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Rule

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Inseason Adjustment to the 2018 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 2018 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 be in effect for 2018, and TACs in this inseason adjustment will apply for 2018. 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 0000 hours, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), January 1, 2018, until the effective date of the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications for BSAI groundfish, unless otherwise modified or superseded through publication of a notification in the Federal Register.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 4, 2018.

ADDRESSES:

You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2016-0140, 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-2016-0140, 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 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (82 FR 11826, February 27, 2017) set the 2018 Bering Sea (BS) pollock TAC at 1,345,000 mt, the 2018 BSAI Atka mackerel TAC at 65,000 mt, the 2018 BS Pacific cod TAC at 223,704 mt, and the 2018 AI Pacific cod TAC at 15,695 mt. In December 2017, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) recommended a 2018 BS pollock TAC of 1,364,341 mt, which is more than the 1,345,000 mt TAC established by the final 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI. The Council also recommended a 2018 BSAI Atka mackerel TAC of 71,000 mt, which is more than the 65,000 mt TAC established by the final 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI. The Council recommended a 2018 BS Pacific cod TAC of 188,136 mt, and an AI Pacific cod TAC of 15,695 mt, which is less than the BS Pacific cod TAC of 223,704 mt, and the same as the AI Pacific cod TAC of 15,695 mt established by the final 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI. The Council's recommended 2018 TACs, and the area and seasonal apportionments, are based on the Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation report (SAFE), dated November 2017, 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 2018. NMFS received notification from Adak that a shoreplant will be processing Aleutian Islands Pacific cod in 2018. Therefore, the Pacific cod TACs in Table 9A of this inseason adjustment will be effective for 2018 and the harvest limits will apply in 2018.

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 Start Printed Page 60330§ 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 2017 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 2018 BS pollock TAC to 1,364,341 mt, the 2018 BSAI Atka mackerel TAC to 71,000 mt, and the 2018 BS Pacific cod TAC to 188,136 mt. Therefore, Table 2 of the final 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (82 FR 11826, February 27, 2017) is revised consistent with this adjustment.

Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i), Table 5 of the final 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (82 FR 11826, February 27, 2017) is revised for the 2018 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 2018 A season pollock harvest limit is no more than 30 percent, or 12,236 mt, of the AI ABC of 40,788 mt. In Area 542, the 2018 A season pollock harvest limit is no more than 15 percent, or 6,118 mt, of the AI ABC of 40,788 mt. In Area 543, the 2018 A season pollock harvest limit is no more than 5 percent, or 2,039 mt, of the AI pollock ABC of 40,788 mt.

Table 5—Final 2018 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 sector2018 allocations2018 A season 12018 B season 1
A season DFASCA harvest limit 2B season DFA
Bering Sea subarea TAC 11,364,341n/an/an/a
CDQ DFA164,43461,39538,20275,093
ICA 147,888n/an/an/a
Total Bering Sea non-CDQ DFA1,180,019531,008330,405649,010
AFA Inshore590,009265,504165,203324,505
AFA Catcher/Processors 3472,007212,403132,162259,604
Catch by C/Ps431,887194,349n/a237,538
Catch by CVs 340,12118,054n/a21,754
Unlisted C/P Limit 42,3601,062n/a1,280
AFA Motherships118,00253,10133,04164,901
Excessive Harvesting Limit 5206,503n/an/an/a
Excessive Processing Limit 6354,006n/an/an/a
Aleutian Islands subarea ABC40,788n/an/an/a
Aleutian Islands subarea TAC 119,000n/an/an/a
CDQ DFA1,900760n/a1,140
ICA2,4001,200n/a1,200
Aleut Corporation14,70012,355n/a345
Area harvest limit: 7
54112,236n/an/an/a
5426,118n/an/an/a
5432,039n/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 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (82 FR 11826, February 27, 2017) is revised for the 2018 seasonal and spatial allowances, gear shares, CDQ reserve, incidental catch allowance, and Amendment 80 allocation of the BSAI Start Printed Page 60331Atka mackerel TAC consistent with this adjustment.

Table 7—Final 2018 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 2 3 42018 Allocation by area
Eastern Aleutian District/ Bering SeaCentral Aleutian District 5Western Aleutian District
TACn/a36,50021,00013,500
CDQ reserveTotal3,9062,2471,445
A1,9531,124722
Critical Habitatn/a674433
B1,9531,124722
Critical Habitatn/a674433
Non-CDQ TACn/a32,59518,75312,056
Jig 6Total16300
ICATotal8007520
BSAI trawl limited accessTotal3,1631,8680
A1,5829340
Critical Habitatn/a5600
B1,5829340
Critical Habitatn/a5600
Amendment 80 sectorTotal 628,46816,81012,036
A14,2348,4056,018
Critical Habitatn/a5,0433,611
B14,2348,4056,018
Critical Habitatn/a5,0433,611
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 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (82 FR 11826, February 27, 2017) is revised for the 2018 gear shares and seasonal allowances of the BSAI Pacific cod TAC consistent with this adjustment.

Table 9—Final 2018 Gear Shares and Seasonal Allowances of the BSAI Pacific Cod TAC

[Amounts are in metric tons]

Gear sectorPercent2018 share of gear sector total2018 share of sector total2018 seasonal apportionment
SeasonsAmount
BS TACn/a188,136n/an/an/a
BS CDQn/a20,131n/asee § 679.20(a)(7)(i)(B)n/a
BS non-CDQ TACn/a168,005n/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 1100182,021n/an/an/a
Total hook-and-line/pot gear60.8110,669n/an/an/a
Hook-and-line/pot ICA 2n/a400n/asee § 679.20(a)(7)(ii)(B)n/a
Hook-and-line/pot sub-totaln/a110,269n/an/an/a
Hook-and-line catcher/processor48.7n/a88,324Jan 1-Jun 1045,045
Jun 10-Dec 3143,279
Hook-and-line catcher vessel ≥60 ft LOA0.2n/a363Jan 1-Jun 10 Jun 10-Dec 31185 178
Pot catcher/processor1.5n/a2,720Jan 1-Jun 101,387
Start Printed Page 60332
Sept 1-Dec 311,333
Pot catcher vessel ≥60 ft LOA8.4n/a15,235Jan 1-Jun 107,770
Sept 1-Dec 317,465
Catcher vessel <60 ft LOA using hook-and-line or pot gear2n/a3,627n/an/a
Trawl catcher vessel22.140,227n/aJan 20-Apr 129,768
Apr 1-Jun 104,425
Jun 10-Nov 16,034
AFA trawl catcher/processor2.34,186n/aJan 20-Apr 13,140
Apr 1- Jun 101,047
Jun 10-Nov 10
Amendment 8013.424,391n/aJan 20-Apr 118,293
Apr 1- Jun 106,098
Jun 10-Nov 10
Jig1.42,548n/aJan 1-Apr 301,529
Apr 30-Aug 31510
Aug 31-Dec 31510
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 400 mt for 2018 based on anticipated incidental catch in these fisheries.
Note: Seasonal or sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.

Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(7)(viii), the Pacific cod TACs in Table 9A of this inseason adjustment will be effective for 2018 and the harvest limits will apply in 2018.

Table 9a—Final 2018 BSAI A-Season Pacific Cod Limits Aleutian Islands for Shoreplants Intention To Process Pacific Cod 1

2018 allocations under Aleutian Islands CV Harvest Set-AsideAmount (mt)
AI non-CDQ TAC14,016
AI ICA2,500
AI DFA11,516
BS non-CDQ TAC168,005
BSAI Trawl CV A-Season Allocation29,768
BSAI Trawl CV A-Season Allocation minus Sector Limitation 224,768
BS Trawl CV A-Season Sector Limitation5,000
AI CV Harvest Set-Aside5,000
AI Unrestricted Fishery6,516
1 These allocations will apply in 2018 because NMFS received notice of intent to process AI Pacific cod by October 31 of the previous year, pursuant to § 679.20(a)(7)(viii), and the performance requirements set forth in § 679.20(a)(7)(viii) are likewise met. Prior to October 31, 2017, NMFS received timely notice from the City of Adak indicating intent to process AI Pacific cod for the 2018 season. Accordingly, the harvest limits in Table 9a will be in effect in 2018, subject to the performance requirements outlined in § 679.20(a)(7)(viii).
2 This is the amount of the BSAI trawl CV A season allocation that may be harvested in the Bering Sea prior to March 21, 2018, unless modified because the performance requirements were not met.
Start Printed Page 60333

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, 2017, 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 4, 2018.

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: December 15, 2017.

Emily H. Menashes,

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

End Signature End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 2017-27428 Filed 12-19-17; 8:45 am]

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