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Fisheries Off West Coast States; Coastal Pelagic Species Fisheries; Annual Specifications

Document Details

Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Final rule.

SUMMARY:

NMFS issues a final rule to implement the annual harvest guideline for Pacific sardine in the U.S. exclusive economic zone off the Pacific coast for the fishing season of January 1, 2006, through December 31, 2006. This harvest guideline has been calculated according to the regulations implementing the Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and establishes allowable harvest levels for Pacific sardine off the Pacific coast.

DATES:

Effective August 4, 2006.

ADDRESSES:

Copies of the report Assessment of Pacific Sardine Stock for U.S. Management in 2006 and the Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review may be obtained from Rodney R. McInnis, Regional Administrator, Southwest Region, NMFS, 501 West Ocean Blvd., Suite 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802-4213.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Joshua B. Lindsay, Southwest Region, NMFS, 562-980-4034, e-mail: joshua.lindsay@noaa.gov.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The CPS FMP, which was implemented by publication of the final rule in the Federal Register on December 15, 1999 (64 FR 69888), divides management unit species into two categories: actively managed and monitored. Harvest guidelines for actively managed species (Pacific sardine and Pacific mackerel) are based on formulas applied to current biomass estimates. Biomass estimates are not calculated for species that are only monitored (jack mackerel, northern anchovy, and market squid).

At a public meeting each year, the biomass for each actively managed species is reviewed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council's (Council) CPS Management Team (Team). The biomass, harvest guideline, and status of the fisheries are then reviewed at a public meeting of the Council's CPS Advisory Subpanel (Subpanel). This information is also reviewed by the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC). The Council reviews the reports from the Team, Subpanel, and SSC, provides time for public comment, and then makes its recommendation to NMFS. The annual harvest guideline and season structure are published by NMFS in the Federal Register as soon as practicable before the beginning of the appropriate fishing season. The Pacific sardine season begins on January 1 and ends on December 31 of each year.

Public meetings of the Team and Subpanel were held at NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, CA on October 5 and 6, 2005 (70 FR 55335, September 21, 2005). The Council reviewed the report at its November meeting in San Diego, CA, and listened to comments from its advisory bodies and the public. The Council then adopted the 2006 harvest guideline for Pacific sardine. Based on a biomass estimate of 1,061,391 metric tons (mt), the harvest guideline for Pacific sardine for January 1, 2006, through December 31, 2006, is 118,937 mt.

The size of the sardine population was estimated using an integrated stock assessment model called Age-structured Assessment Program (ASAP). ASAP is a flexible forward-simulation that allows for the efficient and reliable estimation of a large number of parameters. ASAP uses fishery dependent and fishery independent data to obtain annual estimates of sardine abundance, year-class strength, and age-specific fishing mortality. The ASAP model allows one Start Printed Page 38112to account for the expansion of the Pacific sardine stock northward to include waters off the northwest Pacific coast and for the incorporation of data from the Mexican sardine fishery. Information on the fishery and the stock assessment are found in the report Assessment of Pacific Sardine Stock for U.S. Management in 2006 (see ADDRESSES).

The formula in the FMP uses the following factors to

determine the harvest guideline:

1. The biomass of sardines age one and above. For 2006,

this estimate is 1,061,391 mt.

2. The cutoff. This is the biomass level below which no

commercial fishery is allowed. The FMP established this level at 150,000 mt.

3. The portion of the sardine biomass that is in U.S. waters. For 2006, this estimate is 87 percent. It is based on the average larval distribution obtained from scientific cruises and the distribution of the resource obtained from logbooks of aerial fish-spotters.

4. The harvest fraction. This is the percentage of the biomass above 150,000 mt that may be harvested. The fraction varies from 5 to 15 percent, depending on current ocean temperatures. The higher fraction is used for warmer ocean temperatures, which favor production of Pacific sardine, and the lower fraction is used for cooler temperatures. Based on the last three seasons of sea surface temperatures at Scripps Pier, California, a fraction of 15 percent was used for 2006.

Based on the estimated biomass of 1,061,391 mt and the formula in the FMP, a harvest guideline of 118,937 mt was determined for the fishery beginning January 1, 2006.

The recently established Amendment 11 to the CPS FMP changed the framework for the annual apportionment of the Pacific sardine harvest guideline along the U.S. Pacific coast and set up a new long-term allocation scheme. Based on this new long-term allocation scheme, 35 percent of the harvest guideline is released coastwide on January 1; 40 percent of the harvest guideline, plus any portion not harvested from the initial 35 percent is released coastwide on July 1; and on September 15 the remaining 25 percent, plus any portion not harvested from the earlier releases is then available for harvest.

If the total harvest guideline or these apportionment levels for Pacific sardine are reached at any time, the Pacific sardine fishery shall be closed until either it re-opens per the allocation scheme or the beginning of the next fishing season. The Regional Administrator shall announce in the Federal Register the date of the closure of the directed fishery for Pacific sardine.

Normally, an incidental landing allowance of sardine in landings of other CPS is set at the beginning of the fishing season. The incidental allowance would become effective if the harvest guideline is reached and the fishery closed. A landing allowance of sardine up to 45 percent by weight of any landing of CPS is authorized by the FMP. An incidental allowance prevents fishermen from being cited for a violation when sardine occur in schools of other CPS, and it minimizes bycatch of sardine if sardine are inadvertently caught while fishing for other CPS. Sardine landed with other species also requires sorting at the processing plant, which adds to processing costs. Mixed species in the same load may damage smaller fish.

Classification

These specifications are issued under the authority of, and NMFS has preliminarily determined that it is in accordance with, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the FMP, and the regulations implementing the FMP.

This final rule is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments were received regarding this certification. As a result, a regulatory flexibility analysis was not required and none was prepared.

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Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

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Dated: June 28, 2006.

John Oliver,

Deputy Assistant Administrator for Operations, National Marine Fisheries Service.

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[FR Doc. E6-10465 Filed 7-3-06; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3510-22-S