Skip to Content

Rule

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands; 2018 and 2019 Harvest Specifications for Groundfish

Document Details

Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

Document Statistics
Document page views are updated periodically throughout the day and are cumulative counts for this document including its time on Public Inspection. Counts are subject to sampling, reprocessing and revision (up or down) throughout the day.
Enhanced Content

Relevant information about this document from Regulations.gov provides additional context. This information is not part of the official Federal Register document.

Published Document

This document has been published in the Federal Register. Use the PDF linked in the document sidebar for the official electronic format.

Start Preamble

AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Final rule; closures.

SUMMARY:

NMFS announces final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications, apportionments, and prohibited species catch allowances for the groundfish fishery of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI). This action is necessary to establish harvest limits for groundfish during the 2018 and 2019 fishing years, and to accomplish the goals and objectives of the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP). The intended effect of this action is to conserve and manage the groundfish resources in the BSAI in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act).

DATES:

Effective from 1200 hrs, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), February 27, 2018, through 2400 hrs, A.l.t., December 31, 2019.

ADDRESSES:

Electronic copies of the Alaska Groundfish Harvest Specifications Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Record of Decision (ROD), Supplementary Information Report (SIR) to the EIS, and the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) prepared for this action are available from http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. The final 2017 Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) report for the groundfish resources of the BSAI, dated November 2017, as well as the SAFE reports for previous years, are available from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) at 605 West 4th Avenue, Suite 306, Anchorage, AK, 99510-2252, phone 907-271-2809, or from the Council's website at http://www.npfmc.org/​.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Steve Whitney, 907-586-7228.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Federal regulations at 50 CFR part 679 implement the FMP and govern the groundfish fisheries in the BSAI. The Council prepared the FMP, and NMFS approved it, under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. General regulations governing U.S. fisheries also appear at 50 CFR part 600.

The FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS, after consultation with the Council, to specify annually the total allowable catch (TAC) for each target species category. The sum of all TAC for all groundfish species in the BSAI must be within the optimum yield (OY) range of 1.4 million to 2.0 million metric tons (mt) (see § 679.20(a)(1)(i)(A)). This final rule specifies the TAC at 2.0 million mt for both 2018 and 2019. NMFS also must specify apportionments of TAC, prohibited species catch (PSC) allowances, and prohibited species quota (PSQ) reserves established by § 679.21; seasonal allowances of pollock, Pacific cod, and Atka mackerel TAC; American Fisheries Act allocations; Amendment 80 allocations; Community Development Quota (CDQ) reserve amounts established by § 679.20(b)(1)(ii); and acceptable biological catch (ABC) surpluses and reserves for CDQ groups and the Amendment 80 cooperative for flathead sole, rock sole, and yellowfin sole. The final harvest specifications set forth in Tables 1 through 25 of this action satisfy these requirements.

Section 679.20(c)(3)(i) further requires NMFS to consider public comment on the proposed harvest specifications and to publish final harvest specifications in the Federal Register. The proposed 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications for the groundfish fishery of the BSAI were published in the Federal Register on December 8, 2017 (82 FR 57906). Comments were invited and accepted through January 8, 2018. NMFS received no substantive comments on the proposed harvest specifications. NMFS consulted with the Council on the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications during the December 2017 Council meeting in Anchorage, AK. After considering public comments, as well as biological and economic data that were available at the Council's December meeting, in this final rule NMFS implements the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications as recommended by the Council.

ABC and TAC Harvest Specifications

The final ABC levels for Alaska groundfish are based on the best available biological and socioeconomic information, including projected biomass trends, information on assumed distribution of stock biomass, and revised technical methods used to calculate stock biomass. In general, the development of ABCs and overfishing levels (OFLs) involves sophisticated statistical analyses of fish populations. The FMP specifies a series of six tiers to define OFL and ABC amounts based on the level of reliable information available to fishery scientists. Tier 1 represents the highest level of information quality available, while Tier 6 represents the lowest.

In December 2017, the Council, its Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), and its Advisory Panel (AP) reviewed current biological and harvest information about the condition of the BSAI groundfish stocks. The Council's BSAI Groundfish Plan Team (Plan Team) compiled and presented this information in the final 2017 SAFE report for the BSAI groundfish fisheries, Start Printed Page 8366dated November 2017 (see ADDRESSES). The SAFE report contains a review of the latest scientific analyses and estimates of each species' biomass and other biological parameters, as well as summaries of the available information on the BSAI ecosystem and the economic condition of groundfish fisheries off Alaska. NMFS notified the public of the comment period for these harvest specifications—and of the publication of the 2017 SAFE report—in the notice of proposed harvest specifications. From the data and analyses in the SAFE report, the Plan Team recommended an OFL and ABC for each species or species group at the November 2017 Plan Team meeting.

In December 2017, the SSC, AP, and Council reviewed the Plan Team's recommendations. The final TAC recommendations were based on the ABCs as adjusted for other biological and socioeconomic considerations, including maintaining the sum of all the TACs within the required OY range of 1.4 million to 2.0 million mt. As required by annual catch limit rules for all fisheries (74 FR 3178, January 16, 2009), none of the Council's recommended TACs for 2018 or 2019 exceed the final 2018 or 2019 ABCs for any species or species group. NMFS finds that the Council's recommended OFLs, ABCs, and TACs are consistent with the preferred harvest strategy and the biological condition of groundfish stocks as described in the 2017 SAFE report that was approved by the Council. Therefore, this final rule provides notice that the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) approves the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications as recommended by the Council.

The 2018 harvest specifications set in this final action will supersede the 2018 harvest specifications previously set in the final 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications (82 FR 11826, February 27, 2017). The 2019 harvest specifications herein will be superseded in early 2019 when the final 2019 and 2020 harvest specifications are published. Pursuant to this final action, the 2018 harvest specifications therefore will apply for the remainder of the current year (2018), while the 2019 harvest specifications are projected only for the following year (2019) and will be superseded in early 2019 by the final 2019 and 2020 harvest specifications. Because this final action (published in early 2018) will be superseded in early 2019 by the publication of the final 2019 and 2020 harvest specifications, it is projected that this final action will implement the harvest specifications for the BSAI for approximately one year.

Other Actions Affecting the 2018 and 2019 Harvest Specifications

Amendment 117: Reclassify Squid as an Ecosystem Species

In June 2017, the Council recommended for Secretarial review Amendment 117 to the FMP. Amendment 117 would reclassify squid in the FMP as an “Ecosystem Component Species,” which is a category of non-target species that are not in need of conservation and management. Currently, NMFS annually sets an OFL, ABC, and TAC for squid in the BSAI groundfish harvest specifications. Under Amendment 117, OFL, ABC, and TAC specifications would no longer be required. Proposed regulations to implement Amendment 117 would prohibit directed fishing for squid, require recordkeeping and reporting to monitor and report catch of squid species annually, and establish a squid maximum retainable amount when directed fishing for groundfish species at 20 percent to discourage retention, while allowing flexibility to prosecute groundfish fisheries. Further details will be available on publication of the proposed rule for Amendment 117. If Amendment 117 and its implementing regulations are approved by the Secretary, Amendment 117 and its implementing regulations are anticipated to be effective by 2019. Until Amendment 117 is effective, NMFS will continue to publish OFLs, ABCs, and TACs for squid in the BSAI groundfish harvest specifications.

State of Alaska Guideline Harvest Levels

The Alaska Board of Fisheries (BOF), a regulatory body for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, established a guideline harvest level (GHL) in State of Alaska (State) waters between 164 and 167 degrees west longitude in the Bering Sea subarea (BS) equal to 6.4 percent of the Pacific cod ABC for the BS. The Council recommended that the final 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod TACs accommodate the State's GHLs for Pacific cod in State waters in the BS. The Council and its Plan Team, SSC, and AP recommended that the sum of all State and Federal water Pacific cod removals from the BS not exceed the final ABC recommendations of 201,000 mt for 2018 and 170,000 mt for 2019. Accordingly, the Council recommended that the final 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod TACs in the BS account for State GHLs, and NMFS sets the final BS TAC at 6.4 percent less than the Pacific cod BS ABC.

For 2018 and 2019, the BOF established a GHL in State waters in the Aleutian Islands subarea (AI) equal to 27 percent of the Pacific cod ABC for the AI. The Council recommended that the final 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod TACs accommodate the State's GHLs for Pacific cod in State waters in the AI. The Council and its Plan Team, SSC, and AP recommended that the sum of all State and Federal water Pacific cod removals from the AI not exceed the final ABC recommendations of 21,500 mt. Accordingly, the Council recommended that the final 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod TACs in the AI account for State GHLs, and in this final rule NMFS sets the final AI TAC at 27 percent less than the final AI ABC.

Changes From the Proposed 2018 and 2019 Harvest Specifications for the BSAI

The Council's recommendations for the proposed 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications (82 FR 57906, December 8, 2017) were based largely on information contained in the 2016 SAFE report for the BSAI groundfish fisheries. Through the proposed harvest specifications, NMFS notified the public that these harvest specifications could change, as the Council would consider information contained in the final 2017 SAFE report; recommendations from the Plan Team, SSC, and AP committees; and public testimony when making its recommendations for final harvest specifications at the December 2017 Council meeting. NMFS further notified the public that, as required by the FMP and its implementing regulations, the sum of the TACs must be within the OY range of 1.4 million and 2.0 million mt.

Information contained in the 2017 SAFE report indicates biomass changes from the 2016 SAFE report for several groundfish species. The 2017 report was made available for public review during the public comment period for the proposed harvest specifications. At the December 2017 Council meeting, the SSC recommended the 2018 and 2019 ABCs for many species based on the best and most recent information contained in the 2017 SAFE reports. This recommendation resulted in an ABC sum total for all BSAI groundfish species in excess of 2 million mt for both 2018 and 2019.

Based on increased fishing effort in 2017, the Council recommends final BS pollock TACs increase by 4,483 mt in 2018 and increase by 23,142 mt in 2019 compared to the proposed 2018 and 2019 BS pollock TACs. In terms of percentage, the largest increases in final 2018 TACs relative to the proposed 2018 TACs were for BSAI “other flatfish” and BSAI sharks, while the largest increases for 2019 also included Start Printed Page 8367sablefish. The 2018 increases were to account for higher incidental catches of these species in 2017. Other increases in the final 2018 TACs relative to the proposed 2018 TACs included sablefish, Greenland turbot, Alaska plaice, BS Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, Central Aleutian and Western Aleutian (CAI/WAI) blackspotted and rougheye rockfish, shortraker rockfish, AI “other rockfish,” Eastern Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea (EAI/BS) Atka mackerel, skates, and sculpins. The 2018 increases were to account for higher interest in directed fishing or higher anticipated incidental catch needs.

Decreases in final 2018 TACs compared to the proposed 2018 TACs were for Bogoslof pollock, BS Pacific cod, arrowtooth flounder, rock sole, flathead sole, EAI Pacific ocean perch, WAI Pacific ocean perch, BS/EAI blackspotted and rougheye rockfish, BS “other rockfish,” CAI Atka mackerel, WAI Atka mackerel, squids, and octopuses. As noted in the proposed 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications, the BS Pacific cod ABC and TAC proposed for 2018 and 2019 decreased based on the final 2017 stock assessment. The remaining 2018 decreases were to account for the increases to the TACs for the species listed above and for the requirement not to exceed the 2.0 million mt OY limit on overall TAC in the BSAI.

The changes to TACs between the proposed and final harvest specifications are based on the most recent scientific and economic information and are consistent with the FMP, regulatory obligations, and harvest strategy as described in the proposed harvest specifications, including the upper limit for OY of 2.0 million mt. These changes are compared in Table 1A.

Table 1 lists the Council's recommended final 2018 OFL, ABC, TAC, initial TAC (ITAC), and CDQ reserve allocations of the BSAI groundfish species or species groups; and Table 2 lists the Council's recommended final 2019 OFL, ABC, TAC, ITAC, and CDQ reserve allocations of the BSAI groundfish species or species groups. NMFS concurs in these recommendations. These final 2018 and 2019 TAC recommendations for the BSAI are within the OY range established for the BSAI and do not exceed the ABC for any species or species group. The apportionment of TAC amounts among fisheries and seasons is discussed below.

Table 1—Final 2018 Overfishing Level (OFL), Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC), Total Allowable Catch (TAC), Initial TAC (ITAC), and CDQ Reserve Allocation of Groundfish in the BSAI 1

[Amounts are in metric tons]

SpeciesArea2018
OFLABCTACITAC 2CDQ 3
Pollock 4BS4,797,0002,592,0001,364,3411,227,907136,434
AI49,28940,78819,00017,1001,900
Bogoslof130,42860,8004504500
Pacific cod 5BS238,000201,000188,136168,00520,131
AI28,70021,50015,69514,0161,679
SablefishBS2,8871,4641,4641,208201
AI3,9171,9881,9881,615335
Yellowfin soleBSAI306,700277,500154,000137,52216,478
Greenland turbotBSAI13,14811,1325,2944,500n/a
BSn/a9,7185,1254,356548
AIn/a1,4141691440
Arrowtooth flounderBSAI76,75765,93213,62111,5781,457
Kamchatka flounderBSAI11,3479,7375,0004,2500
Rock soleBSAI147,300143,10047,10042,0605,040
Flathead sole 6BSAI79,86266,77314,50012,9491,552
Alaska plaiceBSAI41,17034,59016,10013,6850
Other flatfish 7BSAI17,59113,1934,0003,4000
Pacific ocean perchBSAI51,67542,50937,36132,853n/a
BSn/a11,86111,86110,0820
EAIn/a10,0219,0008,037963
CAIn/a7,7877,5006,698803
WAIn/a12,8409,0008,037963
Northern rockfishBSAI15,88812,9756,1005,1850
Blackspotted and Rougheye rockfish 8BSAI7496132251910
BS/EAIn/a37475640
CAI/WAIn/a2391501280
Shortraker rockfishBSAI6664991501280
Other rockfish 9BSAI1,8161,3628457180
BSn/a7912752340
AIn/a5715704850
Atka mackerelBSAI108,60092,00071,00063,4037,597
BS/EAIn/a36,82036,50032,5953,906
CAIn/a32,00021,00018,7532,247
WAIn/a23,18013,50012,0561,445
SkatesBSAI46,66839,08227,00022,9500
SculpinsBSAI53,20139,9955,0004,2500
SharksBSAI6895171801530
SquidsBSAI6,9125,1841,2001,0200
OctopusesBSAI4,7693,5762502130
Start Printed Page 8368
Total6,235,7293,779,8092,000,0001,791,308196,081
1 These amounts apply to the entire BSAI management area unless otherwise specified. With the exception of pollock, and for the purpose of these harvest specifications, the Bering Sea subarea (BS) includes the Bogoslof District.
2 Except for pollock, the portion of the sablefish TAC allocated to hook-and-line and pot gear, and Amendment 80 species, 15 percent of each TAC is put into a non-specified reserve. The ITAC for these species is the remainder of the TAC after the subtraction of these reserves. For pollock and Amendment 80 species, ITAC is the non-CDQ allocation of TAC (see footnotes 3 and 5).
3 For the Amendment 80 species (Atka mackerel, flathead sole, rock sole, yellowfin sole, Pacific cod, and Aleutian Islands Pacific ocean perch), 10.7 percent of the TAC is reserved for use by CDQ participants (see §§ 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(C) and 679.31). Twenty percent of the sablefish TAC allocated to hook-and-line gear or pot gear, 7.5 percent of the sablefish TAC allocated to trawl gear, and 10.7 percent of the TACs for Bering Sea Greenland turbot and arrowtooth flounder are reserved for use by CDQ participants (see § 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(B) and (D)). Aleutian Islands Greenland turbot, “other flatfish,” Alaska plaice, Bering Sea Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, shortraker rockfish, blackspotted and rougheye rockfish, “other rockfish,” skates, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses are not allocated to the CDQ program.
4 Under § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A), the annual BS pollock TAC, after subtracting first for the CDQ directed fishing allowance (10 percent) and second for the incidental catch allowance (3.9 percent), is further allocated by sector for a pollock directed fishery as follows: inshore—50 percent; catcher/processor—40 percent; and motherships—10 percent. Under § 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(2), the annual AI pollock TAC, after subtracting first for the CDQ directed fishing allowance (10 percent) and second for the incidental catch allowance (2,400 mt), is allocated to the Aleut Corporation for a pollock directed fishery.
5 The BS Pacific cod TAC is set to account for the 6.4 percent of the BS ABC for the State of Alaska's (State) guideline harvest level in State waters of the BS. The AI Pacific cod TAC is set to account for the 27 percent of the AI ABC for the State guideline harvest level in State waters of the AI.
6 “Flathead sole” includes Hippoglossoides elassodon (flathead sole) and Hippoglossoides robustus (Bering flounder).
7 “Other flatfish” includes all flatfish species, except for halibut (a prohibited species), flathead sole, Greenland turbot, rock sole, yellowfin sole, arrowtooth flounder, Kamchatka flounder, and Alaska plaice.
8 “Rougheye rockfish” includes Sebastes aleutianus (rougheye) and Sebastes melanostictus (blackspotted).
9 “Other rockfish” includes all Sebastes and Sebastolobus species except for Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, shortraker rockfish, and blackspotted and rougheye rockfish.
Note: Regulatory areas and districts are defined at § 679.2 (BSAI = Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area, BS = Bering Sea subarea, AI = Aleutian Islands subarea, EAI = Eastern Aleutian district, CAI = Central Aleutian district, WAI = Western Aleutian district.)

Table 1A—Comparison of Final 2018 and 2019 With Proposed 2018 and 2019

Total Allowable Catch in the BSAI

[Amounts are in metric tons]

SpeciesArea 12018 final TAC2018 proposed TAC2018 difference from proposed2018 percentage difference from proposed2019 final TAC2019 proposed TAC2019 difference from proposed2019 percentage difference from proposed
PollockBS1,364,3411,359,8584,4830.31,383,0001,359,85823,1421.7
AI19,00019,00000.019,00019,00000.0
Bogoslof450500−50−10.050050000.0
Pacific codBS188,136194,936−6,800−3.5159,120194,936−35,816−18.4
AI15,69515,69500.015,69515,69500.0
SablefishBS1,4641,27419014.92,0611,27478761.8
AI1,9881,73525314.62,7981,7351,06361.3
Yellowfin soleBSAI154,000154,00000.0156,000154,0002,0001.3
Greenland turbotBS5,1254,37575017.15,1254,37575017.1
AI1691254435.21691254435.2
Arrowtooth flounderBSAI13,62114,000−379−2.714,00014,00000.0
Kamchatka flounderBSAI5,0005,00000.05,0005,00000.0
Rock soleBSAI47,10050,100−3,000−6.049,10050,100−1,000−2.0
Flathead soleBSAI14,50015,500−1,000−6.516,50015,5001,0006.5
Alaska plaiceBSAI16,10013,0003,10023.816,25213,0003,25225.0
Other flatfishBSAI4,0002,5001,50060.04,0002,5001,50060.0
Pacific ocean perchBS11,86111,0008617.811,49911,0004994.5
EAI9,0009,900−900−9.19,7159,900−185−1.9
CAI7,5007,50000.07,5497,500490.7
WAI9,00012,000−3,000−25.09,11712,000−2,883−24.0
Northern rockfishBSAI6,1005,0001,10022.06,5005,0001,50030.0
Blackspotted/Rougheye rockfishBS/EAI75100−25−25.075100−25−25.0
CAI/WAI1501252520.01501252520.0
Shortraker rockfishBSAI1501252520.01501252520.0
Other rockfishBS275325−50−15.4275325−50−15.4
AI570550203.6570550203.6
Atka mackerelEAI/BS36,50034,0002,5007.433,78034,000−220−0.6
CAI21,00021,500−500−2.324,89521,5003,39515.8
WAI13,50013,910−410−2.913,82513,910−85−0.6
SkatesBSAI27,00026,0001,0003.827,00026,0001,0003.8
SculpinsBSAI5,0004,50050011.15,0004,50050011.1
SharksBSAI1801255544.01801255544.0
SquidsBSAI1,2001,342−142−10.61,2001,342−142−10.6
Start Printed Page 8369
OctopusesBSAI250400−150−37.5200400−200−50.0
TotalBSAI2,000,0002,000,00000.02,000,0002,000,00000.0
1 Bering Sea subarea (BS), Aleutian Islands subarea (AI), Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI), Eastern Aleutian District (EAI), Central Aleutian District (CAI), and Western Aleutian District (WAI).

Table 2—Final 2019 Overfishing Level (OFL), Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC), Total Allowable Catch (TAC), Initial TAC (ITAC), and CDQ Reserve Allocation of Groundfish in the BSAI1

[Amounts are in metric tons]

SpeciesArea2019
OFLABCTACITAC 2CDQ 3
Pollock 4BS4,592,0002,467,0001,383,0001,244,700138,300
AI37,43130,80319,00017,1001,900
Bogoslof130,42860,8005005000
Pacific cod 5BS201,000170,000159,120142,09417,026
AI28,70021,50015,69514,0161,679
SablefishBS4,5762,0612,06187677
AI6,2092,7982,79859552
Yellowfin soleBSAI295,600267,500156,000139,30816,692
Greenland turbotBSAI13,54011,4735,2944,500n/a
BSn/a10,0165,1254,356548
AIn/a1,4571691440
Arrowtooth flounderBSAI75,08464,49414,00011,9001,498
Kamchatka flounderBSAI12,02210,3175,0004,2500
Rock soleBSAI136,000132,00049,10043,8465,254
Flathead sole 6BSAI78,03665,22716,50014,7351,766
Alaska plaiceBSAI38,80032,70016,25213,8140
Other flatfish 7BSAI17,59113,1934,0003,4000
Pacific ocean perchBSAI50,09841,21237,88033,332n/a
BSn/a11,49911,4999,7740
EAIn/a9,7159,7158,6751,040
CAIn/a7,5497,5496,741808
WAIn/a12,4499,1178,141976
Northern rockfishBSAI15,56312,7106,5005,5250
Blackspotted and Rougheye rockfish 8BSAI8296782251910
BS/EAIn/a41475640
CAI/WAIn/a2641501280
Shortraker rockfishBSAI6664991501280
Other rockfish 9BSAI1,8161,3628457180
BSn/a7912752340
AIn/a5715704850
Atka mackerelBSAI97,20084,40072,50064,7437,758
EAI/BSn/a33,78033,78030,1663,614
CAIn/a29,35024,89522,2312,664
WAIn/a21,27013,82512,3461,479
SkatesBSAI44,20236,95727,00022,9500
SculpinsBSAI53,20139,9955,0004,2500
SharksBSAI6895171801530
SquidsBSAI6,9125,1841,2001,0200
OctopusesBSAI4,7693,5762001700
Total5,942,9623,578,9562,000,0001,788,813195,373
1 These amounts apply to the entire BSAI management area unless otherwise specified. With the exception of pollock, and for the purpose of these harvest specifications, the Bering Sea subarea (BS) includes the Bogoslof District.
2 Except for pollock, the portion of the sablefish TAC allocated to hook-and-line and pot gear, and Amendment 80 species, 15 percent of each TAC is put into a non-specified reserve. The ITAC for these species is the remainder of the TAC after the subtraction of these reserves. For pollock and Amendment 80 species, ITAC is the non-CDQ allocation of TAC (see footnotes 3 and 5).
3 For the Amendment 80 species (Atka mackerel, flathead sole, rock sole, yellowfin sole, Pacific cod, and Aleutian Islands Pacific ocean perch), 10.7 percent of the TAC is reserved for use by CDQ participants (see §§ 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(C) and 679.31). Twenty percent of the sablefish TAC allocated to hook-and-line gear or pot gear, 7.5 percent of the sablefish TAC allocated to trawl gear, and 10.7 percent of the TACs for Bering Sea Greenland turbot and arrowtooth flounder are reserved for use by CDQ participants (see § 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(B) and (D)). Aleutian Islands Greenland turbot, “other flatfish,” Alaska plaice, Bering Sea Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, shortraker rockfish, blackspotted and rougheye rockfish, “other rockfish,” skates, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses are not allocated to the CDQ program.Start Printed Page 8370
4 Under § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A), the annual BS pollock TAC, after subtracting first for the CDQ directed fishing allowance (10 percent) and second for the incidental catch allowance (3.9 percent), is further allocated by sector for a pollock directed fishery as follows: inshore—50 percent; catcher/processor—40 percent; and motherships—10 percent. Under § 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(2), the annual AI pollock TAC, after subtracting first for the CDQ directed fishing allowance (10 percent) and second for the incidental catch allowance (2,400 mt), is allocated to the Aleut Corporation for a pollock directed fishery.
5 The BS Pacific cod TAC is set to account for the 6.4 percent of the BS ABC for the State of Alaska's (State) guideline harvest level in State waters of the BS. The AI Pacific cod TAC is set to account for the 27 percent of the AI ABC for the State guideline harvest level in State waters of the AI.
6 “Flathead sole” includes Hippoglossoides elassodon (flathead sole) and Hippoglossoides robustus (Bering flounder).
7 “Other flatfish” includes all flatfish species, except for halibut (a prohibited species), flathead sole, Greenland turbot, rock sole, yellowfin sole, arrowtooth flounder, Kamchatka flounder, and Alaska plaice.
8 “Rougheye rockfish” includes Sebastes aleutianus (rougheye) and Sebastes melanostictus (blackspotted).
9 “Other rockfish” includes all Sebastes and Sebastolobus species except for Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, shortraker rockfish, and blackspotted and rougheye rockfish.
Note: Regulatory areas and districts are defined at § 679.2 (BSAI = Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area, BS = Bering Sea subarea, AI = Aleutian Islands subarea, EAI = Eastern Aleutian district, CAI = Central Aleutian district, WAI = Western Aleutian district.)

Groundfish Reserves and the Incidental Catch Allowance (ICA) for Pollock, Atka Mackerel, Flathead Sole, Rock Sole, Yellowfin Sole, and Aleutian Islands Pacific Ocean Perch

Section 679.20(b)(1)(i) requires NMFS to reserve 15 percent of the TAC for each target species, except for pollock, hook-and-line and pot gear allocation of sablefish, and Amendment 80 species, in a non-specified reserve. Section 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(B) requires that NMFS allocate 20 percent of the hook-and-line or pot gear allocation of sablefish for the fixed-gear sablefish CDQ reserve for each subarea. Section 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(D) requires that NMFS allocate 7.5 percent of the trawl gear allocations of sablefish in the BS and AI and 10.7 percent of the Bering Sea Greenland turbot and arrowtooth flounder TACs to the respective CDQ reserves. Section 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(C) requires that NMFS allocate 10.7 percent of the TAC for Atka mackerel, Aleutian Islands Pacific ocean perch, yellowfin sole, rock sole, flathead sole, and Pacific cod to the CDQ reserves. Sections 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A) and 679.31(a) also require that 10 percent of the Bering Sea pollock TAC be allocated to the pollock CDQ directed fishing allowance (DFA). Similarly, §§ 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(2)(i) and 679.31(a) require that 10 percent of the Aleutian Islands TAC be allocated to the pollock CDQ reserve. The entire Bogoslof District pollock TAC is allocated as an ICA pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(ii) because the Bogoslof District is closed to directed fishing for pollock by regulation (§ 679.22(a)(7)(i)(B)). With the exception of the hook-and-line or pot gear sablefish CDQ reserve, the regulations do not further apportion the CDQ allocations by gear.

Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(1), NMFS allocates a pollock ICA of 3.9 percent of the BS pollock TAC after subtracting the 10 percent CDQ reserve. This allowance is based on NMFS' examination of the pollock incidental catch, including the incidental catch by CDQ vessels, in target fisheries other than pollock from 2000 through 2017. During this 18-year period, the pollock incidental catch ranged from a low of 2.4 percent in 2006 to a high of 4.8 percent in 2014, with an 18-year average of 3.3 percent. Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(2)(ii), NMFS establishes a pollock ICA of 2,400 mt of the AI TAC after subtracting the 10-percent CDQ DFA. This allowance is based on NMFS' examination of the pollock incidental catch, including the incidental catch by CDQ vessels, in target fisheries other than pollock from 2003 through 2017. During this 15-year period, the incidental catch of pollock ranged from a low of 5 percent in 2006 to a high of 17 percent in 2014, with a 15-year average of 8 percent.

Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(8) and (10), NMFS allocates ICAs of 4,000 mt of flathead sole, 6,000 mt of rock sole, 4,000 mt of yellowfin sole, 10 mt of WAI Pacific ocean perch, 120 mt of CAI Pacific ocean perch, 100 mt of EAI Pacific ocean perch, 20 mt of WAI Atka mackerel, 75 mt of CAI Atka mackerel, and 800 mt of EAI and BS Atka mackerel TAC after subtracting the 10.7 percent CDQ reserve. These ICA allowances are based on NMFS' examination of the incidental catch in other target fisheries from 2003 through 2016.

The regulations do not designate the remainder of the non-specified reserve by species or species group. Any amount of the reserve may be apportioned to a target species that contributed to the non-specified reserves during the year, provided that such apportionments are consistent with § 679.20(a)(3) and do not result in overfishing (see § 679.20(b)(1)(i)). The Regional Administrator has determined that the ITACs specified for the species listed in Table 1 need to be supplemented from the non-specified reserve because U.S. fishing vessels have demonstrated the capacity to catch the full TAC allocations. Therefore, in accordance with § 679.20(b)(3), NMFS is apportioning the amounts shown in Table 3 from the non-specified reserve to increase the ITAC for shortraker rockfish, blackspotted and rougheye rockfish, “other rockfish,” sharks, and octopuses by 15 percent of the TAC in 2018 and 2019.

Table 3—Final 2018 and 2019 Apportionment of Non-Specified Reserves to ITAC Categories

[Amounts are in metric tons]

Species-area or subarea2018 ITAC2018 reserve amount2018 final ITAC2019 ITAC2019 reserve amount2019 final ITAC
Shortraker rockfish-BSAI1282215012822150
Rougheye rockfish-BS/EAI641175641175
Rougheye rockfish-CAI/WAI1282215012822150
Other rockfish-Bering Sea subarea2344127523441275
Other rockfish-Aleutian Islands subarea4858557048585570
Sharks1532718015327180
Octopuses2133725034060400
Total1,4052451,6501,5322681,800
Start Printed Page 8371

Allocation of Pollock TAC Under the American Fisheries Act (AFA)

Section 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A) requires that the BS pollock TAC be apportioned as a DFA, after subtracting 10 percent for the CDQ program and 3.9 percent for the ICA, as follows: 50 percent to the inshore sector, 40 percent to the catcher/processor (C/P) sector, and 10 percent to the mothership sector. In the BS, 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) (§§ 679.20(a)(5)(i)(B)(1) and 679.23(e)(2)). The Aleutian Islands directed pollock fishery allocation to the Aleut Corporation is the amount of pollock TAC remaining in the AI after subtracting 1,900 mt for the CDQ DFA (10 percent) and 2,400 mt for the ICA (§ 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(2)). In the AI, the total A season apportionment of the TAC (including the AI directed fishery allocation, the CDQ allowance, and the ICA) may equal up to 40 percent of the ABC for AI pollock, and the remainder of the TAC is allocated to the B season (§ 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(3)). Tables 4 and 5 list these 2018 and 2019 amounts.

Section 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(6) 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 543, the A season pollock harvest limit is no more than 5 percent of the Aleutian Islands pollock ABC. In Area 542, the A season pollock harvest limit is no more than 15 percent of the Aleutian Islands pollock ABC. In Area 541, the A season pollock harvest limit is no more than 30 percent of the Aleutian Islands pollock ABC.

Section 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(4) also includes several specific requirements regarding BS pollock allocations. First, it requires that 8.5 percent of the pollock allocated to the C/P sector be available for harvest by AFA catcher vessels (CVs) with C/P sector endorsements, unless the Regional Administrator receives a cooperative contract that allows the distribution of harvest among AFA C/Ps and AFA CVs in a manner agreed to by all members. Second, AFA C/Ps not listed in the AFA are limited to harvesting not more than 0.5 percent of the pollock allocated to the C/P sector. Tables 4 and 5 list the 2018 and 2019 allocations of pollock TAC. Tables 20 through 25 list the AFA C/P and CV harvesting sideboard limits. The tables for the pollock allocations to the BS inshore pollock cooperatives and open access sector will be posted on the Alaska Region website at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.

Tables 4 and 5 also list seasonal apportionments of pollock and harvest limits within the Steller Sea Lion Conservation Area (SCA). The harvest within the SCA, as defined at § 679.22(a)(7)(vii), is limited to no more than 28 percent of the annual pollock DFA before 12:00 noon, April 1, as provided in § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(C). The A season pollock SCA harvest limit will be apportioned to each sector in proportion to each sector's allocated percentage of the DFA. Tables 4 and 5 list these 2018 and 2019 amounts by sector.

Table 4—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 DFA136,43461,39538,20275,039
ICA147,888n/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/a22,066
Unlisted C/P Limit 42,3601,062n/a1,298
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 Corporation14,70014,355n/a345
Area harvest limit 7n/an/an/an/a
54112,236n/an/an/a
5426,118n/an/an/a
5432,039n/an/an/a
Bogoslof District ICA 8450n/an/an/a
1 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A), the Bering Sea 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 Bering Sea 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) through (iii), the annual Aleutian Islands pollock TAC, after subtracting first for the CDQ DFA (10 percent) and second for the ICA (2,400 mt), is allocated to the Aleut Corporation for a pollock directed fishery. In the Aleutian Islands subarea, the A season is allocated up to 40 percent of the ABC, and the B season is allocated the remainder of the pollock directed fishery.
2 In the Bering Sea subarea, pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(C), no more than 28 percent of each sector's annual DFA may be taken from the SCA before noon, April 1.
3 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(4), 8.5 percent of the DFA allocated to listed catcher/processors shall be available for harvest only by AFA catcher vessels with catcher/processor sector endorsements delivering to listed catcher/processors, unless there is a C/P sector cooperative contract for the year.Start Printed Page 8372
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 of no more than 30 percent, in Area 542 of no more than 15 percent, and in Area 543 of no more than 5 percent of the Aleutian Islands pollock ABC.
8 Pursuant to § 679.22(a)(7)(i)(B), the Bogoslof District is closed 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.

Table 5—Final 2019 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 sector2019 allocations2019 A season 12019 B season 1
A season DFASCA harvest limit 2B season DFA
Bering Sea subarea TAC 11,383,000n/an/an/a
CDQ DFA138,30062,23538,72476,065
ICA 148,543n/an/an/a
Total Bering Sea non-CDQ DFA1,196,157538,271334,924657,886
AFA Inshore598,078269,135167,462328,943
AFA Catcher/Processors 3478,463215,308133,970263,154
Catch by C/Ps437,793197,007n/a240,786
Catch by CVs 340,66918,301n/a22,368
Unlisted C/P Limit 42,3921,077n/a1,316
AFA Motherships119,61653,82733,49265,789
Excessive Harvesting Limit 5209,327n/an/an/a
Excessive Processing Limit 6358,847n/an/an/a
Aleutian Islands subarea ABC30,803n/an/an/a
Aleutian Islands subarea TAC 119,000n/an/an/a
CDQ DFA1,900760n/a1,140
ICA2,4001,200n/a1,200
Aleut Corporation14,70010,361n/a4,339
Area harvest limit 7n/an/an/an/a
5419,241n/an/an/a
5424,620n/an/an/a
5431,540n/an/an/a
Bogoslof District ICA 8500n/an/an/a
1 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A), the Bering Sea 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 Bering Sea 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) through (iii), the annual Aleutian Islands pollock TAC, after subtracting first for the CDQ DFA (10 percent) and second the ICA (2,400 mt), is allocated to the Aleut Corporation for a pollock directed fishery. In the Aleutian Islands subarea, the A season is allocated up to 40 percent of the ABC, and the B season is allocated the remainder of the pollock directed fishery.
2 In the Bering Sea subarea, pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(C), no more than 28 percent of each sector's annual DFA may be taken from the SCA before noon, April 1.
3 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(4), 8.5 percent of the DFA allocated to listed catcher/processors shall be available for harvest only by AFA catcher vessels with catcher/processor sector endorsements delivering to listed catcher/processors, unless there is a C/P sector cooperative contract for the year.
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 of no more than 30 percent, in Area 542 of no more than 15 percent, and in Area 543 of no more than 5 percent of the Aleutian Islands pollock ABC.
8 Pursuant to § 679.22(a)(7)(i)(B), the Bogoslof District is closed 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.

Allocation of the Atka Mackerel TACs

Section 679.20(a)(8) allocates the Atka mackerel TACs to the Amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access sectors, after subtracting the CDQ reserves, ICAs for the BSAI trawl limited access sector and non-trawl gear sector, and the jig gear allocation (Tables 6 and 7). The percentage of the ITAC for Atka mackerel allocated to the Amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access sectors is listed in Table 33 to 50 CFR part 679 and in § 679.91. Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(8)(i), up to 2 percent of the EAI and the BS Atka mackerel ITAC may be allocated to vessels using jig gear. The percent of this allocation is recommended annually by the Council based on several criteria, including, among other criteria, the anticipated harvest capacity of the jig gear fleet. The Council recommended, and NMFS approves, a 0.5 percent allocation of the Atka mackerel ITAC in the EAI and BS to the jig gear sector in 2018 and 2019.

Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(A) apportions the Atka mackerel TAC into two equal Start Printed Page 8373seasonal allowances. Section 679.23(e)(3) sets the first seasonal allowance for directed fishing with trawl gear from January 20 through June 10 (A season), and the second seasonal allowance from June 10 through December 31 (B season). Section 679.23(e)(4)(iii) applies Atka mackerel seasons to CDQ Atka mackerel trawl fishing. The ICA and jig gear allocations are not apportioned by season.

Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(C)(1)(i) and (ii) limits Atka mackerel catch within waters 0 nm to 20 nm of Steller sea lion sites listed in Table 6 to 50 CFR part 679 and located west of 178° W longitude to no more than 60 percent of the annual TACs in Areas 542 and 543, and equally divides the annual TAC between the A and B seasons as defined at § 679.23(e)(3). Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(C)(2) requires that the annual TAC in Area 543 will be no more than 65 percent of the ABC in Area 543. Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(D) requires that any unharvested Atka mackerel A season allowance that is added to the B season be prohibited from being harvested within waters 0 nm to 20 nm of Steller sea lion sites listed in Table 6 to 50 CFR part 679 and located in Areas 541, 542, and 543.

Tables 6 and 7 list these 2018 and 2019 Atka mackerel seasonal and area allowances, and the sector allocations. One Amendment 80 cooperative has formed for the 2018 fishing year. The 2019 allocations for Atka mackerel between Amendment 80 cooperatives and the Amendment 80 limited access sector will not be known until eligible participants apply for participation in the program by November 1, 2018.

Table 6—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 2342018 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
ICATotal8007520
Jig 6Total15900
BSAI trawl limited accessTotal3,1641,8680
A1,5829340
Critical Habitatn/a5600
B1,5829340
Critical Habitatn/a5600
Amendment 80 sectorTotal28,47216,88512,056
A14,2368,4436,028
Critical Habitatn/a5,0663,617
B14,2368,4436,028
Critical Habitatn/a5,0663,617
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 50 CFR 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 Steller sea lion critical habitat; section 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(C)(1)(ii) equally divides the annual TACs between the A and B seasons as defined at § 679.23(e)(3); and section 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(C)(2) requires the TAC in Area 543 shall be no more than 65 percent of ABC in Area 543.
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 the ICA. NMFS set the amount of this allocation for 2018 at 0.5 percent. The jig gear allocation is not apportioned by season.
Note: Seasonal or sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.

Table 7—Final 2019 Seasonal and Spatial Allowances, Gear Shares, CDQ Reserve, Incidental Catch Allowance, and Amendment 80 Allocation of the BSAI ATKA Mackerel TAC

[Amounts are in metric tons]

Sector 1Season 2342019 allocation by area
Eastern Aleutian District/Bering Sea 5Central Aleutian District 5Western Aleutian District 5
TACn/a33,78024,89513,825
CDQ reserveTotal3,6142,6641,479
A1,8071,332740
Critical Habitatn/a799444
B1,8071,332740
Start Printed Page 8374
Critical Habitatn/a799444
non-CDQ TACn/a30,16622,23112,346
ICATotal8007520
Jig 6Total14700
BSAI trawl limited accessTotal2,9222,2160
A1,4611,1080
Critical Habitatn/a6650
B1,4611,1080
Critical Habitatn/a6650
Amendment 80 sectors 7Total26,29720,01612,346
A13,14810,0086,173
Critical Habitatn/a6,0053,704
B13,14810,0086,173
Critical Habitatn/a6,0053,704
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 50 CFR 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 Steller sea lion critical habitat; section 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(C)(1)(ii) equally divides the annual TACs between the A and B seasons as defined at § 679.23(e)(3); and section 679.20 (a)(8)(ii)(C)(2) requires the TAC in Area 543 shall be no more than 65 percent of ABC in Area 543.
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 the ICA. NMFS set the amount of this allocation for 2019 at 0.5 percent. The jig gear allocation is not apportioned by season.
7 The 2019 allocations for Atka mackerel between Amendment 80 cooperatives and the Amendment 80 limited access sector will not be known until eligible participants apply for participation in the program by November 1, 2018. NMFS will post 2019 Amendment 80 allocations when they become available in December 2018.
Note: Seasonal or sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.

Allocation of the Pacific Cod TAC

The Council separated Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands subarea OFLs, ABCs, and TACs for Pacific cod in 2014 (79 FR 12108, March 4, 2014). Section 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(C) allocates 10.7 percent of the Bering Sea TAC and Aleutian Islands TAC to the CDQ program. After CDQ allocations have been deducted from the respective Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Pacific cod TACs, the remaining Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Pacific cod TACs are combined for calculating further BSAI Pacific cod sector allocations. If the non-CDQ Pacific cod TAC is or will be reached in either the Bering Sea or the Aleutian Islands subareas, NMFS will prohibit non-CDQ directed fishing for Pacific cod in that subarea as provided in § 679.20(d)(1)(iii).

Section 679.20(a)(7)(i) and (ii) allocates to the non-CDQ sectors the Pacific cod TAC in the combined BSAI TAC, after subtracting 10.7 percent for the CDQ program, as follows: 1.4 percent to vessels using jig gear; 2.0 percent to hook-and-line or pot CVs less than 60 ft (18.3 m) length overall (LOA); 0.2 percent to hook-and-line CVs greater than or equal to 60 ft (18.3 m) LOA; 48.7 percent to hook-and-line C/Ps; 8.4 percent to pot CVs greater than or equal to 60 ft (18.3 m) LOA; 1.5 percent to pot C/Ps; 2.3 percent to AFA trawl C/Ps; 13.4 percent to Amendment 80 sector; and 22.1 percent to trawl CVs. 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. For 2018 and 2019, the Regional Administrator establishes an ICA of 400 mt based on anticipated incidental catch by these sectors in other fisheries.

The ITAC allocation of Pacific cod to the Amendment 80 sector is established in Table 33 to 50 CFR part 679 and § 679.91. One Amendment 80 cooperative has formed for the 2018 fishing year. The 2019 allocations for Amendment 80 species between Amendment 80 cooperatives and the Amendment 80 limited access sector will not be known until eligible participants apply for participation in the program by November 1, 2018.

The Pacific cod ITAC is apportioned into seasonal allowances to disperse the Pacific cod fisheries over the fishing year (see §§ 679.20(a)(7)(i)(B), 679.20(a)(7)(iv)(A), and 679.23(e)(5)). In accordance with § 679.20(a)(7)(iv)(B) and (C), any unused portion of a seasonal Pacific cod allowance for any sector, except the jig sector, will become available at the beginning of that sector's next seasonal allowance.

Section 679.20(a)(7)(vii) requires the Regional Administrator to establish an Area 543 Pacific cod harvest limit based on Pacific cod abundance in Area 543. Based on the 2017 stock assessment, the Regional Administrator determined the Area 543 Pacific cod harvest limit to be 25.6 percent of the Aleutian Islands Pacific cod TAC for 2018 and 2019. NMFS will first subtract the State GHL Pacific cod amount from the Aleutian Islands Pacific cod ABC. Then NMFS will determine the harvest limit in Area 543 by multiplying the percentage of Pacific cod estimated in Area 543 by the remaining ABC for Aleutian Islands Pacific cod. Based on these calculations, the Area 543 harvest limit is 4,018 mt.Start Printed Page 8375

Section 679.20(a)(7)(viii) requires specification of annual Pacific cod allocations for the Aleutian Islands non-CDQ ICA, non-CDQ DFA, CV Harvest Set-Aside, and Unrestricted Fishery, as well as the Bering Sea Trawl CV A-Season Sector Limitation. The CV Harvest Set-Aside is a portion of the AI Pacific cod TAC that is available for harvest by catcher vessels directed fishing for AI Pacific cod and delivering their catch for processing to an AI shoreside processor. The CV Harvest Set-Aside will be effective in a fishing year if certain notification and performance requirements are met. First, in accordance with § 679.20(a)(7)(viii)(D), NMFS must receive timely and complete notification of intent to process AI Pacific cod from either the City Manager of the City of Adak or the City Administrator for Atka prior to the start of that fishing year. Second, if the performance requirement in § 679.20(a)(7)(viii)(E)(4), which requires a set amount of the Aleutian Islands CV Harvest Set-Aside to be landed at Aleutian Islands shoreplants on or before February 28, 2018, is not met during that fishing year, then the Aleutian Islands CV Harvest Set-Aside is lifted and the Bering Sea Trawl CV A-Season Sector Limitation is suspended for the remainder of that fishing year.

For 2018, NMFS received prior to October 31, 2017, timely and complete notice from the City of Adak indicating an intent to process AI Pacific cod in 2018. Accordingly, the harvest limits in Table 9a will be in effect in 2018, subject to the requirements outlined in § 679.20(a)(7)(viii)(E)(4): If less than 1,000 mt of the Aleutian Islands CV Harvest Set-Aside is landed at Aleutian Islands shoreplants on or before February 28, 2018, then for the remainder of the year the Aleutian Islands CV Harvest Set-Aside is lifted and the Bering Sea Trawl CV A-Season Sector Limitation is suspended. If the entire Aleutian Islands CV Harvest Set-Aside is fully harvested and delivered to Aleutian Islands shoreplants before March 15, 2018, then the Bering Sea Trawl CV A-Season Sector Limitation will be suspended for the remainder of the fishing year.

The CDQ and non-CDQ seasonal allowances by gear based on the 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod TACs are listed in Tables 8 and 9, and are based on the sector allocation percentages and seasonal allowances for Pacific cod set forth at § 679.20(a)(7)(i)(B) and (a)(7)(iv)(A); and the seasons for Pacific cod set forth at § 679.23(e)(5).

Table 8—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 10185
Jun 10-Dec 31178
Pot catcher/processor1.5n/a2,720Jan 1-Jun 101,387
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.
Start Printed Page 8376

Table 9—Final 2019 Gear Shares and Seasonal Allowances of the BSAI Pacific Cod TAC

[Amounts are in metric tons]

Gear sectorPercent2019 share of gear sector total2019 share of sector total2019 seasonal apportionment
SeasonsAmount
BS TACn/a159,120n/an/an/a
BS CDQn/a17,026n/asee § 679.20(a)(7)(i)(B)n/a
BS non-CDQ TACn/a142,094n/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 1n/a156,110n/an/an/a
Total hook-and-line/pot gear60.894,915n/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/a94,515n/an/an/a
Hook-and-line catcher/processor48.7n/a75,705Jan 1-Jun 1038,610
Jun 10-Dec 3137,095
Hook-and-line catcher vessel ≥60 ft LOA0.2n/a311Jan 1-Jun 10159
Jun 10-Dec 31152
Pot catcher/processor1.5n/a2,332Jan 1-Jun 101,189
Sept 1-Dec 311,143
Pot catcher vessel ≥60 ft LOA8.4n/a13,058Jan 1-Jun 106,660
Sept 1-Dec 316,398
Catcher vessel <60 ft LOA using hook-and-line or pot gear2n/a3,109n/an/a
Trawl catcher vessel22.134,500n/aJan 20-Apr 125,530
Apr 1-Jun 103,795
Jun 10-Nov 15,175
AFA trawl catcher/processor2.33,591n/aJan 20-Apr 12,693
Apr 1-Jun 10898
Jun 10-Nov 10
Amendment 8013.420,919n/aJan 20-Apr 115,689
Apr 1-Jun 105,230
Jun 10-Dec 310
Jig1.42,186n/aJan 1-Apr 301,311
Apr 30-Aug 31437
Aug 31-Dec 31437
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 2019 based on anticipated incidental catch in these fisheries.
Note: Seasonal or sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.

Table 9a—2018 and 2019 BSAI A-Season Pacific Cod Allocations and Limits if the Notification and Performance Requirements in § 679.20(a)(7)(viii) Are Met

2018 and 2019 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 124,768
BS Trawl CV A-Season Sector Limitation5,000
AI CV Harvest Set-Aside 25,000
AI Unrestricted Fishery 36,516
1 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 the BS Trawl CV A-Season Sector Limitation is suspended for the remainder of the fishing year because the performance requirements pursuant to § 679.20(a)(7)(viii)(E) were not met.
2 Prior to March 15, 2018, only catcher vessels that deliver their catch of AI Pacific cod to AI shoreplants for processing may directed fish for that portion of the AI Pacific cod non-CDQ DFA that is specified as the AI CV Harvest Set-Aside, unless lifted because the performance requirements pursuant to § 679.20(a)(7)(viii)(E) were not met.
3 Prior to March 15, 2018, vessels otherwise authorized to directed fish for Pacific cod in the AI may directed fish for that portion of the AI Pacific cod non-CDQ DFA that is specified as the AI Unrestricted Fishery.
Start Printed Page 8377

Sablefish Gear Allocation

Section 679.20(a)(4)(iii) and (iv) require allocation of the sablefish TAC for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands subareas between trawl and hook-and-line or pot gear sectors. Gear allocations of the TAC for the BS are 50 percent for trawl gear and 50 percent for hook-and-line or pot gear. Gear allocations of the TAC for the AI are 25 percent for trawl gear and 75 percent for hook-and-line or pot gear. Section 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(B) requires NMFS to apportion 20 percent of the hook-and-line or pot gear allocation of sablefish to the CDQ reserve for each subarea. Also, § 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(D)(1) requires that 7.5 percent of the trawl gear allocation of sablefish from the non-specified reserves, established under § 679.20(b)(1)(i), be assigned to the CDQ reserve. The Council recommended that only trawl sablefish TAC be established biennially. The harvest specifications for the hook-and-line gear or pot gear sablefish Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) fisheries are limited to the 2018 fishing year to ensure those fisheries are conducted concurrently with the halibut IFQ fishery. Concurrent sablefish and halibut IFQ fisheries reduce the potential for discards of halibut and sablefish in those fisheries. The sablefish IFQ fisheries remain closed at the beginning of each fishing year until the final harvest specifications for the sablefish IFQ fisheries are in effect. Table 10 lists the 2018 and 2019 gear allocations of the sablefish TAC and CDQ reserve amounts.

Table 10—Final 2018 and 2019 Gear Shares and CDQ Reserve of BSAI Sablefish TACS

[Amounts are in metric tons]

Subarea and gearPercent of TAC2018 Share of TAC2018 ITAC2018 CDQ reserve2019 Share of TAC2019 ITAC2019 CDQ reserve
Bering Sea:
Trawl 150732622551,03187677
Hook-and-line/pot gear 250732586146n/an/an/a
Total1001,4641,2082011,03187677
Aleutian Islands:
Trawl 1254974223770059552
Hook-and-line/pot gear 2751,4911,193298n/an/an/a
Total1001,9881,61533570059552
1 Except for the sablefish hook-and-line and pot gear allocation, 15 percent of TAC is apportioned to the non-specific reserve (§ 679.20(b)(1)(i)). The ITAC is the remainder of the TAC after the subtracting these reserves.
2 For the portion of the sablefish TAC allocated to vessels using hook-and-line or pot gear, 20 percent of the allocated TAC is reserved for use by CDQ participants (§ 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(B)). The Council recommended that specifications for the hook-and-line gear sablefish IFQ fisheries be limited to one year.
Note: Sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.

Allocation of the Aleutian Islands Pacific Ocean Perch, and BSAI Flathead Sole, Rock Sole, and Yellowfin Sole TACs

Section 679.20(a)(10)(i) and (ii) require that NMFS allocate Aleutian Islands Pacific ocean perch, and BSAI flathead sole, rock sole, and yellowfin sole ITAC between the Amendment 80 sector and the BSAI trawl limited access sector, after subtracting 10.7 percent for the CDQ reserve and an ICA for the BSAI trawl limited access sector and vessels using non-trawl gear. The allocation of the ITAC for Aleutian Islands Pacific ocean perch, and BSAI flathead sole, rock sole, and yellowfin sole to the Amendment 80 sector is established in accordance with Tables 33 and 34 to 50 CFR part 679 and § 679.91.

One Amendment 80 cooperative has formed for the 2018 fishing year. The 2019 allocations for Amendment 80 species between Amendment 80 cooperatives and the Amendment 80 limited access sector will not be known until eligible participants apply for participation in the program by November 1, 2018. Tables 11 and 12 list the 2018 and 2019 allocations of the Aleutian Islands Pacific ocean perch, and BSAI flathead sole, rock sole, and yellowfin sole TACs.

Table 11—Final 2018 Community Development Quota (CDQ) Reserves, Incidental Catch Amounts (ICAS), and Amendment 80 Allocations of the Aleutian Islands Pacific Ocean Perch, and BSAI Flathead Sole, Rock Sole, and Yellowfin Sole TACS

[Amounts are in metric tons]

SectorPacific ocean perchFlathead soleRock soleYellowfin sole
Eastern Aleutian DistrictCentral Aleutian DistrictWestern Aleutian DistrictBSAIBSAIBSAI
TAC9,0007,5009,00014,50047,100154,000
CDQ9638039631,5525,04016,478
ICA100120104,0006,0004,000
BSAI trawl limited access7946581610018,351
Amendment 807,1435,9207,8668,94936,060115,171
Note: Sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.
Start Printed Page 8378

Table 12—Final 2019 Community Development Quota (CDQ) Reserves, Incidental Catch Amounts (ICAS), and Amendment 80 Allocations of the Aleutian Islands Pacific Ocean Perch, and BSAI Flathead Sole, Rock Sole, and Yellowfin Sole TACS

[Amounts are in metric tons]

SectorPacific ocean perchFlathead soleRock soleYellowfin sole
Eastern Aleutian DistrictCentral Aleutian DistrictWestern Aleutian DistrictBSAIBSAIBSAI
TAC9,7157,5499,11716,50049,100156,000
CDQ1,0408089761,7665,25416,692
ICA100120104,0006,0004,000
BSAI trawl limited access8586621630019,065
Amendment 8017,7185,9597,96910,73537,846116,243
1 The 2019 allocations for Amendment 80 species between Amendment 80 cooperatives and the Amendment 80 limited access sector will not be known until eligible participants apply for participation in the program by November 1, 2018. NMFS will publish 2019 Amendment 80 allocations when they become available in December 2018.
Note: Sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.

Section 679.2 defines the ABC surplus for flathead sole, rock sole, and yellowfin sole as the difference between the annual ABC and TAC for each species. Section 679.20(b)(1)(iii) establishes ABC reserves for flathead sole, rock sole, and yellowfin sole. The ABC surpluses and the ABC reserves are necessary to mitigate the operational variability, environmental conditions, and economic factors that may constrain the CDQ groups and the Amendment 80 cooperatives from achieving, on a continuing basis, the optimum yield in the BSAI groundfish fisheries. NMFS, after consultation with the Council, may set the ABC reserve at or below the ABC surplus for each species thus maintaining the TAC below ABC limits. An amount equal to 10.7 percent of the ABC reserves will be allocated as CDQ ABC reserves for flathead sole, rock sole, and yellowfin sole. Section 679.31(b)(4) establishes the annual allocations of CDQ ABC reserves among the CDQ groups. The Amendment 80 ABC reserves shall be the ABC reserves minus the CDQ ABC reserves. Section 679.91(i)(2) establishes each Amendment 80 cooperative ABC reserve to be the ratio of each cooperatives' quota share units and the total Amendment 80 quota share units, multiplied by the Amendment 80 ABC reserve for each respective species. Table 13 lists the 2018 and 2019 ABC surplus and ABC reserves for BSAI flathead sole, rock sole, and yellowfin sole.

Table 13—Final 2018 and 2019 ABC Surplus, ABC Reserves, Community Development Quota (CDQ) ABC Reserves, and Amendment 80 ABC Reserves in the BSAI for Flathead Sole, Rock sole, and Yellowfin Sole

[Amounts are in metric tons]

Sector2018 flathead sole2018 rock sole2018 yellowfin sole2019 1 flathead sole2019 1 rock sole2019 1 yellowfin sole
ABC66,773143,100277,50065,227132,000267,500
TAC14,50047,100154,00016,50049,100156,000
ABC surplus52,27396,000123,50048,72782,900111,500
ABC reserve52,27396,000123,50048,72782,900111,500
CDQ ABC reserve5,59310,27213,2155,2148,87011,931
Amendment 80 ABC reserve46,68085,728110,28643,51374,03099,570
1 The 2019 allocations for Amendment 80 species between Amendment 80 cooperatives and the Amendment 80 limited access sector will not be known until eligible participants apply for participation in the program by November 1, 2018.

PSC Limits for Halibut, Salmon, Crab, and Herring

Section 679.21(b), (e), (f), and (g) sets forth the BSAI PSC limits. Pursuant to § 679.21(b)(1), the annual BSAI halibut PSC limits total 3,515 mt. Section 679.21(b)(1) allocates 315 mt of the halibut PSC limit as the PSQ reserve for use by the groundfish CDQ program, 1,745 mt of the halibut PSC limit for the Amendment 80 sector, 745 mt of the halibut PSC limit for the BSAI trawl limited access sector, and 710 mt of the halibut PSC limit for the BSAI non-trawl sector.

Section 679.21(b)(1)(iii)(A) and (B) authorize apportionment of the BSAI non-trawl halibut PSC limit into PSC allowances among six fishery categories, and § 679.21(b)(1)(ii)(A) and (B), (e)(3)(i)(B), and (e)(3)(iv) require apportionment of the BSAI trawl limited access halibut and crab PSC limits into PSC allowances among seven fishery categories. Tables 15 and 16 list the fishery PSC allowances for the trawl fisheries, and Table 17 lists the fishery PSC allowances for the non-trawl fisheries.

Pursuant to Section 3.6 of the FMP, the Council recommends, and NMFS agrees, that certain specified non-trawl fisheries be exempt from the halibut PSC limit. As in past years, after consultation with the Council, NMFS exempts pot gear, jig gear, and the sablefish IFQ hook-and-line gear fishery categories from halibut bycatch restrictions for the following reasons: (1) The pot gear fisheries have low halibut bycatch mortality; (2) NMFS estimates halibut mortality for the jig gear fleet to be negligible because of the small size of the fishery and the selectivity of the gear; and (3) the sablefish and halibut IFQ fisheries have low halibut bycatch mortality because the IFQ program requires legal-size halibut to be retained by vessels using hook-and-line gear if a halibut IFQ permit holder or a hired master is aboard and is holding unused Start Printed Page 8379halibut IFQ for that vessel category and the IFQ regulatory area in which the vessel is operating (§ 679.7(f)(11)).

The 2017 total groundfish catch for the pot gear fishery in the BSAI was 46,868 mt, with an associated halibut bycatch mortality of 17 mt. The 2017 jig gear fishery harvested about 13 mt of groundfish. Most vessels in the jig gear fleet are exempt from observer coverage requirements. As a result, observer data are not available on halibut bycatch in the jig gear fishery. However, as mentioned above, NMFS estimates a negligible amount of halibut bycatch mortality because of the selective nature of jig gear and the low mortality rate of halibut caught with jig gear and released.

Under § 679.21(f)(2), NMFS annually allocates portions of either 33,318, 45,000, 47,591, or 60,000 Chinook salmon PSC limits among the AFA sectors, depending on past bycatch performance, on whether Chinook salmon bycatch incentive plan agreements (IPAs) are formed, and on whether NMFS determines it is a low Chinook salmon abundance year. NMFS will determine that it is a low Chinook salmon abundance year when abundance of Chinook salmon in western Alaska is less than or equal to 250,000 Chinook salmon. The State of Alaska provides to NMFS an estimate of Chinook salmon abundance using the 3-System Index for western Alaska based on the Kuskokwim, Unalakleet, and Upper Yukon aggregate stock grouping.

If an AFA sector participates in an approved IPA and has not exceeded its performance standard under § 679.21(f)(6) and if it is not a low Chinook salmon abundance year, then NMFS will allocate a portion of the 60,000 Chinook salmon PSC limit to that sector as specified in § 679.21(f)(3)(iii)(A). If no IPA is approved, or if the sector has exceeded its performance standard under § 679.21(f)(6), and it is not a low abundance year, NMFS will allocate a portion of the 47,591 Chinook salmon PSC limit to that sector as specified in § 679.21(f)(3)(iii)(C). If an AFA sector participates in an approved IPA and has not exceeded its performance standard under § 679.21(f)(6) in a low abundance year, then NMFS will allocate a portion of the 45,000 Chinook salmon PSC limit to that sector as specified in § 679.21(f)(3)(iii)(B). If no IPA is approved, or if the sector has exceeded its performance standard under § 679.21(f)(6), in a low abundance year, NMFS will allocate a portion of the 33,318 Chinook salmon PSC limit to that sector as specified in § 679.21(f)(3)(iii)(D).

NMFS has determined that 2017 was not a low Chinook salmon abundance year based on the State of Alaska's estimate that Chinook salmon abundance in western Alaska is greater than 250,000 Chinook salmon. Therefore, in 2018, the Chinook salmon PSC limit is 60,000 and is allocated to each AFA sector as specified in § 679.21(f)(3)(iii)(A). The AFA sector Chinook salmon PSC limit allocations are seasonally apportioned with 70 percent of the allocation for the A season pollock fishery, and 30 percent of the allocation for the B season pollock fishery (§§ 679.21(f)(3)(i) and 679.23(e)(2)). Additionally, in 2018, the Chinook salmon bycatch performance standard under § 679.21(f)(6) is 47,591 Chinook salmon, allocated to each sector as specified in § 679.21(f)(3)(iii)(C).

The basis for these PSC limits is described in detail in the final rules implementing management measures for Amendment 91 (75 FR 53026, August 30, 2010) and Amendment 110 (81 FR 37534, June 10, 2016). NMFS publishes the approved IPAs, allocations, and reports at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/​sustainablefisheries/​bycatch/​default.htm.

Section 679.21(g)(2)(i) specifies 700 fish as the 2018 and 2019 Chinook salmon PSC limit for the AI pollock fishery. Section 679.21(g)(2)(ii) allocates 7.5 percent, or 53 Chinook salmon, as the AI PSQ reserve for the CDQ program, and allocates the remaining 647 Chinook salmon to the non-CDQ fisheries.

Section 679.21(f)(14)(i) specifies 42,000 fish as the 2018 and 2019 non-Chinook salmon PSC limit for vessels using trawl gear from August 15 through October 14 in the Catcher Vessel Operational Area (CVOA). Section 679.21(f)(14)(ii) allocates 10.7 percent, or 4,494 non-Chinook salmon, in the CVOA as the PSQ reserve for the CDQ program, and allocates the remaining 37,506 non-Chinook salmon in the CVOA as the PSC limit for the non-CDQ fisheries.

PSC limits for crab and herring are specified annually based on abundance and spawning biomass. Section 679.21(e)(3)(i)(A)(1) allocates 10.7 percent from each trawl gear PSC limit specified for crab as a PSQ reserve for use by the groundfish CDQ program.

Based on the 2017 survey data, the red king crab mature female abundance is estimated at 18.5 million mature red king crabs, and the effective spawning biomass is estimated at 39.8 million lbs (18,042 mt). Based on the criteria set out at § 679.21(e)(1)(i), the 2018 and 2019 PSC limit of red king crab in Zone 1 for trawl gear is 97,000 animals. This limit derives from the mature female abundance estimate of more than 8.4 million mature king crab and the effective spawning biomass estimate of more than 14.5 million lbs (6,477 mt) but less than 55 million lbs (24,948 mt).

Section 679.21(e)(3)(ii)(B)(2) establishes criteria under which NMFS must specify an annual red king crab bycatch limit for the Red King Crab Savings Subarea (RKCSS). The regulations limit the RKCSS red king crab bycatch limit to 25 percent of the red king crab PSC limit, based on the need to optimize the groundfish harvest relative to red king crab bycatch. In December 2017, the Council recommended and NMFS concurs that the red king crab bycatch limit be equal to 25 percent of the red king crab PSC limit within the RKCSS (Table 15).

Based on 2017 survey data, Tanner crab (Chionoecetes bairdi) abundance is estimated at 344 million animals. Pursuant to criteria set out at § 679.21(e)(1)(ii), the calculated 2018 and 2019 C. bairdi crab PSC limit for trawl gear is 830,000 animals in Zone 1, and 2,520,000 animals in Zone 2. The limit in Zone 1 is based on the abundance of C. bairdi estimated at 344 million animals, which is greater than 270 million animals and less than 400 million animals. The limit in Zone 2 is based on the abundance of C. bairdi estimated at 344 million animals, which is greater than 290 million animals and less than 400 million animals.

Pursuant to § 679.21(e)(1)(iii), the PSC limit for snow crab (C. opilio) is based on total abundance as indicated by the NMFS annual bottom trawl survey. The C. opilio crab PSC limit is set at 0.1133 percent of the Bering Sea abundance index minus 150,000 crab. Based on the 2017 survey estimate of 8.182 billion animals, which is above the minimum PSC limit of 4.5 million and below the maximum PSC limit of 13 million animals, the calculated C. opilio crab PSC limit is 9,120,539 animals.

Pursuant to § 679.21(e)(1)(v), the PSC limit of Pacific herring caught while conducting any trawl operation for BSAI groundfish is 1 percent of the annual eastern Bering Sea herring biomass. The best estimate of 2018 and 2019 herring biomass is 183,017 mt. This amount was developed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game based on biomass for spawning aggregations. Therefore, the herring PSC limit for 2018 and 2019 is 1,830 mt for all trawl gear as listed in Tables 14 and 15.

Section 679.21(e)(3)(i)(A) requires crab PSQ reserves to be subtracted from the total trawl gear crab PSC limits. The 2018 crab and halibut PSC limits Start Printed Page 8380assigned to the Amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access sectors are specified in Table 35 to 50 CFR part 679. The resulting allocations of PSC limit to CDQ PSQ reserves, the Amendment 80 sector, and the BSAI trawl limited access sector are listed in Table 14. Pursuant to §§ 679.21(b)(1)(i), 679.21(e)(3)(vi), and 679.91(d) through (f), crab and halibut trawl PSC limits assigned to the Amendment 80 sector are then further allocated to Amendment 80 cooperatives as cooperative quota. Crab and halibut PSC cooperative quota assigned to Amendment 80 cooperatives is not allocated to specific fishery categories. In 2018, there are no vessels in the Amendment 80 limited access sector and one Amendment 80 cooperative. The 2019 PSC allocations between Amendment 80 cooperatives and the Amendment 80 limited access sector will not be known until eligible participants apply for participation in the program by November 1, 2018. Section 679.21(e)(3)(i)(B) requires NMFS to apportion each trawl PSC limit for crab and herring not assigned to Amendment 80 cooperatives into PSC bycatch allowances for seven specified fishery categories in § 679.21(e)(3)(iv).

Section 679.21(b)(2) and (e)(5) authorizes NMFS, after consulting with the Council, to establish seasonal apportionments of PSC amounts for the BSAI trawl limited access and non-trawl sectors in order to maximize the ability of the fleet to harvest the available groundfish TAC and to minimize bycatch. The factors to be considered are (1) seasonal distribution of prohibited species, (2) seasonal distribution of target groundfish species relative to prohibited species distribution, (3) PSC bycatch needs on a seasonal basis relevant to prohibited species biomass and expected catches of target groundfish species, (4) expected variations in bycatch rates throughout the year, (5) expected changes in directed groundfish fishing seasons, (6) expected start of fishing effort, and (7) economic effects of establishing seasonal prohibited species apportionments on segments of the target groundfish industry. The Council recommended and NMFS approves the seasonal PSC apportionments in Tables 16 and 17 to maximize harvest among gear types, fisheries, and seasons while minimizing bycatch of PSC based on the above criteria.

Table 14—Final 2018 and 2019 Apportionment of Prohibited Species Catch Allowances to Non-Trawl Gear, the CDQ Program, Amendment 80, and the BSAI Trawl Limited Access Sectors

PSC species and area 1Total PSCNon-trawl PSCCDQ PSQ reserve 2Trawl PSC remaining after CDQ PSQAmendment 80 sector 3BSAI trawl limited access fishery
Halibut mortality (mt) BSAI3,515710315n/a1,745745
Herring (mt) BSAI1,830n/an/an/an/an/a
Red king crab (animals) Zone 197,000n/a10,37986,62143,29326,489
C. opilio (animals) COBLZ9,120,539n/a975,8988,144,6414,003,0912,617,688
C. bairdi crab (animals) Zone 1830,000n/a88,810741,190312,115348,285
C. bairdi crab (animals) Zone 22,520,000n/a269,6402,250,360532,6601,053,394
1 Refer to § 679.2 for definitions of zones.
2 The PSQ reserve for crab species is 10.7 percent of each crab PSC limit.
3 The Amendment 80 program reduced apportionment of the trawl PSC limits for crab below the total PSC limit. These reductions are not apportioned to other gear types or sectors.

Table 15—Final 2018 and 2019 Herring and Red King Crab Savings Subarea Prohibited Species Catch Allowances for All Trawl Sectors

Fishery CategoriesHerring (mt) BSAIRed king crab (animals) Zone 1
Yellowfin sole80n/a
Rock sole/flathead sole/other flatfish 139n/a
Greenland turbot/arrowtooth flounder/Kamchatka flounder/sablefish5n/a
Rockfish5n/a
Pacific cod9n/a
Midwater trawl pollock1,662n/a
Pollock/Atka mackerel/other species 2330n/a
Red king crab savings subarea non-pelagic trawl gear 4n/a24,250
Total trawl PSC1,83097,000
1 “Other flatfish” for PSC monitoring includes all flatfish species, except for halibut (a prohibited species), arrowtooth flounder, flathead sole, Greenland turbot, Kamchatka flounder, rock sole, and yellowfin sole.
2 Pollock other than pelagic trawl pollock, Atka mackerel, and “other species” fishery category.
3 “Other species” for PSC monitoring includes skates, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses.
4 In December 2017, the Council recommended and NMFS concurs that the red king crab bycatch limit for non-pelagic trawl fisheries within the RKCSS be limited to 25 percent of the red king crab PSC allowance (see § 679.21(e)(3)(ii)(B)(2)).
Note: Species apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.
Start Printed Page 8381

Table 16—Final 2018 and 2018 Prohibited Species Bycatch Allowances for the

BSAI Trawl Limited Access Sector

BSAI trawl limited access fisheriesProhibited species and area 1
Halibut mortality (mt) BSAIRed king crab (animals) Zone 1C. opilio (animals) COBLZC. bairdi (animals)
Zone 1Zone 2
Yellowfin sole15023,3382,467,662293,2341,005,879
Rock sole/flathead sole/other flatfish 200000
Greenland turbot/arrowtooth flounder/Kamchatka flounder/sablefish00000
Rockfish April 15—December 31404,0760849
Pacific cod3912,954105,18250,81642,424
Pollock/Atka mackerel/other species 320019740,7684,2354,243
Total BSAI trawl limited access PSC74526,4892,617,688348,2851,053,395
1 Refer to § 679.2 for definitions of areas.
2 “Other flatfish” for PSC monitoring includes all flatfish species, except for halibut (a prohibited species), flathead sole, Greenland turbot, rock sole, yellowfin sole, Kamchatka flounder, and arrowtooth flounder.
3 “Other species” for PSC monitoring includes skates, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses.
Note: Seasonal or sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.

Table 17—Final 2018 and 2019 Halibut Prohibited Species Bycatch Allowances for Non-Trawl Fisheries

Halibut mortality (mt) BSAI
Non-trawl fisheriesSeasonsCatcher/ processorCatcher vesselAll non-trawl
Pacific codTotal Pacific cod64813661.
January 1-June 103889n/a.
June 10-August 151622n/a.
August 15-December 31982n/a.
Non-Pacific cod non-trawl—TotalMay 1-December 31n/an/a49.
Groundfish pot and jign/an/an/aExempt.
Sablefish hook-and-linen/an/an/aExempt.
Total for all non-trawl PSCn/an/an/a710.
Note: Seasonal or sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.

Estimates of Halibut Biomass and Stock Condition

The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) annually assesses the abundance and potential yield of the Pacific halibut stock using all available data from the commercial and sport fisheries, other removals, and scientific surveys. Additional information on the Pacific halibut stock assessment may be found in the IPHC's 2017 Pacific halibut stock assessment (December 2017), available on the IPHC website at www.iphc.int. The IPHC considered the 2017 Pacific halibut stock assessment at its January 2018 annual meeting when it set the 2018 commercial halibut fishery catch limits.

Halibut Discard Mortality Rates

To monitor halibut bycatch mortality allowances and apportionments, the Regional Administrator uses observed halibut incidental catch rates, halibut discard mortality rates (DMRs), and estimates of groundfish catch to project when a fishery's halibut bycatch mortality allowance or seasonal apportionment is reached. Halibut incidental catch rates are based on observers' estimates of halibut incidental catch in the groundfish fishery. DMRs are estimates of the proportion of incidentally caught halibut that do not survive after being returned to the sea. The cumulative halibut mortality that accrues to a particular halibut PSC limit is the product of a DMR multiplied by the estimated halibut PSC. DMRs are estimated using the best scientific information available in conjunction with the annual BSAI stock assessment process. The DMR methodology and findings are included as an appendix to the annual BSAI groundfish SAFE report.

In 2016, the DMR estimation methodology underwent revisions per the Council's directive. An interagency halibut working group (IPHC, Council, and NMFS staff) developed improved estimation methods that have undergone review by the Plan Team, SSC, and the Council. A summary of the revised methodology is included in the BSAI proposed 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications (81 FR 87863, December 6, 2016), and the comprehensive discussion of the working group's statistical methodology is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). The DMR working group's revised methodology is intended to improve estimation accuracy as well as transparency and transferability in the methodology used for calculating DMRs. The working group will continue to consider improvements to the methodology used to calculate halibut mortality, including potential changes to the reference period (the period of data used for calculating the DMRs). Future DMRs, including the 2019 DMRs, may change based on an additional year of observer sampling that could provide more recent and accurate data and could improve the accuracy of estimation and progress on methodology. The new methodology will continue to ensure that NMFS is using DMRs that more accurately reflect halibut mortality, which will inform the different sectors of their estimated halibut mortality and Start Printed Page 8382allow specific sectors to respond with methods that could reduce mortality and, eventually, the DMR for that sector.

At the December 2017 meeting, the SSC, AP, and Council reviewed and concurred in the revised DMRs. For 2018 and 2019, the Council recommended and NMFS adopts the halibut DMRs derived from this revised process. The final 2018 and 2019 DMRs are unchanged from the DMRs proposed in the 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications (82 FR 57906, December 8, 2017). Table 18 lists the final 2018 and 2019 DMRs.

Table 18—2018 and 2019 Pacific Halibut Discard Mortality Rates for the BSAI

GearSectorHalibut discard mortality rate (percent)
Pelagic trawlAll100
Non-pelagic trawlMothership and catcher/processor84
Non-pelagic trawlCatcher vessel60
Hook-and-lineCatcher/processor8
Hook-and-lineCatcher vessel17
PotAll9

Directed Fishing Closures

In accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(i), the Regional Administrator may establish a DFA for a species or species group if the Regional Administrator determines that any allocation or apportionment of a target species has been or will be reached. If the Regional Administrator establishes a DFA, and that allowance is or will be reached before the end of the fishing year, NMFS will prohibit directed fishing for that species or species group in the specified subarea, regulatory area, or district (see § 679.20(d)(1)(iii)). Similarly, pursuant to § 679.21(b)(4) and (e)(7), if the Regional Administrator determines that a fishery category's bycatch allowance of halibut, red king crab, C. bairdi crab, or C. opilio crab for a specified area has been reached, the Regional Administrator will prohibit directed fishing for each species or species group in that fishery category in the area specified by regulation for the remainder of the fishing year.

Based on historic catch patterns and anticipated fishing activity, the Regional Administrator has determined that the groundfish allocation amounts in Table 19 will be necessary as incidental catch to support other anticipated groundfish fisheries for the 2018 and 2019 fishing years. Consequently, in accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(i), the Regional Administrator establishes the DFA for the species and species groups in Table 19 as zero mt. Therefore, in accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(iii), NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for these sectors and species or species groups in the specified areas effective at 1200 hrs, A.l.t., February 27, 2018, through 2400 hrs, A.l.t., December 31, 2019. Also, for the BSAI trawl limited access sector, bycatch allowances of halibut, red king crab, C. bairdi crab, and C. opilio crab listed in Table 19 are insufficient to support directed fisheries. Therefore, in accordance with § 679.21(b)(4)(i) and (e)(7), NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for these sectors, species, and fishery categories in the specified areas effective at 1200 hrs, A.l.t., February 27, 2018, through 2400 hrs, A.l.t., December 31, 2019.

Table 19—2018 and 2018 Directed Fishing Closures 1

[Groundfish and halibut amounts are in metric tons. Crab amounts are in number of animals.]

AreaSectorSpecies2018 incidental catch allowance2019 incidental catch allowance
Bogoslof DistrictAllPollock450500
Aleutian Islands subareaAllICA pollock2,4002,400
“Other rockfish” 2570570
Eastern Aleutian District/Bering SeaNon-amendment 80, CDQ, and BSAI trawl limited accessICA Atka mackerel800800
Eastern Aleutian District/Bering SeaAllBlackspotted/Rougheye rockfish7575
Eastern Aleutian DistrictNon-amendment 80, CDQ, and BSAI trawl limited accessICA Pacific ocean perch100100
Central Aleutian DistrictNon-amendment 80, CDQ, and BSAI trawl limited accessICA Atka mackerel7575
ICA Pacific ocean perch6060
Western Aleutian DistrictNon-amendment 80, CDQ, and BSAI trawl limited accessICA Atka mackerel2020
ICA Pacific ocean perch1010
Western and Central Aleutian DistrictsAllBlackspotted/Rougheye rockfish150150
Bering Sea subareaAllPacific ocean perch10,0829,774
“Other rockfish” 2275275
ICA pollock47,88848,543
Bering Sea and Aleutian IslandsAllNorthern rockfish5,1855,525
Shortraker rockfish150150
Skates22,95022,950
Sculpins4,2504,250
Sharks180180
Start Printed Page 8383
Squids1,0201,020
Octopuses250200
Hook-and-line and pot gearICA Pacific cod400400
Non-amendment 80 and CDQICA flathead sole4,0004,000
ICA rock sole6,0006,000
Non-amendment 80, CDQ, and BSAI trawl limited accessICA yellowfin sole4,0004,000
BSAI trawl limited accessRock sole/flathead sole/other flatfish—halibut mortality, red king crab Zone 1, C. opilio COBLZ, C. bairdi Zone 1 and 200
Turbot/arrowtooth/sablefish—halibut mortality, red king crab Zone 1, C. opilio COBLZ, C. bairdi Zone 1 and 200
Rockfish—red king crab Zone 100
1 Maximum retainable amounts may be found in Table 11 to 50 CFR part 679.
2 “Other rockfish” includes all Sebastes and Sebastolobus species except for Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, shortraker rockfish, and blackspotted/rougheye rockfish.

Closures implemented under the final 2017 and 2018 BSAI harvest specifications for groundfish (82 FR 11826, February 27, 2017) remain effective under authority of these final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications and until the date specified in those notices. Closures are posted at the following websites: http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/​cm/​info_​bulletins/​ and http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/​fisheries_​reports/​reports/​. While these closures are in effect, the maximum retainable amounts at § 679.20(e) and (f) apply at any time during a fishing trip. These closures to directed fishing are in addition to closures and prohibitions found at 50 CFR part 679.

Listed AFA Catcher/Processor Sideboard Limits

Pursuant to § 679.64(a), the Regional Administrator is responsible for restricting the ability of listed AFA C/Ps to engage in directed fishing for groundfish species other than pollock to protect participants in other groundfish fisheries from adverse effects resulting from the AFA and from fishery cooperatives in the pollock directed fishery. These restrictions are set out as sideboard limits on catch. The basis for these sideboard limits is described in detail in the final rules implementing the major provisions of the AFA (67 FR 79692, December 30, 2002) and Amendment 80 (72 FR 52668, September 14, 2007). Table 20 lists the 2018 and 2019 AFA C/P groundfish sideboard limits. Section 679.64(a)(1)(v) exempts AFA catcher/processors from a yellowfin sole sideboard limit because the 2018 and 2019 aggregate ITAC of yellowfin sole assigned to the Amendment 80 sector and BSAI trawl limited access sector is greater than 125,000 mt.

All harvest of groundfish sideboard species by listed AFA C/Ps, whether as targeted catch or incidental catch, will be deducted from the sideboard limits in Table 20. However, groundfish sideboard species that are delivered to listed AFA C/Ps by CVs will not be deducted from the 2018 and 2019 sideboard limits for the listed AFA C/Ps.

Table 20—Final 2018 and 2019 Listed BSAI American Fisheries Act Catcher/Processor Groundfish Sideboard Limits

[Amounts are in metric tons]

Target speciesArea/season1995-19972018 ITAC available to trawl C/Ps 12018 AFA C/P sideboard limit2019 ITAC available to trawl C/Ps* 12019 AFA C/P sideboard limit
Retained catchTotal catchRatio of retained catch to total catch
Sablefish trawlBS84970.0166221087614
AI0145042205950
Atka mackerelCentral AI A season 2n/an/a0.1159,3771,07811,1161,278
Central AI B season 2n/an/a0.1159,3771,07811,1161,278
Western AI A season 2n/an/a0.26,0281,2066,1731,235
Western AI B season 2n/an/a0.26,0281,2066,1731,235
Rock soleBSAI6,317169,3620.03742,0601,55643,8461,622
Greenland turbotBS12117,3050.0074,356304,35630
AI234,9870.00514411441
Arrowtooth flounderBSAI7633,9870.00211,5782311,90024
Kamchatka flounderBSAI7633,9870.0024,25094,2509
Flathead soleBSAI1,92552,7550.03612,94946614,735530
Alaska plaiceBSAI149,4380.00113,6851413,81414
Start Printed Page 8384
Other flatfishBSAI3,05852,2980.0583,4001973,400197
Pacific ocean perchBS124,8790.00210,082209,77420
Eastern AI1256,1790.028,0371618,675174
Central AI35,6980.0016,69876,7417
Western AI5413,5980.0048,037328,14133
Northern rockfishBSAI9113,0400.0075,185365,52539
Shortraker rockfishBSAI502,8110.01815031503
Blackspotted/Rougheye rockfishBS/EAI502,8110.018751751
CAI/WAI502,8110.01815031503
Other rockfishBS186210.02927582758
AI228060.0275701557015
SkatesBSAI55368,6720.00822,95018422,950184
SculpinsBSAI55368,6720.0084,250344,25034
SharksBSAI55368,6720.00818011801
SquidsBSAI733,3280.0221,020221,02022
OctopusesBSAI55368,6720.00825022002
1 Aleutian Islands Pacific ocean perch, and BSAI Atka mackerel, flathead sole, and rock sole are multiplied by the remainder of the TAC for each species after the subtraction of the CDQ reserve under § 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(C).
2 The seasonal apportionment of Atka mackerel in the open access fishery is 50 percent in the A season and 50 percent in the B season. Listed AFA catcher/processors are limited to harvesting no more than zero in the Eastern Aleutian District and Bering Sea subarea, 20 percent of the annual ITAC specified for the Western Aleutian District, and 11.5 percent of the annual ITAC specified for the Central Aleutian District.

Section 679.64(a)(2) and Tables 40 and 41 of 50 CFR part 679 establish a formula for calculating PSC sideboard limits for halibut and crab caught by listed AFA C/Ps. The basis for these sideboard limits is described in detail in the final rules implementing the major provisions of the AFA (67 FR 79692, December 30, 2002) and Amendment 80 (72 FR 52668, September 14, 2007).

PSC species listed in Table 21 that are caught by listed AFA C/Ps participating in any groundfish fishery other than pollock will accrue against the 2018 and 2019 PSC sideboard limits for the listed AFA C/Ps. Section 679.21(b)(4)(iii), (e)(3)(v), and (e)(7) authorizes NMFS to close directed fishing for groundfish other than pollock for listed AFA C/Ps once a 2018 or 2019 PSC sideboard limit listed in Table 21 is reached.

Pursuant to § 679.21(b)(1)(ii)(C) and (e)(3)(ii)(C), halibut or crab PSC caught by listed AFA C/Ps while fishing for pollock will accrue against the bycatch allowances annually specified for the pollock/Atka mackerel/“other species” fishery categories under § 679.21(b)(1)(ii)(B) and (e)(3)(iv).

Table 21—Final 2018 and 2019 BSAI AFA Listed Catcher/Processor Prohibited Species Catch Sideboard Limits

PSC species and area 1Ratio of PSC catch to total PSC2018 and 2019 PSC available to trawl vessels after subtraction of PSQ 22018 and 2019 AFA catcher/ processor sideboard limit 2
Halibut mortality BSAIn/an/a286
Red king crab zone 10.00786,621606
C. opilio (COBLZ)0.1538,144,6411,246,130
C. bairdi Zone 10.140741,190103,767
C. bairdi Zone 20.0502,250,360112,518
1 Refer to § 679.2 for definitions of areas.
2 Halibut amounts are in metric tons of halibut mortality. Crab amounts are in numbers of animals.

AFA Catcher Vessel Sideboard Limits

Pursuant to § 679.64(b), the Regional Administrator is responsible for restricting the ability of AFA CVs to engage in directed fishing for groundfish species other than pollock to protect participants in other groundfish fisheries from adverse effects resulting from the AFA and from fishery cooperatives in the pollock directed fishery. Section 679.64(b)(3) and (4) establishes a formula for setting AFA CV groundfish and halibut and crab PSC sideboard limits for the BSAI. The basis for these sideboard limits is described in detail in the final rules implementing the major provisions of the AFA (67 FR 79692, December 30, 2002) and Amendment 80 (72 FR 52668, September 14, 2007). Section 679.64(b)(6) exempts AFA CVs from a yellowfin sole sideboard limit because the 2018 and 2019 aggregate ITAC of yellowfin sole assigned to the Amendment 80 sector and BSAI trawl limited access sector is greater than 125,000 mt. Tables 22 and 23 list the 2018 and 2019 AFA CV sideboard limits.

All catch of groundfish sideboard species made by non-exempt AFA CVs, whether as targeted catch or incidental catch, will be deducted from the 2018 Start Printed Page 8385and 2019 sideboard limits listed in Table 22.

Halibut and crab PSC limits listed in Table 23 that are caught by AFA CVs participating in any groundfish fishery for groundfish other than pollock will accrue against the 2018 and 2019 PSC sideboard limits for the AFA CVs. Section 679.21(b)(4)(iii), (e)(3)(v), and (e)(7) authorizes NMFS to close directed fishing for groundfish other than pollock for AFA CVs once a 2018 or 2019 PSC sideboard limit listed in Table 23 is reached. Pursuant to § 679.21(b)(1)(ii)(C) and (e)(3)(ii)(C), the PSC that is caught by AFA CVs while fishing for pollock in the BSAI will accrue against the bycatch allowances annually specified for the pollock/Atka mackerel/“other species” fishery categories under § 679.21(b)(1)(ii)(B) and (e)(3)(iv).

Table 22—Final 2018 and 2019 American Fisheries Act Catcher Vessel BSAI Groundfish Sideboard Limits

[Amounts are in metric tons]

Species/gearFishery by area/seasonRatio of 1995-1997 AFA CV catch to 1995-1997 TAC2018 initial TAC 12018 AFA catcher vessel sideboard limits2019 initial TAC 12019 AFA catcher vessel sideboard limits
Pacific cod/Hook-and-line CV ≥60 feet LOABSAI Jan 1-Jun 100.000618501590
BSAI Jun 10-Dec 310.000617801520
Pacific cod pot gear CVBSAI Jan 1-Jun 100.00067,77056,6604
BSAI Sept 1-Dec 310.00067,46546,3984
Pacific cod CV ≤60 feet LOA using hook-and-line or pot gearBSAI0.00063,62723,1092
Pacific cod trawl gear CVBSAI Jan 20-Apr 10.860929,76825,62725,53021,979
BSAI Apr 1-Jun 100.86094,4253,8093,7953,267
BSAI Jun 10-Nov 10.86096,0345,1955,1754,455
Sablefish trawl gearBS0.09066225687679
AI0.06454222759538
Atka mackerelEastern AI/BS Jan 1-Jun 100.003216,2985215,08348
Eastern AI/BS Jun 10-Nov 10.003216,2985215,08348
Central AI Jan 1-Jun 100.00019,377111,1161
Central AI Jun 10-Nov 10.00019,377111,1161
Western AI Jan 1-Jun 1006,02806,1730
Western AI Jun 10-Nov 106,02806,1730
Rock soleBSAI0.034142,0601,43443,8461,495
Greenland turbotBS0.06454,3562814,356281
AI0.020514431443
Arrowtooth flounderBSAI0.06911,57879911,900821
Kamchatka flounderBSAI0.0694,2502934,250293
Alaska plaiceBSAI0.044113,68560413,814609
Other flatfishBSAI0.04413,4001503,400150
Flathead soleBS0.050512,94965414,735744
Pacific ocean perchBS0.110,0821,0089,774977
Eastern AI0.00778,037628,67567
Central AI0.00256,698176,74117
Western AI08,03708,1410
Northern rockfishBSAI0.00845,185445,52546
Shortraker rockfishBSAI0.003715011501
Blackspotted/Rougheye rockfishBS/EAI0.0037750750
CAI/WAI0.003715011501
Other rockfishBS0.004827512751
AI0.009557055705
SkatesBSAI0.054122,9501,24222,9501,242
SculpinsBSAI0.05414,2502304,250230
SharksBSAI0.05411801018010
SquidsBSAI0.38271,0203901,020390
OctopusesBSAI0.05412501420011
1 Aleutians Islands Pacific ocean perch, and BSAI Atka mackerel, flathead sole, Pacific cod, and rock sole are multiplied by the remainder of the TAC for each species after the subtraction of the CDQ reserve under § 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(C).
Start Printed Page 8386

Table 23—Final 2018 and 2019 American Fisheries Act Catcher Vessel Prohibited Species Catch Sideboard Limits for the BSAI 1

PSC species and area 1Target fishery category 2AFA catcher vessel PSC sideboard limit ratio2018 and 2019 PSC limit after subtraction of PSQ reserves 32018 and 2019 AFA catcher vessel PSC sideboard limit 3
HalibutPacific cod trawln/an/a887
Pacific cod hook-and-line or potn/an/a2
Yellowfin sole totaln/an/a101
Rock sole/flathead sole/other flatfish 4n/an/a228
Greenland turbot/arrowtooth/sablefish 5n/an/a0
Rockfishn/an/a2
Pollock/Atka mackerel/other species 6n/an/a5
Red king crab Zone 1n/a0.29986,62125,900
C. opilio COBLZn/a0.1688,144,6411,368,300
C. bairdi Zone 1n/a0.330741,190244,593
C. bairdi Zone 2n/a0.1862,250,360418,567
1 Refer to § 679.2 for definitions of areas.
2 Target trawl fishery categories are defined at § 679.21(b)(1)(ii)(B) and (e)(3)(iv).
3 Halibut amounts are in metric tons of halibut mortality. Crab amounts are in numbers of animals.
4 “Other flatfish” for PSC monitoring includes all flatfish species, except for halibut (a prohibited species), flathead sole, Greenland turbot, rock sole, yellowfin sole, Kamchatka flounder, and arrowtooth flounder.
5 Arrowtooth for PSC monitoring includes Kamchatka flounder.
6 “Other species” for PSC monitoring includes skates, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses.

AFA Catcher/Processor and Catcher Vessel Sideboard Directed Fishing Closures

Based on historical catch patterns, the Regional Administrator has determined that many of the AFA C/P and CV sideboard limits listed in Tables 24 and 25 are necessary as incidental catch to support other anticipated groundfish fisheries for the 2018 and 2019 fishing years. In accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(iv), the Regional Administrator establishes the sideboard limits listed in Tables 24 and 25 as DFAs. Because many of these DFAs will be reached before the end of 2018, the Regional Administrator has determined, in accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(iii), that NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing by listed AFA C/Ps for the species in the specified areas set out in Table 24, and prohibiting directed fishing by non-exempt AFA CVs for the species in the specified areas set out in Table 25.

Table 24—Final 2018 and 2019 American Fisheries Act Listed Catcher/Processor Sideboard Directed Fishing Closures 1

[Amounts are in metric tons]

SpeciesAreaGear types2018 sideboard limit2019 sideboard limit
Sablefish trawlBStrawl1014
AItrawl00
Rock soleBSAIall1,5561,622
Greenland turbotBSall3030
AIall11
Arrowtooth flounderBSAIall2324
Kamchatka flounderBSAIall99
Alaska plaiceBSAIall1414
Other flatfish 2BSAIall197197
Flathead soleBSAIall466530
Pacific ocean perchBSall2020
Eastern AIall161174
Central AIall77
Western AIall3233
Northern rockfishBSAIall3639
Shortraker rockfishBSAIall33
Blackspotted/Rougheye rockfishBS/EAIall11
CAI/WAIall33
Other rockfish 3BSall88
AIall1515
SkatesBSAIall184184
SculpinsBSAIall3434
SharksBSAIall11
SquidsBSAIall2522
OctopusesBSAIall22
1 Maximum retainable amounts may be found in Table 11 to 50 CFR part 679.Start Printed Page 8387
2 “Other flatfish” includes all flatfish species, except for halibut, Alaska plaice, flathead sole, Greenland turbot, rock sole, yellowfin sole, Kamchatka flounder, and arrowtooth flounder.
3 “Other rockfish” includes all Sebastes and Sebastolobus species except for Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, shortraker rockfish, and blackspotted/rougheye rockfish.

Table 25—Final 2018 and 2019 American Fisheries Act Catcher Vessel Sideboard Directed Fishing Closures 1

[Amounts are in metric tons]

SpeciesAreaGear types2018 sideboard limit2019 sideboard limit
Pacific codBSAIhook-and-line CV ≥60 feet LOA00
BSAIpot CV ≥60 feet LOA98
BSAIhook-and-line or pot CV ≤60 feet LOA22
BSAIjig00
SablefishBStrawl5679
AItrawl2738
Atka mackerelEastern AI/BSall10496
Central AIall22
Western AIall00
Greenland turbotBSall281281
AIall33
Arrowtooth flounderBSAIall799821
Kamchatka flounderBSAIall293293
Alaska plaiceBSAIall501609
Other flatfish 2BSAIall150150
Flathead soleBSAIall654744
Rock soleBSAIall1,4341,495
Pacific ocean perchBSall1008977
Eastern AIall6267
Central AIall1717
Western AIall00
Northern rockfishBSAIall4446
Shortraker rockfishBSAIall11
Blackspotted/Rougheye rockfishBS/EAIall00
CAI/WAIall11
Other rockfish 3BSall11
AIall55
SkatesBSAIall1,2421,242
SculpinsBSAIall230230
SharksBSAIall1010
SquidsBSAIall390390
OctopusesBSAIall1411
1 Maximum retainable amounts may be found in Table 11 to 50 CFR part 679.
2 “Other flatfish” includes all flatfish species, except for halibut, Alaska plaice, flathead sole, Greenland turbot, rock sole, yellowfin sole, Kamchatka flounder, and arrowtooth flounder.
3 “Other rockfish” includes all Sebastes and Sebastolobus species except for Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, shortraker rockfish, and blackspotted/rougheye rockfish.

Response to Comments

NMFS received no substantive comments during the public comment period for the proposed BSAI groundfish harvest specifications. No changes were made to the final rule in response to the comment letters received.

Classification

NMFS has determined that these final harvest specifications are consistent with the FMP and with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws.

This action is authorized under 50 CFR 679.20 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

NMFS prepared an EIS that covers this action (see ADDRESSES) and made it available to the public on January 12, 2007 (72 FR 1512). On February 13, 2007, NMFS issued the Record of Decision (ROD) for the EIS. In January 2018, NMFS prepared a Supplemental Information Report (SIR) for this action. Copies of the EIS, ROD, and SIR for this action are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). The EIS analyzes the environmental consequences of the groundfish harvest specifications and alternative harvest strategies on resources in the action area. The EIS found no significant environmental consequences of this action and its alternatives. The SIR evaluates the need to prepare a Supplemental EIS (SEIS) for the 2018 and 2019 groundfish harvest specifications.

An SEIS should be prepared if (1) the agency makes substantial changes in the proposed action that are relevant to environmental concerns; or (2) significant new circumstances or information exist relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed action or its impacts (40 CFR 1502.9(c)(1)). After reviewing the information contained in the SIR and SAFE reports, the Regional Administrator has determined that (1) approval of the 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications, which were set according to the preferred harvest strategy in the EIS, does not constitute a substantial change in the action; and (2) there are no significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the action or its impacts. Additionally, the 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications will result in Start Printed Page 8388environmental impacts within the scope of those analyzed and disclosed in the EIS. Therefore, supplemental National Environmental Policy Act documentation is not necessary to implement the 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications.

Section 604 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) (5 U.S.C. 604) requires that, when an agency promulgates a final rule under section 553 of Title 5 of the United States Code, after being required by that section, or any other law, to publish a general notice of proposed rulemaking, the agency shall prepare a final regulatory flexibility analysis (FRFA). The following constitutes the FRFA prepared in the final action.

The required contents of a FRFA, as described in section 604, are: (1) A statement of the need for, and objectives of, the rule; (2) a statement of the significant issues raised by the public comments in response to the initial regulatory flexibility analysis, a statement of the assessment of the agency of such issues, and a statement of any changes made in the proposed rule as a result of such comments; (3) the response of the agency to any comments filed by the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration in response to the proposed rule, and a detailed statement of any change made to the proposed rule in the final rule as a result of the comments; (4) a description of and an estimate of the number of small entities to which the rule will apply or an explanation of why no such estimate is available; (5) a description of the projected reporting, recordkeeping, and other compliance requirements of the rule, including an estimate of the classes of small entities which will be subject to the requirement and the type of professional skills necessary for preparation of the report or record; and (6) a description of the steps the agency has taken to minimize the significant economic impact on small entities consistent with the stated objectives of applicable statutes, including a statement of the factual, policy, and legal reasons for selecting the alternative adopted in the final rule and why each one of the other significant alternatives to the rule considered by the agency which affect the impact on small entities was rejected.

A description of this action, its purpose, and its legal basis are included at the beginning of the preamble to this final rule and are not repeated here.

NMFS published the proposed rule on December 8, 2017 (82 FR 57906). NMFS prepared an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) to accompany the proposed action, and included a summary in the proposed rule. The comment period closed on January 8, 2018. No comments were received on the IRFA or on the economic impacts of the rule more generally. The Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration did not file any comments on the proposed rule.

The entities directly regulated by this action are those that harvest groundfish in the exclusive economic zone of the BSAI and in parallel fisheries within State waters. These include entities operating catcher vessels and catcher/processors within the action area and entities receiving direct allocations of groundfish.

For RFA purposes only, NMFS has established a small business size standard for businesses, including their affiliates, whose primary industry is commercial fishing (see 50 CFR 200.2). A business primarily engaged in commercial fishing (NAICS code 11411) is classified as a small business if it is independently owned and operated, is not dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and has combined annual gross receipts not in excess of $11 million for all its affiliated operations worldwide.

The estimated number of directly regulated small entities in 2016 include approximately 119 catcher vessels, five catcher/processors, and six CDQ groups. Some of these vessels are members of AFA inshore pollock cooperatives, Gulf of Alaska rockfish cooperatives, or BSAI Crab Rationalization Program cooperatives, and, since under the RFA the aggregate gross receipts of all participating members of the cooperative must meet the “under $11 million” threshold, the cooperatives are considered to be large entities within the meaning of the RFA. Thus, the estimate of 119 catcher vessels may be an overstatement of the number of small entities. Average gross revenues were $690,000 for small hook-and-line vessels, $1.25 million for small pot vessels, and $3.44 million for small trawl vessels. The average gross revenue for catcher/processor hook-and-line vessels was $2.90 million. The revenue data for other catcher/processors are not reported, due to confidentiality considerations.

This action does not modify recordkeeping or reporting requirements.

The significant alternatives were those considered as alternative harvest strategies when the Council selected its preferred harvest strategy (Alternative 2) in December 2006. These included the following:

  • Alternative 1: Set TAC to produce fishing mortality rates, F, that are equal to maxFABC, unless the sum of the TAC is constrained by the OY established in the fishery management plans. This is equivalent to setting TAC to produce harvest levels equal to the maximum permissible ABC, as constrained by OY. The term “maxFABC” refers to the maximum permissible value of FABC under Amendment 56 to the BSAI and Gulf of Alaska groundfish fishery management plans. Historically, the TAC has been set at or below the ABC; therefore, this alternative represents a likely upper limit for setting the TAC within the OY and ABC limits.
  • Alternative 3: For species in Tiers 1, 2, and 3, set TAC to produce F equal to the most recent 5-year average actual F. For species in Tiers 4, 5, and 6, set TAC equal to the most recent 5-year average actual catch. For stocks with a high level of scientific information, TAC would be set to produce harvest levels equal to the most recent 5-year average actual fishing mortality rates. For stocks with insufficient scientific information, TAC would be set equal to the most recent 5-year average actual catch. This alternative recognizes that for some stocks, catches may fall well below ABC, and recent average F may provide a better indicator of actual F than FABC does.
  • Alternative 4: First, set TAC for rockfish species in Tier 3 at F 75%; set TAC for rockfish species in Tier 5 at F = 0.5M; and set spatially explicit TAC for shortraker and rougheye rockfish in the BSAI. Second, taking the rockfish TAC as calculated above, reduce all other TAC by a proportion that does not vary across species, so that the sum of all TAC, including rockfish TAC, is equal to the lower bound of the area OY (1,400,000 mt in the BSAI). This alternative sets conservative and spatially explicit TAC for rockfish species that are long-lived and late to mature, and sets conservative TAC for the other groundfish species.
  • Alternative 5: (No Action) Set TAC at zero.

Alternative 2 is the preferred alternative chosen by the Council: Set TAC that fall within the range of ABC recommended through the Council harvest specifications process and TACs recommended by the Council. Under this scenario, F is set equal to a constant fraction of maxFABC. The recommended fractions of maxFABC may vary among species or stocks, based on other considerations unique to each. This is the method for determining TAC that has been used in the past.

Alternatives 1, 3, 4, and 5 do not meet the objectives of this action, and Start Printed Page 8389although Alternatives 1 and 3 may have a smaller adverse economic impact on small entities than the preferred alternative, Alternatives 4 and 5 likely would have a significant adverse economic impact on small entities. The Council rejected these alternatives as harvest strategies in 2006, and the Secretary of Commerce did so in 2007.

Alternative 1 would lead to TAC limits whose sum exceeds the fishery OY, which is set out in statute and the FMP. As shown in Table 1 and Table 2, the sum of ABCs in 2018 and 2019 would be 3,779,809 mt and 3,578,956 mt, respectively. Both of these are substantially in excess of the fishery OY for the BSAI. This result would be inconsistent with the objectives of this action, in that it would violate the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2004, Public Law 108-199, Division B, section 803(c), and the FMP, which both set a 2 million mt maximum harvest for BSAI groundfish.

Alternative 3 selects harvest rates based on the most recent 5 years' worth of harvest rates (for species in Tiers 1 through 3) or based on the most recent 5 years' worth of harvests (for species in Tiers 4 through 6). This alternative is also inconsistent with the objectives of this action because it does not take into account the most recent biological information for this fishery. NMFS annually conducts at-sea stock surveys for different species, as well as statistical modeling, to estimate stock sizes and permissible harvest levels. Actual harvest rates or harvest amounts are a component of these estimates, but in and of themselves may not accurately portray stock sizes and conditions. Harvest rates are listed for each species category for each year in the SAFE report (see ADDRESSES).

Alternative 4 would lead to significantly lower harvests of all species to reduce TAC from the upper end of the OY range in the BSAI to its lower end of 1.4 million mt. This result would lead to significant reductions in harvests of species by small entities. While reductions of this size could be associated with offsetting price increases, the size of these increases is uncertain, and, assuming volume decreases would lead to price increases, it is unclear whether price increases would be sufficient to offset the volume decreases and to leave revenues unchanged for small entities. Thus, this action would have an adverse economic impact on small entities, compared to the preferred alternative.

Alternative 5, which sets all harvests equal to zero, may also address conservation issues, but would have a significant adverse economic impact on small entities.

Impacts on marine mammals resulting from fishing activities conducted under this rule are discussed in the EIS (see ADDRESSES).

Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness for this rule because delaying this rule is contrary to the public interest. The Plan Team review occurred in November 2017, and the Council considered and recommended the final harvest specifications in December 2017. Accordingly, NMFS' review could not begin until after the December 2017 Council meeting, and after the public had time to comment on the proposed action. If this rule's effectiveness is delayed, fisheries that might otherwise remain open under these rules may prematurely close based on the lower TACs established in the final 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications (82 FR 11826, February 27, 2017). If implemented immediately, this rule would allow these fisheries to continue fishing because some of the new TACs implemented by this rule are higher than the TACs under which they are currently fishing.

In addition, immediate effectiveness of this action is required to provide consistent management and conservation of fishery resources based on the best available scientific information. This is particularly pertinent for those species that have lower 2018 ABCs and TACs than those established in the 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications (82 FR 11826, February 27, 2017). If implemented immediately, this rule would ensure that NMFS can properly manage those fisheries for which this rule sets lower 2018 ABCs and TACs, which are based on the most recent biological information on the condition of stocks, rather than managing species under the higher TACs set in the previous year's harvest specifications.

Certain fisheries, such as those for pollock and Pacific cod, are intensive, fast-paced fisheries. Other fisheries, such as those for flatfish, rockfish, skates, sculpins, sharks, and octopuses, are critical as directed fisheries and as incidental catch in other fisheries. U.S. fishing vessels have demonstrated the capacity to catch the TAC allocations in these fisheries. Any delay in allocating the final TAC limits in these fisheries would cause confusion in the industry and potential economic harm through unnecessary discards, thus undermining the intent of this rule. Predicting which fisheries may close is impossible because these fisheries are affected by several factors that cannot be predicted in advance, including fishing effort, weather, movement of fishery stocks, and market price. Furthermore, the closure of one fishery has a cascading effect on other fisheries, for example by freeing up fishing vessels, which would allow them to move from closed fisheries to open ones and lead to an increase in the fishing capacity in those open fisheries, causing those open fisheries to close at an accelerated pace.

Additionally, in fisheries subject to declining sideboards, delaying this rule's effectiveness could allow some vessels to inadvertently reach or exceed their new sideboard limits. Because sideboards are intended to protect traditional fisheries in other sectors, allowing one sector to exceed its new sideboards by delaying this rule's effectiveness would effectively reduce the available catch for sectors without sideboard limits. Moreover, the new TAC and sideboard limits protect the fisheries from being overfished. Thus, the delay is contrary to the public interest in protecting traditional fisheries and fish stocks.

If the final harvest specifications are not effective by March 24, 2018, which is the start of the 2018 Pacific halibut season as specified by the IPHC, the hook-and-line sablefish fishery will not begin concurrently with the Pacific halibut IFQ season. Delayed effectiveness of this action would result in confusion for sablefish harvesters and economic harm from unnecessary discard of sablefish that are caught along with Pacific halibut, as both hook-and-line sablefish and Pacific halibut are managed under the same IFQ program. Immediate effectiveness of the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications will allow the sablefish IFQ fishery to begin concurrently with the Pacific halibut IFQ season.

Finally, immediate effectiveness also would provide the fishing industry the earliest possible opportunity to plan and conduct its fishing operations with respect to new information about TAC limits. Therefore, NMFS finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3).

Small Entity Compliance Guide

This final rule is a plain language guide to assist small entities in complying with this final rule as required by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996. This final rule's primary purpose is to announce the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications and prohibited species bycatch allowances for the groundfish fisheries of the BSAI. This Start Printed Page 8390action is necessary to establish harvest limits and associated management measures for groundfish during the 2018 and 2019 fishing years and to accomplish the goals and objectives of the FMP. This action directly affects all fishermen who participate in the BSAI fisheries. The specific amounts of OFL, ABC, TAC, and PSC amounts are provided in tables to assist the reader. NMFS will announce closures of directed fishing in the Federal Register and information bulletins released by the Alaska Region. Affected fishermen should keep themselves informed of such closures.

Start Authority

Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1540(f); 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 3631 et seq.; Pub. L. 105-277; Pub. L. 106-31; Pub. L. 106-554; Pub. L. 108-199; Pub. L. 108-447; Pub. L. 109-241; Pub. L. 109-479.

End Authority Start Signature

Dated: February 21, 2018.

Samuel D. Rauch III,

Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service.

End Signature End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 2018-03918 Filed 2-26-18; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3510-22-P