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Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Gulf of Alaska; Final 2018 and 2019 Harvest Specifications for Groundfish

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Final rule; harvest specifications and closures.

SUMMARY:

NMFS announces final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications, apportionments, and Pacific halibut prohibited species catch limits for the groundfish fishery of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). 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 Gulf of Alaska. The intended effect of this action is to conserve and manage the groundfish resources in the GOA in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

DATES:

Harvest specifications and closures are effective at 1200 hours, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), March 1, 2018, through 2400 hours, A.l.t., December 31, 2019.

ADDRESSES:

Electronic copies of the Final Alaska Groundfish Harvest Specifications Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Record of Decision (ROD), the 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 GOA, dated November 2017, is 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:

Obren Davis, 907-586-7228.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

NMFS manages the GOA groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic zone of the GOA under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (FMP). The Council prepared the FMP under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Regulations governing U.S. fisheries and implementing the FMP appear at 50 CFR parts 600, 679, and 680.

The FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS, after consultation with the Council, to specify the total allowable catch (TAC) for each target species, the sum of which must be within the optimum yield (OY) range of 116,000 to 800,000 metric tons (mt) (50 CFR 679.20(a)(1)(i)(B)). Section 679.20(c)(1) further requires NMFS to publish and solicit public comment on proposed annual TACs and apportionments thereof, Pacific halibut prohibited species catch (PSC) limits, and seasonal allowances of pollock and Pacific cod. Upon consideration of public comment received under § 679.20(c)(1), NMFS must publish notice of final harvest specifications for up to two fishing years as annual TACs and apportionments, Pacific halibut PSC limits, and seasonal allowances of pollock and Pacific cod, per § 679.20(c)(3)(ii). The final harvest specifications set forth in Tables 1 through 30 of this rule reflect the outcome of this process, as required at § 679.20(c).

The proposed 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications for groundfish of the GOA and Pacific halibut PSC limits were published in the Federal Register on December 8, 2017 (82 FR 57924). Comments were invited and accepted through January 8, 2018. NMFS received two letters of comment on the proposed harvest specifications; the comments are summarized and responded to in the “Response to Comments” section of this rule. In December 2017, NMFS consulted with the Council regarding Start Printed Page 8769the 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications. After considering public testimony, as well as biological and socioeconomic data that were available at the Council's December 2017 meeting, NMFS is implementing the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications, as recommended by the Council. For 2018, the sum of the TAC amounts is 427,512 mt. For 2019, the sum of the TAC amounts is 376,417 mt.

Other Actions Potentially Affecting the 2018 and 2019 Harvest Specifications

Amendment 106: Reclassify Squid as an Ecosystem Species

In June 2017, the Council recommended for Secretarial review Amendment 106 to the FMP. Amendment 106 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 Overfishing Level (OFL), Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC), and TAC for squid in the GOA groundfish harvest specifications. Under Amendment 106, OFL, ABC, and TAC specifications would no longer be required. Proposed regulations to implement Amendment 106 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 106. If Amendment 106 and its implementing regulations are approved by the Secretary of Commerce, Amendment 106 and its implementing regulations are anticipated to be effective by 2019. Until Amendment 106 is effective, NMFS will continue to publish OFLs, ABCs, and TACs for squid in the GOA groundfish harvest specifications.

ABC and TAC Specifications

In December 2017, the Council, its Advisory Panel (AP), and its Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) reviewed the most recent biological and harvest information about the condition of groundfish stocks in the GOA. This information was compiled by the Council's GOA Groundfish Plan Team and was presented in the draft 2017 SAFE report for the GOA groundfish fisheries, dated 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 GOA ecosystem and the economic condition of the groundfish fisheries off Alaska. From these data and analyses, the Plan Team recommends an OFL and ABC for each species or species group. The 2017 SAFE report was made available for public review during the public comment period for the proposed harvest specifications.

In previous years, the greatest changes from the proposed to the final harvest specifications have been based on recent NMFS stock surveys, which provide updated estimates of stock biomass and spatial distribution, and changes to the models used for producing stock assessments. At the November 2017 Plan Team meeting, NMFS scientists presented updated and new survey results, changes to stock assessment models, and accompanying stock assessment estimates for groundfish species and species groups that are included in the final 2017 SAFE report per the stock assessment schedule found in the 2017 SAFE report introduction. The SSC reviewed this information at the December 2017 Council meeting. Changes from the proposed to the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications are discussed below.

The final 2018 and 2019 OFLs, ABCs, and TACs are based on the best available biological and socioeconomic information, including projected biomass trends, information on assumed distribution of stock biomass, and revised methods used to calculate stock biomass. The FMP specifies the formulas, or tiers, to be used to compute OFLs and ABCs. The formulas applicable to a particular stock or stock complex are determined by the level of reliable information available to fisheries scientists. This information is categorized into a successive series of six tiers to define OFL and ABC amounts, with Tier 1 representing the highest level of information quality available and Tier 6 representing the lowest level of information quality available. The Plan Team used the FMP tier structure to calculate OFL and ABC amounts for each groundfish species. The SSC adopted the final 2018 and 2019 OFLs and ABCs recommended by the Plan Team for all groundfish species. The Council adopted the SSC's OFL and ABC recommendations and the AP's TAC recommendations, with one exception for the arrowtooth flounder TAC, discussed below. The final TAC recommendations were based on the ABCs as adjusted for other biological and socioeconomic considerations, including maintaining the sum of all TACs within the required OY range of 116,000 to 800,000 mt.

The Council recommended 2018 and 2019 TACs that are equal to ABCs for pollock in the Southeast Outside (SEO) District, sablefish, shallow-water flatfish in the Central GOA and the West Yakutat and SEO Districts, deep-water flatfish, rex sole, flathead sole in the West Yakutat and SEO Districts, Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, shortraker rockfish, dusky rockfish, rougheye and blackspotted rockfish, demersal shelf rockfish, thornyhead rockfish, “other rockfish” in the Western and Central GOA and the West Yakutat District, big skate, longnose skate, other skates, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses in the GOA. The Council recommended TACs for 2018 and 2019 that are less than the ABCs for pollock in the Western and Central GOA and the West Yakutat District, Pacific cod, shallow-water flatfish in the Western GOA, arrowtooth flounder, flathead sole in the Western and Central GOA, “other rockfish” in the SEO District, and Atka mackerel. The combined Western, Central, and West Yakutat pollock TACs and the GOA Pacific cod TACs are set to accommodate the State of Alaska's (State's) guideline harvest levels (GHLs) for Pacific cod so that the ABCs are not exceeded. The shallow-water flatfish, arrowtooth flounder, and flathead sole TACs are set to allow for increased harvest opportunities for these target species while conserving the halibut PSC limit for use in other, more fully utilized fisheries. The “other rockfish” TAC in the SEO District is set to reduce the amount of discards of the species in that complex. The Atka mackerel TAC is set to accommodate incidental catch amounts in other fisheries.

As noted in the proposed 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications for the GOA, the 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod OFL, ABC, and TAC is significantly lower than the 2018 Pacific cod OFL, ABC, and TAC published in the final 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications (82 FR 12032, February 27, 2017). Based on the final 2017 Pacific cod stock assessment, the 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod OFL and ABC is much lower than previously estimated. The final 2018 Pacific cod ABC and TAC is 18,000 mt and 13,096 mt, respectively, and the final 2019 Pacific cod ABC and TAC is 17,000 mt and 12,368 mt, respectively. The TACs are the basis for numerous seasonal and sector apportionments of Pacific cod, and such apportionments are significantly decreased as well. The final seasonal and sector Start Printed Page 8770apportionments of Pacific cod TACs are provided in Tables 5 and 6 in this rule.

The final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications approved by the Secretary are unchanged from those recommended by the Council and are consistent with the preferred harvest strategy alternative in the EIS (see ADDRESSES). NMFS finds that the Council's recommended OFLs, ABCs, and TACs are consistent with the biological condition of the groundfish stocks as described in the final 2017 SAFE report. NMFS also finds that the Council's recommendations for OFLs, ABCs, and TACs are consistent with the biological condition of groundfish stocks as adjusted for other biological and socioeconomic considerations, including maintaining the total TAC within the OY range. NMFS reviewed the Council's recommended TAC specifications and apportionments, and NMFS approves these harvest specifications under 50 CFR 679.20(c)(3)(ii). The apportionment of TAC amounts among gear types and sectors, processing sectors, and seasons is discussed below.

Tables 1 and 2 list the final 2018 and 2019 OFLs, ABCs, TACs, and area apportionments of groundfish in the GOA. The sums of the 2018 and 2019 ABCs are 536,921 mt and 480,187 mt, respectively, which are lower than the 2017 ABC sum of 667,877 mt (82 FR 12032, February 27, 2017). 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 12032, February 27, 2017). The 2019 harvest specifications 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 Gulf of Alaska for approximately one year.

Specification and Apportionment of TAC Amounts

NMFS' apportionment of groundfish species is based on the distribution of biomass among the regulatory areas over which NMFS manages the species. Additional regulations govern the apportionment of pollock, Pacific cod, and sablefish. Additional detail on the apportionment of pollock, Pacific cod, and sablefish are described below.

The ABC for the pollock stock in the combined Western, Central, and West Yakutat Regulatory Areas (W/C/WYK) includes the amount for the GHL established by the State for the Prince William Sound (PWS) pollock fishery. The Plan Team, SSC, AP, and Council have recommended that the sum of all State and Federal water pollock removals from the GOA not exceed ABC recommendations. For 2018 and 2019, the SSC recommended and the Council approved the W/C/WYK pollock ABC, including the amount to account for the State's PWS GHL. At the November 2017 Plan Team meeting, State fisheries managers recommended setting the PWS GHL at 2.5 percent of the annual W/C/WYK pollock ABC. For 2018, this yields a PWS pollock GHL of 4,037 mt, a decrease of 1,057 mt from the 2017 PWS GHL of 5,094 mt. For 2019, the PWS pollock GHL is 2,664 mt, a decrease of 2,430 mt from the 2017 PWS pollock GHL of 5,094 mt. After the GHL reductions, the 2018 and 2019 pollock ABC for the combined W/C/WYK areas is then apportioned between four statistical areas (Areas 610, 620, 630, and 640) as both ABCs and TACs, as described below and detailed in Tables 1 and 2. The total ABCs and TACs for the four statistical areas, plus the State GHL, do not exceed the combined W/C/WYK ABC.

Apportionments of pollock to the W/C/WYK management areas are considered to be “apportionments of annual catch limits (ACLs)” rather than “ABCs.” This more accurately reflects that such apportionments address management, rather than biological or conservation, concerns. In addition, apportionments of the ACL in this manner allow NMFS to balance any transfer of TAC among Areas 610, 620, and 630 pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(iv)(B) to ensure that the area-wide ACL and ABC are not exceeded.

NMFS establishes pollock TACs in the Western (Area 610) and Central (Areas 620 and 630) GOA and the West Yakutat (Area 640) and the SEO (Area 650) Districts of the GOA (see Tables 1 and 2). NMFS also establishes seasonal apportionments of the annual pollock TAC in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA among Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630. These apportionments are divided equally among each of the following four seasons: The A season (January 20 through March 10), the B season (March 10 through May 31), the C season (August 25 through October 1), and the D season (October 1 through November 1) (§§ 679.23(d)(2)(i) through (iv), and 679.20(a)(5)(iv)(A) and (B)). Additional detail is provided in this rule; Tables 3 and 4 list these amounts.

The 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod TACs are set to accommodate the State's GHL for Pacific cod in State waters in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas, as well as in PWS. The Plan Team, SSC, AP, and Council recommended that the sum of all State and Federal water Pacific cod removals from the GOA not exceed ABC recommendations. Accordingly, the Council set the 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod TACs in the Western, Central, and Eastern Regulatory Areas to account for State GHLs. Therefore, the 2018 Pacific cod TACs are less than the ABCs by the following amounts: (1) Western GOA, 2,425 mt; (2) Central GOA, 2,030 mt; and (3) Eastern GOA, 450 mt. The 2019 Pacific cod TACs are less than the ABCs by the following amounts: (1) Western GOA, 2,290 mt; (2) Central GOA, 1,917 mt; and (3) Eastern GOA, 425 mt. These amounts reflect the State's 2018 and 2019 GHLs in these areas, which are 30 percent of the Western GOA ABC and 25 percent of the Eastern and Central GOA ABCs.

NMFS establishes seasonal apportionments of the annual Pacific cod TAC in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas. Sixty percent of the annual TAC is apportioned to the A season for hook-and-line, pot, and jig gear from January 1 through June 10, and for trawl gear from January 20 through June 10. Forty percent of the annual TAC is apportioned to the B season for jig gear from June 10 through December 31, for hook-and-line and pot gear from September 1 through December 31, and for trawl gear from September 1 through November 1 (§§ 679.23(d)(3) and 679.20(a)(12)). The Western and Central GOA Pacific cod TACs are allocated among various gear and operational sectors. The Pacific cod sector apportionments are discussed in detail in a subsequent section and in Tables 5 and 6 of this rule.

The Council's recommendation for sablefish area apportionments takes into account the prohibition on the use of trawl gear in the SEO District of the Eastern Regulatory Area (§ 679.7(b)(1)) and makes available five percent of the combined Eastern Regulatory Area TACs to vessels using trawl gear for use as incidental catch in other groundfish fisheries in the WYK District (§ 679.20(a)(4)(i)). Tables 7 and 8 list the final 2018 and 2019 allocations of sablefish TAC to fixed gear and trawl gear in the GOA.Start Printed Page 8771

Changes From the Proposed 2018 and 2019 Harvest Specifications in the GOA

In October 2017, the Council's recommendations for the proposed 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications (82 FR 57924, December 8, 2017) were based largely on information contained in the final 2016 SAFE report for the GOA groundfish fisheries, dated November 2016. The final 2016 SAFE report for the GOA is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). The Council proposed that the final OFLs, ABCs, and TACs established for the 2018 groundfish fisheries (82 FR 12032, February 27, 2017) be used for the proposed 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications (82 FR 57924, December 8, 2017), pending completion and review of the final 2017 SAFE report at its December 2017 meeting.

As described previously, the SSC adopted the final 2018 and 2019 OFLs and ABCs recommended by the Plan Team. The Council adopted the SSC's OFL and ABC recommendations and the AP's TAC recommendations for 2018 and 2019, with one exception for the Central GOA arrowtooth flounder TAC. The AP recommended 2018 and 2019 arrowtooth flounder TACs of 73,480 mt and 70,700 mt, respectively. The Council revised this TAC recommendation to 48,000 mt for both 2018 and 2019. The Council's rationale included a concern that a higher arrowtooth flounder TAC would result in bycatch concerns, and that lower arrowtooth flounder TACs than those recommended by the AP are appropriate because catch rarely, if ever, approach the proposed ABCs or TACs. Also, the Council set this TAC to allow for increased harvest opportunities while conserving the halibut PSC limit for use in other, more fully utilized fisheries.

The final 2018 ABCs are higher than the proposed 2018 ABCs published in the proposed 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications (82 FR 57924, December 8, 2017) for pollock, sablefish, shallow-water flatfish, deep-water flatfish, rex sole, Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, dusky rockfish, rougheye and blackspotted rockfish, demersal shelf rockfish, thornyhead rockfish, and longnose skate. The final 2018 ABCs are lower than the proposed 2018 ABCs for Pacific cod, arrowtooth flounder, flathead sole, shortraker rockfish, other rockfish, big skate, other skates, sculpins, squids, and octopuses.

The final 2019 ABCs are higher than the proposed ABCs for sablefish, shallow-water flatfish, deep-water flatfish, rex sole, flathead sole, Pacific ocean perch, rougheye and blackspotted rockfish, demersal shelf rockfish, thornyhead rockfish, and longnose skate. The final 2019 ABCs are lower than the proposed 2019 ABCs for pollock, Pacific cod, arrowtooth flounder, northern rockfish, shortraker rockfish, dusky rockfish, other rockfish, big skates, other skates, sculpins, squids, and octopuses. For the remaining target species (Atka mackerel and sharks), the Council recommended the final 2018 and 2019 ABCs that are the same as the proposed 2018 and 2019 ABCs.

Additional information explaining the changes between the proposed and final ABCs is included in the final 2017 SAFE report, which was not available when the Council made its proposed ABC and TAC recommendations in October 2017. At that time, the most recent stock assessment information was contained in the final 2016 SAFE report. The final 2017 SAFE report contains the best and most recent scientific information on the condition of the groundfish stocks, as previously discussed in this preamble, and is available for review (see ADDRESSES). The Council considered the final 2017 SAFE report in December 2017 when it made recommendations for the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications. In the GOA, the total final 2018 TAC amount is 427,512 mt, a decrease of 8 percent from the total proposed 2018 TAC amount of 465,832 mt. The total final 2019 TAC amount is 376,417 mt, a decrease of 19 percent from the total proposed 2019 TAC amount of 465,832 mt. Table 1a summarizes the difference between the proposed and final TACs.

Annual stock assessments incorporate a variety of new or revised inputs, such as survey data or catch information, as well as changes to the statistical models used to estimate a species' biomass and population trend. The biennial GOA trawl survey was conducted in 2017. Thus, changes to biomass and ABC estimates are based on survey biomass information, as well as fishery catch updates to species' assessment models. Some species, such as pollock and sablefish, have additional surveys conducted on an annual basis, which result in additional data being available for the assessments for these stocks.

The changes from the proposed 2018 TACs to the final 2018 TACs are within a range of plus 83 percent or minus 80 percent, and the changes from the proposed 2019 TACs to the final 2019 TACs are within a range of plus 73 percent or minus 80 percent. Based on changes in the estimates of overall biomass made by stock assessment scientists for 2018 and 2019, as compared to the estimates previously made for 2017 and 2018, the species or species group with the greatest TAC percentage increases are sablefish, shallow-water flatfish, rex sole, Pacific ocean perch, rougheye and blackspotted rockfish, demersal shelf rockfish, and longnose skates. Based on changes in the estimates of biomass, the species or species group with the greatest decreases in TACs are Pacific cod, arrowtooth flounder, shortraker rockfish, big skate, other skates, and octopuses. For all other species and species groups, changes from the proposed 2018 TACs to the final 2018 TACs and changes from the proposed 2019 TACs to the final 2019 TACs are less than a 10 percent change (either increase or decrease). These TAC changes correspond to associated changes in the ABCs and TACs, as recommended by the SSC, AP, and Council.

Detailed information providing the basis for the changes described above is contained in the final 2017 SAFE report. The final TACs are based on the best scientific information available. These TACs are specified in compliance with the harvest strategy described in the proposed and final rules for the 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications. The changes in TACs between the proposed rule and this final rule are compared in Table 1a.

Table 1a—Comparison of Proposed and Final 2018 and 2019 GOA Total Allowable Catch Limits

[Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton and percentage]

Species2018 and 2019 Proposed TAC2018 Final TAC2018 Final minus 2018 proposed TACPercentage difference2019 Final TAC2019 Final minus 2019 proposed TACPercentage difference
Pollock163,479166,2282,7492112,678−50,801−31
Pacific cod40,06913,096−26,973−6712,368−27,701−69
Sablefish10,20711,5051,2981316,1945,98759
Shallow-water flatfish36,97942,7325,7531643,1286,14917
Start Printed Page 8772
Deep-water flatfish9,3829,385309,4991171
Rex sole8,42115,3736,9528314,5296,10873
Arrowtooth flounder103,30076,300−27,000−2676,300−27,000−26
Flathead sole27,92026,388−1,532−526,487−1,433−5
Pacific ocean perch23,45429,2365,7822528,6055,15122
Northern rockfish3,5083,68117353,347−161−5
Shortraker rockfish1,286863−423−33864−422−33
Dusky rockfish3,9543,957303,668−286−7
Rougheye rockfish1,3181,444126101,4271098
Demersal shelf rockfish22725023102502310
Thornyhead rockfish1,9612,0387742,038774
Other rockfish2,3082,305−302,305−30
Atka mackerel3,0003,000003,00000
Big skate3,8142,848−966−252,848−966−25
Longnose skate3,2063,572366113,57236611
Other skates1,9191,384−535−281,384−535−28
Sculpins5,5915,301−290−55,301−290−5
Sharks4,5144,514004,51400
Squids1,1371,137001,13700
Octopuses4,878975−3,903−80975−3,903−80
Total465,832427,512−38,320−8376,418−89,414−19

The final 2018 and 2019 TAC recommendations for the GOA are within the OY range established for the GOA and do not exceed the ABC for any species or species group. Tables 1 and 2 list the final OFL, ABC, and TAC amounts for GOA groundfish for 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Table 1—Final 2018 OFLs, ABCs, and TACs of Groundfish for the Western/Central/West Yakutat, Western, Central, Eastern Regulatory Areas, and in the West Yakutat, Southeast Outside, and Gulfwide Districts of the Gulf of Alaska

[Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]

SpeciesArea 1OFLABCTAC
Pollock 2Shumagin (610)n/a30,18830,188
Chirikof (620)n/a79,49579,495
Kodiak (630)n/a40,93940,939
WYK (640)n/a6,8336,833
W/C/WYK (subtotal) 2187,059161,492157,455
SEO (650)11,6978,7738,773
Total198,756170,265166,228
Pacific cod 3Wn/a8,0825,657
Cn/a8,1186,089
En/a1,8001,350
Total23,56518,00013,096
Sablefish 4Wn/a1,5441,544
Cn/a5,1585,158
WYKn/a1,8291,829
SEOn/a2,9742,974
E (WYK and SEO) (subtotal)n/a4,8034,803
Total22,70311,50511,505
Shallow-water flatfish 5Wn/a25,20613,250
Cn/a25,31525,315
WYKn/a2,2422,242
SEOn/a1,9251,925
Total67,24054,68842,732
Deep-water flatfish 6Wn/a413413
Cn/a3,4003,400
Start Printed Page 8773
WYKn/a3,2393,239
SEOn/a2,3322,332
Total11,2949,3859,385
Rex soleWn/a3,0863,086
Cn/a8,7398,739
WYKn/a1,7371,737
SEOn/a1,8111,811
Total18,70615,37315,373
Arrowtooth flounderWn/a37,25314,500
Cn/a73,48048,000
WYKn/a16,4686,900
SEO23,7446,900
Total180,697150,94576,300
Flathead soleWn/a12,6908,650
Cn/a20,23815,400
WYKn/a1,9321,932
SEOn/a406406
Total43,01135,26626,388
Pacific ocean perch 7Wn/a3,3123,312
Cn/a20,11220,112
WYKn/a3,3713,371
W/C/WYK subtotal31,86026,79526,795
SEO2,9022,4412,441
Total34,76229,23629,236
Northern rockfish 8Wn/a420420
Cn/a3,2613,261
En/a4
Total4,3803,6853,681
Shortraker rockfish 9Wn/a4444
Cn/a305305
En/a514514
Total1,151863863
Dusky rockfish 10Wn/a146146
Cn/a3,5023,502
WYKn/a232232
SEOn/a7777
Total4,8413,9573,957
Rougheye and Blackspotted rockfish 11Wn/a176176
Cn/a556556
En/a712712
Total1,7351,4441,444
Demersal shelf rockfish 12SEO394250250
Thornyhead rockfishWn/a344344
Cn/a921921
En/a773773
Total2,7172,0382,038
Other rockfish 13 14W and Cn/a1,7371,737
WYKn/a368368
SEOn/a3,489200
Start Printed Page 8774
Total7,3565,5942,305
Atka mackerelGW6,2004,7003,000
Big skate 15Wn/a504504
Cn/a1,7741,774
En/a570570
Total3,7972,8482,848
Longnose skate 16Wn/a149149
Cn/a2,8042,804
En/a619619
Total4,7633,5723,572
Other skates 17GW1,8451,3841,384
SculpinsGW6,9585,3015,301
SharksGW6,0204,5144,514
SquidsGW1,5161,1371,137
OctopusGW1,300975975
Total655,707536,921427,512
1 Regulatory areas and districts are defined at § 679.2. (W = Western Gulf of Alaska; C = Central Gulf of Alaska; E = Eastern Gulf of Alaska; WYK = West Yakutat District; SEO = Southeast Outside District; GW = Gulf-wide).
2 The total for the W/C/WYK Regulatory Areas pollock ABC is 161,492 mt. After deducting 2.5 percent (4,037 mt) of that ABC for the State's pollock GHL fishery, the remaining pollock ABC of 157,455 mt (for the W/C/WYK Regulatory Areas) is apportioned among four statistical areas (Areas 610, 620, 630, and 640). These apportionments are considered subarea ACLs, rather than ABCs, for specification and reapportionment purposes. The ACLs in Areas 610, 620, and 630 are further divided by season, as detailed in Table 3 (final 2018 seasonal biomass distribution of pollock in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas, area apportionments, and seasonal allowances). In the West Yakutat (Area 640) and Southeast Outside (Area 650) Districts of the Eastern Regulatory Area, pollock is not divided into seasonal allowances.
3 The annual Pacific cod TAC is apportioned 60 percent to the A season and 40 percent to the B season in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA. Pacific cod TAC in the Eastern Regulatory Area is allocated 90 percent for processing by the inshore component and 10 percent for processing by the offshore component. Table 5 lists the final 2018 Pacific cod seasonal apportionments.
4 Sablefish is allocated to trawl and fixed gear in 2018. Table 7 lists the final 2018 allocations of sablefish TACs.
5 “Shallow-water flatfish” means flatfish not including “deep-water flatfish,” flathead sole, rex sole, or arrowtooth flounder.
6 “Deep-water flatfish” means Dover sole, Greenland turbot, Kamchatka flounder, and deepsea sole.
7 “Pacific ocean perch” means Sebastes alutus.
8 “Northern rockfish” means Sebastes polyspinis. For management purposes, the 4 mt apportionment of ABC to the WYK District of the Eastern Gulf of Alaska has been included in the “other rockfish” species group.
9 “Shortraker rockfish” means Sebastes borealis.
10 “Dusky rockfish” means Sebastes variabilis.
11 “Rougheye rockfish” means Sebastes aleutianus (rougheye) and Sebastes melanostictus (blackspotted).
12 “Demersal shelf rockfish” means Sebastes pinniger (canary), S. nebulosus (china), S. caurinus (copper), S. maliger (quillback), S. helvomaculatus (rosethorn), S. nigrocinctus (tiger), and S. ruberrimus (yelloweye).
13 “Other rockfish” means Sebastes aurora (aurora), S. melanostomus (blackgill), S. paucispinis (bocaccio), S. goodei (chilipepper), S. crameri (darkblotch), S. elongatus (greenstriped), S. variegatus (harlequin), S. wilsoni (pygmy), S. babcocki (redbanded), S. proriger (redstripe), S. zacentrus (sharpchin), S. jordani (shortbelly), S. brevispinis (silvergrey), S. diploproa (splitnose), S. saxicola (stripetail), S. miniatus (vermilion), S. reedi (yellowmouth), S. entomelas (widow), and S. flavidus (yellowtail). In the Eastern GOA only, other rockfish also includes northern rockfish, S. polyspinis.
14 “Other rockfish” in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas and in the West Yakutat District means other rockfish and demersal shelf rockfish. The “other rockfish” species group in the SEO District only includes other rockfish.
15 “Big skate” means Raja binoculata.
16 “Longnose skate” means Raja rhina.
17 “Other skates” means Bathyraja and Raja spp.

Table 2—Final 2019 OFLs, ABCs, and TACs of Groundfish for the Western/Central/West Yakutat, Western, Central, Eastern Regulatory Areas, and in the West Yakutat, Southeast Outside, and Gulfwide Districts of the Gulf of Alaska

[Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]

SpeciesArea 1OFLABCTAC
Pollock 2Shumagin (610)n/a19,92119,921
Chirikof (620)n/a52,45952,459
Kodiak (630)n/a27,01627,016
WYK (640)n/a4,5094,509
W/C/WYK (subtotal) 2131,170106,569103,905
SEO (650)11,6978,7738,773
Start Printed Page 8775
Total142,867115,341112,678
Pacific cod 3Wn/a7,6335,343
Cn/a7,6675,750
En/a1,7001,275
Total21,41217,00012,368
Sablefish 4Wn/a2,1742,174
Cn/a7,2607,260
WYKn/a2,5732,573
SEOn/a4,1874,187
E (WYK and SEO) (subtotal)n/a6,7606,760
Total35,98916,19416,194
Shallow-water flatfish 5Wn/a25,54413,250
Cn/a25,65525,655
WYKn/a2,2722,272
SEOn/a1,9511,951
Total68,11455,42243,128
Deep-water flatfish 6Wn/a416416
Cn/a3,4423,442
WYKn/a3,2793,279
SEOn/a2,3612,361
Total11,4319,4999,499
Rex soleWn/a2,9092,909
Cn/a8,2368,236
WYKn/a1,6571,657
SEOn/a1,7271,727
Total17,69214,52914,529
Arrowtooth flounderWn/a35,84414,500
Cn/a70,70048,000
WYKn/a15,8456,900
SEOn/a22,8456,900
Total173,872145,23476,300
Flathead soleWn/a13,2228,650
Cn/a21,08715,400
WYKn/a2,0132,013
SEOn/a424424
Total44,82236,74626,487
Pacific ocean perch 7Wn/a3,2403,240
Cn/a19,67819,678
WYKn/a3,2983,298
W/C/WYK31,17026,21626,216
SEO2,8402,3892,389
Total34,01028,60528,605
Northern rockfish 8Wn/a382382
Cn/a2,9652,965
En/a3
Total3,9843,3503,347
Shortraker rockfish 9Wn/a4444
Cn/a305305
En/a514514
Start Printed Page 8776
Total1,151863863
Dusky rockfish 10Wn/a135135
Cn/a3,2463,246
WYKn/a215215
SEOn/a7272
Total4,4883,6683,668
Rougheye and Blackspotted rockfish 11Wn/a174174
Cn/a550550
En/a703703
Total1,7151,4271,427
Demersal shelf rockfish 12SEO394250250
Thornyhead rockfishWn/a344344
Cn/a921921
En/a773773
Total2,7172,0382,038
Other rockfish 13 14W and Cn/a1,7371,737
WYKn/a368368
SEOn/a3,488200
Total7,3565,5932,305
Atka mackerelGW6,2004,7003,000
Big skate 15Wn/a504504
Cn/a1,7741,774
En/a570570
Total3,7972,8482,848
Longnose skate 16Wn/a149149
Cn/a2,8042,804
En/a619619
Total4,7633,5723,572
Other skates 17GW1,8451,3841,384
SculpinsGW6,9585,3015,301
SharksGW6,0204,5144,514
SquidsGW1,5161,1371,137
OctopusGW1,300975975
Total604,413480,187376,417
1 Regulatory areas and districts are defined at § 679.2. (W = Western Gulf of Alaska; C = Central Gulf of Alaska; E = Eastern Gulf of Alaska; WYK = West Yakutat District; SEO = Southeast Outside District; GW = Gulf-wide).
2 The total for the W/C/WYK Regulatory Areas pollock ABC is 106,569 mt. After deducting 2.5 percent (2,664 mt) of that ABC for the State's pollock GHL fishery, the remaining pollock ABC of 103,905 mt (for the W/C/WYK Regulatory Areas) is apportioned among four statistical areas (Areas 610, 620, 630, and 640). These apportionments are considered subarea ACLs, rather than ABCs, for specification and reapportionment purposes. The ACLs in Areas 610, 620, and 630 are further divided by season, as detailed in Table 4 (final 2019 seasonal biomass distribution of pollock in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas, area apportionments, and seasonal allowances). In the West Yakutat (Area 640) and Southeast Outside (Area 650) Districts of the Eastern Regulatory Area, pollock is not divided into seasonal allowances.
3 The annual Pacific cod TAC is apportioned 60 percent to the A season and 40 percent to the B season in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA. Pacific cod in the Eastern Regulatory Area is allocated 90 percent for processing by the inshore component and 10 percent for processing by the offshore component. Table 6 lists the final 2019 Pacific cod seasonal apportionments.
4 Sablefish is only allocated to trawl gear for 2019. Table 8 lists the final 2019 allocation of sablefish TACs to trawl gear.
5 “Shallow-water flatfish” means flatfish not including “deep-water flatfish,” flathead sole, rex sole, or arrowtooth flounder.
6 “Deep-water flatfish” means Dover sole, Greenland turbot, Kamchatka flounder, and deepsea sole.
7 “Pacific ocean perch” means Sebastes alutus.
8 “Northern rockfish” means Sebastes polyspinis. For management purposes the 3 mt apportionment of ABC to the WYK District of the Eastern Gulf of Alaska has been included in the “other rockfish” species group.Start Printed Page 8777
9 “Shortraker rockfish” means Sebastes borealis.
10 “Dusky rockfish” means Sebastes variabilis.
11 “Rougheye rockfish” means Sebastes aleutianus (rougheye) and Sebastes melanostictus (blackspotted).
12 “Demersal shelf rockfish” means Sebastes pinniger (canary), S. nebulosus (china), S. caurinus (copper), S. maliger (quillback), S. helvomaculatus (rosethorn), S. nigrocinctus (tiger), and S. ruberrimus (yelloweye).
13 “Other rockfish” means Sebastes aurora (aurora), S. melanostomus (blackgill), S. paucispinis (bocaccio), S. goodei (chilipepper), S. crameri (darkblotch), S. elongatus (greenstriped), S. variegatus (harlequin), S. wilsoni (pygmy), S. babcocki (redbanded), S. proriger (redstripe), S. zacentrus (sharpchin), S. jordani (shortbelly), S. brevispinis (silvergrey), S. diploproa (splitnose), S. saxicola (stripetail), S. miniatus (vermilion), S. reedi (yellowmouth), S. entomelas (widow), and S. flavidus (yellowtail). In the Eastern GOA only, other rockfish also includes northern rockfish, S. polyspinis.
14 “Other rockfish” in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas and in the West Yakutat District means other rockfish and demersal shelf rockfish. The “other rockfish” species group in the SEO District only includes other rockfish.
15 “Big skate” means Raja binoculata.
16 “Longnose skate” means Raja rhina.
17 “Other skates” means Bathyraja and Raja spp.

Apportionment of Reserves

Section 679.20(b)(2) requires NMFS to set aside 20 percent of each TAC for pollock, Pacific cod, flatfish, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses in reserve for possible apportionment at a later date during the fishing year. For 2018 and 2019, NMFS proposed reapportionment of all the reserves in the proposed 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications published in the Federal Register on December 8, 2017 (82 FR 57924). NMFS did not receive any public comments on the proposed reapportionments. For the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications, NMFS reapportioned, as proposed, all the reserves for pollock, Pacific cod, flatfish, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses back into the original TAC limit from which the reserve was derived. This was done because NMFS expects, based on recent harvest patterns, that such reserves are not necessary and the entire TAC for each of these species will be caught. The TACs listed in Tables 1 and 2 reflect reapportionments of reserve amounts to the original TAC limit for these species and species groups; i.e., each proposed TAC for the above mentioned species or species groups contains the full TAC recommended by the Council.

Apportionments of Pollock TAC Among Seasons and Regulatory Areas, and Allocations for Processing by Inshore and Offshore Components

In the GOA, pollock is apportioned by season and area, and is further allocated for processing by inshore and offshore components. Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(iv)(B), the annual pollock TAC specified for the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA is apportioned into four equal seasonal allowances of 25 percent. As established by § 679.23(d)(2)(i) through (iv), the A, B, C, and D season allowances are available from January 20 to March 10, March 10 to May 31, August 25 to October 1, and October 1 to November 1, respectively.

Pollock TACs in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA are apportioned among Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630 in proportion to the distribution of the pollock biomass, pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(iv)(A). In the A and B seasons, the apportionments previously were in proportion to the distribution of pollock biomass based on the four most recent NMFS winter surveys. In the C and D seasons, the apportionments were in proportion to the distribution of pollock biomass based on the four most recent NMFS summer surveys. For 2018 and 2019, the Council recommended, and NMFS approved, following the apportionment methodology that was used previously for the 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications. This methodology averages the winter and summer distribution of pollock in the Central Regulatory Area for the A season instead of using the distribution based on only the winter surveys. The average is intended to reflect the best available information about migration patterns, distribution of pollock, and the performance of the fishery in the area during the A season for the 2018 and 2019 fishing years. For the A season, the apportionment is based on an adjusted estimate of the relative distribution of pollock biomass of approximately 3 percent, 73 percent, and 24 percent in Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630, respectively. For the B season, the apportionment is based on the relative distribution of pollock biomass at 4 percent, 85 percent, and 11 percent in Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630, respectively. For the C and D seasons, the apportionment is based on the relative distribution of pollock biomass at 37 percent, 27 percent, and 37 percent in Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630, respectively. The pollock chapter of the 2017 SAFE report (see ADDRESSES) contains a comprehensive description of the apportionment process and reasons for the minor changes from past apportionments.

Within any fishing year, the amount by which a seasonal allowance is underharvested or overharvested may be added to, or subtracted from, subsequent seasonal allowances for the Western and Central Regulatory Areas in a manner to be determined by the Regional Administrator (§ 679.20(a)(5)(iv)(B)). The rollover amount is limited to 20 percent of the subsequent seasonal TAC apportionment for the statistical area. Any unharvested pollock above the 20-percent limit could be further distributed to the other statistical areas, in proportion to the estimated biomass in the subsequent season in those statistical areas and in an amount no more than 20 percent of the seasonal TAC apportionment in those statistical areas (§ 679.20(a)(5)(iv)(B)). The pollock TACs in the WYK and the SEO Districts of 6,833 mt and 8,773 mt, respectively, in 2018, and 4,509 mt and 8,773 mt, respectively, in 2019, are not allocated by season.

Section 679.20(a)(6)(i) requires the allocation of 100 percent of the pollock TAC in all GOA regulatory areas and all seasonal allowances to vessels harvesting pollock for processing by the inshore component after subtraction of amounts projected by the Regional Administrator to be caught by, or delivered to, the offshore component incidental to directed fishing for other groundfish species. Thus, the amount of pollock available to vessels harvesting pollock for processing by the offshore component is that amount that will be taken as incidental catch during directed fishing for groundfish species other than pollock, up to the maximum retainable amounts allowed by § 679.20(e) and (f). At this time, these incidental catch amounts of pollock are unknown and will be determined during the fishing year during the course of fishing activities by the offshore component. Therefore, amounts of pollock for processing by the inshore and offshore components are not shown in Tables 3 and 4. Tables 3 and 4 list the final 2018 and 2019 seasonal biomass distribution of pollock in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas, area apportionments, and seasonal allowances.Start Printed Page 8778

Table 3—Final 2018 Distribution of Pollock in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA; Seasonal Biomass Distribution; Area Apportionments; and Seasonal Allowances of Annual TAC

[Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton and percentages are rounded to the nearest 0.01]

Season 1Shumagin (Area 610)Chirikof (Area 620)Kodiak (Area 630)Total 2
A (Jan 20-Mar 10)1,3173.50%27,31472.54%9,02523.97%37,656
B (Mar 10-May 31)1,3174.50%32,15585.39%4,18411.11%37,656
C (Aug 25-Oct 1)13,77736.59%10,01326.59%13,86536.82%37,656
D (Oct 1-Nov 1)13,77736.59%10,01326.59%13,86536.82%37,656
Annual Total30,18879,49540,939150,622
1 As established by § 679.23(d)(2)(i) through (iv), the A, B, C, and D season allowances are available from January 20 to March 10, March 10 to May 31, August 25 to October 1, and October 1 to November 1, respectively. The amounts of pollock for processing by the inshore and offshore components are not shown in this table.
2 The WYK District and SEO District pollock TACs are not allocated by season and are not included in the total pollock TACs shown in this table.

Table 4—Final 2019 Distribution of Pollock in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA; Seasonal Biomass Distribution; Area Apportionments; and Seasonal Allowances of Annual TAC

[Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton and percentages are rounded to the nearest 0.01]

Season 1Shumagin (Area 610)Chirikof (Area 620)Kodiak (Area 630)Total 2
A (Jan 20-Mar 10)8693.50%18,02572.54%5,95523.97%24,849
B (Mar 10-May 31)8694.50%21,21985.39%2,76111.11%24,849
C (Aug 25-Oct 1)9,09136.59%6,60826.59%9,15036.82%24,849
D (Oct 1-Nov 1)9,09136.59%6,60826.59%9,15036.82%24,849
Annual Total19,92152,45927,01699,395
1 As established by § 679.23(d)(2)(i) through (iv), the A, B, C, and D season allowances are available from January 20 to March 10, March 10 to May 31, August 25 to October 1, and October 1 to November 1, respectively. The amounts of pollock for processing by the inshore and offshore components are not shown in this table.
2 The WYK District and SEO District pollock TACs are not allocated by season and are not included in the total pollock TACs shown in this table.

Annual and Seasonal Apportionments of Pacific Cod TAC

Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(12)(i), NMFS seasonally allocates the Pacific cod TACs in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA among gear and operational sectors. NMFS also allocates the Pacific cod TACs annually between the inshore (90 percent) and offshore (10 percent) components in the Eastern Regulatory Area of the GOA (§ 679.20(a)(6)(ii)). In the Central GOA, the Pacific cod TAC is apportioned seasonally first to vessels using jig gear, and then among catcher vessels (CVs) less than 50 feet in length overall using hook-and-line gear, CVs equal to or greater than 50 feet in length overall using hook-and-line gear, catcher/processors (C/Ps) using hook-and-line gear, CVs using trawl gear, C/Ps using trawl gear, and vessels using pot gear (§ 679.20(a)(12)(i)(B)). In the Western GOA, the Pacific cod TAC is apportioned seasonally first to vessels using jig gear, and then among CVs using hook-and-line gear, C/Ps using hook-and-line gear, CVs using trawl gear, C/Ps using trawl gear, and vessels using pot gear (§ 679.20(a)(12)(i)(A)). The overall seasonal apportionments in the Western and Central GOA are 60 percent of the annual TAC to the A season and 40 percent of the annual TAC to the B season.

Under § 679.20(a)(12)(ii), any overage or underage of the Pacific cod harvest by each sector from the A season will be subtracted from, or added to, the subsequent B season allowance. In addition, any portion of the hook-and-line, trawl, pot, or jig sector allocations that NMFS determines is likely to go unharvested by a sector may be reallocated to other sectors for harvest during the remainder of the fishery year.

Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(12)(i)(A) and (B), a portion of the annual Pacific cod TACs in the Western and Central GOA will be allocated to vessels with a Federal Fisheries Permit (FFP) that use jig gear before the remaining Western and Central GOA Pacific cod TACs are apportioned among other non-jig sectors. In accordance with the FMP, the annual jig sector allocations may increase to up to 6 percent of the annual Western and Central GOA Pacific cod TACs, depending on the annual performance of the jig sector (see Table 1 of Amendment 83 to the FMP for a detailed discussion of the jig sector allocation process (76 FR 74670, December 1, 2011)). Jig sector allocation increases are established for a minimum of two years. NMFS has evaluated the 2017 harvest performance of the jig sector in the Western and Central GOA, and is establishing the 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod apportionments to this sector as follows.

NMFS allocates the jig sector 1.5 percent of the annual Pacific cod TAC in the Western GOA. This is a decrease from the 2017 jig sector allocation of 2.5 percent because in 2016 and 2017 this sector harvested less than 90 percent of its initial annual allocation, thus triggering the deduction of the 1.0 percent performance increase that the Western GOA jig sector received in 2017. The 2018 and 2019 allocations consist of a base allocation of 1.5 percent of the Western GOA Pacific cod TAC, and no additional performance increase in the Western GOA.

NMFS allocates the jig sector 1.0 percent of the annual Pacific cod TAC in the Central GOA. This is the same percent as the 2017 jig sector allocation because in 2017 this sector harvested less than 90 percent of its initial annual allocation. The 2018 and 2019 allocations consist of a base allocation of 1.0 percent of the Central GOA Pacific cod TAC, and no additional performance increase in the Central GOA.Start Printed Page 8779

Tables 5 and 6 list the seasonal apportionments and allocations of the 2018 and 2019 Pacific cod TACs.

Table 5—Final 2018 Seasonal Apportionments and Allocation of Pacific Cod Total Allowable Catch Amounts in the GOA; Allocations for the Western GOA and Central GOA Sectors and the Eastern GOA Inshore and Offshore Processing Components

[Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton and percentages to the nearest 0.01. Seasonal allowances may not total precisely to annual allocation amount]

Regulatory area and sectorAnnual allocation (mt)A seasonB season
Sector percentage of annual non-jig TACSeasonal allowances (mt)Sector percentage of annual non-jig TACSeasonal allowances (mt)
Western GOA:
Jig (1.5% of TAC)85N/A51N/A34
Hook-and-line CV780.70390.7039
Hook-and-line C/P1,10310.906078.90496
Trawl CV2,14027.701,54310.70596
Trawl C/P1340.90501.5084
All Pot CV and Pot C/P2,11719.801,10318.201,014
Total5,65760.003,39440.002,263
Central GOA:
Jig (1.0% of TAC)61N/A37N/A24
Hook-and-line <50 CV8809.325625.29319
Hook-and-line ≥50 CV4045.613381.1066
Hook-and-line C/P3084.112481.0060
Trawl CV 12,50721.141,27420.451,233
Trawl C/P2532.001212.19132
All Pot CV and Pot C/P1,67617.831,0759.97601
Total6,08960.003,65340.002,436
Eastern GOA:Inshore (90% of Annual TAC)Offshore (10% of Annual TAC)
1,3501,215135
1 Trawl vessels participating in Rockfish Program cooperatives receive 3.81 percent, or 232 mt, of the annual Central GOA TAC (see Table 28c to 50 CFR part 679), which is deducted from the Trawl CV B season allowance (see Table 12. Final 2018 Apportionments of Rockfish Secondary Species in the Central GOA and Table 28c to 50 CFR part 679).

Table 6—Final 2019 Seasonal Apportionments and Allocation of Pacific Cod Total Allowable Catch Amounts in the GOA; Allocations for the Western GOA and Central GOA Sectors and the Eastern GOA Inshore and Offshore Processing Components

[Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton and percentages to the nearest 0.01. Seasonal allowances may not total precisely to annual allocation amount]

Regulatory area and sectorAnnual allocation (mt)A seasonB season
Sector percentage of annual non-jig TACSeasonal allowances (mt)Sector percentage of annual non-jig TACSeasonal allowances (mt)
Western GOA:
Jig (1.5% of TAC)134N/A80N/A53
Hook-and-line CV730.70360.7036
Hook-and-line C/P1,03110.905688.90464
Trawl CV2,00027.701,44310.70557
Trawl C/P1250.90471.5078
All Pot CV and Pot C/P1,98019.801,03118.20948
Total5,34360.003,20640.002,137
Central GOA:
Jig (1.0% of TAC)58N/A35N/A23
Hook-and-line <50 CV8319.325305.29301
Hook-and-line ≥50 CV3825.613191.1062
Hook-and-line C/P2914.112341.0057
Trawl CV 12,36721.141,20320.451,164
Trawl C/P2392.001142.19125
Start Printed Page 8780
All Pot CV and Pot C/P1,58317.831,0159.97568
Total5,75060.003,45040.002,300
Eastern GOA:Inshore (90% of Annual TAC)Offshore (10% of Annual TAC)
1,2751,148128
1 Trawl vessels participating in Rockfish Program cooperatives receive 3.81 percent, or 219 mt, of the annual Central GOA TAC (see Table 28c to 50 CFR part 679), which is deducted from the Trawl CV B season allowance (see Table 13. Final 2019 Apportionments of Rockfish Secondary Species in the Central GOA and Table 28c to 50 CFR part 679).

Allocations of the Sablefish TACs Amounts to Vessels Using Fixed and Trawl Gear

Section 679.20(a)(4)(i) and (ii) require allocations of sablefish TACs for each of the regulatory areas and districts to fixed and trawl gear. In the Western and Central Regulatory Areas, 80 percent of each TAC is allocated to fixed gear, and 20 percent of each TAC is allocated to trawl gear. In the Eastern Regulatory Area, which is comprised of the WYK and SEO Districts, 95 percent of the TAC is allocated to fixed gear, and 5 percent is allocated to trawl gear. The trawl gear allocation in the Eastern Regulatory Area may only be used to support incidental catch of sablefish in directed trawl fisheries for other target species (§ 679.20(a)(4)(i)).

In recognition of the prohibition against trawl gear in the SEO District of the Eastern Regulatory Area, the Council recommended and NMFS approves the allocation of 5 percent of the Eastern Regulatory Area sablefish TAC to trawl gear in the WYK District, making the remainder of the WYK sablefish TAC available to vessels using fixed gear. NMFS allocates 100 percent of the sablefish TAC in the SEO District to vessels using fixed gear. This action results in a 2018 allocation of 240 mt to trawl gear and 1,589 mt to fixed gear in the WYK District, a 2018 allocation of 2,974 mt to fixed gear in the SEO District, and a 2019 allocation of 338 mt to trawl gear in the WYK District. Table 7 lists the allocations of the 2018 sablefish TACs to fixed and trawl gear. Table 8 lists the allocations of the 2019 sablefish TACs to trawl gear.

The Council recommended that a trawl sablefish TAC be established for two years so that retention of incidental catch of sablefish by trawl gear could commence in January in the second year of the groundfish harvest specifications. Both the 2018 and 2019 trawl allocations are specified in these final harvest specifications, in Tables 7 and 8, respectively.

The Council also recommended that the fixed gear sablefish TAC be established annually to ensure that this IFQ fishery is conducted concurrently with the halibut IFQ fishery and is based on the most recent sablefish survey information. Since there is an annual assessment for sablefish and since the final harvest specifications are expected to be published before the IFQ season begins on March 24, 2018, the Council recommended that the fixed gear sablefish TAC be set on an annual basis, rather than for two years, so that the best scientific information available could be considered in establishing the sablefish ABCs and TACs. Accordingly, while the 2018 fixed gear allocations are specified in Table 7, the 2019 fixed gear allocations are not specified in Table 8 and will be specified in the 2019 and 2020 harvest specifications.

With the exception of the trawl allocations that were provided to the Central GOA Rockfish Program (Rockfish Program) cooperatives (see Table 28c to 50 CFR part 679), directed fishing for sablefish with trawl gear in the GOA is closed during the fishing year. Also, fishing for groundfish with trawl gear is prohibited prior to January 20 (§ 679.23(c)). Therefore, it is not likely that the sablefish allocation to trawl gear would be reached before the effective date of the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications.

Table 7—Final 2018 Sablefish TAC Specifications in the GOA and Allocations to Fixed and Trawl Gear

[Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]

Area/districtTACFixed gear allocationTrawl gear allocation
Western1,5441,235309
Central5,1584,1261,032
West Yakutat 11,8291,589240
Southeast Outside2,9742,9740
Total11,5059,9241,581
1 The trawl allocation is based on allocating 5 percent of the combined Eastern Regulatory Area (West Yakutat and Southeast Outside Districts) sablefish TAC to trawl gear in the West Yakutat District.
Start Printed Page 8781

Table 8—Final 2019 Sablefish TAC Specifications in the GOA and Allocation to Trawl Gear 1

[Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]

Area/districtTACFixed gear allocationTrawl gear allocation
Western2,174n/a435
Central7,260n/a1,452
West Yakutat 22,573n/a338
Southeast Outside4,187n/a0
Total16,194n/a2,225
1 The Council recommended that the 2018 (but not the 2019) harvest specifications for the fixed gear sablefish Individual Fishing Quota fisheries be specified in the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications.
2 The trawl allocation is based on allocating 5 percent of the combined Eastern Regulatory Area (West Yakutat and Southeast Outside Districts) sablefish TAC to trawl gear in the West Yakutat District.

Demersal Shelf Rockfish (DSR)

The recommended 2018 and 2019 DSR TAC is 250 mt, and management of DSR is delegated to the State. The Alaska Board of Fisheries has apportioned the annual SEO District DSR TACs between the commercial fishery (84 percent) and the sport fishery (16 percent) after deductions were made for anticipated subsistence harvests (7 mt). This results in 2018 and 2019 allocations of 204 mt to the commercial fishery and 39 mt to the sport fishery.

The State deducts estimates of incidental catch of DSR in the commercial halibut fishery and pre-season “test fishery” DSR mortality from the DSR commercial fishery allocation. For example, in 2017, this resulted in 27 mt being available for the directed commercial DSR fishery apportioned in one DSR district. The State estimated that there was not sufficient DSR TAC available to have orderly fisheries in the three other DSR districts. DSR harvest in the halibut fishery is linked to the annual halibut catch limits; therefore, the State can only estimate potential DSR incidental catch because halibut catch limits are established by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC). For 2018 and 2019, the State will determine from the available DSR TAC of 250 mt the allocation available for the directed commercial DSR fishery in the DSR districts.

Federally permitted CVs using hook-and-line or jig gear fishing for groundfish and Pacific halibut in the SEO District of the GOA are required to retain all DSR (§ 679.20(j)).

Apportionments to the Rockfish Program

These final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications for the GOA include the fishery cooperative allocations and sideboard limitations established by the Rockfish Program. Program participants are primarily trawl CVs and trawl C/Ps, with limited participation by vessels using longline gear. The Rockfish Program assigns quota share and cooperative quota to participants for primary (Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, and dusky rockfish) and secondary species (Pacific cod, rougheye and blackspotted rockfish, sablefish, shortraker rockfish, and thornyhead rockfish); allows a participant holding a license limitation program (LLP) license with rockfish quota share to form a rockfish cooperative with other persons; and allows holders of C/P LLP licenses to opt out of the fishery. The Rockfish Program also has an entry level fishery for rockfish primary species for vessels using longline gear. Longline gear includes hook-and-line, jig, troll, and handline gear.

Under the Rockfish Program, rockfish primary species in the Central GOA are allocated to participants after deducting for incidental catch needs in other directed groundfish fisheries (§ 679.81(a)(2)). Participants in the Rockfish Program also receive a portion of the Central GOA TAC of specific secondary species. In addition to groundfish species, the Rockfish Program allocates a portion of the halibut PSC limit (191 mt) from the third season deep-water species fishery allowance for the GOA trawl fisheries to Rockfish Program participants (§ 679.81(d) and Table 28d to 50 CFR part 679). Also, the Rockfish Program establishes sideboard limits to restrict the ability of harvesters operating under the Rockfish Program to increase their participation in other, non-Rockfish Program fisheries. These restrictions, as well as halibut PSC limits, are discussed in a subsequent section in this rule titled “Rockfish Program Groundfish Sideboard and Halibut PSC Limitations.”

Section 679.81(a)(2)(ii) and Table 28e to 50 CFR part 679 require allocations of 5 mt of Pacific ocean perch, 5 mt of northern rockfish, and 50 mt of dusky rockfish to the entry level longline fishery in 2018 and 2019. The allocation of each primary species for the entry level longline fishery may increase incrementally each year if the catch exceeds 90 percent of the allocation of that species. The incremental increase in the allocation would continue each year until it reaches the maximum percent of the TAC that may be allocated to the rockfish entry level longline fishery for that species. In 2017, the catch of Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, and dusky rockfish did not attain the 90 percent threshold, and those allocations for 2018 do not increase above the 2017 allocations. The remainder of the TACs for the rockfish primary species would be allocated to the CV and C/P cooperatives. Table 9 lists the allocations of the 2018 and 2019 TACs for each rockfish primary species to the entry level longline fishery, the potential incremental increases for future years, and the maximum percent of the TACs assigned to the Rockfish Program that may be allocated to the rockfish entry level longline fishery.Start Printed Page 8782

Table 9—Final 2018 and Initial 2019 Allocations of Rockfish Primary Species to the Entry Level Longline Fishery in the Central Gulf of Alaska

Rockfish primary species2018 and 2019 allocationsIncremental increase in 2019 if >90% of 2018 allocation is harvestedUp to maximum % of TAC
Pacific ocean perch5 metric tons5 metric tons1
Northern rockfish5 metric tons5 metric tons2
Dusky rockfish50 metric tons20 metric tons5

Section 679.81 requires allocations of the rockfish primary species among various sectors of the Rockfish Program. Tables 10 and 11 list the final 2018 and 2019 allocations of rockfish primary species in the Central GOA to the entry level longline fishery, and CV and C/P cooperatives in the Rockfish Program. NMFS also is setting aside incidental catch amounts (ICAs) for other directed fisheries in the Central GOA of 4,000 mt of Pacific ocean perch, 300 mt of northern rockfish, and 250 mt of dusky rockfish. These amounts are based on recent average incidental catches in the Central GOA by other groundfish fisheries.

Allocations among vessels belonging to CV or C/P cooperatives are not included in these final harvest specifications. Rockfish Program applications for CV cooperatives and C/P cooperatives are not due to NMFS until March 1 of each calendar year; therefore, NMFS cannot calculate 2018 and 2019 allocations in conjunction with these final harvest specifications. NMFS will post these allocations on the Alaska Region website at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/​fisheries/​central-goa-rockfish-program when they become available after March 1.

Table 10—Final 2018 Allocations of Rockfish Primary Species in the Central Gulf of Alaska to the Entry Level Longline Fishery and Rockfish Cooperatives in the Rockfish Program

[Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]

Rockfish primary speciesTACIncidental catch allowanceTAC minus ICAAllocation to the entry level longline 1 fisheryAllocation to the Rockfish cooperatives 2
Pacific ocean perch20,1124,00016,112516,107
Northern rockfish3,2613002,96152,956
Dusky rockfish3,5022503,252503,202
Total26,8754,05022,8256022,265
1 Longline gear includes hook-and-line, jig, troll, and handline gear (50 CFR 679.2).
2 Rockfish cooperatives include vessels in CV and C/P cooperatives (50 CFR 679.81).

Table 11—Final 2019 Allocations of Rockfish Primary Species in the Central Gulf of Alaska to the Entry Level Longline Fishery and Rockfish Cooperatives in the Rockfish Program

[Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]

Rockfish primary speciesTACIncidental catch allowanceTAC minus ICAAllocation to the entry level longline 1 fisheryAllocation to the Rockfish cooperatives 2
Pacific ocean perch19,6784,00015,678515,673
Northern rockfish2,9653002,66552,660
Dusky rockfish3,2462502,996502,946
Total25,8894,05021,8396021,279
1 Longline gear includes hook-and-line, jig, troll, and handline gear (50 CFR 679.2).
2 Rockfish cooperatives include vessels in CV and C/P cooperatives (50 CFR 679.81).

Section 679.81(c) and Table 28c to 50 CFR part 679 requires allocations of rockfish secondary species to CV and C/P cooperatives in the Central GOA. CV cooperatives receive allocations of Pacific cod, sablefish from the trawl gear allocation, and thornyhead rockfish. C/P cooperatives receive allocations of sablefish from the trawl gear allocation, rougheye and blackspotted rockfish, shortraker rockfish, and thornyhead rockfish. Tables 12 and 13 list the apportionments of the 2018 and 2019 TACs of rockfish secondary species in the Central GOA to CV and C/P cooperatives.Start Printed Page 8783

Table 12—Final 2018 Apportionments of Rockfish Secondary Species in the Central GOA to Catcher Vessel and Catcher/Processor Cooperatives

[Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]

Rockfish secondary speciesAnnual central GOA TACCatcher vessel cooperativesCatcher/processor cooperatives
Percentage of TACApportionment (mt)Percentage of TACApportionment (mt)
Pacific cod6,0893.812320.000
Sablefish5,1586.783503.51181
Shortraker rockfish3050.00040.00122
Rougheye rockfish5560.00058.87327
Thornyhead rockfish9217.847226.50244

Table 13—Final 2019 Apportionments of Rockfish Secondary Species in the Central GOA to Catcher Vessel and Catcher/Processor Cooperatives

[Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]

Rockfish secondary speciesAnnual central GOA TACCatcher vessel cooperativesCatcher/processor cooperatives
Percentage of TACApportionment (mt)Percentage of TACApportionment (mt)
Pacific cod5,7503.812190.000
Sablefish7,2606.784923.51255
Shortraker rockfish3050.00040.00122
Rougheye rockfish5500.00058.87324
Thornyhead rockfish9217.847226.50244

Halibut PSC Limits

Section 679.21(d) establishes the annual halibut PSC limit apportionments for trawl gear and hook-and-line gear, and authorizes the establishment of apportionments for pot gear. In December 2017, the Council recommended halibut PSC limits of 1,706 mt for trawl gear, 257 mt for hook-and-line gear, and 9 mt for the DSR fishery in the SEO District for both 2018 and 2019.

The DSR fishery in the SEO District is defined at § 679.21(d)(2)(ii)(A). This fishery is apportioned 9 mt of the halibut PSC limit in recognition of its small-scale harvests of groundfish (§ 679.21(d)(2)(i)(A)). The separate halibut PSC limit for the DSR fishery is intended to prevent that fishery from being impacted from the halibut PSC incurred by other GOA fisheries. NMFS estimates low halibut bycatch in the DSR fishery because (1) the duration of the DSR fisheries and the gear soak times are short, (2) the DSR fishery occurs in the winter when there is less overlap in the distribution of DSR and halibut, and (3) the directed commercial DSR fishery has a low DSR TAC.

The FMP authorizes the Council to exempt specific gear from the halibut PSC limits. NMFS, after consultation with the Council, exempts pot gear, jig gear, and the sablefish IFQ hook-and-line gear fishery categories from the non-trawl halibut PSC limit for 2018 and 2019. The Council recommended, and NMFS approves, these exemptions because: (1) The pot gear fisheries have low annual halibut bycatch mortality, (2) IFQ program regulations prohibit discard of halibut if any halibut IFQ permit holder on board a catcher vessel holds unused halibut IFQ for that vessel category and the IFQ regulatory area in which the vessel is operating (§ 679.7(f)(11)), (3) some sablefish IFQ fishermen hold halibut IFQ permits and are therefore required to retain the halibut they catch while fishing sablefish IFQ, and (4) NMFS estimates negligible halibut mortality for the jig gear fisheries. NMFS estimates that halibut mortality is negligible in the jig gear fisheries given the small amount of groundfish harvested by jig gear, the selective nature of jig gear, and the high survival rates of halibut caught and released with jig gear.

The best available information on estimated halibut bycatch consists of data collected by fisheries observers during 2017. The calculated halibut bycatch mortality through December 9, 2017, is 1,214 mt for trawl gear and 169 mt for hook-and-line gear for a total halibut mortality of 1,383 mt. This halibut mortality was calculated using groundfish and halibut catch data from the NMFS Alaska Region's catch accounting system. This accounting system contains historical and recent catch information compiled from each Alaska groundfish fishery.

Section 679.21(d)(4)(i) and (ii) authorizes NMFS to seasonally apportion the halibut PSC limits after consultation with the Council. The FMP and regulations require the Council and NMFS to consider the following information in seasonally apportioning halibut PSC limits: (1) Seasonal distribution of halibut; (2) seasonal distribution of target groundfish species relative to halibut distribution; (3) expected halibut bycatch needs on a seasonal basis relative to changes in halibut biomass and expected catch of target groundfish species; (4) expected bycatch rates on a seasonal basis; (5) expected changes in directed groundfish fishing seasons; (6) expected actual start of fishing effort; and (7) economic effects of establishing seasonal halibut allocations on segments of the target groundfish industry. The Council considered information from the 2017 SAFE report, NMFS catch data, State of Alaska catch data, IPHC stock assessment and mortality data, and public testimony when apportioning the halibut PSC limits. NMFS concurs with the Council's recommendations listed in Table 14, which show the final 2018 and 2019 Pacific halibut PSC limits, allowances, and apportionments.

Section 679.21(d)(4)(iii) and (iv) specify that any underages or overages of a seasonal apportionment of a halibut Start Printed Page 8784PSC limit will be added to or deducted from the next respective seasonal apportionment within the fishing year.

Table 14—Final 2018 and 2019 Pacific Halibut PSC Limits, Allowances, and Apportionments

[Values are in metric tons]

Trawl gearHook-and-line gear 1
SeasonPercentAmountOther than DSRDSR
SeasonPercentAmountSeasonAmount
January 20-April 127.5469January 1-June 1086221January 1-December 319
April 1-July 120341June 10-September 125
July 1-September 130512September 1-December 311231
September 1-October 17.5128
October 1-December 3115256
Total1,7062579
1 The Pacific halibut prohibited species catch (PSC) limit for hook-and-line gear is allocated to the demersal shelf rockfish (DSR) fishery in the SEO District and to the hook-and-line fisheries other than the DSR fishery. The hook-and-line sablefish IFQ fishery is exempt from halibut PSC limits, as are pot and jig gear for all groundfish fisheries.
Note: Seasonal or sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.

Section 679.21(d)(3)(ii) authorizes further apportionment of the trawl halibut PSC limit to trawl fishery categories listed in § 679.21(d)(3)(iii). The annual apportionments are based on each category's proportional share of the anticipated halibut bycatch mortality during the fishing year and optimization of the total amount of groundfish harvest under the halibut PSC limit. The fishery categories for the trawl halibut PSC limits are: (1) A deep-water species fishery, composed of sablefish, rockfish, deep-water flatfish, rex sole, and arrowtooth flounder; and (2) a shallow-water species fishery, composed of pollock, Pacific cod, shallow-water flatfish, flathead sole, Atka mackerel, and “other species” (sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses) (§ 679.21(d)(3)(iii)). Halibut mortality incurred while directed fishing for skates with trawl gear accrues towards the shallow-water fishery halibut PSC limit (69 FR 26320, May 12, 2004).

NMFS will combine available trawl halibut PSC limit apportionments on May 15 during the second season deep-water and shallow-water fisheries for use in either fishery from May 15 through June 30 (§ 679.21(d)(4)(iii)(D)). This is intended to maintain groundfish harvest while minimizing halibut bycatch by these sectors to the extent practicable. This provides the deep-water and shallow-water trawl fisheries additional flexibility and the incentive to participate in fisheries at times of the year that may have lower halibut PSC rates relative to other times of the year.

Table 15 lists the final 2018 and 2019 apportionments of halibut PSC trawl limits between the trawl gear deep-water and shallow-water species fishery categories.

Table 28d to 50 CFR part 679 specifies the amount of the trawl halibut PSC limit that is assigned to the CV and C/P sectors that are participating in the Rockfish Program. This includes 117 mt of halibut PSC limit to the CV sector and 74 mt of halibut PSC limit to the C/P sector. These amounts are allocated from the trawl deep-water species fishery's halibut PSC third seasonal apportionment. After the combined CV and C/P halibut PSC limit allocation of 191 mt to the Rockfish Program, 150 mt remains for the trawl deep-water species fishery's halibut PSC third seasonal apportionment.

Section 679.21(d)(4)(iii)(B) limits the amount of the halibut PSC limit allocated to Rockfish Program participants that could be re-apportioned to the general GOA trawl fisheries during the current fishing year to no more than 55 percent of the unused annual halibut PSC limit apportioned to Rockfish Program participants. The remainder of the unused Rockfish Program halibut PSC limit is unavailable for use by any person for the remainder of the fishing year (§ 679.21(d)(4)(iii)(C)).

Table 15—Final 2018 and 2019 Apportionment of Pacific Halibut PSC Trawl Limits Between the Trawl Gear Deep-Water Species Fishery and the Shallow-Water Species Fishery Categories

[Values are in metric tons]

SeasonShallow-waterDeep-water 1Total
January 20-April 138485469
April 1-July 185256341
July 1-September 1171341512
September 1-October 1128(*)128
Subtotal January 20-October 17686821,450
October 1-December 31 2256
Start Printed Page 8785
Total1,706
1 Vessels participating in cooperatives in the Central GOA Rockfish Program will receive 191 mt of the third season (July 1 through September 1) deep-water species fishery halibut PSC apportionment.
2 There is no apportionment between trawl shallow-water and deep-water species fishery categories during the fifth season (October 1 through December 31).
* Any remainder.

Section 679.21(d)(2)(i)(B) requires that the “other hook-and-line fishery” halibut PSC limit apportionment to vessels using hook-and-line gear must be apportioned between CVs and C/Ps in accordance with § 679.21(d)(2)(iii) in conjunction with these harvest specifications. A comprehensive description and example of the calculations necessary to apportion the “other hook-and-line fishery” halibut PSC limit between the hook-and-line CV and C/P sectors were included in the proposed rule to implement Amendment 83 to the FMP (76 FR 44700, July 26, 2011) and are not repeated here.

Pursuant to § 679.21(d)(2)(iii), the hook-and-line halibut PSC limit for the “other hook-and-line fishery” is apportioned between the CV and C/P sectors in proportion to the total Western and Central GOA Pacific cod allocations, which vary annually based on the proportion of the Pacific cod biomass between the Western, Central, and Eastern GOA. Pacific cod is apportioned among these two management areas based on the percentage of overall biomass per area, as calculated in the 2016 Pacific cod stock assessment. Updated information in the final 2017 SAFE report describes this distributional calculation, which is based on allocating ABC among regulatory areas on the basis of the three most recent stock surveys. For 2018 and 2019, the distribution of the total GOA Pacific cod ABC is 45 percent to the Western GOA, 45 percent to the Central GOA, and 10 percent to the Eastern GOA. Therefore, the calculations made in accordance with § 679.21(d)(2)(iii) incorporate the most recent information on GOA Pacific cod distribution with respect to establishing the annual halibut PSC limits for the CV and C/P hook-and-line sectors. The annual halibut PSC limits for both the CV and C/P sectors of the “other hook-and-line fishery” are divided into three seasonal apportionments, using seasonal percentages of 86 percent, 2 percent, and 12 percent.

For 2018 and 2019, NMFS apportions halibut PSC limits of 120 mt and 137 mt to the hook-and-line CV and hook-and-line C/P sectors, respectively. Table 16 lists the final 2018 and 2019 apportionments of halibut PSC limits between the hook-and-line CV and the hook-and-line C/P sectors of the “other hook-and-line fishery.”

No later than November 1 of each year, NMFS will calculate the projected unused amount of halibut PSC limit by either of the CV or C/P hook-and-line sectors of the “other hook-and-line fishery” for the remainder of the year. The projected unused amount of halibut PSC limit is made available to the other hook-and-line sector for the remainder of that fishing year (§ 679.21(d)(2)(iii)(C)), if NMFS determines that an additional amount of halibut PSC is necessary for that sector to continue its directed fishing operations.

Table 16—Final 2018 and 2019 Apportionments of the “Other Hook-and-Line Fishery” Annual Halibut PSC Allowance Between the Hook-and-Line Gear Catcher Vessel and Catcher/Processor Sectors

[Values are in metric tons]

“Other than DSR” allowanceHook-and- line sectorSector annual amountSeasonSeasonal percentageSector seasonal amount
257Catcher Vessel120January 1-June 1086103
June 10-September 122
September 1-December 311214
Catcher/Processor137January 1-June 1086118
June 10-September 123
September 1-December 311216

Estimates of Halibut Biomass and Stock Condition

The 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 Start Printed Page 8786particular 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 GOA stock assessment process. The DMR methodology and findings are included as an appendix to the annual GOA 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 GOA Plan Team, SSC, and the Council. A summary of the revised methodology is contained in the GOA proposed 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications (81 FR 87881, 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, which could provide more recent and accurate data and which 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 allow 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 concurred with the revised DMR estimation methodology, and NMFS adopted for 2018 and 2019 the DMRs calculated under the revised methodology. The final 2018 and 2019 DMRs in this rule are unchanged from the DMRs in the proposed 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications (82 FR 57924, December 8, 2017). Table 17 lists these final 2018 and 2019 DMRs.

Table 17—Final 2018 and 2019 Halibut Discard Mortality Rates for Vessels Fishing in the Gulf of Alaska

[Values are percent of halibut assumed to be dead]

GearSectorGroundfish fisheryHalibut discard mortality rate (percent)
Pelagic trawlCatcher vesselAll100
Catcher/processorAll100
Non-pelagic trawlCatcher vesselRockfish Program62
Catcher vesselAll others67
Mothership and catcher/processorAll84
Hook-and-lineCatcher/processorAll10
Catcher vesselAll17
PotCatcher vessel and catcher/processorAll7

Chinook Salmon Prohibited Species Catch Limits

Amendment 93 to the FMP (77 FR 42629, July 20, 2012) established separate Chinook salmon PSC limits in the Western and Central GOA in the directed pollock trawl fishery. These limits require NMFS to close the pollock directed fishery in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA if the applicable Chinook salmon PSC limit in that regulatory area is reached (§ 679.21(h)(8)). The annual Chinook salmon PSC limits in the pollock directed fishery of 6,684 salmon in the Western GOA and 18,316 salmon in the Central GOA are set at § 679.21(h)(2)(i) and (ii).

Amendment 97 to the FMP (79 FR 71350, December 2, 2014) established an initial annual PSC limit of 7,500 Chinook salmon for the trawl non-pollock groundfish fisheries in the Western and Central GOA. This limit is apportioned among three sectors directed fishing for groundfish species other than pollock: 3,600 Chinook salmon to trawl C/Ps; 1,200 Chinook salmon to trawl CVs participating in the Rockfish Program; and 2,700 Chinook salmon to trawl CVs not participating in the Rockfish Program (§ 679.21(h)(4)). NMFS will monitor the Chinook salmon PSC in the non-pollock GOA groundfish fisheries and close an applicable sector if it reaches its Chinook salmon PSC limit.

The Chinook salmon PSC limit for two sectors, trawl C/Ps and trawl CVs not participating in the Rockfish Program, may be increased in subsequent years based on the performance of these two sectors and their ability to minimize their use of their respective Chinook salmon PSC limits. If either or both of these two sectors limits its use of Chinook salmon PSC to a specified threshold amount in 2017 (3,120 for trawl C/Ps and 2,340 for trawl CVs), that sector will receive an incremental increase to its 2018 Chinook salmon PSC limit (§ 679.21(h)(4)). In 2017, the trawl C/P sector did not exceed 3,120 Chinook salmon PSC; therefore, the 2018 trawl C/P sector Chinook salmon PSC limit will be 4,080 Chinook salmon. In 2017, the Non-Rockfish Program CV sector did not exceed 2,340 Chinook salmon PSC; therefore, the 2018 Non-Rockfish Program CV sector limit will be 3,060 Chinook salmon.

American Fisheries Act (AFA) Catcher/Processor and Catcher Vessel Groundfish Harvest and PSC Limits

Section 679.64 establishes groundfish harvesting and processing sideboard limitations on AFA C/Ps and CVs in the GOA. These sideboard limits are necessary to protect the interests of fishermen and processors who do not directly benefit from the AFA from those fishermen and processors who receive exclusive harvesting and processing privileges under the AFA. Section 679.7(k)(1)(ii) prohibits listed AFA C/Ps and C/Ps designated on a listed AFA C/P permit from harvesting any species of groundfish in the GOA. Additionally, § 679.7(k)(1)(iv) prohibits listed AFA C/Ps and C/Ps designated on a listed AFA C/P permit from processing any pollock harvested in a directed pollock fishery in the GOA and any groundfish harvested in Statistical Area 630 of the GOA.

AFA CVs that are less than 125 feet (38.1 meters) length overall, have annual landings of pollock in the Bering Start Printed Page 8787Sea and Aleutian Islands less than 5,100 mt, and have made at least 40 GOA groundfish landings from 1995 through 1997 are exempt from GOA CV groundfish sideboard limits under § 679.64(b)(2)(ii). Sideboard limits for non-exempt AFA CVs in the GOA are based on their traditional harvest levels of TAC in groundfish fisheries covered by the FMP. Section 679.64(b)(3)(iv) establishes the CV groundfish sideboard limitations in the GOA based on the aggregate retained catch of non-exempt AFA CVs of each sideboard species or species group from 1995 through 1997 divided by the sum of the TACs for that species or species group available to CVs over the same period.

Tables 18 and 19 list the final 2018 and 2019 groundfish sideboard limits for non-exempt AFA CVs. NMFS will deduct all targeted or incidental catch of sideboard species made by non-exempt AFA CVs from the sideboard limits listed in Tables 18 and 19.

Table 18—Final 2018 GOA Non-Exempt American Fisheries Act Catcher Vessel (CV) Groundfish Harvest Sideboard Limits

[Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]

SpeciesApportionments by season/gearArea/componentRatio of 1995-1997 non-exempt AFA CV catch to 1995-1997 TACFinal 2018 TACsFinal 2018 non-exempt AFA CV sideboard limit
PollockA Season—January 20-March 10Shumagin (610) Chirikof (620) Kodiak (630)0.6047 0.1167 0.20281,317 27,314 9,025796 3,188 1,830
B Season—March 10-May 31Shumagin (610) Chirikof (620) Kodiak (630)0.6047 0.1167 0.20281,317 32,155 4,184796 3,752 848
C Season—August 25-October 1Shumagin (610) Chirikof (620) Kodiak (630)0.6047 0.1167 0.202813,777 10,013 13,8658,331 1,169 2,812
D Season—October 1-November 1Shumagin (610) Chirikof (620) Kodiak (630)0.6047 0.1167 0.202813,777 10,013 13,8658,331 1,169 2,812
AnnualWYK (640) SEO (650)0.3495 0.34956,833 8,7732,388 3,066
Pacific codA Season 1—January 1-June 10W C0.1331 0.06923,394 3,653452 253
B Season 2—September 1-December 31W C0.1331 0.06922,263 2,436301 169
AnnualE inshore E offshore0.0079 0.00781,215 13510 1
SablefishAnnual, trawl gearW C E0.0000 0.0642 0.0433309 1,032 24066 10
Shallow-water flatfishAnnualW0.015613,250207
C E0.0587 0.012625,315 4,1671,486 53
Deep-water flatfishAnnualW0.0000413
C E0.0647 0.01283,400 5,571220 71
Rex soleAnnualW C E0.0007 0.0384 0.00293,086 8,739 3,5482 336 10
Arrowtooth flounderAnnualW C E0.0021 0.0280 0.000214,500 48,000 13,80030 1,344 3
Flathead soleAnnualW C E0.0036 0.0213 0.00098,650 15,400 2,33831 328 2
Pacific ocean perchAnnualW C E0.0023 0.0748 0.04663,312 20,112 5,8128 1,504 271
Northern rockfishAnnualW C0.0003 0.0277420 3,2610 90
Shortraker rockfishAnnualW C E0.0000 0.0218 0.011044 305 5157 6
Dusky rockfishAnnualW C E0.0001 0.0000 0.0067146 3,502 3090 2
Rougheye rockfishAnnualW C E0.0000 0.0237 0.0124176 556 71213 9
Demersal shelf rockfishAnnualSEO0.00202501
Start Printed Page 8788
Thornyhead rockfishAnnualW C E0.0280 0.0280 0.0280344 921 77310 26 22
Other rockfishAnnualC E0.1699 0.00001,737 568295
Atka mackerelAnnualGulfwide0.03093,00093
Big skatesAnnualW C E0.0063 0.0063 0.0063504 1,774 5703 11 4
Longnose skatesAnnualW C E0.0063 0.0063 0.0063149 2,804 6191 18 4
Other skatesAnnualGulfwide0.00631,3849
SculpinsAnnualGulfwide0.00635,30133
SharksAnnualGulfwide0.00634,51428
SquidsAnnualGulfwide0.00631,1377
OctopusesAnnualGulfwide0.00639756
1 The Pacific cod A season for trawl gear does not open until January 20.
2 The Pacific cod B season for trawl gear closes November 1.

Table 19—Final 2019 GOA Non-Exempt American Fisheries Act Catcher Vessel (CV) Groundfish Harvest Sideboard Limits

[Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]

SpeciesApportionments by season/gearArea/componentRatio of 1995-1997 non-exempt AFA CV catch to 1995-1997 TACFinal 2019 TACsFinal 2019 non-exempt AFA CV sideboard limit
PollockA Season—January 20-March 10Shumagin (610) Chirikof (620) Kodiak (630)0.6047 0.1167 0.2028869 18,025 5,955525 2,103 1,208
B Season—March 10-May 31Shumagin (610) Chirikof (620) Kodiak (630)0.6047 0.1167 0.2028869 21,219 2,761525 2,476 560
C Season—August 25-October 1Shumagin (610) Chirikof (620) Kodiak (630)0.6047 0.1167 0.20289,091 6,608 9,1505,498 771 1,856
D Season—October 1-November 1Shumagin (610) Chirikof (620) Kodiak (630)0.6047 0.1167 0.20289,091 6,608 9,1505,498 771 1,856
AnnualWYK (640) SEO (650)0.3495 0.34954,509 8,7731,576 3,066
Pacific codA Season 1—January 1-June 10W C0.1331 0.06923,206 3,450427 239
B Season 2—September 1-December 31W C0.1331 0.06922,137 2,300284 159
AnnualE inshore E offshore0.0079 0.00781,148 1289 1
SablefishAnnual, trawl gearW C E0.0000 0.0642 0.0433435 1,452 33893 15
Shallow-water flatfishAnnualW C E0.0156 0.0587 0.012613,250 25,655 4,223207 1,506 53
Deep-water flatfishAnnualW C E0.0000 0.0647 0.0128416 3,442 5,640223 72
Rex soleAnnualW C E0.0007 0.0384 0.00292,909 8,236 3,3842 316 10
Start Printed Page 8789
Arrowtooth flounderAnnualW C E0.0021 0.0280 0.000214,500 48,000 13,80030 1,344 3
Flathead soleAnnualW C E0.0036 0.0213 0.00098,650 15,400 2,43731 328 2
Pacific ocean perchAnnualW C E0.0023 0.0748 0.04663,240 19,678 5,6877 1,472 265
Northern rockfishAnnualW C0.0003 0.0277382 2,9650 82
Shortraker rockfishAnnualW C E0.0000 0.0218 0.011044 305 5157 6
Dusky rockfishAnnualW C E0.0001 0.0000 0.0067135 3,246 2870 2
Rougheye rockfishAnnualW C E0.0000 0.0237 0.0124174 550 70313 9
Demersal shelf rockfishAnnualSEO0.00202501
Thornyhead rockfishAnnualW C E0.0280 0.0280 0.0280344 921 77310 26 22
Other rockfishAnnualW/C E0.1699 0.00001,737 568295
Atka mackerelAnnualGulfwide0.03093,00093
Big skatesAnnualW C E0.0063 0.0063 0.0063504 1,774 5703 11 4
Longnose skatesAnnualW C E0.0063 0.0063 0.0063149 2,804 6191 18 4
Other skatesAnnualGulfwide0.00631,3849
SculpinsAnnualGulfwide0.00635,30133
SharksAnnualGulfwide0.00634,51428
SquidsAnnualGulfwide0.00631,1377
OctopusesAnnualGulfwide0.00639756
1 The Pacific cod A season for trawl gear does not open until January 20.
2 The Pacific cod B season for trawl gear closes November 1.

Non-Exempt AFA Catcher Vessel Halibut PSC Limits

The halibut PSC sideboard limits for non-exempt AFA CVs in the GOA are based on the aggregate retained groundfish catch by non-exempt AFA CVs in each PSC target category from 1995 through 1997 divided by the retained catch of all vessels in that fishery from 1995 through 1997 (§ 679.64(b)(4)(ii)). Table 20 lists the final 2018 and 2019 non-exempt AFA CV halibut PSC limits for vessels using trawl gear in the GOA, respectively.

Table 20—Final 2018 and 2019 Non-Exempt AFA CV Halibut Prohibited Species Catch (PSC) Limits for Vessels Using Trawl Gear in the GOA

[Values are rounded to nearest metric ton]

SeasonSeason datesTarget fisheryRatio of 1995-1997 non-exempt AFA CV retained catch to total retained catch2018 and 2019 PSC limit2018 and 2019 non-exempt AFA CV PSC limit
1January 20-April 1shallow-water0.340384131
deep-water0.070856
Start Printed Page 8790
2April 1-July 1shallow-water0.3408529
deep-water0.07025618
3July 1-September 1shallow-water0.34017158
deep-water0.07034124
4September 1-October 1shallow-water0.34012844
deep-water0.07000
5October 1-December 31all targets0.20525652
Annual:
Total shallow-water262
Total deep-water48
Grand Total, all season and categories1,706362

Non-AFA Crab Vessel Groundfish Harvest Limitations

Section 680.22 establishes groundfish catch limits for vessels with a history of participation in the Bering Sea snow crab fishery to prevent these vessels from using the increased flexibility provided by the Crab Rationalization Program to expand their level of participation in the GOA groundfish fisheries. Sideboard limits restrict these vessels' catch to their collective historical landings in each GOA groundfish fishery (except the fixed-gear sablefish fishery). Sideboard limits also apply to catch made using an LLP license derived from the history of a restricted vessel, even if that LLP license is used on another vessel.

The basis for these sideboard limits is described in detail in the final rules implementing the major provisions of Amendments 18 and 19 to the Fishery Management Plan for Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands King and Tanner Crabs (Crab FMP) (70 FR 10174, March 2, 2005), Amendment 34 to the Crab FMP (76 FR 35772, June 20, 2011), Amendment 83 to the GOA FMP (76 FR 74670, December 1, 2011), and Amendment 45 to the Crab FMP (80 FR 28539, May 19, 2015).

Tables 21 and 22 list the final 2018 and 2019 groundfish sideboard limitations for non-AFA crab vessels. All targeted or incidental catch of sideboard species made by non-AFA crab vessels or associated LLP licenses will be deducted from these sideboard limits.

Table 21—Final 2018 GOA Non-American Fisheries Act Crab Vessel Groundfish Harvest Sideboard Limits

[Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]

SpeciesSeason/gearArea/component/gearRatio of 1996-2000 non-AFA crab vessel catch to 1996-2000 total harvestFinal 2018 TACsFinal 2018 non-AFA crab vessel sideboard limit
PollockA Season—January 20-March 10Shumagin (610)0.00981,31713
Chirikof (620)0.003127,31485
Kodiak (630)0.00029,0252
B Season—March 10-May 31Shumagin (610)0.00981,31713
Chirikof (620)0.003132,155100
Kodiak (630)0.00024,1841
C Season—August 25-October 1Shumagin (610)0.009813,777135
Chirikof (620)0.003110,01331
Kodiak (630)0.000213,8653
D Season—October 1-November 1Shumagin (610)0.009813,777135
Chirikof (620)0.003110,01331
Kodiak (630)0.000213,8653
AnnualWYK (640)0.00006,833
SEO (650)0.00008,773
Pacific codA Season 1—January 1-June 10WG Jig0.00003,394
WG Hook-and-line CV0.00043,3941
WG Pot CV0.09973,394338
WG Pot C/P0.00783,39426
WG Trawl CV0.00073,3942
CG Jig0.00003,653
Start Printed Page 8791
CG Hook-and-line CV0.00013,6530
CG Pot CV0.04743,653173
CG Pot C/P0.01363,65350
CG Trawl CV0.00123,6534
B Season 2—September 1-December 31WG Jig0.00002,263
WG Hook-and-line CV0.00042,2631
WG Pot CV0.09972,263226
WG Pot C/P0.00782,26318
WG Trawl CV0.00072,2632
CG Jig0.00002,436
CG Hook-and-line CV0.00012,4360
CG Pot CV0.04742,436115
CG Pot C/P0.01362,43633
CG Trawl CV0.00122,4363
AnnualEG inshore0.01101,21513
EG offshore0.0000135
SablefishAnnual, trawl gearW0.0000309
C0.00001,032
E0.0000240
Shallow-water flatfishAnnualW0.005913,25078
C0.000125,3153
E0.00004,167
Deep-water flatfishAnnualW0.00354131
C0.00003,400
E0.00005,571
Rex soleAnnualW0.00003,086
C0.00008,739
E0.00003,548
Arrowtooth flounderAnnualW0.000414,5006
C0.000148,0005
E0.000013,800
Flathead soleAnnualW0.00028,6502
C0.000415,4006
E0.00002,338
Pacific ocean perchAnnualW0.00003,312
C0.000020,112
0.00005,812
Northern rockfishAnnualW0.00054200
C0.00003,261
Shortraker rockfishAnnualW0.0013440
C0.00123050
E0.00095150
Dusky rockfishAnnualW0.00171460
C0.00003,502
E0.0000309
Rougheye rockfishAnnualW0.00671761
C0.00475563
E0.00087121
Demersal shelf rockfishAnnualSEO0.0000250
Thornyhead rockfishAnnualW0.00473442
C0.00669216
E0.00457733
Other rockfishAnnualW/C0.00331,7376
E0.0000568
Atka mackerelAnnualGulfwide0.00003,000
Big skateAnnualW0.039250420
C0.01591,77428
E0.0000570
Longnose skateAnnualW0.03921496
C0.01592,80445
E0.0000619
Other skatesAnnualGulfwide0.01761,38424
SculpinsAnnualGulfwide0.01765,30193
SharksAnnualGulfwide0.01764,51479
SquidsAnnualGulfwide0.01761,13720
Start Printed Page 8792
OctopusesAnnualGulfwide0.017697517
1 The Pacific cod A season for trawl gear does not open until January 20.
2 The Pacific cod B season for jig gear opens June 10. The Pacific cod B season for trawl gear closes November 1.

Table 22—Final 2019 GOA Non-American Fisheries Act Crab Vessel Groundfish Harvest Sideboard Limits

[Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]

SpeciesSeason/gearArea/component/gearRatio of 1996-2000 non-AFA crab vessel catch to 1996-2000 total harvestFinal 2019 TACsFinal 2019 non-AFA crab vessel sideboard limit
PollockA Season—January 20-March 10Shumagin (610)0.00988699
Chirikof (620)0.003118,02556
Kodiak (630)0.00025,9551
B Season—March 10-May 31Shumagin (610)0.00988699
Chirikof (620)0.003121,21966
Kodiak (630)0.00022,7611
C Season—August 25-October 1Shumagin (610)0.00989,09189
Chirikof (620)0.00316,60820
Kodiak (630)0.00029,1502
D Season—October 1-November 1Shumagin (610)0.00989,09189
Chirikof (620)0.00316,60820
Kodiak (630)0.00029,1502
AnnualWYK (640)0.00004,509
SEO (650)0.00008,773
Pacific codA Season 1—January 1-June 10WG Jig0.00003,206
WG Hook-and-line CV0.00043,2061
WG Pot CV0.09973,206320
WG Pot C/P0.00783,20625
WG Trawl CV0.00073,2062
CG Jig0.00003,450
CG Hook-and-line CV0.00013,4500
CG Pot CV0.04743,450164
CG Pot C/P0.01363,45047
CG Trawl CV0.00123,4504
B Season 2—September 1-December 31WG Jig WG Hook-and-line CV0.0000 0.00042,137 2,1371
WG Pot CV0.09972,137213
WG Pot C/P0.00782,13717
WG Trawl CV0.00072,1371
CG Jig0.00002,300
CG Hook-and-line CV0.00012,3000
CG Pot CV0.04742,300109
CG Pot C/P0.01362,30031
CG Trawl CV0.00122,3003
AnnualE inshore0.01101,14813
E offshore0.0000128
SablefishAnnual, trawl gearW0.0000435
C0.00001,452
E0.0000338
Shallow-water flatfishAnnualW0.005913,25078
C0.000125,6553
E0.00004,223
Deep-water flatfishAnnualW0.00354161
C0.00003,442
E0.00005,640
Start Printed Page 8793
Rex soleAnnualW0.00002,909
C0.00008,236
E0.00003,384
Arrowtooth flounderAnnualW0.000414,5006
C0.000148,0005
E0.000013,800
Flathead soleAnnualW0.00028,6502
C0.000415,4006
E0.00002,437
Pacific ocean perchAnnualW0.00003,240
C0.000019,678
E0.00005,687
Northern rockfishAnnualW0.00053820
C0.00002,965
Shortraker rockfishAnnualW0.0013440
C0.00123050
E0.00095150
Dusky rockfishAnnualW0.00171350
C0.00003,246
E0.0000287
Rougheye rockfishAnnualW0.00671741
C0.00475503
E0.00087031
Demersal shelf rockfishAnnualSEO0.0000250
Thornyhead rockfishAnnualW0.00473442
C0.00669216
E0.00457733
Other rockfishAnnualW/C0.00331,7376
E0.0000568
Atka mackerelAnnualGulfwide0.00003,000
Big skateAnnualW0.039250420
C0.01591,77428
E0.0000570
Longnose skateAnnualW0.03921496
C0.01592,80445
E0.0000619
Other skatesAnnualGulfwide0.01761,38424
SculpinsAnnualGulfwide0.01765,30193
SharksAnnualGulfwide0.01764,51479
SquidsAnnualGulfwide0.01761,13720
OctopusesAnnualGulfwide0.017697517
1 The Pacific cod A season for trawl gear does not open until January 20.
2 The Pacific cod B season for jig gear opens June 10. The Pacific cod B season for trawl gear closes November 1.

Rockfish Program Groundfish Sideboard and Halibut PSC Limitations

The Rockfish Program establishes three classes of sideboard provisions: CV groundfish sideboard restrictions, C/P rockfish sideboard restrictions, and C/P opt-out vessel sideboard restrictions (§ 679.82(c)(1)). These sideboards are intended to limit the ability of rockfish harvesters to expand into other fisheries.

CVs participating in the Rockfish Program may not participate in directed fishing for dusky rockfish, Pacific ocean perch, and northern rockfish in the West Yakutat District and Western GOA from July 1 through July 31. Also, CVs may not participate in directed fishing for arrowtooth flounder, deep-water flatfish, and rex sole in the GOA from July 1 through July 31 (§ 679.82(d)(3)-(4)).

C/Ps participating in Rockfish Program cooperatives are restricted by rockfish and halibut PSC sideboard limits. These C/Ps are prohibited from directed fishing for dusky rockfish, Pacific ocean perch, and northern rockfish in the West Yakutat District and Western GOA from July 1 through July 31 (§ 679.82(e)(2)). Holders of C/P-designated LLP licenses that opt out of participating in a Rockfish Program cooperative will be able to access that portion of each rockfish sideboard limit that is not assigned to rockfish cooperatives (§ 679.82(e)(3) and (e)(7)). The sideboard ratio for each fishery in the West Yakutat District and the Western GOA is set forth in § 679.82(e)(4). Tables 23 and 24 list the final 2018 and 2019 Rockfish Program C/P sideboard limits in the West Yakutat District and the Western GOA. Due to confidentiality requirements associated with fisheries data, the sideboard limits for the West Yakutat District are not displayed.Start Printed Page 8794

Table 23—Final 2018 Rockfish Program Sideboard Limits for the Western GOA and West Yakutat District by Fishery for the Catcher/Processor Sector

[Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]

AreaFisheryC/P sector (% of TAC)Final 2018 TACsFinal 2018 C/P limit
Western GOADusky rockfish72.3146106.
Pacific ocean perch50.63,3121,676.
Northern rockfish74.3420312.
West Yakutat DistrictDusky rockfishConfidential 1232Confidential.1
Pacific ocean perchConfidential 13,371Confidential.1
1 Not released due to confidentiality requirements associated with fish ticket data, as established by NMFS and the State of Alaska.

Table 24—Final 2019 Rockfish Program Sideboard Limits for the Western GOA and West Yakutat District GOA by Fishery for the Catcher/Processor Sector

[Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]

AreaFisheryC/P sector (% of TAC)Final 2019 TACsFinal 2019 C/P limit
Western GOADusky rockfish72.313598.
Pacific ocean perch50.63,2401,639.
Northern rockfish74.3382284.
West Yakutat DistrictDusky rockfishConfidential 1215Confidential.1
Pacific ocean perchConfidential 13,298Confidential.1
1 Not released due to confidentiality requirements associated with fish ticket data, as established by NMFS and the State of Alaska.

Under the Rockfish Program, the C/P sector is subject to halibut PSC sideboard limits for the trawl deep-water and shallow-water species fisheries from July 1 through July 31 (§ 679.82(e)(3) and (e)(5)). Halibut PSC sideboard ratios by fishery are set forth in § 679.82(e)(5). No halibut PSC sideboard limits apply to the CV sector, as vessels participating in cooperatives receive a portion of the annual halibut PSC limit. C/Ps that opt out of the Rockfish Program are able to access that portion of the deep-water and shallow-water halibut PSC sideboard limit not assigned to C/P rockfish cooperatives. The sideboard provisions for C/Ps that elect to opt out of participating in a rockfish cooperative are described in § 679.82(c), (e), and (f). Sideboard limits are linked to the catch history of specific vessels that may choose to opt out. After March 1, NMFS will determine which C/Ps have opted-out of the Rockfish Program in 2018, and NMFS will know the ratios and amounts used to calculate opt-out sideboard ratios. NMFS will then calculate any applicable opt-out sideboards and post these limits on the Alaska Region website at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/​sustainablefisheries/​rockfish/​. Table 25 lists the final 2018 and 2019 Rockfish Program halibut PSC limits for the C/P sector.

Table 25—Final 2018 and 2019 Rockfish Program Halibut PSC Limits for the Catcher/Processor Sector

[Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]

SectorShallow-water species fishery halibut PSC sideboard ratio (percent)Deep-water species fishery halibut PSC sideboard ratio (percent)2018 and 2019 halibut mortality limit (mt)Annual shallow-water species fishery halibut PSC sideboard limit (mt)Annual deep-water species fishery halibut PSC sideboard limit (mt)
Catcher/processor0.102.501,706243

Amendment 80 Program Groundfish and PSC Sideboard Limits

Amendment 80 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (Amendment 80 Program) established a limited access privilege program for the non-AFA trawl C/P sector. The Amendment 80 Program established groundfish and halibut PSC catch limits for Amendment 80 Program participants to limit the ability of participants eligible for the Amendment 80 Program to expand their harvest efforts in the GOA.

Section 679.92 establishes groundfish harvesting sideboard limits on all Amendment 80 program vessels, other than the F/V Golden Fleece, to amounts no greater than the limits listed in Table 37 to 50 CFR part 679. Under § 679.92(d), the F/V Golden Fleece is prohibited from directed fishing for pollock, Pacific cod, Pacific ocean perch, dusky rockfish, and northern rockfish in the GOA.

Groundfish sideboard limits for Amendment 80 Program vessels operating in the GOA are based on their average aggregate harvests from 1998 through 2004 (72 FR 52668, September 14, 2007). Tables 26 and 27 list the final 2018 and 2019 groundfish sideboard limits for Amendment 80 Program vessels. NMFS will deduct all targeted or incidental catch of sideboard species made by Amendment 80 Program vessels from the sideboard limits in Tables 26 and 27.Start Printed Page 8795

Table 26—Final 2018 GOA Groundfish Sideboard Limits for Amendment 80 Program Vessels

[Values are rounded to nearest metric ton]

SpeciesApportionments and allocations by seasonAreaRatio of Amendment 80 sector vessels 1998-2004 catch to TAC2018 TAC (mt)2018 Amendment 80 vessel sideboards (mt)
PollockA Season—January 20-March 10Shumagin (610)0.0031,3174
Chirikof (620)0.00227,31455
Kodiak (630)0.0029,02518
B Season—March 10-May 31Shumagin (610)0.0031,3174
Chirikof (620)0.00232,15564
Kodiak (630)0.0024,1848
C Season—August 25-October 1Shumagin (610)0.00313,77741
Chirikof (620)0.00210,01320
Kodiak (630)0.00213,86528
D Season—October 1-November 1Shumagin (610)0.00313,77741
Chirikof (620)0.00210,01320
Kodiak (630)0.00213,86528
AnnualWYK (640)0.0026,83314
Pacific codA Season 1—January 1-June 10W0.0203,39468
C0.0443,653161
B Season 2—September 1-December 31W0.0202,26345
C0.0442,436107
AnnualWYK0.0341,35046
Pacific ocean perchAnnualW0.9943,3123,292
WYK0.9613,3713,240
Northern rockfishAnnualW1.000420420
Dusky rockfishAnnualW0.764146112
WYK0.896232208
1 The Pacific cod A season for trawl gear does not open until January 20.
2 The Pacific cod B season for trawl gear closes November 1.

Table 27—Final 2019 GOA Groundfish Sideboard Limits for Amendment 80 Program Vessels

[Values are rounded to nearest metric ton]

SpeciesApportionments and allocations by seasonAreaRatio of Amendment 80 sector vessels 1998-2004 catch to TAC2019 TAC (mt)2019 Amendment 80 vessel sideboards (mt)
PollockA Season—January 20-March 10Shumagin (610)0.0038693
Chirikof (620)0.00218,02536
Kodiak (630)0.0025,95512
B Season—March 10-May 31Shumagin (610)0.0038693
Chirikof (620)0.00221,21942
Kodiak (630)0.0022,7616
C Season—August 25-October 1Shumagin (610)0.0039,09127
Chirikof (620)0.0026,60813
Kodiak (630)0.0029,15018
D Season—October 1-November 1Shumagin (610)0.0039,09127
Chirikof (620)0.0026,60813
Kodiak (630)0.0029,15018
AnnualWYK (640)0.0024,5099
Pacific codA Season 1—January 1-June 10W0.0203,20664
C0.0443,450152
B Season 2—September 1-December 31W0.0202,13743
C0.0442,300101
AnnualWYK0.0341,27543
Pacific ocean perchAnnualW0.9943,2403,221
WYK0.9613,2983,169
Northern rockfishAnnualW1.000382382
Dusky rockfishAnnualW0.764135103
WYK0.896215193
1 The Pacific cod A season for trawl gear does not open until January 20.
2 The Pacific cod B season for trawl gear closes November 1.
Start Printed Page 8796

The halibut PSC sideboard limits for Amendment 80 Program vessels in the GOA are based on the historic use of halibut PSC by Amendment 80 Program vessels in each PSC target category from 1998 through 2004. These values are slightly lower than the average historic use to accommodate two factors: Allocation of halibut PSC cooperative quota under the Rockfish Program and the exemption of the F/V Golden Fleece from this restriction (§ 679.92(b)(2)). Table 28 lists the final 2018 and 2019 halibut PSC limits for Amendment 80 Program vessels. These tables incorporate the maximum percentages of the halibut PSC sideboard limits that may be used by Amendment 80 Program vessels as contained in Table 38 to 50 CFR part 679. Any residual amount of a seasonal Amendment 80 sideboard halibut PSC limit may carry forward to the next season limit (§ 679.92(b)(2)).

Table 28—Final 2018 and 2019 Halibut PSC Limits for Amendment 80 Program Vessels in the GOA

[Values are rounded to nearest metric ton]

SeasonSeason datesTarget fisheryHistoric Amendment 80 use of the annual halibut PSC limit catch (ratio)2018 and 2019 annual PSC limit (mt)2018 and 2019 Amendment 80 vessel PSC limit
1January 20-April 1shallow-water0.00481,7068
deep-water0.01151,70620
2April 1-July 1shallow-water0.01891,70632
deep-water0.10721,706183
3July 1-September 1shallow-water0.01461,70625
deep-water0.05211,70689
4September 1-October 1shallow-water0.00741,70613
deep-water0.00141,7062
5October 1-December 31shallow-water0.02271,70639
deep-water0.03711,70663
Total474

Directed Fishing Closures

Pursuant to § 679.20(d)(1)(i), if the Regional Administrator determines (1) that any allocation or apportionment of a target species or species group allocated or apportioned to a fishery will be reached; or (2) with respect to pollock and Pacific cod, that an allocation or apportionment to an inshore or offshore component or sector allocation will be reached, then the Regional Administrator may establish a directed fishing allowance (DFA) for that species or species group. 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 GOA subarea, regulatory area, or district (§ 679.20(d)(1)(iii)).

The Regional Administrator has determined that the TACs for the species listed in Table 29 are necessary to account for the incidental catch of these species in other anticipated groundfish fisheries for the 2018 and 2019 fishing years.

Table 29—2018 and 2019 Directed Fishing Closures in the GOA

[Amounts for incidental catch in other directed fisheries are in metric tons]

TargetArea/component/gearIncidental catch amount and year (if amounts differ by year)
Pollockall/offshorenot applicable.1
Sablefish 2all/trawl1,581 (2018), 2,225 (2019).
Pacific codWestern, catcher/processor, trawl134 (2018), 125 (2019).
Central, catcher/processor, trawl253 (2018), 239 (2019).
Shortraker rockfish 2all864.
Rougheye rockfish 2all1,444 (2018), 1,427 (2019).
Thornyhead rockfish 2all2,038.
Other rockfishall2,305.
Atka mackerelall3,000.
Big skateall2,848.
Longnose skateall3,572.
Other skatesall1,384.
Sharksall4,514.
Squidsall1,137.
Octopusesall975.
1 Pollock is closed to directed fishing in the GOA by the offshore component under § 679.20(a)(6)(i).
2 Closures not applicable to participants in cooperatives conducted under the Central GOA Rockfish Program, as cooperatives are prohibited from exceeding their allocations (§ 679.7(n)(6)(viii)).
Start Printed Page 8797

Consequently, in accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(i), the Regional Administrator establishes the DFA for the species or species groups listed in Table 29 as zero mt. Therefore, in accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(iii), NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for those species, areas, gear types, and components in the GOA listed in Table 29. These closures will remain in effect through 2400 hours, A.l.t., December 31, 2019.

Section 679.64(b)(5) provides for management of AFA CV groundfish harvest limits and PSC bycatch limits using directed fishing closures and PSC closures according to procedures set out at §§ 679.20(d)(1)(iv), 679.21(d)(6), and 679.21(e)(3)(v). The Regional Administrator has determined that, in addition to the closures listed above, many of the non-exempt AFA CV sideboard limits listed in Tables 18 and 19 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 sets the DFAs for the species and species groups in Table 30 at zero mt. Therefore, in accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(iii), NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing by non-exempt AFA CVs in the GOA for the species and specified areas listed in Table 30. These closures will remain in effect through 2400 hours, A.l.t., December 31, 2019.

Table 30—2018 and 2019 Non-Exempt AFA CV Sideboard Directed Fishing Closures for All Gear Types in the GOA

[Amounts for incidental catch in other directed fisheries are in metric tons]

SpeciesRegulatory area/districtIncidental catch amount
Pacific codEastern10 (inshore) and 9 (offshore) [2018].
1 (inshore) and 1 (offshore) [2019].
Shallow-water flatfishEastern53.
Deep-water flatfishWestern0.
Rex soleWestern and Eastern2 and 10.
Arrowtooth flounderWestern and Eastern30 and 3.
Flathead soleWestern and Eastern31 and 2.
Pacific ocean perchWestern8.
Northern rockfishWestern0.
Dusky rockfishEntire GOA2.
Demersal shelf rockfishSEO District1.
SculpinsEntire GOA33.
SquidsEntire GOA7.

Section 680.22 provides for the management of non-AFA crab vessel sideboards using directed fishing closures in accordance with § 680.22(e)(2) and (3). The Regional Administrator has determined that the non-AFA crab vessel sideboards listed in Tables 21 and 22 are insufficient to support a directed fishery and has set the sideboard DFA at zero mt, with the exception of Pacific cod pot CV sector apportionments in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas. Therefore, NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing by non-AFA crab vessels in the GOA for all species and species groups listed in Tables 21 and 22, with the exception of the Pacific cod pot CV sector apportionments in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas.

Closures implemented under the 2017 and 2018 GOA harvest specifications for groundfish (82 FR 12032, 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 website: http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/​infobulletins/​search. 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. NMFS may implement other closures during the 2018 and 2019 fishing years as necessary for effective conservation and management.

Comments and Responses

NMFS received two letters during the public comment period for the proposed GOA groundfish harvest specifications. No changes were made to the final rule in response to the comment letters received. NMFS' response to public comments on the proposed GOA groundfish harvest specifications is provided below.

Comment 1: The proposed harvest specifications are based on stock assessment information from the 2016 SAFE. That information is not the most up-to-date, and may not be sufficient to support the Council's recommendations for the 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications, as contained in the proposed rule.

Response: NMFS noted in the proposed 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications that, while the proposed specifications were based on information from the 2016 SAFE report, the final 2017 SAFE report would be available to support the Council's recommendations and NMFS' determinations for the final GOA 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications. The final 2017 SAFE report, which contains the most recent GOA groundfish stock assessment information on the biological condition of groundfish stocks as well as other biological and socioeconomic information, became available in November 2017. The Council reviewed the final 2017 SAFE report during its December 2017 meeting and based its recommendations for appropriate 2018 and 2019 OFLs, ABCs, and TACs on information provided in the final 2017 SAFE report. NMFS also considered the information in the final 2017 SAFE report in adopting the Council's recommendations and in setting the final 2018 and 2019 harvest specifications. The 2017 SAFE is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES).

Comment 2: NOAA has done an adequate job protecting baby longnose skates in the Western Regulatory Area of the Gulf of Alaska and should keep doing what it is doing.

Response: NMFS acknowledges this comment.

Classification

NMFS has determined that these final harvest specifications are consistent with the FMP and with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Start Printed Page 8798Management 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 for 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 ROD for the EIS. In January 2017, NMFS prepared a 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 preferred alternative is a harvest strategy in which TACs are set at a level that falls within the range of ABCs recommended by the Council's SSC; the sum of the TACs must achieve the OY specified in the FMP. 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 environmental 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.

Section 604 describes the required contents of a FRFA: (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 that affect the impact on small entities was rejected.

A description of this action, its purpose, and its legal basis are contained 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 57924). NMFS prepared an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) to accompany this 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 include: (1) Entities operating vessels with groundfish FFPs catching FMP groundfish in Federal waters; (2) all entities operating vessels, regardless of whether they hold groundfish FFPs, catching FMP groundfish in the State-waters parallel fisheries; and (3) all entities operating vessels fishing for halibut inside three miles of the shore (whether or not they have FFPs).

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.

Based on data from 2016 fishing activity, there were 920 individual catcher vessel entities with gross revenues meeting small entity criteria. Of these entities, 841 used hook-and-line gear, 114 used pot gear, and 31 used trawl gear (some of these entities used more than one gear type, thus the counts of entities using the different gear types do not sum to the total number of entities above). Three individual catcher/processors met the small entity criterion; two used hook-and-line gear, and one used trawl gear. Catcher/processor gross revenues were not reported for confidentiality reasons; however, small hook-and-line entities had average gross revenues of $340,000, small pot entities had average gross revenues of $720,000, and small trawl entities had average gross revenues of $1.83 million.

Some of these vessels are members of AFA inshore pollock cooperatives, of GOA rockfish cooperatives, or of Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab rationalization cooperatives, and, therefore, under the RFA it is the aggregate gross receipts of all participating members of the cooperative that must meet the threshold. Vessels that participate in these cooperatives are considered to be large entities within the meaning of the RFA. These relationships are accounted for, along with corporate affiliations among vessels, to the extent that they are known, in the estimated number of small entities. If affiliations exist of which NMFS is unaware, or if entities had non-fishing revenue sources, the estimates above may overstate the number of directly regulated small entities.

This action does not modify recordkeeping or reporting requirements.

NMFS considered alternative harvest strategies when choosing the preferred harvest strategy (Alternative 2) in December 2006. These included the following:Start Printed Page 8799

  • Alternative 1: Set TACs to produce fishing mortality rates, F, that are equal to maxFABC, unless the sum of the TACs is constrained by the OY established in the fishery management plans. This is equivalent to setting TACs to produce harvest levels equal to the maximum permissible ABCs, as constrained by OY. The term “maxFABC” refers to the maximum permissible value of FABC under Amendment 56 to the BSAI and GOA 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, TACs 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, TACs 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 ABCs, and recent average F may provide a better indicator of actual F than FABC does.
  • Alternative 4: Set TACs for rockfish species in Tier 3 at F 75%; set TACs for rockfish species in Tier 5 at F=0.5M; and set spatially explicit TACs for shortraker and rougheye rockfish in the GOA. Second, taking the rockfish TACs as calculated above, reduce all other TACs by a proportion that does not vary across species, so that the sum of all TACs, including rockfish TACs, is equal to the lower bound of the area OY (116,000 mt in the GOA). This alternative sets conservative and spatially explicit TACs for rockfish species that are long-lived and late to mature and sets conservative TACs for the other groundfish species.
  • Alternative 5: (No Action) Set TACs at zero.

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

Alternative 2 is the preferred alternative chosen by the Council: Set TACs that fall within the range of ABCs 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 TACs that has been used in the past.

Alternative 2 selected harvest rates that will allow fishermen to harvest stocks at the level of ABCs, unless total harvests are constrained by the upper bound of the GOA OY of 800,000 mt. The sums of ABCs in 2018 and 2019 are 536,921 mt and 480,187 mt, respectively. The sums of the TACs in 2018 and 2019 are 427,512 mt and 376,417 mt, respectively. Thus, although the sum of ABCs in each year is less than 800,000 mt, the sums of the TACs in each year are less than the sums of the ABCs.

In most cases, the Council has set TACs equal to ABCs. The divergence between aggregate TACs and aggregate ABCs reflects a variety of special species- and fishery-specific circumstances:

  • Pacific cod TACs are set equal to 70 percent in the Western GOA and 75 percent in the Central and Eastern GOA of the Pacific cod ABCs in each year to account for the GHL set by the State for its GHL Pacific cod fisheries (30 percent of the Western GOA ABC and 25 percent of the Central and Eastern GOA ABCs). Thus, the difference between the Federal TACs and ABCs does not actually reflect a Pacific cod harvest below the Pacific cod ABC, as the balance is available for the State's cod GHL fisheries.
  • Shallow-water flatfish and flathead sole TACs are set below ABCs in the Western Regulatory Area. Arrowtooth flounder TACs are set below ABC in all GOA regulatory areas. Catches of these flatfish species rarely, if ever, approach the proposed ABCs or TACs. Important trawl fisheries in the GOA take halibut PSC, and are constrained by limits on the allowable halibut PSC mortality. These limits may force the closure of trawl fisheries before they have harvested the available groundfish ABC. Thus, actual harvests of groundfish in the GOA routinely fall short of some ABCs and TACs. Markets can also constrain harvests below the TACs, as has been the case with arrowtooth flounder, in the past. These TACs are set to allow for increased harvest opportunities for these targets while conserving the halibut PSC limit for use in other, more fully utilized fisheries.
  • The other rockfish TAC is set below the ABC in the Southeast Outside District based on several factors. In addition to conservation concerns for the rockfish species in this group, there is a regulatory prohibition against using trawl gear east of 140° W longitude. Because most species of other rockfish are caught exclusively with trawl gear, the catch of such species with other gear types, such as hook-and-line, is low. The commercial catch of other rockfish in the Eastern Regulatory Area, which includes the West Yakutat and Southeast Outside Districts, has ranged from approximately 70 mt to 248 mt per year over the last decade.
  • The GOA-wide Atka mackerel TAC is set below the ABC. The estimates of survey biomass continue to be unreliable in the GOA. Therefore, the Council recommended and NMFS agrees that the Atka mackerel TAC in the GOA be set at an amount to support incidental catch in other directed fisheries.

Alternative 1 selects harvest rates that would allow fishermen to harvest stocks at the level of the ABCs, unless total harvests were constrained by the upper bound of the GOA OY of 800,000 mt. Although Alternative 1 may be consistent with the preferred alternative (Alternative 2), meet the objectives of the action, and have small entity impacts equivalent to the preferred alternative, it is not likely that Alternative 1 would result in reduced adverse economic impacts to directly-regulated small entities relative to Alternative 2. The selection of Alternative 1, which could increase all TACs up to the sum of ABCs, would not reflect the practical implications that increased TACs for some species probably would not be fully harvested. This could be due to a variety of reasons, which are addressed in the preamble to this rule and are summarized briefly here. There may be a lack of commercial or market interest in some species. Additionally, an underharvest of flatfish TACs could result due to constraints such as the fixed, and therefore constraining, PSC limits associated with the harvest of the GOA groundfish species. Furthermore, TACs may be set lower than ABC for conservation purposes, as is the case with other rockfish in the Eastern GOA. Finally, the TACs for two species (pollock and Pacific cod) cannot be set equal to ABC, as the TAC must be reduced to account for the State of Alaska's guideline harvest levels in these fisheries.

Alternative 3 selects harvest rates based on the most recent 5 years of harvest rates (for species in Tiers 1 through 3) or based on the most recent 5 years of harvests (for species in Tiers Start Printed Page 88004 through 6). This alternative is inconsistent with the objectives of this action because it does not take account of the most recent biological information for this fishery. NMFS annually conducts at-sea 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 or species group for each year in the SAFE report (see ADDRESSES).

Alternative 4 would lead to significantly lower harvests of all species to reduce TACs from the upper end of the OY range in the GOA to its lower end of 116,000 mt. Overall, this alternative would reduce 2018 TACs by about 69 percent. This would lead to significant reductions in harvests of species by small entities. While production declines in the GOA likely would be associated with offsetting price increases in the GOA, the size of these increases is very uncertain. Price increases would still be constrained by the availability of substitutes, and there are close substitutes for GOA groundfish species available in significant quantities from the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area. In addition, price increases are very unlikely to offset revenue declines from smaller production. Thus, this action would have a detrimental economic impact on small entities.

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 and SIR (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 would be 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. For all fisheries not currently closed because the TACs established under the final 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications (82 FR 12032, February 27, 2017) were not reached, it is possible that they would be closed prior to the expiration of a 30-day delayed effectiveness period because their TACs could be reached within that period. 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 12032, 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 sablefish, flatfish, rockfish, Atka mackerel, skates, sculpins, sharks, squids, 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 many of these fisheries. If this rule allowed for a 30-day delay in effectiveness and if a TAC were reached during those 30 days, NMFS would close directed fishing or prohibit retention for the applicable species. Any delay in allocating the final TACs in these fisheries would cause confusion to the industry and potential economic harm through unnecessary discards, thus undermining the intent of this rule. Waiving the 30-day delay allows NMFS to prevent economic loss to fishermen that could otherwise occur should the 2018 TACs (set under the 2017 and 2018 harvest specifications) be reached. Determining 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 by freeing-up fishing vessels, allowing them to move from closed fisheries to open ones, increasing the fishing capacity in those open fisheries, and causing them to close at an accelerated pace.

In fisheries subject to declining sideboard limits, a failure to implement the updated sideboard limits before initial season's end could deny the intended economic protection to the non-sideboarded sectors. Conversely, in fisheries with increasing sideboard limits, economic benefit could be denied to the sideboard-limited sectors.

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. This would result in confusion for the industry 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 TACs. 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 GOA. This action 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 affects all fishermen who participate in the GOA fisheries. The specific 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), 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
Start Printed Page 8801

Dated: February 23, 2018.

Samuel D. Rauch III,

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

End Signature End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 2018-04124 Filed 2-28-18; 8:45 am]

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