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Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Closure of Critical Habitat Pursuant to a Court Order

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


Interim rule.


NMFS issues interim regulations to close waters within critical habitat in the exclusive economic zone off Alaska west of 144°W. long. to all commercial groundfish fishing with trawl gear. This action is necessary to comply with a United States District Court Order.


Effective 11:00 am A.l.t., August 9, 2000.

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John Lepore, 907-586-7228 or

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information


NMFS manages the U.S. groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI) and Gulf of Alaska (GOA) under the fishery management plans (FMPs) for groundfish in the respective areas. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared, and NMFS approved, the FMPs under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Regulations implementing the FMPs appear at 50 CFR part 679. General regulations governing U.S. fisheries also appear at 50 CFR 600.

NMFS also has statutory authority to promulgate regulations to enforce provisions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq. The ESA requires that each Federal agency shall ensure that any action authorized, funded, or carried out by such agency is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat of such species.

On July 19, 2000, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington issued an order that granted a motion for a partial injunction of the North Pacific groundfish fisheries. Greenpeace et al. v. NMFS, No. C98-4922 (W.D. Wash.). This motion, filed by Greenpeace, American Oceans Campaign, and the Sierra Club (hereafter the Plaintiffs), requested injunctive relief until NMFS issues a legally adequate biological opinion addressing the combined, overall effects of the North Pacific groundfish fisheries on Steller sea lions and their critical habitat pursuant to the ESA. The population of Steller sea lions west of 144°W. long. (hereafter western population) is listed under the ESA as endangered, while the population of Steller sea lions east of 144°W. long. is listed as threatened.

This rule, promulgated under the authority of Section 11(f) of the ESA and in compliance with the Court's injunction, prohibits all groundfish trawl fishing, as the term fishing is defined at 16 U.S.C. 1802(15) and authorized pursuant to the Fishery Management Plans for the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska, within Steller sea lion critical habitat listed in Tables 1 and 2 to 50 CFR 226.202 that is in federally regulated waters west of 144°W. long., as well as the three special aquatic foraging areas defined at 50 CFR 226.202. For the convenience of the affected public, all areas closed to groundfish trawling pursuant to the court order are described below. Please refer to regulations at 50 CFR § 226.202 and § 223.202 for further details concerning designated critical habitat and threatened marine and anadromous species. Steller Sea Lion Critical Habitat Sites Closed:

Western Aleutian Rookeries:
Agattu I.
—Cape Sabak 152 23.5N173 43.5E52 22.0N173 41.0E
—Gillon Point 152 24.0N173 21.5E
Attu I.152 54.5N172 28.5E52 57.5N172 31.5E
Buldir I.152 20.5N175 57.0E52 23.5N172 51.0E
Western Aleutian Haulouts:
Alaid I.152 45.0N173 56.5E52 46.5N173 51.5E
Attu/Chirikof Pt.152 30.0N173 26.7E
Shemya I.152 44.0N174 09.0E
Central Aleutians Rookeries:
Adak I.151 36.5N176 59.0W51 38.0N176 59.5W
Agligadak I.152 06.5N172 54.0W
Amchitka I.1
—Column Rock 151 32.5N178 49.5E
—East Cape 151 22.5N179 28.0E51 21.5N179 25.0E
Ayugadak I.151 45.5N178 24.5E
Gramp Rock 151 29.0N178 20.5W
Kasatochi I.152 10.0N175 31.5W52 10.5N175 29.0W Start Printed Page 49767
Kiska I.
—Lief Cove 151 57.5N177 21.0E51 56.5N177 20.0E
—Cape St. Stephen 151 52.5N177 13.0E51 53.5N177 12.0E
Seguam I./Saddleridge 152 21.0N172 35.0W52 21.0N172 33.0W
Semisopochnoi I.
—Pochnoi Pt.151 58.5N179 45.5E51 57.0N179 46.0E
—Petrel Pt52 01.5N179 37.5E52 01.5E179 39.0E
Tag I.151 33.5N178 34.5W
Ulak I.151 20.0N178 57.0W51 18.5N178 59.5W
Yunaska I.152 42.0N170 38.5W52 41.0N170 34.5W
Central Aleutians Haulouts:
Amatignak I.151 13.0N179 08.0E
Amlia I.
—East152 05.0N172 58.5W52 06.0N172 57.0W
—Sviech. Harbor152 02.0N173 23.0W
Amukta I.& Rocks 152 31.5N171 16.5W52 26.5N171 16.5W
Anagaksik I.151 51.0N175 53.5W
Atka I.152 23.5N174 17.0W52 24.5N174 07.5W
Bobrof I.151 54.0N177 27.0W
Chagulak I.152 34.0N171 10.5W
Chuginadak I.152 46.5N169 44.5W52 46.5N169 42.0W
Great Sitkin I.152 06.0N176 10.5W52 07.0N176 08.5W
Kagamil I.153 02.5N169 41.0W
Kanaga I
—North Cape51 56.5N177 09.0W
—Ship Rock51 47.0N177 22.5W
Kavalga I.151 34.5N178 51.5W51 34.5N178 49.5W
Kiska I./Sirius Pt.152 08.5N177 36.5E
Kiska I./Sobaka & Vega 151 50.0N177 20.0E51 48.5N177 20.5E
Little Sitkin I.151 59.5N178 30.0E
Little Tanaga 151 50.5N176 13.0W51 49.0N176 13.0W
Sagigik I.152 00.5N173 08.0W
Seguam I.
—South 152 19.5N172 18.0W52 15.0N172 37.0W
—Finch Pt.152 23.5N172 25.5W52 23.5N172 24.0W
Segula I.152 00.0N178 06.5E52 03.5N178 09.0E
Tanaga I.151 55.0N177 58.5W51 55.0N177 57.0W
Tanadak I.(Amlia) 152 04.5N172 57.0W
Tanadak I.(Kiska) 151 57.0N177 47.0E
Ugidak I.151 35.0N178 30.5W
Uliaga I.153 04.0N169 47.0W53 05.0N169 46.0W
Unalga & Dinkum Rocks 151 34.0N179 04.0W51 34.5N179 03.0W
Eastern Aleutians Rookeries:
Adugak I.152 55.0N169 10.5W
Akun I./Billings Head 154 18.0N165 32.5W54 18.0N165 31.5W
Akutan I./Cape Morgan 154 03.5N166 00.0W54 05.5N166 05.0W
Bogoslof I.1253 56.0N168 02.0W
Ogchul I.153 00.0N168 24.0W
Sea Lion Rocks (Amak) 155 28.0N163 12.0W
Ugamak I.154 14.0N164 48.0W54 13.0N164 48.0W
Eastern Aleutians Haulouts:
Akutan I./Reef-Lava 154 10.5N166 04.5W54 07.5N166 06.5W
Amak I.155 24.0N163 07.0W55 26.0N163 10.0W
Cape Sedanka & Island 153 50.5N166 05.0W
Emerald I.153 17.5N167 51.5W
Old Man Rocks 153 52.0N166 05.0W
Polivnoi Rock 153 16.0N167 58.0W
Tanginak I.154 13.0N165 19.5W
Tigalda I.154 08.5N164 58.5W
Umnak I./Cape Aslik 153 25.0N168 24.5W
Bering Sea Rookeries:
Walrus I.157 11.0N169 56.0W
Bering Sea Haulouts:
Cape Newenham 158 39.0N162 10.5W
Hall I.160 37.0N173 00.0W
Round I.158 36.0N159 58.0W
St. Paul I.
—Northeast Point 157 15.0N170 06.5W
—Sea Lion Rock 157 06.0N170 17.5W
St. George I.
—S Rookery 156 33.5N169 40.0W
—Dalnoi Point56 36.0N169 46.0W
St. Lawrence I.
—S Punuk I.164 04.0N168 51.0W Start Printed Page 49768
—SW Cape 163 18.0N171 26.0W
Western Gulf of Alaska Rookeries:
Atkins I.155 03.5N159 18.5W
Chernabura I.154 47.5N159 31.0W54 45.5N159 33.5W
Clubbing Rocks (N) 154 43.0N162 26.5W
Clubbing Rocks (S) 154 42.0N162 26.5W
Pinnacle Rock 154 46.0N161 46.0W
Western Gulf of Alaska Haulouts:
Bird I.154 40.5N163 18.0W
Castle Rock 155 17.0N159 30.0W
Caton I.154 23.5N162 25.5W
Jude I.155 16.0N161 06.0W
Lighthouse Rocks 155 47.5N157 24.0W
Nagai I.154 52.5N160 14.0W54 56.0N160 15.0W
Nagai Rocks 155 50.0N155 46.0W
Sea Lion Rocks (Unga) 155 04.5N160 31.0W
South Rock 154 18.0N162 43.5W
Spitz I.155 47.0N158 54.0W
The Whaleback 155 16.5N160 06.0W
Central Gulf of Alaska Rookeries:
Chirikof I.155 46.5N155 39.5W55 46.5N155 43.0W
Chowiet I.156 00.5N156 41.5W56 00.5N156 42.0W
Marmot I.158 14.5N151 47.5W58 10.0N151 51.0W
Outer I.159 20.5N150 23.0W59 21.0N150 24.5W
Sugarloaf I.158 53.0N152 02.0W
Central Gulf of Alaska Haulouts:
Cape Barnabas 157 10.0N152 55.0W57 07.5N152 55.0W
Cape Chiniak 157 35.0N152 09.0W57 37.5N152 09.0W
Cape Gull 1258 13.5N154 09.5W58 12.5N154 10.5W
Cape Ikolik 1257 17.0N154 47.5W
Cape Kuliak 1258 08.0N154 12.5W
Cape Sitkinak 156 32.0N153 52.0W
Cape Ugat 1257 52.0N153 51.0W
Gore Point 159 12.0N150 58.0W
Gull Point 157 21.5N152 36.5W57 24.5N152 39.0W
Latax Rocks 158 42.0N152 28.5W58 40.5N152 30.0W
Long I. 157 45.5N152 16.0W
Nagahut Rocks 159 06.0N151 46.0W
Puale Bay 1257 41.0N155 23.0W
Sea Lion Rocks (Marmot) 158 21.0N151 48.5W
Sea Otter I. 158 31.5N152 13.0W
Shakun Rock 1258 33.0N153 41.5W
Sud I. 158 54.0N152 12.5W
Sutwik I. 156 32.0N157 14.0W56 32.0N157 20.0W
Takli I. 1258 03.0N154 27.5W58 03.0N154 30.0W
Two-headed I. 156 54.5N153 33.0W56 53.5N153 35.5W
Ugak I. 157 23.0N152 15.5W57 22.0N152 19.0W
Ushagat I. 158 55.0N152 22.0W
Eastern Gulf of Alaska Rookeries:
Seal Rocks 160 10.0N146 50.0W
Fish I. 159 53.0N147 20.5W
Eastern Gulf of Alaska Haulouts:
Cape St. Elias 159 48.0N144 36.0W
Chiswell Islands 159 36.0N149 34.0W
Hook Point 160 20.0N146 15.5W
Middleton I. 159 26.5N146 20.0W
Perry I. 160 39.5N147 56.0W
Point Eleanor 160 35.0N147 34.0W
Point Elrington 159 56.0N148 13.5W
Seal Rocks 160 10.0N146 50.0W
The Needle 160 07.0N147 37.0W
1 Includes an associated 20 nautical mile aquatic zone.
2 Associated 20 nautical mile aquatic zone lies entirely within one of the three special foraging areas.

Critical habitat includes the Shelikof Strait area in the Gulf of Alaska and consists of the area between the Alaska Peninsula and Tugidak, Sitknak, Aiaktilik, Kodiak, Raspberry, Afognak and Shuyak Islands (connected by the shortest lines); bounded on the west by a line connecting Cape Kumlik (56° 38′N/157° 27′W) and the southwestern tip of Tugidak Island (56° 24′N/154° 41′W) and bounded in the east by a line connecting Cape Douglas (58° 51′N/153° 15′W) and the northernmost tip of Shuyak Island (58° 37′N/152° 22′W).

Critical habitat includes the Bogoslof area in the Bering Sea shelf and consists of the area between 170° 00′W and 164° 00′W, south of straight lines connecting 55° 00′N/170° 00′W and 55° 00′N/168° 00′W; 55° 30′N/168° 00′W and 55° 30′N/166° 00′W; 56° 00′N/166° 00′W and 56° Start Printed Page 4976900′N/164° 00′W and north of the Aleutian Islands and straight lines between the islands connecting the following coordinates in the order listed: 52° 49.2′/169° 40.4′W; 52° 49.8′N/169° 06.3′; 53° 23.8′N/167° 50.1′W; 53° 18.7′N/167° 17.2′W; 54° 02.9′N/166° 03.0′W; 54° 07.7′N/165° 40.6′W; 54° 08.9′N/165° 38.8′W; 54° 11.9′N/165° 23.3′W; and 54° 23.9′N/164° 44.0′W.

Critical habitat includes the Seguam Pass area and consists of the area between 52° 00′N and 53° 00′N and between 173° 30′W and 172° 30′W.

Research activities conducted by scientific research vessels, as defined 50 CFR 600.10, are exempted from the closure specified in this emergency rule.


The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, has determined that this rule is necessary to comply with a court order and is authorized by the ESA.

Because prior notice and opportunity for public comment are not required for this rule by 5 U.S.C. 553, or any other law, the analytical requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq., do not apply to this action.

This emergency rule has been determined to be significant under section 3(f)(1) of E.O. 12866. NMFS estimates that the potential economic losses in closing critical habitat to pollock trawling from June through December 2000 could be as high as $88 million. Industry has estimated that if the injunction remains in place through the A/B seasons, loses could be as high as $250 mission. This rule has been determined to be major for purposes of the Congressional Review Act, 5 U.S.C. 801, et seq. The delay in effective date normally required for major rules under the Congressional Review Act is inapplicable to this rule closing a commercial fishery pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 808(1).

NMFS finds that there is good cause to waive the requirement to provide prior notice and an opportunity for public comment pursuant to authority set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), as such procedures are unnecessary. This action complies with a United States District Court order and is non-discretionary. Delaying the effectiveness of this interim rule to provide prior notice and opportunity for comment would prevent NMFS from complying with the Court's order, which requires that critical habitat be closed to groundfish trawling by 12:00 noon Pacific time, August 8, 2000. Additionally, pursuant to authority at 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), NMFS finds good cause to waive the 30 day delay in effective date and makes this rule effective immediately in order to meet the time and date specified in the court's order.

Start List of Subjects

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679

  • Alaska
  • Fisheries
  • Recordkeeping and reporting requirements
End List of Subjects Start Signature

Dated: August 8, 2000.

Andrew Kemmerer,

Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.

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For reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 679 is amended as follows:

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1. The authority citation for 50 CFR part 679 is revised to read as follows:

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Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq., 1801 et seq., and 3631 et seq.; Title II of Division C, Pub. L. 105-277; Sec. 3027, Pub. L. 106-31, 113 Stat. 57; 16 U.S.C. 1540(f).

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2. In § 679.22, paragraph (j) is added to read as follows:

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* * * * *

(j) Closure of critical habitat. All groundfish trawl fishing, as the term fishing is defined at 16 U.S.C. 1802(15) and authorized pursuant to the Fishery Management Plans for the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska, within Steller sea lion critical habitat within the EEZ and west of 144°W. long., as such critical habitat is defined by regulations codified at 50 CFR 226.202 and Tables 1 and 2 of 50 CFR part 226, is prohibited.

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[FR Doc. 00-20495 Filed 8-9-00; 8:45 am]