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Rule

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Inseason Adjustment to the 2017 Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Pollock, Atka Mackerel, and Pacific Cod Total Allowable Catch Amounts

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Temporary rule; inseason adjustment; request for comments.

SUMMARY:

NMFS is adjusting the 2017 total allowable catch (TAC) amounts for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) pollock, Atka mackerel, and Pacific cod fisheries. This action is necessary because NMFS has determined these TACs are incorrectly specified, and will ensure the BSAI pollock, Atka mackerel, and Pacific cod TACs are the appropriate amounts based on the best available scientific information. Also, NMFS is announcing the Aleutian Islands Catcher Vessel (CV) Harvest Set-Aside and Bering Sea Trawl CV A-Season Sector Limitation will not be in effect for 2017, and TACs in this inseason adjustment will apply for 2017. This action is consistent with the goals and objectives of the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area.

DATES:

Effective 1200 hours, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), January 9, 2017, until the effective date of the final 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications for BSAI groundfish, unless otherwise modified or superseded through publication of a notification in the Federal Register.

Comments must be received at the following address no later than 4:30 p.m., A.l.t., January 25, 2017.

ADDRESSES:

You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2015-0118, by any of the following methods:

  • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/​#!docketDetail;​D=​NOAA-NMFS-2015-0118, click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
  • Mail: Submit written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668.

Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter “N/A” in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous).

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Mary Furuness, 907-586-7228.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

NMFS manages the groundfish fishery in the BSAI exclusive economic zone according to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP) prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council under authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Regulations governing fishing by U.S. vessels in accordance with the FMP appear at subpart H of 50 CFR part 600 and 50 CFR part 679.

The final 2016 and 2017 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (81 FR 14773, March 18, 2016) set the 2017 Aleutian Island (AI) pollock TAC at 19,000 metric tons (mt), the 2017 Bering Sea (BS) pollock TAC at 1,340,643 mt, the 2017 BSAI Atka mackerel TAC at 55,000 mt, the 2017 BS Pacific cod TAC at 238,680 mt, and the AI Pacific cod TAC at 12,839 mt. Also set was an AI pollock ABC of 36,664 and a Western Aleutian Island limit for Pacific cod at 26.3 percent of the AI Pacific cod TAC. In December 2016, the Start Printed Page 2917North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) recommended a 2017 BS pollock TAC of 1,345,000 mt, which is more than the 1,340,643 mt TAC established by the final 2016 and 2017 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI. The Council also recommended decreasing the AI pollock ABC to 36,061 mt from 36,664 mt. This in turn reduces some area and seasonal limits for AI pollock. The Council also recommended a 2017 BSAI Atka mackerel TAC of 65,000 mt, which is more than the 55,000 mt TAC established by the final 2016 and 2017 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI. Furthermore, the Council recommended a 2017 BS Pacific cod TAC of 223,704 mt, and an AI Pacific cod TAC of 15,695 mt, which is less than the BS Pacific cod TAC of 238,680 mt, and more than the AI Pacific cod TAC of 12,839 mt established by the final 2016 and 2017 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI. In addition to changes in TACs, the Council recommended changing the percentage limit of Western Aleutian Island Pacific cod to 25.6 percent of the AI Pacific cod ABC, from the 26.3 percent of the AI Pacific cod TAC. The Council's recommended 2017 TACs, and the area and seasonal apportionments, are based on the Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation report (SAFE), dated November 2016, which NMFS has determined is the best available scientific information for these fisheries.

Amendment 113 to the FMP (81 FR 84434, November 23, 2016) and regulations at § 679.20(a)(7)(viii) require NMFS to announce whether the Aleutian Islands incidental catch allowance, directed fishing allowance, CV Harvest Set-Aside, and Unrestricted Fishery, as well as the Bering Sea Trawl CV A-Season Sector Limitation will be in effect for 2017. NMFS received notification from Adak and Atka that neither will be processing Aleutian Islands Pacific cod in 2017. Therefore, the Pacific cod TACs in Table 9 of this inseason adjustment will be effective for 2017 and the harvest limits in Table 8A (81 FR 84434, November 23, 2016) will not apply in 2017.

Steller sea lions occur in the same location as the pollock, Atka mackerel, and Pacific cod fisheries and are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Pollock, Atka mackerel, and Pacific cod are a principal prey species for Steller sea lions in the BSAI. The seasonal apportionment of pollock, Atka mackerel, and Pacific cod harvest is necessary to ensure the groundfish fisheries are not likely to cause jeopardy of extinction or adverse modification of critical habitat for Steller sea lions. NMFS published regulations and the revised harvest limit amounts for Atka mackerel, Pacific cod, and pollock fisheries to implement Steller sea lion protection measures to insure that groundfish fisheries of the BSAI are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the western distinct population segment of Steller sea lions or destroy or adversely modify their designated critical habitat (79 FR 70286, November 25, 2014). The regulations at § 679.20(a)(5)(i) specify how the BS pollock TAC will be apportioned. The regulations at § 679.20(a)(7) specify how the BSAI Pacific cod TAC will be apportioned. The regulations at § 679.20(a)(8) specify how the BSAI Atka mackerel TAC will be apportioned.

In accordance with § 679.25(a)(1)(iii), (a)(2)(i)(B), and (a)(2)(iv), the Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS (Regional Administrator), has determined that, based on the November 2016 SAFE report for this fishery, the current BSAI pollock, Atka mackerel, and Pacific cod TACs are incorrectly specified. Pursuant to § 679.25(a)(1)(iii), the Regional Administrator is adjusting the 2017 BS pollock TAC to 1,345,000 mt, the 2017 BSAI Atka mackerel TAC to 65,000, the 2017 BS Pacific cod TAC to 223,704 mt, and the AI Pacific cod TAC to 15,695 mt. Therefore, Table 2 of the final 2016 and 2017 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (81 FR 14773, March 18, 2016) is revised consistent with this adjustment.

Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i), Table 5 of the final 2016 and 2017 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (81 FR 14773, March 18, 2016) is revised for the 2017 BS allocations of pollock TAC to the directed pollock fisheries and to the Community Development Quota (CDQ) directed fishing allowances consistent with this adjustment. 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 541, the 2017 A season pollock harvest limit is no more than 30 percent, or 10,818 mt, of the AI ABC of 36,061 mt. In Area 542, the 2017 A season pollock harvest limit is no more than 15 percent, or 5,409 mt, of the AI ABC of 36,061 mt. In Area 543, the 2017 A season pollock harvest limit is no more than 5 percent, or 1,803 mt, of the AI pollock ABC of 36,061 mt.

Table 5—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 sector2017 allocations2017 A season 12017 B season 1
A season DFASCA harvest limit 2B season DFA
Bering Sea subarea TAC 11,345,000n/an/an/a
CDQ DFA134,50060,52537,66073,975
ICA 147,210n/an/an/a
Total Bering Sea non-CDQ DFA1,163,291523,481325,721639,810
AFA Inshore581,645261,740162,861319,905
AFA Catcher/Processors 3465,316209,392130,289255,924
Catch by C/Ps425,764191,594n/a234,170
Catch by CVs 339,55217,798n/a21,754
Unlisted C/P Limit 42,3271,047n/a1,280
AFA Motherships116,32952,34832,57263,981
Excessive Harvesting Limit 5203,576n/an/an/a
Excessive Processing Limit 6348,987n/an/an/a
Aleutian Islands subarea ABC36,061n/an/an/a
Aleutian Islands subarea TAC 119,000n/an/an/a
CDQ DFA1,900760n/a1,140
ICA2,4001,200n/a1,200
Aleut Corporation14,70012,464n/a2,236
Start Printed Page 2918
Area harvest limit 7
54110,818n/an/an/a
5425,409n/an/an/a
5431,803n/an/an/a
Bogoslof District ICA 8500n/an/an/a
1 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A), the BS subarea pollock, after subtracting the CDQ DFA (10 percent) and the ICA (3.9 percent), is allocated as a DFA as follows: Inshore sector—50 percent, catcher/processor sector (C/P)—40 percent, and mothership sector—10 percent. In the BS 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). Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(2)(i) and (ii), the annual AI pollock TAC, after subtracting first for the CDQ directed fishing allowance (10 percent) and second the ICA (2,400 mt), is allocated to the Aleut Corporation for a pollock directed fishery. In the AI subarea, the A season is allocated 40 percent of the ABC and the B season is allocated the remainder of the pollock directed fishery.
2 In the BS subarea, no more than 28 percent of each sector's annual DFA may be taken from the SCA before April 1.
3 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(4), not less than 8.5 percent of the DFA allocated to listed catcher/processors shall be available for harvest only by eligible catcher vessels delivering to listed catcher/processors.
4 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(4)(iii), the AFA unlisted catcher/processors are limited to harvesting not more than 0.5 percent of the catcher/processors sector's allocation of pollock.
5 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(6), NMFS establishes an excessive harvesting share limit equal to 17.5 percent of the sum of the non-CDQ pollock DFAs.
6 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(7), NMFS establishes an excessive processing share limit equal to 30.0 percent of the sum of the non-CDQ pollock DFAs.
7 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(6), NMFS establishes harvest limits for pollock in the A season in Area 541 no more than 30 percent, in Area 542 no more than 15 percent, and in Area 543 no more than 5 percent of the Aleutian Islands pollock ABC.
8 The Bogoslof District is closed by the final harvest specifications to directed fishing for pollock. The amounts specified are for ICA only and are not apportioned by season or sector.
Note: Seasonal or sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.

Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(8), Table 7 of the final 2016 and 2017 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (81 FR 14773, March 18, 2016) is revised for the 2017 seasonal and spatial allowances, gear shares, CDQ reserve, incidental catch allowance, and Amendment 80 allocation of the BSAI Atka mackerel TAC consistent with this adjustment.

Table 7—Final 2017 Seasonal and Spatial Allowances, Gear Shares, CDQ Reserve, Incidental Catch Allowance, and Amendment 80 Allocations of the BSAI ATKA Mackerel TAC

[Amounts are in metric tons]

Sector 1Season 2342017 allocation by area
Eastern Aleutian District/Bering SeaCentral Aleutian District 5Western Aleutian District
TACn/a34,50018,00012,500
CDQ reserveTotal3,6921,9261,338
A1,846963669
Critical Habitatn/a578401
B1,846963669
Critical Habitatn/a578401
Non-CDQ TACn/a30,80916,07411,163
ICATotal1,0007520
Jig 6Total14900
BSAI trawl limited accessTotal2,9661,6000
A1,4838000
Critical Habitatn/a4800
B1,4838000
Critical Habitatn/a4800
Amendment 80 sectorsTotal26,69414,39911,143
A13,3477,2005,571
B13,3477,2005,571
Alaska Groundfish CooperativeTotal 615,1918,5526,853
A7,5964,2763,427
Critical Habitatn/a2,5662,056
B7,5964,2763,427
Critical Habitatn/a2,5662,056
Alaska Seafood CooperativeTotal 611,5025,8474,290
A5,7512,9242,145
Critical Habitatn/a1,7541,287
B5,7512,9242,145
Start Printed Page 2919
Critical Habitatn/a1,7541,287
1 Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii) allocates the Atka mackerel TACs, after subtracting the CDQ reserves, jig gear allocation, and ICAs to the Amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access sectors. The allocation of the ITAC for Atka mackerel to the Amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access sectors is established in Table 33 to part 679 and § 679.91. The CDQ reserve is 10.7 percent of the TAC for use by CDQ participants (see §§ 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(C) and 679.31).
2 Sections 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(A) and 679.22(a) establish temporal and spatial limitations for the Atka mackerel fishery.
3 The seasonal allowances of Atka mackerel are 50 percent in the A season and 50 percent in the B season.
4 Section 679.23(e)(3) authorizes directed fishing for Atka mackerel with trawl gear during the A season from January 20 to June 10 and the B season from June 10 to December 31.
5 Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(C)(1)(i) limits no more than 60 percent of the annual TACs in Areas 542 and 543 to be caught inside of critical habitat; (a)(ii)(C)(1)(ii) equally divides the annual TACs between the A and B seasons as defined at § 679.23(e)(3); and (a)(8)(ii)(C)(2) requires the TAC in Area 543 shall be no more than 65 percent of ABC.
6 Section 679.20(a)(8)(i) requires that up to 2 percent of the Eastern Aleutian District and the Bering Sea subarea TAC be allocated to jig gear after subtracting the CDQ reserve and ICA. The amount of this allocation is 0.5 percent. The jig gear allocation is not apportioned by season.
Note: Seasonal or sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.

Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(7), Table 9 of the final 2016 and 2017 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (81 FR 14773, March 18, 2016) is revised for the 2017 gear shares and seasonal allowances of the BSAI Pacific cod TAC consistent with this adjustment.

TABLE 9—Final 2017 Gear Shares and Seasonal Allowances of the BSAI Pacific Cod TAC

[Amounts are in metric tons]

Gear sectorPercent2017 share of gear sector total2017 share of sector total2017 seasonal apportionment
SeasonsAmount
BS TACn/a223,704n/an/an/a
BS CDQn/a23,936n/asee § 679.20(a)(7)(i)(B)n/a
BS non-CDQ TACn/a199,768n/an/an/a
AI TACn/a15,695n/an/an/a
AI CDQn/a1,679n/asee § 679.20(a)(7)(i)(B)n/a
AI non-CDQ TACn/a14,016n/an/an/a
Western Aleutian Island Limitn/a4,018n/an/an/a
Total BSAI non-CDQ TAC 1100213,783n/an/an/a
Total hook-and-line/pot gear60.8129,980n/an/an/a
Hook-and-line/pot ICA 2n/a500n/asee § 679.20(a)(7)(ii)(B)n/a
Hook-and-line/pot sub-totaln/a129,480n/an/an/a
Hook-and-line catcher/processor48.7n/a103,712Jan 1-Jun 10 Jun 10-Dec 3152,893 50,819
Hook-and-line catcher vessel ≥60 ft LOA0.2n/a426Jan 1-Jun 10 Jun 10-Dec 31217 209
Pot catcher/processor1.5n/a3,194Jan 1-Jun 10 Sept 1-Dec 311,629 1,565
Pot catcher vessel ≥60 ft LOA8.4n/a17,889Jan 1-Jun 10 Sept 1-Dec 319,123 8,765
Catcher vessel <60 ft LOA using hook-and-line or pot gear2n/a4,259n/an/a
Trawl catcher vessel22.147,246n/aJan 20-Apr 1 Apr 1-Jun 10 Jun 10-Nov 134,962 5,197 7,087
AFA trawl catcher/processor2.34,917n/aJan 20-Apr 1 Apr 1-Jun 10 Jun 10-Nov 13,688 1,229 0
Amendment 8013.428,647n/aJan 20-Apr 1 Apr 1-Jun 10 Jun 10-Nov 121,485 7,162 0
Alaska Groundfish Cooperativen/an/a4,522Jan 20-Apr 1 Apr 1-Jun 10 Jun 10-Dec 313,392 1,131 0
Alaska Seafood Cooperativen/an/a24,125Jan 20-Apr 1 Apr 1-Jun 10 Jun 10-Dec 3118,094 6,031 0
Start Printed Page 2920
Jig1.42,993n/aJan 1-Apr 30 Apr 30-Aug 31 Aug 31-Dec 311,796 599 599
1 The gear shares and seasonal allowances for BSAI Pacific cod TAC are based on the sum of the BS and AI Pacific cod TACs, after the subtraction of CDQ. If the TAC for Pacific cod in either the AI or BS is reached, then directed fishing for Pacific cod in that subarea may be prohibited, even if a BSAI allowance remains.
2 The ICA for the hook-and-line and pot sectors will be deducted from the aggregate portion of Pacific cod TAC allocated to the hook-and-line and pot sectors. The Regional Administrator approves an ICA of 500 mt for 2017 based on anticipated incidental catch in these fisheries.
Note: Seasonal or sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.

Classification

This action responds to the best available information recently obtained from the fishery. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA (AA), finds good cause to waive the requirement to provide prior notice and opportunity for public comment pursuant to the authority set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) as such requirement is impracticable and contrary to the public interest. This requirement is impracticable and contrary to the public interest as it would prevent NMFS from responding to the most recent fisheries data in a timely fashion and would allow for harvests that exceed the appropriate allocations for pollock, Atka mackerel, and Pacific cod in the BSAI based on the best scientific information available. NMFS was unable to publish a notice providing time for public comment because the most recent, relevant data only became available as of December 20, 2016, and additional time for prior public comment would result in conservation concerns for the ESA-listed Steller sea lions.

The AA also finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in the effective date of this action under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3). This finding is based upon the reasons provided above for waiver of prior notice and opportunity for public comment.

Under § 679.25(c)(2), interested persons are invited to submit written comments on this action to the above address until January 25, 2017.

This action is required by § 679.20 and § 679.25 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

Start Authority

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

End Authority Start Signature

Dated: January 4, 2017.

Emily H. Menashes,

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

End Signature End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 2017-00260 Filed 1-9-17; 8:45 am]

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