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Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries off West Coast States; Biennial Specifications and Management Measures; Inseason Adjustments

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Final rule; inseason adjustments to biennial groundfish management measures.

SUMMARY:

This final rule announces inseason changes to management measures in the Pacific Coast groundfish fisheries. This action, which is authorized by the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (PCGFMP), is intended to allow fisheries to access more abundant groundfish stocks while protecting overfished and depleted stocks.

DATES:

Effective 0001 hours (local time) July 25, 2014.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Colby Brady (West Coast Region, NMFS), phone: 206-526-6117, fax: 206-526-6736, colby.brady@noaa.gov.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Electronic Access

This final rule is accessible via the Internet at the Office of the Federal Register's Web site at http://www.gpo.gov/​fdsys/​search/​home.action, or http://federalregister.gov. Background information and documents are available at the Pacific Fishery Management Council's Web site at http://www.pcouncil.org/​. Copies of the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for the 2013-2014 Groundfish Specifications and Management Measures are available from Donald McIsaac, Executive Director, Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), 7700 NE Ambassador Place, Portland, OR 97220, phone: 503-820-2280.Start Printed Page 43273

Background

The PCGFMP and its implementing regulations at title 50 in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 660, subparts C through G, regulate fishing for over 90 species of groundfish off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. Groundfish specifications and management measures are developed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), and are implemented by NMFS.

On November 14, 2012, NMFS published a proposed rule to implement the 2013-2014 harvest specifications and management measures for most species of the Pacific Coast groundfish fishery (77 FR 67974). The final rule to implement the 2013-2014 harvest specifications and management measures for most species of the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery was published on January 3, 2013 (78 FR 580).

The Council, in coordination with Pacific Coast Treaty Indian Tribes and the States of Washington, Oregon, and California, recommended the changes to current groundfish management measures at its June 18-June 25, 2014 meeting. Management measures are designed to meet two primary goals: To achieve to the extent possible, but not exceed, annual catch limits (ACLs) of target species; and to foster the rebuilding of overfished stocks by keeping harvest within their rebuilding ACLs. The Council recommended adjusting groundfish management measures to respond to updated fishery information and additional inseason management needs. Those changes to management measures are implemented in this action. The adjustments to fishery management measures are not expected to result in greater impacts to overfished species than originally projected through the end of the year.

Fishery Management Measures for the Limited Entry Fixed Gear (LEFG) and Open Access (OA) Sablefish Daily Trip Limit (DTL) Fisheries North of 36° N. Lat.

To increase harvest opportunities for the LEFG and OA fixed gear sablefish DTL fisheries north of 36° N. lat., the Council considered increases to trip limits. The Council's Groundfish Management Team (GMT) made model-based landings projections for the LEFG and OA fixed gear sablefish DTL fisheries north of 36° N. lat. for the remainder of the year. These projections were based on the most recent information available. The model predicted harvest of 88 percent (187.2 mt) of the LEFG harvest guideline (214 mt) and 45 percent (156.8 mt) of the OA harvest guideline (352 mt) under current trip limits. With the increase in trip limits, predicted harvest assuming medium ex-vessel price curves, is 91 percent (194.3 mt) of the LEFG harvest guideline (214 mt) and 66 percent (233.2 mt) of the OA harvest guideline (352 mt). Projections for the fixed gear sablefish fisheries south of 36° N. lat. were tracking within their targets and no inseason actions were considered.

Therefore, the Council recommended and NMFS is implementing trip limit changes for the LEFG and the OA sablefish DTL fisheries north of 36° N. lat. The trip limits for sablefish in the LEFG fishery north of 36° N. lat. increase from “950 lb (431 kg) per week, not to exceed 2,850 lb (1,293 kg) per two months” to “1,000 lb (453 kg) per week, not to exceed 3,000 lb (1,361 kg) per two months” beginning during period 4 through the end of the year.

The trip limits for sablefish in the OA sablefish DTL fishery north of 36° N. lat. are increased from “300 lb (136 kg) per day, or one landing per week of up to 800 lb (363 kg), not to exceed 1,600 lb (726 kg) per two months” to “350 lb (159 kg) per day, or one landing per week of up to 1,600 lb (726 kg), not to exceed 3,200 lb (1,452 kg) per two months” during period 4 through the end of the year.

Classification

This final rule makes routine inseason adjustments to groundfish fishery management measures, based on the best available information, consistent with the PCGFMP and its implementing regulations.

This action is taken under the authority of 50 CFR 660.60(c) and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

The aggregate data upon which these actions are based are available for public inspection at the Office of the Administrator, West Coast Region, NMFS, during business hours.

NMFS finds good cause to waive prior public notice and comment on the revisions to groundfish management measures under 5 U.S.C. 553(b) because notice and comment would be impracticable and contrary to the public interest. Also, for the same reasons, NMFS finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), so that this final rule may become effective July 25, 2014.

At the June Council meeting, the Council recommended that these changes be implemented as quickly as possible during the July-August two-month cumulative limit period. There was not sufficient time after that meeting to draft this document and undergo proposed and final rulemaking before these actions need to be in effect. For the actions to be implemented in this final rule, affording the time necessary for prior notice and opportunity for public comment would prevent NMFS from managing fisheries using the best available science to approach, without exceeding, the ACLs for federally managed species in accordance with the PCGFMP and applicable law. The adjustments to management measures in this document affect commercial fisheries in Washington, Oregon and California. These adjustments to management measures must be implemented as quickly as possible during the July-August 2-month cumulative limit period to allow LEFG and OA fixed gear fishermen an opportunity to harvest their limits for sablefish without exceeding the ACL north of 36° N. lat. It would be contrary to the public interest to delay implementation of these changes until after public notice and comment, because making this regulatory change by July 25, 2014, allows harvest as intended by the Council, consistent with the best scientific information available. These changes allow additional harvest in fisheries that are important to coastal communities while continuing to prevent ACLs of overfished and target species from being exceeded.

No aspect of this action is controversial, and changes of this nature were anticipated in the biennial harvest specifications and management measures established for 2013-2014.

Delaying these changes would also keep management measures in place that are not based on the best available information. Such delay would impair achievement of the PCGFMP goals and objectives of managing for appropriate harvest levels while providing for year-round fishing and marketing opportunities.

Accordingly, for the reasons stated above, NMFS finds good cause to waive prior notice and comment and to waive the delay in effectiveness.

Start List of Subjects

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 660

  • Fisheries
  • Fishing
  • Indian Fisheries
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Dated: July 22, 2014.

Alan D. Risenhoover,

Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.

End Signature

For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 660 is amended as follows:

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PART 660—FISHERIES OFF WEST COAST STATES

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1. The authority citation for part 660 continues to read as follows:

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Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.

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2. Tables 2 (North) and 2 (South) to part 660, subpart E, are revised to read as follows:

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3. Table 3 (North) and 3 (South) to part 660, subpart F, are revised to read as follows:

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BILLING CODE 3510-22-P

[FR Doc. 2014-17579 Filed 7-22-14; 4:15 p.m.]

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