Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
Federal regulations at 50 CFR part 679 implement the FMP and govern the groundfish fisheries in the BSAI. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared the FMP, and NMFS approved it under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). 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 the total allowable catch (TAC) for each target species and for the “other species” category, and the sum must be within the optimum yield (OY) range of 1.4 million to 2.0 million metric tons (mt) (see § 679.20(a)(1)(i)). NMFS also must specify apportionments of TACs, prohibited species catch (PSC)
Section 679.20(c)(3) further requires NMFS to consider public comment on the proposed annual TACs and apportionments thereof and the proposed PSC allowances, and to publish final harvest specifications in the
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 technical methods used to calculate stock biomass. In general, the development of ABCs and overfishing levels (OFLs) involves sophisticated statistical analyses of fish populations. The FMP specifies a series of six tiers based on the level of reliable information available to fishery scientists. Tier one represents the highest level of information quality available while tier six represents the lowest level of information quality available.
In December 2008, the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), Advisory Panel (AP), and Council reviewed current biological information about the condition of the BSAI groundfish stocks. The Council's Plan Team compiled and presented this information in the 2008 SAFE report for the BSAI groundfish fisheries, dated November 2008. The SAFE report contains a review of the latest scientific analyses and estimates of each species' biomass and other biological parameters, as well as summaries of the available information on the BSAI ecosystem and the economic condition of groundfish fisheries off Alaska. The SAFE report is available for public review (see
In December 2008, the SSC, AP, and Council reviewed the Plan Team's recommendations. Except for BSAI Pacific cod and Aleutian Islands pollock, the SSC, AP, and Council endorsed the Plan Team's ABC recommendations. For 2009 and 2010, the SSC recommended higher Pacific cod OFLs and ABCs than the OFLs and ABCs recommended by the Plan Team. The Plan Team chose values between the two best performing models. However, the SSC chose the best performing model, and did not see a need to adjust that model's estimates downward. For Aleutian Island pollock, the Plan Team adopted recommendations from the Center of Independent Experts to include survey data east of Adak. The SSC concluded that this data should be included. This was due to uncertainties in the spatial stock structure in the region, the variation of length compositions across the area, the concentration of survey data along the eastern edge of the region in the early survey years, and additional evidence that these pollock may be from the Bogoslof or EBS stocks, rather than the Aleutian Island stock. The elimination of this survey data resulted in higher OFL and ABC values. The Council adopted the ABCs recommended by the SSC.
The Plan Team, SSC, AP, and Council recommended that total removals of Pacific cod from the BSAI not exceed ABC recommendations. In 2007, the Board of Fisheries for the State of Alaska (State) established a guideline harvest level (GHL) west of 170 degrees west longitude in the AI subarea equal to 3 percent of the Pacific cod ABC in the BSAI. Accordingly, the Council recommended that the 2009 and 2010 Pacific cod TACs be adjusted downward from the ABCs by amounts equal to the 2009 and 2010 GHLs.
The final TAC recommendations were based on the ABCs as adjusted for other biological and socioeconomic considerations, including maintaining the sum of the TACs within the required OY range of 1.4 million to 2.0 million mt. The Council adopted the AP's 2009 and 2010 TAC recommendations. None of the Council's recommended TACs for 2009 or 2010 exceeds the final 2009 or 2010 ABCs for any 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 EIS. NMFS finds that the Council's recommended OFLs, ABCs, and TACs are consistent with the biological condition of groundfish stocks as described in the 2008 SAFE report that was approved by the Council.
The final rule implementing Amendment 73 to the FMP was published in the
The Council is considering a proposal that would allocate the Pacific cod TAC by Bering Sea subarea and Aleutian Islands (AI) subarea instead of a combined BSAI TAC, although associated fishery management implications would require more time to assess and resolve. As a result, a Pacific cod split between subareas has not been established for 2009 or 2010. Additional proposals being developed by the Plan Team for Council consideration would separate some species from the “other species” category so that individual OFLs, ABCs, and TACs may be established for these species. Another would allocate the ABC for rougheye rockfish by Bering Sea subarea and Aleutian Islands (AI) subarea instead of a combined BSAI ABC.
In October 2008, the Council made its recommendations for the proposed 2009 and 2010 harvest specifications (73 FR 75059, December 10, 2008) based largely on information contained in the 2007 SAFE report for the BSAI groundfish fisheries. The 2008 SAFE report, which was not available when the Council
The largest TAC reduction was for Bering Sea subarea pollock. The 2009 Bering Sea subarea pollock ABC and the corresponding TAC were reduced 185,000 mt below the proposed rule due to the addition of new survey and catch data incorporated into the pollock assessment models after the Council recommended the proposed harvest specifications. The reduction in the 2009 ABC and corresponding TAC is a consequence of low recruitment in the years 2002 through 2005. The assessment model remains unchanged and the stock still is in tier 1, as recommended by the SSC. Conversely, the new survey data increased the 2010 Bering Sea subarea pollock ABC and TAC by 230,000 mt. This increase is due to the recruitment of the 2006 year class, which has now appeared strong in two different surveys.
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 and are compared in the following table:
The final 2009 and 2010 TAC recommendations for the BSAI are within the OY range established for the BSAI and do not exceed the ABC for any single species or complex. Table 1 lists the final 2009 and 2010 OFL, ABC, TAC, initial TAC (ITAC), and CDQ reserve amounts of the BSAI groundfish. The apportionment of TAC amounts among fisheries and seasons is discussed below.
As mentioned in the proposed 2009 and 2010 harvest specifications, NMFS is apportioning the amounts shown in Table 2 from the non-specified reserve to increase the ITAC of several target species.
Section 679.20(b)(1)(i) requires the placement of 15 percent of the TAC for each target species or “other species” category, except for pollock, the hook-and-line and pot gear allocation of sablefish, and the Amendment 80 species, in a non-specified reserve. Section 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(B) requires that 20 percent of the hook-and-line and pot gear allocation of sablefish be allocated to the fixed gear sablefish CDQ reserve. Section 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(D) requires allocation of 7.5 percent of the trawl gear allocations of sablefish and 10.7 percent of the Bering Sea Greenland turbot and arrowtooth flounder TACs to the respective CDQ reserves. Section 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(C) requires allocation of 10.7 percent of the TACs for Atka mackerel, Aleutian Islands Pacific ocean perch, yellowfin sole, rock sole, flathead sole, and Pacific cod be allocated to the CDQ reserves. Sections 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A) and 679.31(a) also require the allocation of 10 percent of the BSAI pollock TACs to the pollock CDQ directed fishing allowance (DFA). 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 allocations by gear. Section 679.21(e)(3)(i)(A) requires withholding 7.5 percent of the Chinook salmon PSC limit, 10.7 percent of the crab and non-Chinook salmon PSC limits, and 343 (mt) of halibut PSC as PSQ reserves for the CDQ fisheries. Sections 679.30 and 679.31 set forth regulations governing the management of the CDQ and PSQ reserves, respectively.
Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(
Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(8) and (10), NMFS allocates ICAs of 4,500 mt of flathead sole, 5,000 mt of rock sole, 2,000 mt of yellowfin sole, 10 mt of Western Aleutian District Pacific ocean perch, 10 mt of Central Aleutian District Pacific ocean perch, 100 mt of Eastern Aleutian District Pacific ocean perch, 20 mt of Western Aleutian District Atka mackerel, 20 mt of Central Aleutian District Atka mackerel, and 200 mt of Eastern Aleutian District and Bering Sea subarea Atka mackerel TAC after subtraction of the 10.7 percent CDQ reserve. These allowances are based on NMFS' examination of the incidental catch in other target fisheries from 2003 through 2008.
The regulations do not designate the remainder of the non-specified reserve by species or species group. Any amount of the reserve may be apportioned to a target species or to the “other species” category during the year, providing that such apportionments do not result in overfishing (see § 679.20(b)(1)(ii)). The Regional Administrator has determined that the ITACs specified for the species listed in Table 2 need to be supplemented from the non-specified reserve because U.S. fishing vessels have demonstrated the capacity to catch the full TAC allocations. Therefore, in accordance with § 679.20(b)(3), NMFS is apportioning the amounts shown in Table 2 from the non-specified reserve to increase the ITAC for northern rockfish, shortraker rockfish, rougheye rockfish, and Bering Sea “other rockfish” by 15 percent of the TAC in 2009 and 2010.
Section 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A) requires that the pollock TAC apportioned to the Bering Sea subarea, after subtraction of the 10 percent for the CDQ program and the 4 percent for the ICA, be allocated as a 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). 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 DFA is allocated to the A season and the remainder of the directed pollock fishery is allocated to the B season. Table 3 lists these 2009 and 2010 amounts.
Table 3 also lists seasonal apportionments of pollock and harvest limits within the Steller Sea Lion Conservation Area (SCA). The harvest within the SCA, as defined at § 679.22(a)(7)(vii), is limited to 28 percent of the annual DFA until April 1. The remaining 12 percent of the 40 percent 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 3 lists by sector these 2009 and 2010 amounts.
Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii) allocates the Atka mackerel TACs, after subtraction of the CDQ reserves, jig gear allocation, and ICAs for the BSAI trawl limited access sector and non-trawl gear, to the Amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access sectors. The allocation of the ITAC for Atka mackerel to the Amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access sectors is established in Table 33 to part 679 and § 679.91.
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 approves, a 0.5 percent allocation of the Atka mackerel ITAC in the Eastern Aleutian District and Bering Sea subarea to the jig gear in 2009 and 2010. Based on the 2009 TAC of 27,000 mt after subtractions of the CDQ reserve and ICA, the jig gear allocation would be 120 mt for 2009. Based on the 2010 TAC of 22,900 mt after subtractions of the CDQ reserve and ICA, the jig gear allocation would be 101 mt for 2010.
Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(A) apportions the Atka mackerel ITAC into two equal seasonal allowances. The first seasonal 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). The jig gear allocation is not apportioned by season.
Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(C)(
NMFS will establish HLA limits for the CDQ reserve and each of the three non-CDQ trawl sectors: the BSAI trawl limited access sector, the Amendment 80 limited access fishery, and an aggregate HLA limit applicable to all Amendment 80 cooperatives. NMFS will assign vessels in each of the three non-CDQ sectors that apply to fish for Atka mackerel in the HLA to an HLA fishery based on a random lottery of the vessels that apply (see § 679.20(a)(8)(iii)). There is no allocation of Atka mackerel to the BSAI trawl limited access sector in the Western Aleutian District. Therefore, no vessels in the BSAI trawl limited access sector will be assigned to the Western Aleutian District HLA fishery.
Each trawl sector will have a separate lottery. A maximum of two HLA fisheries will be established in Area 542 for the BSAI trawl limited access sector. A maximum of four HLA fisheries will be established for vessels assigned to Amendment 80 cooperatives: a first and second HLA fishery in Area 542, and a first and second HLA fishery in Area 543. A maximum of four HLA fisheries will be established for vessels assigned to the Amendment 80 limited access fishery: a first and second HLA fishery in Area 542, and a first and second HLA fishery in Area 543. NMFS will initially open fishing in the HLA for the first HLA fishery in all three trawl sectors at the same time. The initial opening of fishing in the HLA will be based on the first directed fishing closure of Atka mackerel for the Eastern Aleutian District and Bering Sea subarea for any one of the three trawl sectors allocated Atka mackerel TAC.
Table 4 lists these 2009 and 2010 amounts. The 2010 allocations for Atka mackerel between Amendment 80 cooperatives and the Amendment 80 limited access sector will not be known until eligible participants apply for participation in the program by November 1, 2009.