National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.
NMFS implements the annual catch limit (ACL), harvest guideline (HG), and associated annual reference points for Pacific mackerel in the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off the Pacific coast for the fishing season of July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2015. This rule is implemented according to the Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The 2014-2015 HG for Pacific mackerel is 29,170 metric tons (mt). This is the primary commercial fishing target level. The annual catch target (ACT), which will be the directed fishing harvest target, is 24,170 mt. If the fishery attains the ACT, the directed fishery will close, reserving the difference between the HG (29,170 mt) and ACT as a 5,000 mt set-aside for incidental landings in other CPS fisheries and other sources of mortality. This final rule is intended to conserve and manage the Pacific mackerel stock off the U.S. West Coast.
Effective March 9, 2015 through June 30, 2015.
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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Joshua Lindsay, West Coast Region, NMFS, (562) 980-4034.
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During public meetings each year, the estimated biomass for Pacific mackerel is presented to the Pacific Fishery Management Council's (Council) CPS Management Team (Team), the Council's CPS Advisory Subpanel (Subpanel) and the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), where the biomass and the status of the fisheries are reviewed and discussed. The biomass estimate is then presented to the Council along with the calculated overfishing limit (OFL), acceptable biological catch (ABC), ACL, HG and ACT recommendations and comments from the Team, Subpanel and SSC. Following review by the Council and after hearing public comment, the Council adopts a biomass estimate and makes its catch level recommendations to NMFS.
The purpose of this final rule is to implement the 2014-2015 ACL, HG, ACT and other annual catch reference points, including OFL and an ABC that takes into consideration uncertainty surrounding the current estimate of biomass for Pacific mackerel in the U.S. EEZ off the Pacific coast. The CPS FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS to set these annual catch levels for the Pacific mackerel fishery based on the annual specification framework in the FMP. This framework includes a harvest control rule that determines the HG, the primary management target for the fishery for the current fishing season. The HG is based, in large part, on the current estimate of stock biomass. The harvest control rule in the CPS FMP is HG = [(Biomass−Cutoff) * Fraction * Distribution] with the parameters described as follows:
1. Biomass. The estimated stock biomass of Pacific mackerel for the 2014-2015 management season is 157,106 mt.
2. Cutoff. This is the biomass level below which no commercial fishery is allowed. The FMP established this level at 18,200 mt.
3. Fraction. The harvest fraction is the percentage of the biomass above 18,200 mt that may be harvested.
4. Distribution. The average portion of the Pacific mackerel biomass estimated in the U.S. EEZ off the Pacific coast is 70 percent and is based on the average historical larval distribution obtained from scientific cruises and the distribution of the resource according to the logbooks of aerial fish-spotters.
In June 2014 the Council adopted and recommended to NMFS for the 2014-2015 Pacific mackerel fishing season an OFL of 32,992 metric tons (mt), an ABC and ACL of 30,138 mt each, a HG of 29,170 mt, and an ACT of 24,170 mt. These catch specifications are based on the control rules established in the CPS FMP and a biomass estimate of 157,106 mt; the biomass estimate is the result of a 2011 full stock assessment as updated with a catch-only projection estimate. The annual biomass estimates are an explicit part of the various harvest control rules for Pacific mackerel, and as the estimated biomass decreases or increases from one year to the next, the resulting allowable catch levels similarly trend. The Pacific mackerel fishing season runs from July 1 to June 30.
Upon attainment of the ACT, directed fishing would close, reserving the difference between the HG and ACT (5,000 mt) as a set-aside for incidental Start Printed Page 6663landings in other CPS fisheries and other sources of mortality. For the remainder of the fishing year, incidental landings would also be constrained to a 45-percent incidental catch allowance when Pacific mackerel are landed with other CPS (in other words, no more than 45 percent by weight of the CPS landed per trip may be Pacific mackerel), except that up to 1 mt of Pacific mackerel could be landed without landing any other CPS. Upon attainment of the HG (29,170 mt), no retention of Pacific mackerel would be allowed in CPS fisheries. The purpose of the incidental set-aside and allowance of an incidental fishery is to allow for the restricted incidental landings of Pacific mackerel in other fisheries, particularly other CPS fisheries, when the directed fishery is closed to reduce potential discard of Pacific mackerel and allow for continued prosecution of other important CPS fisheries.
The NMFS West Coast Regional Administrator will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing the date of any closure to either directed or incidental fishing. Additionally, to ensure the regulated community is informed of any closure, NMFS will also make announcements through other means available, including fax, email, and mail to fishermen, processors, and state fishery management agencies.
On October 20, 2014, a proposed rule was published for this action and public comments solicited (79 FR 62590). No comments were received.
Detailed information on the fishery and the stock assessment are found in the reports “Pacific Mackerel (Scomber japonicus) Stock Assessment for USA Management in the 2011-12 Fishing Year” and “Pacific Mackerel Biomass Projection Estimate for USA Management (2014-15)” (see ADDRESSES).
Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Assistant Administrator, NMFS, has determined that this final rule is consistent with the CPS FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and other applicable law.
These specifications are 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.
There are no reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements required by this rule. Additionally, no other Federal rules duplicate, overlap or conflict with this rule.
This action does not contain a collection-of-information requirement for purposes of the Paperwork Reduction Act.
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Dated: February 3, 2015.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-02421 Filed 2-5-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P