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Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

[Docket No. 161020985-7181-02]

RIN 0648-XE989

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands; 2017 and 2018 Harvest Specifications for Groundfish

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.
ACTION: Final rule; closures.
SUMMARY: NMFS announces final 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications and prohibited species catch allowances for the groundfish fishery of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI). This action is necessary to establish harvest limits for groundfish during the 2017 and 2018 fishing years, and to accomplish the goals and objectives of the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP). The intended effect of this action is to conserve and manage the groundfish resources in the BSAI in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act).
DATES: Effective from 1200 hrs, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), February 27, 2017, through 2400 hrs, A.l.t., December 31, 2018.
ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the Alaska Groundfish Harvest Specifications Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Record of Decision (ROD), Supplementary Information Report (SIR) to the EIS, and the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) prepared for this action are available from http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. The final 2016 Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) report for the groundfish resources of the BSAI, dated November 2016, as well as the SAFE reports for previous years, are available from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) at 605 West 4th Avenue, Suite 306, Anchorage, AK 99510-2252, phone 907-271-2809, or from the Council's Web site at http://www.npfmc.org/.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Whitney, 907-586-7228.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

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 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 category. The sum TAC for all groundfish species 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)(A)). This final rule specifies the TAC at 2.0 million mt for both 2017 and 2018. NMFS also must specify apportionments of TAC, as well as prohibited species catch (PSC) allowances and prohibited species quota (PSQ) reserves established by § 679.21; seasonal allowances of pollock, Pacific cod, and Atka mackerel TAC; Amendment 80 allocations; and Community Development Quota (CDQ) reserve amounts established by § 679.20(b)(1)(ii). The final harvest specifications set forth in Tables 1 through 26 of this action satisfy these requirements.

Section 679.20(c)(3)(i) further requires NMFS to consider public comment on the proposed annual TACs (and apportionments thereof) and PSC allowances, and to publish final harvest specifications in the Federal Register. The proposed 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications and PSC allowances for the groundfish fishery of the BSAI were published in the Federal Register on December 6, 2016 (81 FR 87863). Comments were invited and accepted through January 5, 2017. NMFS received one letter of comment on the proposed harvest specifications; this comment is summarized and responded to in the “Response to Comments” section of this rule. NMFS consulted with the Council on the final 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications during the December 2016 Council meeting in Anchorage, AK. After considering public comments, as well as biological and economic data that were available at the Council's December meeting, NMFS implements the final 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications as recommended by the Council.

Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) and TAC Harvest Specifications

The final ABC levels for Alaska groundfish 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 to define OFL and ABC amounts based on the level of reliable information available to fishery scientists. Tier 1 represents the highest level of information quality available, while Tier 6 represents the lowest.

In December 2016, the Council, its Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), and its Advisory Panel (AP) reviewed current biological and harvest information about the condition of the BSAI groundfish stocks. The Council's BSAI Groundfish Plan Team (Plan Team) compiled and presented this information in the final 2016 SAFE report for the BSAI groundfish fisheries, dated November 2016 (see ADDRESSES). 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. NMFS notified the public of the comment period for these harvest specifications—and of the publication of the 2016 SAFE report—in the notice of proposed harvest specifications. From the data and analyses in the SAFE report, the Plan Team recommended an OFL and ABC for each species or species group at the November 2016 Plan Team meeting.

In December 2016, the SSC, AP, and Council reviewed the Plan Team's recommendations. The final TAC recommendations were based on the ABCs as adjusted for other biological and socioeconomic considerations, including maintaining the sum of all the TACs within the required OY range of 1.4 million to 2.0 million mt. As required by annual catch limit rules for all fisheries (74 FR 3178, January 16, 2009), none of the Council's recommended TACs for 2017 or 2018 exceed the final 2017 or 2018 ABCs for any species or species group. The Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) approves the final 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications as recommended by the Council. NMFS finds that the Council's recommended OFLs, ABCs, and TACs are consistent with the preferred harvest strategy and the biological condition of groundfish stocks as described in the 2016 SAFE report that was approved by the Council.

The 2017 harvest specifications set in this final action will supersede the 2017 harvest specifications previously set in the final 2016 and 2017 harvest specifications (81 FR 14773, March 18, 2016). The 2018 harvest specifications herein will be superseded in early 2018 when the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications are published. Pursuant to this final action, the 2017 harvest specifications therefore will apply for the remainder of the current year (2017), while the 2018 harvest specifications are projected only for the following year (2018) and will be superseded in early 2018 by the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications. Because this final action (published in early 2017) will be superseded in early 2018 by the publication of the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications, it is projected that this final action will implement the harvest specifications for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands for approximately one year.

Other Actions Potentially Affecting the 2017 and 2018 Harvest Specifications

The State of Alaska (State) manages separate Pacific cod fisheries in the Bering Sea subarea and the Aleutian Islands subarea. The State's guideline harvest level (GHL) fisheries are conducted independently of the Federal groundfish fisheries under direct regulation of the State. GHLs are derived from the Pacific cod ABC for the Bering Sea subarea and the Aleutian Islands subarea, and the TAC for each subarea is set at an amount less than or equal to the amount available after the annual GHL percentage has been deducted from the ABC. The State's GHLs for 2017 and 2018 are set equal to 6.4 percent of the Pacific cod ABC for the Bering Sea subarea and 27 percent of the Pacific cod ABC for the Aleutian Islands subarea. The Council and its Plan Team, Scientific and Statistical Committee, and Advisory Panel recommended that the sum of all State and Federal water Pacific cod removals from the Bering Sea subarea and the Aleutian Islands subarea not exceed the proposed ABC recommendations. Accordingly, the Council recommends setting the final 2017 and 2018 Pacific cod TACs in the Bering Sea subarea and the Aleutian Islands subarea to account for State GHLs.

NMFS has published the final rule to implement Amendment 113 (81 FR 84434, November 23, 2016). This rule sets aside a portion of the Aleutian Islands Pacific cod TAC for catcher vessels that directed fish for Aleutian Islands Pacific cod and then deliver the catch to Aleutian Islands shoreplants for processing. The set-aside applies only if specific notification and performance requirements are met. For 2017, NMFS has been notified that no shoreplants in the Aleutian Islands will be processing Pacific cod, and the set-aside is not in effect for 2017. For 2018, NMFS must be notified by October 31, 2017, that Aleutian Islands shoreplants intend to process Pacific cod for the 2018 set-aside to apply for catcher vessels that directed fish for Aleutian Islands Pacific cod and then deliver the catch to Aleutian Islands shoreplants for processing. If NMFS receives such notification from either the city of Adak or the city of Atka, then NMFS will set aside a portion of the TAC for Aleutian Islands subarea Pacific cod in 2018 for catcher vessels that directed fish for Aleutian Islands Pacific cod and deliver to Aleutian Islands shoreplants for processing.

Changes From the Proposed 2017 and 2018 Harvest Specifications for the BSAI

The Council's recommendations for the proposed 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications (81 FR 87863, December 6, 2016) were based largely on information contained in the 2015 SAFE report for the BSAI groundfish fisheries. Through the proposed harvest specifications, NMFS notified the public that these harvest specifications could change, as the Council would consider information contained in the final 2016 SAFE report; recommendations from the Plan Team, SSC, and AP committees; and public testimony when making its recommendations for final harvest specifications at the December 2016 Council meeting. NMFS further notified the public that, as required by the FMP and its implementing regulations, the sum of the TACs must be within the OY range of 1.4 million and 2.0 million mt.

Information contained in the 2016 SAFE report indicates biomass changes from the 2015 SAFE report for several groundfish species. The 2016 report was made available for public review during the public comment period for the proposed harvest specifications. At the December 2016 Council meeting, the SSC recommended the 2017 and 2018 ABCs for many species based on the best and most recent information contained in the 2016 SAFE reports. This recommendation resulted in an ABC sum total for all BSAI groundfish species in excess of 2 million mt for both 2017 and 2018.

Based on increased fishing effort in 2016, the Council recommends increasing Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands yellowfin sole TAC by 10,000 mt in 2017 and 2018. In terms of percentage, the largest increases in final TACs relative to the proposed TACs were for Bering Sea subarea Pacific Ocean perch and Bering Sea subarea Greenland turbot. These increases were to account for a higher interest in directed fishing than in 2016. Other increases in the final TACs relative to the proposed TACs included increases in Aleutian Islands subarea Pacific cod, sablefish, and Atka mackerel in all subareas. These increases were to account for higher interest in directed fishing or higher anticipated incidental catch needs.

Decreases in final TACs compared to the proposed TACs were for rock sole, flathead sole, rougheye rockfish, and shortraker rockfish. The decreases were to account for the requirement not to exceed the 2.0 million mt OY limit on overall TAC in the BSAI.

The changes to TACs between the proposed and final harvest specifications are based on the most recent scientific and economic information and are consistent with the FMP, regulatory obligations, and harvest strategy as described in the proposed harvest specifications, including the upper limit for OY of 2.0 million mt. These changes are compared in Table 1A.

Table 1 lists the Council's recommended final 2017 OFL, ABC, TAC, initial TAC (ITAC), and CDQ reserve amounts of the BSAI groundfish species or species groups; and Table 2 lists the Council's recommended final 2018 OFL, ABC, TAC, ITAC, and CDQ reserve amounts of the BSAI groundfish species or species groups. NMFS concurs in these recommendations. The final 2017 and 2018 TAC recommendations for the BSAI are within the OY range established for the BSAI and do not exceed the ABC for any species or species group. The apportionment of TAC amounts among fisheries and seasons is discussed below.

Table 1—Final 2017 Overfishing Level (OFL), Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC), Total Allowable Catch (TAC), Initial TAC (ITAC), and CDQ Reserve Allocation of Groundfish in the BSAI 1 [Amounts are in metric tons] Species Area 2017 OFL ABC TAC ITAC 2 CDQ 3 Pollock 4 BS 3,640,000 2,800,000 1,345,000 1,210,500 134,500 AI 43,650 36,061 19,000 17,100 1,900 Bogoslof 130,428 60,800 500 500 0 Pacific cod 5 BS 284,000 239,000 223,704 199,768 23,936 AI 28,700 21,500 15,695 14,016 1,679 Sablefish BS 1,499 1,274 1,274 1,051 175 AI 2,044 1,735 1,735 1,410 293 Yellowfin sole BSAI 287,000 260,800 154,000 137,522 16,478 Greenland turbot BSAI 11,615 6,644 4,500 3,825 n/a BS n/a 5,800 4,375 3,719 468 AI n/a 844 125 106 0 Arrowtooth flounder BSAI 76,100 65,371 14,000 11,900 1,498 Kamchatka flounder BSAI 10,360 8,880 5,000 4,250 0 Rock sole BSAI 159,700 155,100 47,100 42,060 5,040 Flathead sole 6 BSAI 81,654 68,278 14,500 12,949 1,552 Alaska plaice BSAI 42,800 36,000 13,000 11,050 0 Other flatfish 7 BSAI 17,591 13,193 2,500 2,125 0 Pacific ocean perch BSAI 53,152 43,723 34,900 30,693 n/a BS n/a 12,199 11,000 9,350 0 EAI n/a 10,307 7,900 7,055 845 CAI n/a 8,009 7,000 6,251 749 WAI n/a 13,208 9,000 8,037 963 Northern rockfish BSAI 16,242 13,264 5,000 4,250 0 Blackspotted and Rougheye rockfish 8 BSAI 612 501 225 191 0 BS/EAI n/a 306 100 85 0 CAI/WAI n/a 195 125 106 0 Shortraker rockfish BSAI 666 499 125 106 0 Other rockfish 9 BSAI 1,816 1,362 875 744 0 BS n/a 791 325 276 0 AI n/a 571 550 468 0 Atka mackerel BSAI 102,700 87,200 65,000 58,045 6,955 BS/EAI n/a 34,890 34,500 30,809 3,692 CAI n/a 30,330 18,000 16,074 1,926 WAI n/a 21,980 12,500 11,163 1,338 Skates BSAI 49,063 41,144 26,000 22,100 0 Sculpins BSAI 56,582 42,387 4,500 3,825 0 Sharks BSAI 689 517 125 106 0 Squids BSAI 6,912 5,184 1,342 1,141 0 Octopuses BSAI 4,769 3,576 400 340 0 Total 5,110,344 4,013,993 2,000,000 1,791,566 197,031 1 These amounts apply to the entire BSAI management area unless otherwise specified. With the exception of pollock, and for the purpose of these harvest specifications, the Bering Sea (BS) subarea includes the Bogoslof District. 2 Except for pollock, the portion of the sablefish TAC allocated to hook-and-line or pot gear, and Amendment 80 species, 15 percent of each TAC is put into a reserve. The ITAC for these species is the remainder of the TAC after the subtraction of these reserves. For pollock and Amendment 80 species, ITAC is the non-CDQ allocation of TAC (see footnotes 3 and 5). 3 For the Amendment 80 species (Atka mackerel, flathead sole, rock sole, yellowfin sole, Pacific cod, and Aleutian Islands Pacific ocean perch), 10.7 percent of the TAC is reserved for use by CDQ participants (see §§ 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(C) and 679.31). Twenty percent of the sablefish TAC allocated to hook-and-line gear or pot gear, 7.5 percent of the sablefish TAC allocated to trawl gear, and 10.7 percent of the TACs for Bering Sea Greenland turbot and arrowtooth flounder are reserved for use by CDQ participants (see § 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(B) and (D)). Aleutian Islands Greenland turbot, “other flatfish,” Alaska plaice, Bering Sea Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, shortraker rockfish, rougheye rockfish, “other rockfish,” skates, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses are not allocated to the CDQ program. 4 Under § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A), the annual BS subarea pollock TAC, after subtracting first for the CDQ directed fishing allowance (10 percent) and second for the incidental catch allowance (3.9 percent), is further allocated by sector for a pollock directed fishery as follows: inshore—50 percent; catcher/processor—40 percent; and motherships—10 percent. Under § 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(2), the annual Aleutian Islands subarea pollock TAC, after subtracting first for the CDQ directed fishing allowance (10 percent) and second for the incidental catch allowance (2,400 mt), is allocated to the Aleut Corporation for a pollock directed fishery. 5 The BS Pacific cod TAC is set less than 6.4 percent of the Bering Sea subarea ABC to account for the State of Alaska's (State) guideline harvest level in State waters of the Bering Sea subarea. The AI Pacific cod TAC is set less than 27 percent of the Aleutian Islands subarea ABC to account for the State guideline harvest level in State waters of the Aleutian Islands subarea. 6 “Flathead sole” includes Hippoglossoides elassodon (flathead sole) and Hippoglossoides robustus (Bering flounder). 7 “Other flatfish” includes all flatfish species, except for halibut (a prohibited species), flathead sole, Greenland turbot, rock sole, yellowfin sole, arrowtooth flounder, Kamchatka flounder, and Alaska plaice. 8 “Rougheye rockfish” includes Sebastes aleutianus (rougheye) and Sebastes melanostictus (blackspotted). 9 “Other rockfish” includes all Sebastes and Sebastolobus species except for Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, shortraker rockfish, and rougheye rockfish. Note: Regulatory areas and districts are defined at § 679.2 (BSAI = Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area, BS = Bering Sea subarea, AI = Aleutian Islands subarea, EAI = Eastern Aleutian district, CAI = Central Aleutian district, WAI = Western Aleutian district.) Table 1A—Comparison of Final 2017 and 2018 With Proposed 2017 and 2018 Total Allowable Catch in the BSAI [Amounts are in metric tons] Species Area 1 2017 final
  • TAC
  • 2017
  • proposed
  • TAC
  • 2017
  • difference
  • from
  • proposed
  • 2017
  • percentage
  • difference
  • from
  • proposed
  • 2018 final
  • TAC
  • 2018
  • proposed
  • TAC
  • 2018
  • difference
  • from
  • proposed
  • 2018
  • percentage
  • difference
  • from
  • proposed
  • Pollock BS 1,345,000 1,340,643 4,357 0.3 1,345,000 1,340,643 4,357 0.3 AI 19,000 19,000 0 0.0 19,000 19,000 0 0.0 Bogoslof 500 500 0 0.0 500 500 0 0.0 Pacific cod BS 223,704 238,680 −14,976 −6.3 223,704 238,680 −14,976 −6.3 AI 15,695 12,839 2,856 22.2 15,695 12,839 2,856 22.2 Sablefish BS 1,274 1,052 222 21.1 1,274 1,052 222 21.1 AI 1,735 1,423 312 21.9 1,735 1,423 312 21.9 Yellowfin sole BSAI 154,000 144,000 10,000 6.9 154,000 144,000 10,000 6.9 Greenland turbot BS 4,375 2,673 1,702 63.7 4,375 2,673 1,702 63.7 AI 125 200 −75 −37.5 125 200 −75 −37.5 Arrowtooth flounder BSAI 14,000 14,000 0 0.0 14,000 14,000 0 0.0 Kamchatka flounder BSAI 5,000 5,000 0 0.0 5,000 5,000 0 0.0 Rock sole BSAI 47,100 57,100 −10,000 −17.5 47,100 57,100 −10,000 −17.5 Flathead sole BSAI 14,500 21,000 −6,500 −31.0 14,500 21,000 −6,500 −31.0 Alaska plaice BSAI 13,000 14,500 −1,500 −10.3 13,000 14,500 −1,500 −10.3 Other flatfish BSAI 2,500 2,500 0 0.0 2,500 2,500 0 0.0 Pacific ocean perch BS 11,000 7,953 3,047 38.3 11,000 7,953 3,047 38.3 EAI 7,900 7,537 363 4.8 7,900 7,537 363 4.8 CAI 7,000 7,000 0 0.0 7,000 7,000 0 0.0 WAI 9,000 9,000 0 0.0 9,000 9,000 0 0.0 Northern rockfish BSAI 5,000 4,500 500 11.1 5,000 4,500 500 11.1 Blackspotted and Rougheye rockfish BS/EAI 100 100 0 0.0 100 100 0 0.0 CAI/WAI 125 200 −75 −37.5 125 200 −75 −37.5 Shortraker rockfish BSAI 125 200 −75 −37.5 125 200 −75 −37.5 Other rockfish BS 325 325 0 0.0 325 325 0 0.0 AI 550 550 0 0.0 550 550 0 0.0 Atka mackerel EAI/BS 34,500 28,500 6,000 21.1 34,000 28,500 5,500 19.3 CAI 18,000 16,000 2,000 12.5 18,500 16,000 2,500 15.6 WAI 12,500 10,500 2,000 19.0 12,500 10,500 2,000 19.0 Skates BSAI 26,000 26,000 0 0.0 26,000 26,000 0 0.0 Sculpins BSAI 4,500 4,500 0 0.0 4,500 4,500 0 0.0 Sharks BSAI 125 125 0 0.0 125 125 0 0.0 Squid BSAI 1,342 1,500 −158 −10.5 1,342 1,500 −158 −10.5 Octopuses BSAI 400 400 0 0.0 400 400 0 0.0 Total BSAI 2,000,000 2,000,000 0 0.0 2,000,000 2,000,000 0 0.0 1 Bering Sea subarea (BS), Aleutian Islands subarea (AI), Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI), Eastern Aleutian District (EAI), Central Aleutian District (CAI), and Western Aleutian District (WAI).
    Table 2—Final 2018 Overfishing Level (OFL), Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC), Total Allowable Catch (TAC), Initial TAC (ITAC), and CDQ Reserve Allocation of Groundfish in the BSAI 1 [Amounts are in metric tons] Species Area 2018 OFL ABC TAC ITAC 2 CDQ 3 Pollock 4 BS 4,360,000 2,979,000 1,345,000 1,210,500 134,500 AI 49,291 40,788 19,000 17,100 1,900 Bogoslof 130,428 97,428 500 500 0 Pacific cod 5 BS 302,000 255,000 223,704 199,768 23,936 AI 28,700 21,500 15,695 14,016 1,679 Sablefish BS 1,519 1,291 1,274 541 48 AI 2,072 1,758 1,735 369 33 Yellowfin sole BSAI 276,000 250,800 154,000 137,522 16,478 Greenland turbot BSAI 12,831 10,864 4,500 3,825 n/a BS n/a 9,484 4,375 3,719 468 AI n/a 1,380 125 106 0 Arrowtooth flounder BSAI 67,023 58,633 14,000 11,900 1,498 Kamchatka flounder BSAI 10,700 9,200 5,000 4,250 0 Rock sole BSAI 147,300 143,100 47,100 42,060 5,040
    Flathead sole 6 BSAI 79,136 66,164 14,500 12,949 1,552 Alaska plaice BSAI 36,900 32,100 13,000 11,050 0 Other flatfish 7 BSAI 17,591 13,193 2,500 2,125 0 Pacific ocean perch BSAI 51,950 42,735 34,900 30,693 n/a BS n/a 11,924 11,000 9,350 0 EAI n/a 10,074 7,900 7,055 845 CAI n/a 7,828 7,000 6,251 749 WAI n/a 12,909 9,000 8,037 963 Northern rockfish BSAI 15,854 12,947 5,000 4,250 0 Blackspotted and Rougheye rockfish 8 BSAI 750 614 225 191 0 EBS/EAI n/a 374 100 85 0 CAI/WAI n/a 240 125 106 0 Shortraker rockfish BSAI 666 499 125 106 0 Other rockfish 9 BSAI 1,816 1,362 875 744 0 BS n/a 791 325 276 0 AI n/a 571 550 468 0 Atka mackerel BSAI 99,900 85,000 65,000 58,045 6,955 EAI/BS n/a 34,000 34,000 30,362 3,638 CAI n/a 29,600 18,500 16,521 1,980 WAI n/a 21,400 12,500 11,163 1,338 Skates BSAI 46,583 39,008 26,000 22,100 0 Sculpins BSAI 56,582 42,387 4,500 3,825 0 Sharks BSAI 689 517 125 106 0 Squids BSAI 6,912 5,184 1,342 1,141 0 Octopuses BSAI 4,769 3,576 400 340 0 Total 5,807,962 4,214,648 2,000,000 1,790,015 196,644 1 These amounts apply to the entire BSAI management area unless otherwise specified. With the exception of pollock, and for the purpose of these harvest specifications, the Bering Sea (BS) subarea includes the Bogoslof District. 2 Except for pollock, the portion of the sablefish TAC allocated to hook-and-line or pot gear, and Amendment 80 species, 15 percent of each TAC is put into a reserve. The ITAC for these species is the remainder of the TAC after the subtraction of these reserves. For pollock and Amendment 80 species, ITAC is the non-CDQ allocation of TAC (see footnotes 3 and 5). 3 For the Amendment 80 species (Atka mackerel, flathead sole, rock sole, yellowfin sole, Pacific cod, and Aleutian Islands Pacific ocean perch), 10.7 percent of the TAC is reserved for use by CDQ participants (see §§ 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(C) and 679.31). Twenty percent of the sablefish TAC allocated to hook-and-line gear or pot gear, 7.5 percent of the sablefish TAC allocated to trawl gear, and 10.7 percent of the TACs for Bering Sea Greenland turbot and arrowtooth flounder are reserved for use by CDQ participants (see § 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(B) and (D)). Aleutian Islands Greenland turbot, “other flatfish,” Alaska plaice, Bering Sea Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, shortraker rockfish, rougheye rockfish, “other rockfish,” skates, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses are not allocated to the CDQ program. 4 Under § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A), the annual BS subarea pollock TAC, after subtracting first for the CDQ directed fishing allowance (10 percent) and second for the incidental catch allowance (3.9 percent), is further allocated by sector for a pollock directed fishery as follows: Inshore—50 percent; catcher/processor—40 percent; and motherships—10 percent. Under § 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(2), the annual Aleutian Islands subarea pollock TAC, after subtracting first for the CDQ directed fishing allowance (10 percent) and second for the incidental catch allowance (2,400 mt), is allocated to the Aleut Corporation for a pollock directed fishery. 5 The BS Pacific cod TAC is set less than 6.4 percent of the Bering Sea subarea ABC to account for the State of Alaska's (State) guideline harvest level in State waters of the Bering Sea subarea. The AI Pacific cod TAC is set less than 27 percent of the Aleutian Island subarea ABC to account for the State guideline harvest level in State waters of the Aleutian Islands subarea. 6 “Flathead sole” includes Hippoglossoides elassodon (flathead sole) and Hippoglossoides robustus (Bering flounder). 7 “Other flatfish” includes all flatfish species, except for halibut (a prohibited species), flathead sole, Greenland turbot, rock sole, yellowfin sole, arrowtooth flounder, Kamchatka flounder, and Alaska plaice. 8 “Rougheye rockfish” includes Sebastes aleutianus (rougheye) and Sebastes melanostictus (blackspotted). 9 “Other rockfish” includes all Sebastes and Sebastolobus species except for Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, shortraker rockfish, and rougheye rockfish. Note: Regulatory areas and districts are defined at § 679.2 (BSAI = Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area, BS = Bering Sea subarea, AI = Aleutian Islands subarea, EAI = Eastern Aleutian district, CAI = Central Aleutian district, WAI = Western Aleutian district.) Groundfish Reserves and the Incidental Catch Allowance (ICA) for Pollock, Atka Mackerel, Flathead Sole, Rock Sole, Yellowfin Sole, and Aleutian Islands Pacific Ocean Perch

    Section 679.20(b)(1)(i) requires NMFS to reserve 15 percent of the TAC for each target species, except for pollock, hook-and-line or pot gear allocation of sablefish, and Amendment 80 species, in a non-specified reserve. Section 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(B) requires that NMFS allocate 20 percent of the hook-and-line or pot gear allocation of sablefish for the fixed-gear sablefish CDQ reserve. Section 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(D) requires that NMFS allocate 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 that NMFS allocate 10.7 percent of the TAC for Atka mackerel, Aleutian Islands Pacific ocean perch, yellowfin sole, rock sole, flathead sole, and Pacific cod to the CDQ reserves. Sections 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A) and 679.31(a) also require that 10 percent of the Bering Sea pollock TACs be allocated to the pollock CDQ directed fishing allowance (DFA). The entire Bogoslof District pollock TAC is allocated as an ICA pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(ii) because the Bogoslof District is closed to directed fishing for pollock by regulation. With the exception of the hook-and-line or pot gear sablefish CDQ reserve, the regulations do not further apportion the CDQ allocations by gear.

    Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(1), NMFS allocates a pollock ICA of 3.9 percent of the Bering Sea subarea pollock TAC after subtracting 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 2000 through 2016. During this 17-year period, the pollock incidental catch ranged from a low of 2.4 percent in 2006 to a high of 4.8 percent in 2014, with a 17-year average of 3.2 percent. Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(2)(i) and (ii), NMFS establishes a pollock ICA of 2,400 mt of the Aleutian Islands subarea TAC after subtracting the 10-percent CDQ DFA. 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 2016. During this 14-year period, the incidental catch of pollock ranged from a low of 5 percent in 2006 to a high of 17 percent in 2014, with a 14-year average of 8 percent.

    Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(8) and (10), NMFS allocates ICAs of 4,000 mt of flathead sole, 5,000 mt of rock sole, 4,500 mt of yellowfin sole, 10 mt of Western Aleutian Islands (WAI) Pacific ocean perch, 60 mt of Central Aleutian Islands (CAI) Pacific ocean perch, 100 mt of Eastern Aleutian Islands (EAI) Pacific ocean perch, 20 mt of WAI Atka mackerel, 75 mt of CAI Atka mackerel, and 1,000 mt of EAI and Bering Sea subarea Atka mackerel TAC after subtracting the 10.7 percent CDQ reserve. These ICA allowances are based on NMFS' examination of the incidental catch in other target fisheries from 2003 through 2016.

    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 category that contributed to the non-specified reserves during the year, provided that such apportionments are consistent with § 679.20(a)(3) and do not result in overfishing (see § 679.20(b)(1)(i)). The Regional Administrator has determined that the ITACs specified for the species listed in Table 1 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 3 from the non-specified reserve to increase the ITAC for shortraker rockfish, rougheye rockfish, “other rockfish,” sharks, and octopuses by 15 percent of the TAC in 2017 and 2018.

    Table 3—Final 2017 and 2018 Apportionment of Reserves To ITAC Categories [Amounts are in metric tons] Species-area or subarea 2017
  • ITAC
  • 2017 reserve
  • amount
  • 2017 final
  • ITAC
  • 2018
  • ITAC
  • 2018 reserve
  • amount
  • 2018 final
  • ITAC
  • Shortraker rockfish—BSAI 106 19 125 106 19 125 Rougheye rockfish—BS/EAI 85 15 100 85 15 100 Rougheye rockfish—CAI/WAI 106 19 125 106 19 125 Other rockfish—Bering Sea subarea 276 49 325 276 49 325 Other rockfish—Aleutian Islands subarea 468 82 550 468 82 550 Sharks 106 19 125 106 19 125 Octopuses 340 60 400 340 60 400 Total 1,487 263 1,750 1,487 263 1,750
    Allocation of Pollock TAC Under the American Fisheries Act (AFA)

    Section 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A) requires that the Bering Sea subarea pollock TAC be apportioned, after subtracting 10 percent for the CDQ program and 3.9 percent for the ICA, as a DFA as follows: 50 Percent to the inshore sector, 40 percent to the catcher/processor (C/P) sector, and 10 percent to the mothership sector. In the Bering Sea subarea, 45 percent of the DFA is allocated to the A season (January 20-June 10), and 55 percent of the DFA is allocated to the B season (June 10-November 1) (§§ 679.20(a)(5)(i)(B)(1) and 679.23(e)(2)). The Aleutian Islands directed pollock fishery allocation to the Aleut Corporation is the amount of pollock remaining in the Aleutian Islands subarea after subtracting 1,900 mt for the CDQ DFA (10 percent) and 2,400 mt for the ICA (§ 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(2)). In the Aleutian Islands subarea, the total A season apportionment of the TAC is less than or equal to 40 percent of the ABC and the remainder of the TAC is allocated to the B season (§ 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(3)). Tables 4 and 5 list these 2017 and 2018 amounts.

    The Steller sea lion protection measure final rule (79 FR 70286, November 25, 2014) sets harvest limits for pollock in the A season (January 20 to June 10) in Areas 543, 542, and 541 (see § 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(6)). In Area 543, the A season pollock harvest limit is no more than 5 percent of the Aleutian Islands pollock ABC. In Area 542, the A season pollock harvest limit is no more than 15 percent of the Aleutian Islands ABC. In Area 541, the A season pollock harvest limit is no more than 30 percent of the Aleutian Islands ABC.

    Section 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(4) also includes several specific requirements regarding Bering Sea subarea pollock allocations. First, it requires that 8.5 percent of the pollock allocated to the C/P sector be available for harvest by AFA catcher vessels (CVs) with C/P sector endorsements, unless the Regional Administrator receives a cooperative contract that allows the distribution of harvest among AFA C/Ps and AFA CVs in a manner agreed to by all members. Second, AFA C/Ps not listed in the AFA are limited to harvesting not more than 0.5 percent of the pollock allocated to the C/P sector. Tables 4 and 5 list the 2017 and 2018 allocations of pollock TAC. Tables 21 through 26 list the AFA C/P and CV harvesting sideboard limits. The tables for the pollock allocations to the Bering Sea subarea inshore pollock cooperatives and open access sector will be posted on the Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.

    Tables 4 and 5 also list 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 no more than 28 percent of the annual DFA before 12:00 noon, April 1, as provided in § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(C). The A season pollock SCA harvest limit will be apportioned to each sector in proportion to each sector's allocated percentage of the DFA. Tables 4 and 5 list these 2017 and 2018 amounts by sector.

    Table 4—Final 2017 Allocations of Pollock TACS to the Directed Pollock Fisheries and to the CDQ Directed Fishing Allowances (DFA) 1 [Amounts are in metric tons] Area and sector 2017
  • allocations
  • 2017 A season 1 A season DFA SCA harvest limit  2 2017
  • B season 1
  • B season DFA
    Bering Sea subarea TAC 1