that the sablefish allocation to trawl gear would be reached before the effective date of the final harvest specifications.