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Proposed Rule

Pacific Halibut Fisheries; Catch Sharing Plan

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Proposed rule; request for comments.

SUMMARY:

NMFS proposes to approve changes to the Pacific Halibut Catch Sharing Plan for the International Pacific Halibut Commission's regulatory Area 2A off Washington, Oregon, and California. In addition, NMFS proposes to implement the portions of the Plan and management measures that are not implemented through the International Pacific Halibut Commission. These measures include the recreational fishery seasons and allocations and management measures for Area 2A. These actions are intended to conserve Pacific halibut and provide angler opportunity where available.

DATES:

Comments on the proposed rule must be received on or before March 9, 2020.

ADDRESSES:

Submit your comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2019-0120, by either of the following methods:

  • Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: Go to www.regulations.gov/​#!docketDetail;​D=​NOAA-NMFS-2019-0120, click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
  • Mail: Submit written comments to Barry Thom, c/o Kathryn Blair, West Coast Region, NMFS, 1201 NE Lloyd Blvd., Suite 1100, Portland, OR 97232.

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 them for public viewing on www.regulations.gov 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).

Docket: This rule is accessible via the internet at the Office of the Federal Register website at https://www.federalregister.gov. Background information and documents are available at the NMFS West Coast Region website at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/​west-coast/​sustainable-fisheries/​fisheries-management-west-coast and at the Council's website at http://Start Printed Page 6884www.pcouncil.org. Other comments received may be accessed through Regulations.gov.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Kathryn Blair, phone: 503-231-6858, fax: 503-231-6893, or email: kathryn.blair@noaa.gov.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

The Northern Pacific Halibut Act (Halibut Act) of 1982 gives the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) responsibility for implementing the provisions of the Halibut Convention between the United States and Canada. 16 U.S.C. 773-773k. The Halibut Act requires that the Secretary adopt regulations to carry out the purposes and objectives of the Halibut Convention and Halibut Act 16 U.S.C. 773(c). The Halibut Act also authorizes the regional fishery management councils to develop regulations in addition to, but not in conflict with, regulations of the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) to govern the Pacific halibut catch in their corresponding U.S. Convention waters (16 U.S.C. 773c(c)).

Since 1988, NMFS has implemented annual Catch Sharing Plans that allocate the IPHC regulatory Area 2A Pacific halibut catch limit between treaty Indian and non-Indian harvesters, and among non-Indian commercial and recreational (sport) fisheries. The Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) develops Catch Sharing Plans in accordance with the Halibut Act. In 1995, the Council recommended, and NMFS approved and implemented a long-term Area 2A Catch Sharing Plan (60 FR 14651; March 20, 1995). NMFS has been implementing adjustments to the Area 2A Catch Sharing Plan based on Council recommendations each year to address the changing needs of these fisheries. While the full Catch Sharing Plan is not published in the Federal Register, it is made available on the Council and NMFS websites.

At its annual meeting February 3-7, 2020, the IPHC will recommend an Area 2A catch limit. This catch limit is derived from the total constant exploitation yield (TCEY), which includes commercial discards and bycatch estimates calculated using a formula developed by the IPHC. As provided in the Halibut Act at 16 U.S.C. 773b, the Secretary of State, with the concurrence of the Secretary of Commerce, may accept or reject, on behalf of the United States, regulations recommended by the IPHC in accordance with the Convention. Following acceptance by the Secretary of State, the annual management measures promulgated by the IPHC are published in the Federal Register to provide notice of their immediate regulatory effectiveness and to inform persons subject to the regulations of their restrictions and requirements (50 CFR 300.62).

This rule proposes to implement the Council's recommended changes to the Catch Sharing Plan for IPHC regulatory Area 2A, which affect only the recreational fishery. In addition, this rule would revise the recreational Pacific halibut fishery management measures, such as season dates and some catch limits that are set in NMFS regulations. These management measures are detailed in the Council's recommended Catch Sharing Plan and were developed through the Council's public process.

Proposed Changes to the 2020 Area 2A Catch Sharing Plan

Each year, at the Council's September meeting, members of the public have an opportunity to propose changes to the Catch Sharing Plan for consideration by the Council. At the September 2019 Council meeting, only Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) proposed changes to the Catch Sharing Plan. The Council voted to solicit public input on all of the changes recommended by WDFW and ODFW. WDFW and ODFW subsequently held public workshops on the recommended changes.

At its November 2019 meeting, the Council considered the results of the state-sponsored workshops on the recommended changes to the Catch Sharing Plan, along with public input provided at the 2019 September and November Council meetings, and made its final recommendations for modifications to the Catch Sharing Plan. NMFS proposes to approve all of the Council's recommended changes to the Catch Sharing Plan as discussed below.

1. In section (f)(1)(i), the Council recommended modifying the season start date for Washington's Puget Sound subarea to allow it to open in April instead of early May. In 2019, the Puget Sound subarea had 39,468 pounds (17.9 mt) of its allocation remaining at the recreational end of the season. This change would provide up to an additional month for anglers in the Puget Sound subarea to attain quota that has gone unharvested in recent years.

2. In section (f)(1)(i)-(iii), the Council recommended modifying the number of open days for Washington's Puget Sound, North and South Coast subareas so they may be open up to three days a week instead of two. This change would provide flexibility in setting season days in years with high quota, to allow for additional angler opportunity.

3. In section (f)(1)(ii)-(iv), the Council recommended modifying the season start date in Washington's North and South Coast, and Columbia River subareas to open on April 30 if it falls on a Thursday, because opening days are set by days in the week in the Catch Sharing Plan. This change adds flexibility to open the season earlier, provides a consistent season structure, and reduces effort shifts between Washington subareas.

4. In section (f)(1)(v), the Council recommended adding an allocation-based threshold for setting open days in the Oregon Central Coast nearshore subarea. Specifically, the Council recommended that if the fishery allocation is 25,000 pounds (11.34 mt) or greater, the season will open May 1; if the allocation is less than 25,000 pounds (11.34 mt), the season will open June 1. This change provides an additional month of opportunity for anglers to achieve the full catch limit in years with a high allocation.

5. In section (f)(1)(v), the Council recommended adding an allocation-based threshold for setting open days in the Oregon Central Coast subarea's summer all-depth fishery. Specifically, if the allocation projected to remain in the Central Coast spring all-depth fishery after its conclusion plus the summer all-depth allocation totals 60,000 pounds (27.22 mt) or more after the spring all-depth season concludes, Thursday may be added to the Central Coast summer all-depth season open days. This change provides anglers an additional day per week to achieve full attainment of the catch limit in years with high quota.

6. In section (f)(1)(vi), the Council recommended revising the Southern Oregon subarea allocation of 3.91 percent of the Oregon recreational quota, to 3.91 percent up to a ceiling of 8,000 pounds (3.63 mt), with any amount over 8,000 pounds (3.63 mt) from the 3.91 percent allocation to be automatically allocated to the Columbia River subarea. The goal of this change is to provide angler opportunity in the Columbia River subarea in years with a high allocation without revising the allocation percentage, when unused quota may not be utilized in the Southern Oregon subarea. The Columbia River subarea has high effort and attainment, and has had reduced seasons in recent years, while an allocation of 8,000 pounds (3.63 mt) for the Southern Oregon subarea is higher than recent catches and is unlikely to Start Printed Page 6885affect angler opportunity in that subarea.

Additional discussion of these changes is included in the materials submitted to the Council at its September and November meetings, available at https://www.pcouncil.org/​council-operations/​council-meetings/​past-meetings/​. A version of the proposed Catch Sharing Plan including these changes can be found at https://www.pcouncil.org/​pacific-halibut/​background-information/​.

Minor Changes to Regulatory Text To Remove Cross References

At the November 2019 IPHC interim meeting, the IPHC Secretariat submitted a proposal to reorder IPHC regulation sections for clarity and emphasis. Current regulations at 50 CFR 300.63(d) cross reference IPHC regulation section numbers. NMFS proposes removing these cross-references to prevent inconsistency with IPHC regulations.

Tribes' Usual and Accustomed Fishing Areas

Regulations at 50 CFR 300.61 and 300.64 describe the usual and accustomed fishing areas of Indian tribes with treaty fishing rights to Pacific halibut. In 50 CFR 300.61, the definition of Subarea 2A-1 describes the usual and accustomed fishing area for all 13 treaty tribes with fishing rights to halibut. The regulations at 50 CFR 300.64 describe each treaty tribe's usual and accustomed fishing area, and explain that “boundaries of a tribe's fishing area may be revised as ordered by a Federal Court” (50 CFR 300.63(i)).

On March 5, 2018, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington revised the western boundaries of the U&A fishing areas for the Quileute Indian Tribe and the Quinault Indian Nation United States v. Washington, 2:09-sp-00001-RSM, (W.D. Wash. March 5, 2018) (Order Regarding Boundaries of Quinault and Quileute U&As). These revised boundaries mirror the coast of the Washington shoreline at a distance of 40 nautical miles for the Quileute Indian Tribe and 30 nautical miles for the Quinault Indian Nation. Other boundaries and their supporting rationale described in previous rulemakings on the U&A fishing areas would not be affected by this rulemaking. NMFS proposes revising the definition of Subarea 2A-1 at 50 CFR 300.61 to a more general description of the usual and accustomed fishing areas of Indian tribes with treaty fishing rights to Pacific halibut, and updating the table at 50 CFR 300.64(i) to reflect the court decision.

Proposed 2020 Recreational Fishery Management Measures

On the Council's recommendation, NMFS also proposes recreational fishery management measures, including season dates that are necessary to implement the Council's recommended Catch Sharing Plan in 2020. The Catch Sharing Plan includes a framework for setting fishing open days by subarea, and each state submits final recommended season dates annually. This proposed rule contains dates for the recreational (sport) fisheries based on the 2020 Catch Sharing Plan as recommended by the Council. The season dates preferred for Washington, following input from the public, are proposed here. The proposed season dates for Oregon are based on the Catch Sharing Plan framework and season dates from 2019. The proposed season dates for California are identical to those from 2019. The final rule will select dates based on public comment, including comments from Oregon and California after it has concluded its public meetings gathering input on season dates.

The annual domestic management measures are published each year through a final rule under NMFS' authority to implement the Halibut Convention (50 CFR 300.62). For the 2019 fishing season, the final rule for the commercial fisheries, IPHC regulations, and catch limits was published on March 14, 2019 (84 FR 9243), and the final rule for Area 2A recreational fisheries was published on April 29, 2019 (84 FR 17960). The section numbers below correspond to IPHC regulation sections in the March 14, 2019, final rule.

NMFS proposes the following regulations to implement the Catch Sharing Plan recommended by the Council under the Halibut Act. After the opportunity for public comment, NMFS will publish a final rule implementing the Catch Sharing Plan and annual management measures, as required by implementing regulations at 50 CFR 300.63(b)(1). The numbering of this section corresponds to the annual regulations promulgated by the IPHC; IPHC regulations for 2020 will be finalized via separate rulemaking by March 15, 2020, or as soon as possible thereafter. This proposed rule would add the following text to the annual domestic management measures and paragraph (8) of the 2020 IPHC regulations under the heading, “Sport Fishing for Pacific Halibut—IPHC Regulatory Area 2A”:

(8) The sport fishing subareas, subquotas, fishing dates, and daily bag limits are as follows, except as modified under the inseason actions consistent with 50 CFR 300.63(c). All sport fishing in Area 2A is managed on a “port of landing” basis, whereby any halibut landed into a port counts toward the quota for the area in which that port is located, and the regulations governing the area of landing apply, regardless of the specific area of catch.

(a) The quota for the area in Puget Sound and the U.S. waters in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, east of a line extending from 48°17.30′ N lat., 124°23.70′ W long. north to 48°24.10′ N lat., 124°23.70′ W long., is [SUBAREA ALLOCATIONS WILL BE INSERTED WHEN FINAL RULE PUBLISHES AND WILL BE BASED ON THE ALLOCATION FORMULAS IN THE COUNCIL'S CATCH SHARING PLAN].

(i) The fishing seasons are:

(A) For the area in Puget Sound and the U.S. waters in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, east of a line at approximately 123°49.60′ W long., fishing is open April 16-18, 23-25; April 30-May 2; May 7-9, 14-16, 22-24, 28-30; June 4-6, 11-13, 18-20, and 25-27, or until there is not sufficient quota for another full day of fishing and the area is closed by the Commission. Any closure will be announced on the NMFS hotline at 800-662-9825.

(B) For the area in U.S. waters in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, approximately between 124°23.70′ W long. and 123°49.60′ W long., fishing is open April 30; May 2, 7, 9, 14, 16, 22, 23, 24, 28-30; June 4-6, 11-13, 18-20, and 25-27, or until there is not sufficient quota for another full day of fishing and the area is closed by the Commission. Any closure will be announced on the NMFS hotline at 800-662-9825.

(ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per person.

(b) The quota for landings into ports in the area off the north Washington coast, west of the line described in paragraph (2)(a) of section 26 and north of the Queets River (47°31.70′ N lat.) (North Coast subarea), is [SUBAREA ALLOCATIONS WILL BE INSERTED WHEN FINAL RULE PUBLISHES AND WILL BE BASED ON THE ALLOCATION FORMULAS IN THE COUNCIL'S CATCH SHARING PLAN].

(i) The fishing seasons are:

(A) Fishing is open April 30; May 2, 7, 9, 14, 16, 22, 24, 28, 30; June 4, 6, 11, 13, 18, 20, 25, and 27, or until there is not sufficient quota for another full day of fishing and the area is closed by the Commission. Any closure will be announced on the NMFS hotline at 800-662-9825.

(ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per person.Start Printed Page 6886

(iii) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is prohibited within the North Coast Recreational Yelloweye Rockfish Conservation Area (YRCA). It is unlawful for recreational fishing vessels to take and retain, possess, or land halibut taken with recreational gear within the North Coast Recreational YRCA. A vessel fishing with recreational gear in the North Coast Recreational YRCA may not be in possession of any halibut. Recreational vessels may transit through the North Coast Recreational YRCA with or without halibut on board. The North Coast Recreational YRCA is a C-shaped area off the northern Washington coast intended to protect yelloweye rockfish. The North Coast Recreational YRCA is defined in groundfish regulations at 50 CFR 660.70(a).

(c) The quota for landings into ports in the area between the Queets River, WA (47°31.70′ N lat.), and Leadbetter Point, WA (46°38.17′ N lat.) (South Coast subarea), is [SUBAREA ALLOCATIONS WILL BE INSERTED WHEN FINAL RULE PUBLISHES AND WILL BE BASED ON THE ALLOCATION FORMULAS IN THE COUNCIL'S CATCH SHARING PLAN].

(i) This subarea is divided between the all-depth fishery (the Washington South coast primary fishery), and the incidental nearshore fishery in the area from 47°31.70′ N lat. south to 46°58.00′ N lat. and east of a boundary line approximating the 30-fm (55-m) depth contour. This area is defined by straight lines connecting all of the following points in the order stated as described by the following coordinates (the Washington South coast, northern nearshore area):

(1) 47°31.70′ N lat, 124°37.03′ W long;

(2) 47°25.67′ N lat, 124°34.79′ W long;

(3) 47°12.82′ N lat, 124°29.12′ W long;

(4) 46°58.00′ N lat, 124°24.24′ W long.

The primary fishery season dates are April 30; May 3, 7, 10, 14, 17, 21; June 18, 21, 25, and 28, or until there is not sufficient quota for another full day of fishing and the area is closed by the Commission. Any closure will be announced on the NMFS hotline at 800-662-9825. If sufficient quota remains, the fishing season in the nearshore area commences the Saturday subsequent to the closure of the primary fishery and continues 7 days per week until [SUBAREA ALLOCATIONS WILL BE INSERTED WHEN FINAL RULE PUBLISHES AND WILL BE BASED ON THE ALLOCATION FORMULAS IN THE COUNCIL'S CATCH SHARING PLAN] is projected to be taken by the two fisheries combined and the fishery is closed by the Commission or September 30, whichever is earlier. If the fishery is closed prior to September 30, and there is insufficient quota remaining to reopen the northern nearshore area for another fishing day, then any remaining quota may be transferred in-season to another Washington coastal subarea by NMFS.

(ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per person.

(iii) Seaward of the boundary line approximating the 30-fm (55-m) depth contour and during days open to the primary fishery, lingcod may be taken, retained and possessed when allowed by groundfish regulations at 50 CFR 660.360, subpart G.

(iv) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is prohibited within the South Coast Recreational YRCA and Westport Offshore YRCA. It is unlawful for recreational fishing vessels to take and retain, possess, or land halibut taken with recreational gear within the South Coast Recreational YRCA and Westport Offshore YRCA. A vessel fishing in the South Coast Recreational YRCA and/or Westport Offshore YRCA may not be in possession of any halibut. Recreational vessels may transit through the South Coast Recreational YRCA and Westport Offshore YRCA with or without halibut on board. The South Coast Recreational YRCA and Westport Offshore YRCA are areas off the southern Washington coast established to protect yelloweye rockfish. The South Coast Recreational YRCA is defined at 50 CFR 660.70(d). The Westport Offshore YRCA is defined at 50 CFR 660.70(e).

(d) The quota for landings into ports in the area between Leadbetter Point, WA (46°38.17′ N lat.), and Cape Falcon, OR (45°46.00′ N lat.)(Columbia River subarea), is [SUBAREA ALLOCATIONS WILL BE INSERTED WHEN FINAL RULE PUBLISHES AND WILL BE BASED ON THE ALLOCATION FORMULAS IN THE COUNCIL'S CATCH SHARING PLAN].

(i) This subarea is divided into an all-depth fishery and a nearshore fishery. The nearshore fishery is allocated 500 lb (0.23 mt) of the subarea allocation. The nearshore fishery extends from Leadbetter Point (46°38.17′ N lat., 124°15.88′ W long.) to the Columbia River (46°16.00′ N lat., 124°15.88′ W long.) by connecting the following coordinates in Washington: 46°38.17′ N lat., 124°15.88′ W long. 46°16.00′ N lat., 124°15.88′ W long. and connecting to the boundary line approximating the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour in Oregon. The nearshore fishery opens May 4, and continues on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday each week until the nearshore allocation is taken, or September 30, whichever is earlier. The all-depth fishing season is open April 30; May 3, 7, 10, 14, 17, 21, 28, 31; June 4, 7, 11, 14, 18, 21, 25, and 28, or until there is not sufficient quota for another full day of fishing and the area is closed by the Commission, or September 30, whichever is earlier. Any closure will be announced on the NMFS hotline at 800-662-9825. Subsequent to this closure, if there is insufficient quota remaining in the Columbia River subarea for another fishing day, then any remaining quota may be transferred inseason to another Washington and/or Oregon subarea by NMFS. Any remaining quota would be transferred to each state in proportion to its contribution.

(ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per person.

(iii) Pacific Coast groundfish may not be taken and retained, possessed or landed when halibut are on board the vessel, except sablefish, Pacific cod, flatfish species, and lingcod caught north of the Washington-Oregon border during the recreational halibut fishery, when allowed by Pacific Coast groundfish regulations, during days open to the all-depth fishery only.

(iv) Taking, retaining, possessing, or landing halibut on groundfish trips is only allowed in the nearshore area on days not open to all-depth Pacific halibut fisheries.

(e) The quota for landings into ports in the area off Oregon between Cape Falcon (45°46.00′ N lat.) and Humbug Mountain (42°40.50′ N lat.) (Oregon Central Coast subarea), is [SUBAREA ALLOCATIONS WILL BE INSERTED WHEN FINAL RULE PUBLISHES AND WILL BE BASED ON THE ALLOCATION FORMULAS IN THE COUNCIL'S CATCH SHARING PLAN].

(i) The fishing seasons are:

(A) The first season (the “inside 40-fm” fishery) commences May 1, and continues 7 days a week, in the area shoreward of a boundary line approximating the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour, or until the sub-quota for the central Oregon “inside 40-fm” fishery of [SUBAREA ALLOCATIONS WILL BE INSERTED WHEN FINAL RULE PUBLISHES AND WILL BE BASED ON THE ALLOCATION FORMULAS IN THE COUNCIL'S CATCH SHARING PLAN], or any inseason revised subquota,is estimated to have been taken and the season is closed by the Commission, or October 31, whichever is earlier. The boundary line approximating the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour between 45°46.00′ N lat. and 42°40.50′ N lat. is defined at § 660.71(k).

(B) The second season (spring season), which is for the “all-depth” fishery, is open May 8, 9; 14, 15, 16; 21, 22, 23; 28, 29, 30; and June 4, 5, 6. The Start Printed Page 6887allocation to the all-depth fishery is [SUBAREA ALLOCATIONS WILL BE INSERTED WHEN FINAL RULE PUBLISHES AND WILL BE BASED ON THE ALLOCATION FORMULAS IN THE COUNCIL'S CATCH SHARING PLAN]. If sufficient unharvested quota remains for additional fishing days, the season will re-open June 18, 19, 20; July 2, 3, 4; and July 16, 17, 18. Notice of the re-opening will be announced on the NMFS hotline (206) 526-6667 or (800) 662-9825.

(C) The third season (summer season), which is for the “all-depth” fishery, will be August 6, 7, 8; 20, 21, 22; September 3, 4, 5; 17, 18, 19; October 1, 2, 3; 15, 16, 17; 29, 30, 31; and will continue until the combined spring season and summer season quotas in the area between Cape Falcon and Humbug Mountain, Oregon, are estimated to have been taken and the area is closed by the Commission. NMFS will announce on the NMFS hotline in July whether the fishery will re-open for the summer season in August. Additional fishing days may be opened if sufficient quota remains after the last day of the first scheduled open period. If, after this date, an amount greater than or equal to 60,000 lb (27.2 mt) remains in the combined all-depth and inside 40-fm (73-m) quota, the fishery may re-open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, beginning August 6, 7, and 8, and ending when there is insufficient quota remaining, whichever is earlier. If after September 8, an amount greater than or equal to 30,000 lb (13.6 mt) remains in the combined all-depth and inside 40-fm (73-m) quota, and the fishery is not already open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the fishery may re-open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, beginning September 10, 11, and 12, and ending October 31. After September 8, the bag limit may be increased to two fish of any size per person, per day. NMFS will announce on the NMFS hotline whether the summer all-depth fishery will be open on such additional fishing days, what days the fishery will be open and what the bag limit is.

(ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per person, unless otherwise specified. NMFS will announce on the NMFS hotline any bag limit changes.

(iii) During days open to all-depth halibut fishing when the groundfish fishery is restricted by depth, no groundfish may be taken and retained, possessed or landed, when halibut are on board the vessel, except sablefish, Pacific cod, and flatfish species, when allowed by groundfish regulations, if halibut are onboard the vessel. During days open to all-depth halibut fishing when the groundfish fishery is open to all depths, any groundfish species permitted under the groundfish regulations may be retained, possessed or landed if halibut are on board the vessel. During days open to nearshore halibut fishing, flatfish species may be taken and retained seaward of the seasonal groundfish depths restrictions, if halibut are on board the vessel.

(iv) When the all-depth halibut fishery is closed and halibut fishing is permitted only shoreward of a boundary line approximating the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour, halibut possession and retention by vessels operating seaward of a boundary line approximating the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour is prohibited.

(v) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is prohibited within the Stonewall Bank YRCA. It is unlawful for recreational fishing vessels to take and retain, possess, or land halibut taken with recreational gear within the Stonewall Bank YRCA. A vessel fishing in the Stonewall Bank YRCA may not possess any halibut. Recreational vessels may transit through the Stonewall Bank YRCA with or without halibut on board. The Stonewall Bank YRCA is an area off central Oregon, near Stonewall Bank, intended to protect yelloweye rockfish. The Stonewall Bank YRCA is defined at § 660.70(f).

(f) The quota for landings into ports in the area south of Humbug Mountain, OR (42° 40.50′ N lat.) to the Oregon/California Border (42° 00.00′ N lat.) (Southern Oregon subarea) is [SUBAREA ALLOCATIONS WILL BE INSERTED WHEN FINAL RULE PUBLISHES AND WILL BE BASED ON THE ALLOCATION FORMULAS IN THE COUNCIL'S CATCH SHARING PLAN].

(i) The fishing season commences on May 1, and continues 7 days per week until the subquota is taken, or October 31, whichever is earlier.

(ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut per person with no size limit.

(iii) No Pacific Coast groundfish may be taken and retained, possessed or landed, except sablefish, Pacific cod, and flatfish species, in areas closed to groundfish, if halibut are on board the vessel.

(g) The quota for landings into ports south of the Oregon/California Border (42°00.00′ N lat.) and along the California coast is [SUBAREA ALLOCATIONS WILL BE INSERTED WHEN FINAL RULE PUBLISHES AND WILL BE BASED ON THE ALLOCATION FORMULAS IN THE COUNCIL'S CATCH SHARING PLAN].

(i) The fishing season will be open May 1 through October 31, or until the subarea quota is estimated to have been taken and the season is closed by the Commission, whichever is earlier. NMFS will announce any closure by the Commission on the NMFS hotline (206) 526-6667 or (800) 662-9825.

(ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per person.

Classification

Regulations governing the U.S. fisheries for Pacific halibut are developed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC), the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), and the Secretary of Commerce. Section 5 Halibut Act (16 U.S.C. 773c) allows the Regional Council having authority for a particular geographical area to develop regulations governing the allocation and catch of halibut in U.S. Convention waters as long as those regulations do not conflict with IPHC regulations. The proposed action is consistent with the Council's authority to allocate halibut catches among fishery participants in the waters in and off Washington, Oregon, and California.

This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. This proposed rule is not an Executive Order 13771 regulatory action because this rule is not significant under Executive Order 12866.

An initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as required by section 603 of the RFA (RFA). The IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for this action are contained at the beginning of this section in the preamble and in the SUMMARY section of the preamble. A summary of the analysis follows.

Statement of the Objectives of, and Legal Basis for, the Proposed Rule

The Halibut Act gives the Secretary of Commerce responsibility for implementing the provisions of the Halibut Convention between the United States and Canada. The Halibut Act requires that the Secretary adopt regulations to carry out the purposes and objectives of the Halibut Convention and Halibut Act. The Halibut Act also authorizes the regional fishery management councils to develop regulations in addition to, but not in conflict with, regulations of the IPHC to govern the Pacific halibut catch in their corresponding U.S. Convention waters. The Council's main management Start Printed Page 6888objective for the Pacific halibut fishery in Area 2A is to manage fisheries to remain within the catch limit for Area 2A.

A second objective is to allow the recreational (sport) fishery to target halibut in the manner that is appropriate to meet the conservation requirements for species that co-occur with Pacific halibut. A third objective is to meet the needs of fishery participants in particular fisheries and fishing areas.

A Description and, Where Feasible, Estimate of the Number of Small Entities To Which the Final Rule Applies

This rule would revise the recreational Pacific halibut fishery management measures, such as season dates and some catch limits that are set in NMFS regulations. This proposed rule would open the recreational fishery with 2020 season dates and subarea allocations, impacting charter boats, anglers, and businesses relying on sport fishing across all of Area 2A. This rule also proposes changes to the sport fishing sector of the Catch Sharing Plan for the halibut fishery, impacting participants in the recreational Washington and Oregon subareas. Therefore, this rule may affect some charterboat operations in Area 2A. Previous analyses determined that charterboats are small businesses (see 77 FR 5477 (February 3, 2012) and 76 FR 2876 (January 18, 2011)). Charter fishing operations are classified under NAICS code, 487210, with a corresponding Small Business Association size standard of $7.5 million in annual receipts. No commercial fishing entities are directly affected by this rule.

In 2019, the IPHC issued 84 licenses to the charterboat fleet. NMFS estimates there are 47 licensed charterboats in Washington, and 26 in Oregon. Recent information on charterboat activity is not available, but prior analysis indicated that 60 percent of the IPHC charterboat license holders (around 50 vessels) may be affected by these regulations. Private vessels used for recreational fishing are not businesses, and are therefore not subject to the RFA.

Description of the Projected Reporting, Record-Keeping, and Other Compliance Requirements of This Proposed Rule

The proposed changes to the Catch Sharing Plan and domestic management measures do not include any new reporting or recordkeeping requirements.

Federal Rules That May Duplicate, Overlap or Conflict With the Proposed Rule

There are no relevant Federal rules that may duplicate, overlap, or conflict with this action.

Description and Estimate of Economic Effects on Entities, by Entity Size and Industry

The major effect of halibut management on small entities will be from the catch limit decisions made by the IPHC, a decision independent from this proposed action. This proposed action would implement management measures including season dates and bag limits for the recreational fishery, and makes minor changes to the Catch Sharing Plan to provide increased recreational opportunities under the allocations that result from the Area 2A catch limit. There are no large entities involved in the halibut fisheries; therefore, none of these changes will have a disproportionately negative effect on small entities versus large entities. The proposed changes to the Catch Sharing Plan are considered minor, with minimal economic effects.

A Description of, and an Explanation of the Basis for, Assumptions Used

In the description of the entities affected, estimates of the amount of charterboat activity from the number of licensed vessels were based on a 2004 report by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. This report has not been updated and the number of entities is assumed to be similar.

Description of Any Significant Alternatives to the Proposed Rule That Accomplish the Stated Objectives of Applicable Statutes and That Minimize Any Significant Economic Impact of the Proposed Rule on Small Entities

The status quo alternative of not implementing management measures, such as season dates and bag limits, or revising the Catch Sharing Plan would not achieve the objectives and requirements of the Convention and Halibut Act, specifically conserving Pacific halibut and allocating quota equitably. Without establishing 2020 season dates and subarea allocations, there would be a significant economic impact on the entire recreational sector, including charter boats. When considered with the proposed management measures, the proposed changes to the Catch Sharing Plan would have minimal effect on the fishery and there are no other additional significant alternatives that would further minimize the impact of the proposed rule on small entities while achieving the goals and objectives of the Convention and Halibut Act. In addition, these management measures and Catch Sharing Plan changes were proposed by stakeholders to address the needs of the fisheries, and, as explained above, the proposed changes are not expected to have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.

A copy of this analysis is available from the Council or NMFS (see ADDRESSES).

This proposed rule was developed after meaningful consultation and collaboration with the tribal representative on the Council, pursuant to Executive Order 13175.

The U.S. Government formally recognizes that the 13 Washington Tribes have treaty rights to fish for Pacific halibut. In general terms, the quantification of those rights is 50 percent of the harvestable surplus of Pacific halibut available in the tribes' usual and accustomed fishing areas (described at 50 CFR 300.64). Each of the treaty tribes has the discretion to administer their fisheries and to establish their own policies to achieve program objectives. Accordingly, tribal allocations and regulations, including the proposed changes to the Catch Sharing Plan, have been developed in consultation with the affected tribe(s) and, insofar as possible, with tribal consensus.

Start List of Subjects

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 300

  • Administrative practice and procedure
  • Antarctica
  • Canada
  • Exports
  • Fish
  • Fisheries
  • Fishing
  • Imports
  • Indians
  • Labeling
  • Marine resources
  • Reporting and recordkeeping requirements
  • Russian Federation
  • Transportation
  • Treaties
  • Wildlife
End List of Subjects Start Signature

Dated: January 31, 2020.

Samuel D. Rauch III,

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

End Signature

For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 300, subpart E, is proposed to be amended as follows:

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PART 300—INTERNATIONAL FISHERIES REGULATIONS

Subpart E—Pacific Halibut Fisheries

End Part Start Amendment Part

1. The authority citation for part 300, subpart E, continues to read as follows:

End Amendment Part Start Authority

Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773-773k.

End Authority Start Amendment Part

2, In § 300.61, revise the definition of “Subarea 2A-1” to read as follows:

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Definitions.
* * * * *
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Subarea 2A-1 includes the usual and accustomed fishing areas for Pacific Coast treaty tribes off the coast of Washington and all inland marine waters of Washington north of Point Chehalis (46°53.30′ N lat.), including Puget Sound. Boundaries of a tribe's fishing area may be revised as ordered by a Federal court.

* * * * *
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3. In § 300.63, revise paragraph (d) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Catch sharing plan and domestic management measures in area 2A.
* * * * *

(d) Fishery Election in Area 2A. (1) A vessel that fishes in Area 2A may participate in only one of the following three fisheries in Area 2A:

(i) The sport fishery established in the annual domestic management measures and IPHC regulations and defined at 50 CFR 300.61;

(ii) The commercial directed fishery for halibut during the fishing period(s) established in the annual domestic management measures and IPHC regulations and/or the incidental retention of halibut during the sablefish primary fishery described at 50 CFR 660.231; or

(iii) The incidental catch fishery during the salmon troll fishery as authorized in the annual domestic management measures and IPHC regulations.

(2) No person shall fish for halibut in the sport fishery in Area 2A under the annual domestic management measures and IPHC regulations, from a vessel that has been used during the same calendar year for commercial halibut fishing in Area 2A, or that has been issued a permit for the same calendar year for the commercial halibut fishery in Area 2A.

(3) No person shall fish for halibut in the directed commercial halibut fishery during the fishing periods established in the annual domestic management measures and IPHC regulations, and/or retain halibut incidentally taken in the sablefish primary fishery in Area 2A from a vessel that has been used during the same calendar year for the incidental catch fishery during the salmon troll fishery, as authorized in the annual domestic management measures and IPHC regulations.

(4) No person shall fish for halibut in the directed commercial halibut fishery and/or retain halibut incidentally taken in the sablefish primary fishery in Area 2A from a vessel that, during the same calendar year, has been used in the sport halibut fishery in Area 2A or that is licensed for the sport charter halibut fishery in Area 2A.

(5) No person shall retain halibut in the salmon troll fishery in Area 2A as authorized under the annual domestic management measures and IPHC regulations, taken on a vessel that, during the same calendar year, has been used in the sport halibut fishery in Area 2A, or that is licensed for the sport charter halibut fishery in Area 2A.

(6) No person shall retain halibut in the salmon troll fishery in Area 2A as authorized under the annual domestic management measures and IPHC regulations, taken on a vessel that, during the same calendar year, has been used in the directed commercial halibut fishery during the fishing periods established in the annual domestic management measures and IPHC regulations, and/or retained halibut incidentally taken in the sablefish primary fishery for Area 2A or that is licensed to participate in these commercial fisheries during the fishing periods established in the annual domestic management measures and IPHC regulations in Area 2A.

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

4. In § 300.64, revise paragraph (i) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Fishing by U.S. treaty Indian tribes.
* * * * *

(i) Table 1 to this paragraph (i) sets forth the fishing areas of each of the 13 treaty Indian tribes fishing pursuant to this section. Within subarea 2A-1, boundaries of a tribe's fishing area may be revised as ordered by a Federal court.

Table to Paragraph (i)

TribeBoundaries
HOHThe area between 47°54.30′ N lat. (Quillayute River) and 47°21.00′ N lat. (Quinault River) and east of 125°44.00′ W long.
JAMESTOWN S'KLALLAMThose locations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or in accordance with Final Decision No. 1 and subsequent orders in United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash., 1974), and particularly at 626 F. Supp. 1486, to be places at which the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe may fish under rights secured by treaties with the United States.
LOWER ELWHA S'KLALLAMThose locations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or in accordance with Final Decision No. 1 and subsequent orders in United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash., 1974), and particularly at 459 F. Supp. 1049 and 1066 and 626 F. Supp. 1443, to be places at which the Lower Elwha S'Klallam Tribe may fish under rights secured by treaties with the United States.
LUMMIThose locations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or in accordance with Final Decision No. 1 and subsequent orders in United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash., 1974), and particularly at 384 F. Supp. 360, as modified in Subproceeding No. 89-08 (W.D. Wash., February 13, 1990) (decision and order re: Cross-motions for summary judgement), to be places at which the Lummi Tribe may fish under rights secured by treaties with the United States.
MAKAHThe area north of 48°02.25′ N lat. (Norwegian Memorial) and east of 125°44.00′ W long.
NOOKSACKThose locations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or in accordance with Final Decision No. 1 and subsequent orders in United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash. 1974), and particularly at 459 F. Supp. 1049, to be places at which the Nooksack Tribe may fish under rights secured by treaties with the United States.
PORT GAMBLE S'KLALLAMThose locations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or in accordance with Final Decision No. 1 and subsequent orders in United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash., 1974), and particularly at 626 F. Supp. 1442, to be places at which the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe may fish under rights secured by treaties with the United States.
QUILEUTEThe area commencing at Cape Alava, located at 48°10′00″ N lat, 124°43′56.9″ W long.; then proceeding west approximately 40 nautical miles at that latitude to a northwestern point located at 48°10′00″ N lat, 125°44′00″ W long.; then proceeding in a southeasterly direction mirroring the coastline at a distance no farther than 40 nautical miles from the mainland Pacific coast shoreline at any line of latitude, to a southwestern point at 47°31′42″ N lat., 125°20′26″ W long.; then proceeding east along that line of latitude to the Pacific coast shoreline at 47°31′42″ N lat., 124°21′9.0″ W long.
Start Printed Page 6890
QUINAULTThe area commencing at the Pacific coast shoreline near Destruction Island, located at 47°40′06″ N lat., 124°23′51.362″ W long.; then proceeding west approximately 30 nautical miles at that latitude to a northwestern point located at 47°40′06″ N lat., 125°08′30″ W long.; then proceeding in a southeasterly direction mirroring the coastline no farther than 30 nautical miles from the mainland Pacific coast shoreline at any line of latitude, to a southwestern point at 46°53′18″ N lat., 124°53′53″ W long.; then proceeding east along that line of latitude to the Pacific coast shoreline at 46°53′18″ N lat., 124°7′36.6″ W long.
SKOKOMISHThose locations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or in accordance with Final Decision No. 1 and subsequent orders in United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash., 1974), and particularly at 384 F. Supp. 377, to be places at which the Skokomish Tribe may fish under rights secured by treaties with the United States.
SUQUAMISHThose locations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or in accordance with Final Decision No. 1 and subsequent orders in United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash., 1974), and particularly at 459 F. Supp. 1049, to be places at which the Suquamish Tribe may fish under rights secured by treaties with the United States.
SWINOMISHThose locations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or in accordance with Final Decision No. 1 and subsequent orders in United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash., 1974), and particularly at 459 F. Supp. 1049, to be places at which the Swinomish Tribe may fish under rights secured by treaties with the United States.
TULALIPThose locations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or in accordance with Final Decision No. 1 and subsequent orders in United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash., 1974), and particularly at 626 F. Supp. 1531-1532, to be places at which the Tulalip Tribe may fish under rights secured by treaties with the United States.
End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 2020-02229 Filed 2-5-20; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3510-22-P