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Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Several Groundfish Species in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area

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


Temporary rule; apportionment of reserves; request for comments.


NMFS apportions amounts of the non-specified reserve, to the initial total allowable catch (ITAC) of Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) sculpins and to the total allowable catch (TAC) of Aleutian Islands (AI) Greenland turbot, Bering Sea (BS) “other rockfish,” BSAI arrowtooth flounder, BSAI sharks, BSAI shortraker rockfish, and Bering Sea and Eastern Aleutian Islands (BS/EAI) blackspotted/rougheye rockfish. This action is necessary to allow the fisheries to continue operating. It is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the fishery management plan for the BSAI management area.


Effective November 26, 2019, through 2400 hrs, Alaska local time, December 31, 2019. Comments must be received at the following address no later than 4:30 p.m., Alaska local time, December 11, 2019.


Submit your comments, identified by docket number NOAA-NMFS-2018-0089, by either of the following methods:

  • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to​docket?​D=​NOAA-NMFS-2018-0089, click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
  • Mail: Submit written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668.

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

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Steve Whitney, 907-586-7228.

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

The 2019 ITAC BSAI sculpins was established as 4,250 mt, the 2019 TAC of AI Greenland turbot was established as 169 mt, the 2019 TAC of BS “other rockfish” was established as 684, the 2019 TAC of BSAI arrowtooth flounder was established as 10,200 mt, the 2019 TAC of BSAI sharks was established as 145 mt, the 2019 TAC of BSAI shortraker rockfish was established as 358 mt, and the 2019 TAC of BS/EAI blackspotted/rougheye rockfish was established as 95 mt by the final 2019 and 2020 harvest specifications for groundfish of the BSAI (84 FR 9000, March 13, 2019) and reserve releases (84 FR 49678, September 23, 2019 and 84 FR 57653, October 28, 2019). In accordance with § 679.20(a)(3) the Regional Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, has reviewed the most current available data and finds that the ITACs and TACS for AI Greenland turbot, BS “other rockfish”, BSAI arrowtooth flounder, BSAI sculpins, BSAI sharks, BSAI shortraker rockfish, and BS/EAI blackspotted/rougheye rockfish need to be supplemented from the non-specified reserve to promote efficiency in the utilization of fishery resources in the BSAI and allow fishing operations to continue.

Therefore, in accordance with § 679.20(b)(3), NMFS apportions from the non-specified reserve of groundfish to ITACs and TACs in the BSAI management area as follows: 10 mt to AI Greenland turbot, 100 mt to BS “other rockfish”, 1,252 mt to BSAI arrowtooth flounder, 1,358 mt to BSAI sculpins, 10 mt to BSAI sharks, 42 mt to BSAI shortraker rockfish, and 10 mt to BS/EAI blackspotted/rougheye rockfish. These apportionments are consistent with § 679.20(b)(1)(i) and do not result in overfishing of any target species because the revised ITACs and TACs are equal to or less than the specifications of the acceptable biological catch in the final 2019 and 2020 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (84 FR 9000, March 13, 2019).

The harvest specification for the 2019 ITACs and TACs included in the harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI are revised as follows: 179 mt for AI Greenland turbot, 784 mt for BS “other rockfish”, 11,452 mt for BSAI arrowtooth flounder, 5,608 mt for BSAI sculpins, 155 mt for BSAI sharks, 400 mt for BSAI shortraker rockfish, and 105 mt for BS/EAI blackspotted/rougheye rockfish.


This action responds to the best available information recently obtained from the fishery. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, (AA) finds good cause to waive the requirement to provide prior notice and opportunity for public comment pursuant to the authority set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) and § 679.20(b)(3)(iii)(A) as such a requirement is impracticable and contrary to the public interest. This requirement is impracticable and contrary to the public interest as it would prevent NMFS from responding to the most recent fisheries data in a timely fashion and would delay the apportionment of the non-specified reserves of groundfish to the AI Greenland turbot, BS “other rockfish”, BSAI arrowtooth flounder, BSAI sculpins, BSAI sharks, BSAI shortraker rockfish, and BS/EAI blackspotted/rougheye rockfish ITACs and TACs. Immediate notification is necessary to allow for the orderly conduct and efficient operation of this fishery, to allow the industry to plan for the fishing season, and to avoid potential disruption to the fishing fleet and processors. NMFS was unable to publish a notice providing time for public comment because the most recent, relevant data only became available as of November 19, 2019.

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

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Under § 679.20(b)(3)(iii), interested persons are invited to submit written comments on this action (see ADDRESSES) until December 11, 2019.

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

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

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Dated: November 22, 2019.

Jennifer M. Wallace,

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

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[FR Doc. 2019-25816 Filed 11-26-19; 8:45 am]