[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 232 (Tuesday, December 2, 2008)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 73222-73239]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-28617]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

[Docket No. 0810091344-81346-01]
RIN 0648-XL23


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Gulf of 
Alaska; Proposed 2009 and 2010 Harvest Specifications for Groundfish

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: NMFS proposes 2009 and 2010 harvest specifications, reserves 
and apportionments, and Pacific halibut prohibited species catch for 
the groundfish fishery of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). This action is 
necessary to establish harvest limits for groundfish during the 2009 
and 2010 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 (Magnuson-Stevens Act).

DATES: Comments must be received by January 2, 2009.

ADDRESSES: Send comments to Sue Salveson, Assistant Regional 
Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region, NMFS, 
Attn: Ellen Sebastian. You may submit comments, identified by RIN 0648-
XL23, by any one of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal Web site at http://
www.regulations.gov.
     Mail: P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802.
     Fax: (907) 586-7557.
     Hand delivery to the Federal Building: 709 West 9th 
Street, Room 420A, Juneau, AK.
    All comments received are a part of the public record and will 
generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov without change. All 
Personal Identifying Information (e.g., name, address) voluntarily 
submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit 
Confidential Business Information or otherwise sensitive or protected 
information.
    NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required 
fields, if you wish to remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic 
comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or 
Adobe portable document file (pdf) formats only.
    Copies of the Final Alaska Groundfish Harvest Specifications 
Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIS) and the Initial Regulatory 
Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) prepared for this action are available from 
NMFS at the addresses above or from the Alaska Region Web site at 
http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. Copies of the final 2007 Stock 
Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) report for the groundfish 
resources of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA), dated November 2007, are 
available from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) 
at 605 West 4th Avenue, Suite 306, Anchorage, AK 99510 or from the 
Council's Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/npfmc.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Pearson, Sustainable Fisheries 
Division, Alaska Region, 907-481-1780, or e-mail at 
tom.pearson@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the GOA groundfish fisheries in 
the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) 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 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.
    These proposed specifications are based in large part on the 2007 
SAFE reports. In December 2008, the Council will consider a 2008 SAFE 
report to develop its recommendations for the final 2009 and 2010 
acceptable biological catch (ABC) amounts. Anticipated changes in the 
final specifications from the proposed specifications are identified in 
this notice for public review.
    The FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS, after 
consultation with the Council, to specify the total allowable catch 
(TAC) for each target species and for the ``other species'' category, 
the sum of which must be within the optimum yield (OY) range of 116,000 
to 800,000 metric tons (mt). Section 679.20(c)(1) further requires NMFS 
to publish and solicit public comment on proposed annual TACs, halibut 
prohibited species catch (PSC) amounts, and seasonal allowances of 
pollock and inshore/offshore Pacific cod. The proposed specifications 
in Tables 1 through 17 of this document satisfy these requirements. For 
2009 and 2010, the sum of the proposed TAC amounts is 279,264 mt. Under 
Sec.  679.20(c)(3), NMFS will publish the final 2009 and 2010 
specifications after (1) considering comments received within the 
comment period (see DATES), (2) consulting with the Council at its 
December 2008 meeting, and (3) considering information presented in the 
Final EIS and the final 2008 SAFE report prepared for the 2009 and 2010 
groundfish fisheries.

Other Actions Potentially Affecting the 2009 and 2010 Harvest 
Specifications

    NMFS published a proposed rule to implement Amendment 77 to the GOA 
FMP in the Federal Register on September 24, 2008 (73 FR 55010), with 
comments invited through November 17, 2008. If approved, Amendment 77 
would remove dark rockfish from the pelagic shelf rockfish (PSR) 
complex in the GOA FMP in order for the State of Alaska (State) to 
assume management of dark rockfish. This action is necessary to allow 
the State to implement more responsive, regionally based management 
measures than are currently possible under the FMP. The effect on the 
proposed 2009 and 2010 harvest specifications for PSR, if Amendment 77 
is approved, would be to reduce the overfishing limit (OFL), ABC, and 
TAC amounts listed in Table 1. The OFL for PSR would be reduced from 
6,294 mt to 5,695 mt. The ABCs and TACs for PSR would be reduced from 
986 mt to 804 mt in the Western Regulatory Area; from 3,566 mt to 3,339 
mt in the Central Regulatory Area; from 247 mt to 230 mt in the West 
Yakutat District; and from 5,140 mt to 4,690 mt

[[Page 73223]]

in the Southeast Outside District. The 2008 SAFE report will take into 
account the removal of dark rockfish from the PSR complex.
    Amendment 79 to the GOA FMP was approved by the Secretary of 
Commerce on August 20, 2008 (73 FR 49963, August 25, 2008). Amendment 
79 requires that the ``other species'' category undergo the identical 
harvest level specifications procedure to which other groundfish 
species or species groups are subject. Specifically, Amendment 79 
requires that aggregate OFL, ABC, and TAC levels for the ``other 
species'' category be established as part of the annual groundfish 
harvest specification process. Previously only an annual TAC was 
established. NMFS is proposing an OFL of 10,558 mt and an ABC of 7,943 
mt for 2009 and 2010 (see Table 1). A stock assessment for the ``other 
species'' complex will be included in 2008 SAFE report.

Proposed ABC and TAC Specifications

    The proposed ABCs and TACs are based on the best available 
biological and socioeconomic data, 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 ABCs and OFLs. The formulas 
applicable to a particular stock or stock complex are determined by the 
level of reliable information available to fisheries scientists. Tier 
one represents the highest level of information quality available and 
tier six represents the lowest level of information quality available.
    In October 2008, the Council, the Scientific and Statistical 
Committee (SSC), and the Advisory Panel (AP), reviewed current 
biological and harvest information about the condition of GOA 
groundfish stocks, most of which was initially compiled by the GOA 
Groundfish Plan Team (Plan Team) and was presented in the final 2007 
SAFE report for the GOA groundfish fisheries, dated November 2007 (see 
ADDRESSES). The SAFE report contains a review of the latest scientific 
analyses, 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 analyses, the Plan Team estimates an ABC for 
each species category. The Plan Team will update the 2007 SAFE report 
to include new information collected during 2008. The Plan Team will 
provide revised stock assessments in November 2008 in the final 2008 
SAFE report. The Council will review the 2008 SAFE report in December 
2008. The final 2009 and 2010 harvest specifications may be adjusted 
from the proposed harvest specifications based on the 2008 SAFE report.
    The SSC adopted the proposed 2009 and 2010 OFL and ABC 
recommendations from the Plan Team for all groundfish species. These 
amounts are unchanged from the final 2009 harvest specifications 
published in the Federal Register on February 27, 2008 (73 FR 10562), 
with the exception of sablefish and ``other species.'' The AP and the 
Council recommendations for the proposed 2009 and 2010 OFL, ABC, and 
TAC amounts are also based on the final 2009 harvest specifications 
published in the Federal Register on February 27, 2008 (73 FR 10562), 
with the exception of sablefish and ``other species.'' For 2009 and 
2010, the Council recommended and NMFS proposes the OFLs and ABCs 
listed in Table 1. The proposed ABCs reflect harvest amounts that are 
less than the specified overfishing amounts. The sum of the proposed 
2009 and 2010 ABCs for all assessed groundfish is 564,126 mt, which is 
higher than the final 2008 ABC total of 536,201 mt (73 FR 10562, 
February 27, 2008) for the reasons described in the February 27, 2008 
harvest specifications and because of the addition of a 7,943 mt ABC 
for ``other species'' under Amendment 79 to the FMP.

Specification and Apportionment of TAC Amounts

    The Council recommended proposed TACs for 2009 and 2010 that are 
equal to proposed ABCs for pollock, deep-water flatfish, rex sole, 
sablefish, Pacific ocean perch, shortraker rockfish, rougheye rockfish, 
northern rockfish, pelagic shelf rockfish, thornyhead rockfish, 
demersal shelf rockfish, and skates. The Council recommended proposed 
TACs for 2009 and 2010 that are less than the proposed ABCs for Pacific 
cod, flathead sole, shallow-water flatfish, arrowtooth flounder, other 
rockfish, Atka mackerel, and the ``other species'' category.
    The apportionment of annual pollock TAC among the Western and 
Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA reflects the seasonal biomass 
distribution and is discussed in greater detail below. The annual 
pollock TAC in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA is 
apportioned among Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630, as well as 
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) (Sec. Sec.  679.23(d)(2)(i) through (iv), and 
679.20(a)(5)(iv)(B)).
    As in 2008, the SSC and Council recommended that the method of 
apportioning the sablefish ABC among management areas in 2009 and 2010 
include commercial fishery and survey data. NMFS stock assessment 
scientists believe that unbiased commercial fishery catch-per-unit-
effort data are useful for stock distribution assessments. NMFS 
evaluates annually the use of commercial fishery data to assure that 
unbiased information is included in stock distribution models. The 
Council's recommendation for sablefish area apportionments also takes 
into account the prohibition on the use of trawl gear in the Southeast 
Outside (SEO) District of the Eastern Regulatory Area and makes 
available 5 percent of the combined Eastern Regulatory Area TACs to 
trawl gear for use as incidental catch in other directed groundfish 
fisheries in the West Yakutat District (WYK) (Sec.  679.20(a)(4)(i)).
    The AP, SSC, and Council recommended apportioning the ABC for 
Pacific cod in the GOA among regulatory areas based on the three most 
recent NMFS summer trawl surveys. As in previous years, the Plan Team, 
SSC, and Council recommended that the sum of all State and Federal 
water Pacific cod removals from the GOA not exceed ABC recommendations. 
The proposed 2009 and 2010 Pacific cod TACs are affected by the State's 
fishery for Pacific cod in its waters in the Western and Central 
Regulatory Areas, as well as in Prince William Sound (PWS). 
Accordingly, the Council recommended the proposed 2009 and 2010 Pacific 
cod TACs be reduced from proposed ABC amounts to account for guideline 
harvest levels (GHL) established for Pacific cod by the State for 
fisheries that occur in State waters of the GOA. Therefore, the 
proposed 2009 and 2010 Pacific cod TACs are less than the proposed ABCs 
by the following amounts: (1) Eastern GOA, 266 mt; (2) Central GOA, 
9,475 mt; and (3) Western GOA, 6,483 mt. These amounts reflect the sum 
of the State's 2009 and 2010 GHLs in these areas, which are 10 percent, 
25 percent, and 25 percent of the Eastern, Central, and Western GOA 
proposed ABCs, respectively.
    NMFS also is proposing seasonal apportionments of the annual 
Pacific cod TACs in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas. Sixty 
percent of the annual TAC is apportioned to the A season for hook-and-
line, pot, or jig gear from January 1 through June 10, and for trawl 
gear from January 20 through June

[[Page 73224]]

10. Forty percent of the annual TAC is apportioned to the B season for 
hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear from September 1 through December 31, 
and for trawl gear from September 1 through November 1 (Sec. Sec.  
679.23(d)(3) and 679.20(a)(11)).
    As in 2008, NMFS proposes to establish for 2009 and 2010 an A 
season directed fishing allowance (DFA) for the Pacific cod fisheries 
in the GOA based on the management area TACs minus the recent average A 
season incidental catch of Pacific cod in each management area before 
June 10 (Sec.  679.20(d)(1)). The DFA and incidental catch before June 
10 will be managed such that total catch in the A season will be no 
more than 60 percent of the annual TAC. Incidental catch taken after 
June 10 will continue to be taken from the B season TAC. This action 
meets the intent of the Steller sea lion protection measures by 
achieving temporal dispersion of the Pacific cod removals and reducing 
the likelihood of catch exceeding 60 percent of the annual TAC in the A 
season (January 1 through June 10).
    The sum of the proposed TACs for all GOA groundfish is 279,264 mt 
for 2009 and 2010, which is within the OY range specified by the FMP. 
The sums of the proposed 2009 and 2010 TACs are higher than the sum of 
the 2008 TACs of 262,826 mt, but are unchanged from the 2009 TACs 
currently specified for the GOA groundfish fisheries (73 FR 10562, 
February 27, 2008).
    NMFS finds that the Council's recommendations for proposed OFL, 
ABC, and TAC amounts are consistent with the biological condition of 
groundfish stocks as adjusted for other biological and socioeconomic 
considerations, including maintaining the total TAC within the required 
OY range. Table 1 lists the proposed 2009 and 2010 ABCs, TACs, and OFLs 
of groundfish.

  Table 1--Proposed 2009 and 2010 ABCs, TACs, and OFLs of Groundfish for the Western/Central/West Yakutat (W/C/
 WYK), Western (W), Central (C), Eastern (E) Regulatory Areas, and in the West Yakutat (WYK), Southeast Outside
                            (SEO), and Gulfwide (GW) Districts of the Gulf of Alaska
                                 [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Species                              Area\1\                 ABC          TAC          OFL
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pollock \2\...............................  Shumagin (610)...............       23,700       23,700          n/a
                                            Chirikof (620)...............       25,821       25,821          n/a
                                            Kodiak (630).................       18,367       18,367          n/a
                                            WYK (640)....................        2,042        2,042          n/a
                                            W/C/WYK (subtotal)...........       69,930       69,930       95,940
                                            SEO (650)....................        8,240        8,240       11,040
                                                                          --------------------------------------
    Total.................................  .............................       78,170       78,170      106,980
Pacific cod \3\...........................  W............................       25,932       19,449          n/a
                                            C............................       37,901       28,426          n/a
                                            E............................        2,660        2,394          n/a
                                                                          --------------------------------------
    Total.................................  .............................       66,493       50,269       88,660
Deep-water flatfish \4\...................  W............................          707          707          n/a
                                            C............................        6,927        6,927          n/a
                                            WYK..........................          995          995          n/a
                                            SEO..........................          543          543          n/a
                                                                          --------------------------------------
    Total.................................  .............................        9,172        9,172       11,583
Rex sole..................................  W............................          948          948          n/a
                                            C............................        6,241        6,241          n/a
                                            WYK..........................          483          483          n/a
                                            SEO..........................          796          796          n/a
                                                                          --------------------------------------
    Total.................................  .............................        8,468        8,468       11,065
Flathead sole.............................  W............................       13,001        2,000          n/a
                                            C............................       29,289        5,000          n/a
                                            WYK..........................        3,556        3,556          n/a
                                            SEO..........................          659          659          n/a
                                                                          --------------------------------------
    Total.................................  .............................       46,505       11,215       57,962
Shallow-water flatfish \5\................  W............................       26,360        4,500          n/a
                                            C............................       29,873       13,000          n/a
                                            WYK..........................        3,333        3,333          n/a
                                            SEO..........................        1,423        1,423          n/a
                                                                          --------------------------------------
    Total.................................  .............................       60,989       22,256       74,364
Arrowtooth flounder.......................  W............................       31,080        8,000          n/a
                                            C............................      169,371       30,000          n/a
                                            WYK..........................       15,375        2,500          n/a
                                            SEO..........................       12,579        2,500          n/a
                                                                          --------------------------------------
    Total.................................  .............................      228,405       43,000      269,237
Sablefish \6\.............................  W............................        1,727        1,727          n/a
                                            C............................        5,026        5,026          n/a
                                            WYK..........................        1,937        1,937          n/a
                                            SEO..........................        2,943        2,943          n/a
                                            E (WYK and SEO) (subtotal)...        4,880        4,880          n/a
                                                                          --------------------------------------

[[Page 73225]]

 
    Total.................................  .............................       11,633       11,633       12,924
Pacific ocean perch \7\...................  W............................        3,704        3,704        4,397
                                            C............................        8,225        8,225        9,764
                                            WYK..........................        1,105        1,105          n/a
                                            SEO..........................        2,038        2,038          n/a
                                            E (WYK and SEO) (subtotal)...        3,143        3,143        3,732
                                                                          --------------------------------------
    Total.................................  .............................       15,072       15,072       17,893
Shortraker rockfish \8\...................  W............................          120          120          n/a
                                            C............................          315          315          n/a
                                            E............................          463          463          n/a
                                                                          --------------------------------------
    Total.................................  .............................          898          898        1,197
Rougheye rockfish \9\.....................  W............................          124          124          n/a
                                            C............................          830          830          n/a
                                            E............................          325          325          n/a
                                                                          --------------------------------------
    Total.................................  .............................        1,279        1,279        1,540
Other rockfish \10\ \11\..................  W............................          357          357          n/a
                                            C............................          569          569          n/a
                                            WYK..........................          604          604          n/a
                                            SEO..........................        2,767          200          n/a
                                                                          --------------------------------------
    Total.................................  .............................        4,297        1,730        5,624
Northern rockfish \11\ \12\...............  W............................        2,047        2,047          n/a
                                            C............................        2,302        2,302          n/a
                                            E............................            0            0          n/a
                                                                          --------------------------------------
    Total.................................  .............................        4,349        4,349        5,120
Pelagic shelf rockfish \13\...............  W............................          986          986          n/a
                                            C............................        3,566        3,566          n/a
                                            WYK..........................          247          247          n/a
                                            SEO..........................          341          341          n/a
                                                                          --------------------------------------
    Total.................................  .............................        5,140        5,140        6,294
Thornyhead rockfish.......................  W............................          267          267          n/a
                                            C............................          860          860          n/a
                                            E............................          783          783          n/a
                                                                          --------------------------------------
    Total.................................  .............................        1,910        1,910        2,540
Big skate \14\............................  W............................          632          632          n/a
                                            C............................        2,065        2,065          n/a
                                            E............................          633          633          n/a
                                                                          --------------------------------------
    Total.................................  .............................        3,330        3,330        4,439
Longnose skate \15\.......................  W............................           78           78          n/a
                                            C............................        2,041        2,041          n/a
                                            E............................          768          768          n/a
                                                                          --------------------------------------
    Total.................................  .............................        2,887        2,887        3,849
Other skates \16\.........................  GW...........................        2,104        2,104        2,806
Demersal shelf rockfish \17\..............  SEO..........................          382          382          611
Atka mackerel.............................  GW...........................        4,700        1,500        6,200
Other species \18\........................  GW...........................        7,943        4,500       10,558
                                                                          --------------------------------------
        Grand Total.......................  .............................      564,126      279,264     701,446
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Regulatory areas and districts are defined at Sec.   679.2.
\2\ Pollock is apportioned in the Western/Central Regulatory Areas among three statistical areas. During the A
  season, the apportionment is based on an adjusted estimate of the relative distribution of pollock biomass of
  approximately 30%, 48%, and 22% in Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630, respectively. During the B season, the
  apportionment is based on the relative distribution of pollock biomass at 30%, 59%, and 12% in Statistical
  Areas 610, 620, and 630, respectively. During the C and D seasons, the apportionment is based on the relative
  distribution of pollock biomass at 53%, 15%, and 32% in Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630, respectively.
  Table 4 lists the proposed 2009 and 2010 pollock seasonal apportionments. In the West Yakutat and Southeast
  Outside Districts of the Eastern Regulatory Area, pollock is not divided into seasonal allowances.
\3\ The annual Pacific cod TAC is apportioned 60% to the A season and 40% to the B season in the Western and
  Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA. Pacific cod is allocated 90% for processing by the inshore component and
  10% for processing by the offshore component. Table 5 lists the proposed 2009 and 2010 Pacific cod seasonal
  apportionments.
\4\ ``Deep-water flatfish'' means Dover sole, Greenland turbot, and deepsea sole.
\5\ ``Shallow-water flatfish'' means flatfish not including ``deep-water flatfish,'' flathead sole, rex sole, or
  arrowtooth flounder.

[[Page 73226]]

 
\6\ Sablefish is allocated to trawl and hook-and-line gears for 2009 and to trawl gear in 2010. Tables 2 and 3
  list the proposed 2009 and 2010 sablefish TACs.
\7\ Sebastes alutus.
\8\ Sebastes borealis.
\9\ Sebastes aleutianus.
\10\ ``Other rockfish'' in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas and in the West Yakutat District means slope
  rockfish and demersal shelf rockfish. The category ``other rockfish'' in the SEO District means slope
  rockfish.
\11\ ``Slope 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), and S. reedi (yellowmouth). In the Eastern GOA only, slope rockfish also includes northern
  rockfish, S. polyspinous.
\12\ Sebastes polyspinous.
\13\ Sebastes ciliatus (dark), S. variabilis (dusky), S. entomelas (widow), and S. flavidus (yellowtail).
\14\ Raja binoculata.
\15\ Raja rhina.
\16\ Bathyraja spp.
\17\ ``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).
 
\18\ ``Other species'' means sculpins, sharks, squid, and octopus.

Proposed Apportionment of Reserves

    Section 679.20(b)(2) requires that 20 percent of each TAC for 
pollock, Pacific cod, flatfish, and the ``other species'' category be 
set aside in reserves for possible apportionment at a later date during 
the fishing year. In 2008, NMFS apportioned all of the reserves in the 
final harvest specifications. For 2009 and 2010, NMFS proposes 
apportionment of all of the reserves for pollock, Pacific cod, 
flatfish, and ``other species.'' Table 1 reflects the apportionment of 
reserve amounts for these species and species groups.

Proposed Allocations of the Sablefish TAC Amounts to Vessels Using 
Hook-and-Line and Trawl Gear

    Sections 679.20(a)(4)(i) and (ii) require allocation of sablefish 
TACs for each of the regulatory areas and districts to hook-and-line 
and trawl gear. In the Western and Central Regulatory Areas, 80 percent 
of each TAC is allocated to hook-and-line gear, and 20 percent of each 
TAC is allocated to trawl gear. In the Eastern GOA, 95 percent of the 
TAC is allocated to hook-and-line gear and 5 percent is allocated to 
trawl gear. The trawl gear allocation in the Eastern GOA may only be 
used to support incidental catch of sablefish in directed fisheries for 
other target species (Sec.  679.20(a)(4)(i)). In recognition of the 
trawl ban in the SEO District of the Eastern GOA, the Council 
recommended and NMFS proposes that the allocation of 5 percent of the 
combined Eastern Regulatory Area sablefish TAC be available to trawl 
gear in the WYK District and the remainder of the WYK sablefish TAC be 
available to vessels using hook-and-line gear. As a result, NMFS 
proposes to allocate 100 percent of the sablefish TAC in the SEO 
District to vessels using hook-and-line gear. This recommendation 
results in a proposed 2009 allocation of 244 mt to trawl gear and 1,693 
mt to hook-and-line gear. Table 2 lists the allocations of the proposed 
2009 sablefish TACs to hook-and-line and trawl gear. Table 3 lists the 
allocations of the proposed 2010 sablefish TACs to trawl gear. The 
Council recommended that only a trawl sablefish TAC be established for 
two years so that incidental catch of sablefish by trawl gear could 
commence in January in the second year of the harvest specifications. 
However, since there is an annual assessment for sablefish and the 
final annual specifications are expected to be published before the IFQ 
season begins, the industry and Council recommended that the sablefish 
TAC for the IFQ season be set on an annual basis so that the best and 
most recent scientific information could be considered in recommending 
the ABCs and TACs. Since sablefish is on bycatch status for trawl gear 
from January 1, it is not likely that the sablefish allocation to trawl 
gear would be reached prior to the effective date of the final harvest 
specifications.

  Table 2--Proposed 2009 Sablefish TAC Amounts in the Gulf of Alaska and Allocations to Hook-and-Line and Trawl
                                                      Gear
                                 [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                   Hook-and-line       Trawl
                          Area/district                                 TAC         allocation      allocation
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Western.........................................................           1,727           1,382             345
Central.........................................................           5,026           4,021           1,005
West Yakutat \1\................................................           1,937           1,693             244
Southeast Outside...............................................           2,943           2,943               0
                                                                 -----------------------------------------------
    Total.......................................................          11,633          10,039          1,594
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Represents an allocation of 5 percent of the combined Eastern Regulatory Area sablefish TAC to trawl gear in
  the WYK District.


       Table 3--Proposed 2010 Sablefish TAC Amounts in the Gulf of Alaska and Allocation to Trawl Gear \1\
                                 [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                   Hook-and-line       Trawl
                          Area/district                                 TAC         allocation      allocation
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Western.........................................................           1,727             n/a             345
Central.........................................................           5,026             n/a           1,005
West Yakutat \2\................................................           1,937             n/a             244
Southeast Outside...............................................           2,943             n/a               0
                                                                 -----------------------------------------------

[[Page 73227]]

 
    Total.......................................................          11,633               0          1,594
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ The Council recommended that harvest specifications for the hook-and-line gear sablefish Individual Fishing
  Quota fisheries be limited to 1 year.
\2\ Represents an allocation of 5 percent of the combined Eastern Regulatory Area sablefish TAC to trawl gear in
  the WYK District.

Proposed 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 divided between inshore and offshore processing components. 
Pursuant to Sec.  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 
Sec.  679.23(d)(2)(i) through (iv), the A, B, C, and D season 
allowances are available from January 20 through March 10, March 10 
through May 31, August 25 through October 1, and October 1 through 
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 the A and 
B seasons, the apportionments are 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 are in proportion to the 
distribution of pollock biomass based on the four most recent NMFS 
summer surveys. For 2009 and 2010, the Council recommended averaging 
the winter and summer distribution of pollock in the Central Regulatory 
Area for the A season. The average is intended to reflect the 
distribution of pollock as indicated by the historic performance of the 
fishery during the A season. 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. The 
rollover amount is limited to 20 percent of the unharvested seasonal 
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 (Sec.  
679.20(a)(5)(iv)(B)). The proposed pollock TACs in the WYK of 2,042 mt 
and SEO District of 8,240 mt for 2009 and 2010 are not allocated by 
season.
    Section 679.20(a)(6)(i) requires the allocation of 100 percent of 
the pollock TAC in all regulatory areas and all seasonal allowances to 
vessels catching pollock for processing by the inshore component after 
subtraction of amounts that are projected by the Regional Administrator 
to be caught by, or delivered to, the offshore component incidental to 
directed fishing for other groundfish species. The amount of pollock 
available for vessels harvesting pollock for processing by the offshore 
component is that amount actually taken as incidental catch during 
directed fishing for groundfish species other than pollock, up to the 
maximum retainable amounts allowed under Sec.  679.20(e) and (f). At 
this time, these incidental catch amounts are unknown and will be 
determined during the fishing year.
    Table 4 lists the proposed 2009 and 2010 seasonal biomass 
distribution of pollock in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas, 
area apportionments, and seasonal allowances. The amounts of pollock 
for processing by the inshore and offshore components are not shown.

       Table 4--Proposed 2009 and 2010 Distribution of Pollock in the Central and Western Regulatory Areas of the Gulf of Alaska; Seasonal Biomass
                                        Distribution, Area Apportionments; and Seasonal Allowances of Annual TAC
                                                     [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                             Seasons                                Shumagin (Area 610)      Chirikof (Area 620)       Kodiak (Area 630)      Total \1\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A (Jan 20-Mar 10)...............................................           4,472 (26.35%)           8,367 (49.30%)           4,133 (24.35%)       16,972
B (Mar 10-May 31)...............................................           4,472 (26.35%)          10,198 (60.09%)           2,302 (13.56%)       16,972
C (Aug 25-Oct 1)................................................           7,378 (43.47%)           3,628 (21.38%)           5,966 (35.15%)       16,972
D (Oct 1-Nov 1).................................................           7,378 (43.47%)           3,628 (21.38%)           5,966 (35.15%)       16,972
                                                                 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Annual Total................................................                   23,700                   25,821                   18,367      67,888
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ The WYK and SEO District pollock TACs are not allocated by season and are not included in the total pollock TACs shown in this table.

Proposed Seasonal Apportionments of Pacific Cod TAC and Allocations for 
Processing of Pacific Cod TAC Between Inshore and Offshore Components

    Pacific cod fishing is divided into two seasons in the Western and 
Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA. For hook-and-line, pot, and jig 
gear, the A season is January 1 through June 10, and the B season is 
September 1 through December 31. For trawl gear, the A season is 
January 20 through June 10, and the B season is September 1 through 
November 1 (Sec.  679.23(d)(3)). After subtraction of incidental catch, 
60 percent and 40 percent of the annual TAC will be available for 
harvest during the A and B seasons, respectively, and will be 
apportioned between the inshore and offshore processing components, as 
provided in Sec.  679.20(a)(6)(ii). Between the A and the B seasons, 
directed fishing for Pacific cod is closed, and fishermen participating 
in other directed fisheries must retain Pacific cod up to the maximum 
retainable amounts allowed under Sec.  679.20(e) and

[[Page 73228]]

(f). Under Sec.  679.20(a)(11)(ii), any overage or underage of the 
Pacific cod allowance from the A season may be subtracted from or added 
to the subsequent B season allowance.
    Section 679.20(a)(6)(ii) requires the allocation of the Pacific cod 
TAC apportionment in all regulatory areas between vessels catching 
Pacific cod for processing by the inshore and offshore components. 
Ninety percent of the Pacific cod TAC in each regulatory area is 
allocated to vessels catching Pacific cod for processing by the inshore 
component. The remaining 10 percent of the TAC is allocated to vessels 
catching Pacific cod for processing by the offshore component. Table 5 
lists the proposed 2009 and 2010 seasonal apportionments and 
allocations of the Pacific cod TAC amounts.

 Table 5--Proposed 2009 and 2010 Seasonal Apportionments and Allocations of Pacific Cod TAC Amounts in the Gulf
                 of Alaska and Allocations for Processing by the Inshore and Offshore Components
                                 [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                          Component allocation
                                                                                       -------------------------
              Regulatory area                           Season                 TAC        Inshore      Offshore
                                                                                           (90%)        (10%)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Western...................................  Annual.......................       19,449       17,504        1,945
                                            A season (60%)...............       11,669       10,502        1,167
                                            B season (40%)...............        7,780        7,002          778
Central...................................  Annual.......................       28,426       25,583        2,843
                                            A season (60%)...............       17,056       15,350        1,706
                                            B season (40%)...............       11,370       10,233        1,137
Eastern...................................  Annual.......................        2,394        2,155          239
                                           ---------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total.................................  .............................       50,269       45,243        5,027
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Proposed Apportionments to the Central GOA Rockfish Program

    Section 679.81(a)(1) and (2) require the allocation of the primary 
rockfish species TACs in the Central Regulatory Area, after deducting 
incidental catch needs in other directed groundfish fisheries, to 
participants in the Central Gulf of Alaska Rockfish Pilot Program 
(Rockfish Program). Five percent (2.5 percent to trawl gear and 2.5 
percent to fixed gear) of the proposed TACs for Pacific ocean perch, 
northern rockfish, and pelagic shelf rockfish in the Central Regulatory 
Area are allocated to the entry level rockfish fishery and the 
remaining 95 percent to those vessels eligible to participate in the 
Rockfish Program. NMFS proposes 2009 and 2010 incidental catch amounts 
of 100 mt for northern rockfish, 100 mt for pelagic shelf rockfish, and 
200 mt for Pacific ocean perch for other directed groundfish fisheries 
in the Central Regulatory Area. These proposed amounts are based on the 
2003 through 2007 average incidental catch in the Central Regulatory 
Area by other groundfish fisheries.
    Section 679.83(a)(1)(i) requires that allocations to the trawl 
entry level fishery must be made first from the allocation of Pacific 
ocean perch available to the rockfish entry level fishery. If the 
amount of Pacific ocean perch available for allocation is less than the 
total allocation allowable for trawl catcher vessels in the rockfish 
entry level fishery, then northern rockfish and pelagic shelf rockfish 
must be allocated to trawl catcher vessels. Allocations of Pacific 
ocean perch, northern rockfish, and pelagic shelf rockfish to longline 
gear vessels must be made after the allocations to trawl gear.
    Table 6 lists the proposed 2009 and 2010 allocations of rockfish in 
the Central GOA to trawl and longline gear in the entry level rockfish 
fishery. Allocations of primary rockfish species TACs among 
participants in the Rockfish Program are not included in the proposed 
harvest specifications because applications for catcher processor and 
catcher vessel cooperatives are due to NMFS on March 1 of each calendar 
year, thereby preventing NMFS from calculating proposed 2009 
allocations. NMFS will post these allocations on the Alaska Region Web 
site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/sustainablefisheries/goarat/
default.htm when they become available in March 2009.

 Table 6--Proposed 2009 and 2010 Allocations of Rockfish in the Central Gulf of Alaska to Trawl and Longline Gear 1 in the Entry Level Rockfish Fishery
                                                         [Values are rounded to the nearest mt]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                             Incidental                                         Entry level  Entry level
                           Species                               Proposed      catch      TAC minus      5% TAC      2.5% TAC      trawl       longline
                                                                   TAC       allowance       ICA                                 allocation   allocation
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pacific ocean perch..........................................        8,225          200        8,025          401          201          342           59
Northern rockfish............................................        2,302          100        2,202          110           55            0          110
Pelagic shelf rockfish.......................................        3,566          100        3,466          173           87            0          173
                                                              ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total....................................................       14,093          400       13,693          685          342          342          342
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Longline gear includes jig and hook-and-line gear.


[[Page 73229]]

Proposed Halibut Prohibited Species Catch (PSC) Limits

    Section 679.21(d) establishes annual halibut PSC limit 
apportionments to trawl and hook-and-line gear and permits the 
establishment of apportionments for pot gear. In October 2008, the 
Council recommended that NMFS maintain the 2008 halibut PSC limits of 
2,000 mt for the trawl fisheries and 300 mt for the hook-and-line 
fisheries for 2009 and 2010. Ten mt of the hook-and-line limit is 
further allocated to the demersal shelf rockfish (DSR) fishery in the 
SEO District. The DSR fishery is defined at Sec.  679.21(d)(4)(iii)(A). 
This fishery has been apportioned 10 mt in recognition of its small 
scale harvests. Most vessels in the DSR fishery are less than 60 ft 
(18.3 m) length overall (LOA) making them exempt from observer 
coverage. Therefore, observer data are not available to verify actual 
bycatch amounts. NMFS assumes the halibut bycatch in the DSR fishery is 
low because of the short soak times for the gear and short duration of 
the fishery. Also, the DSR fishery occurs in the winter when less 
overlap occurs in the distribution of DSR and halibut. Finally, much of 
the DSR TAC is not available to the commercial DSR fishery. The Alaska 
Department of Fish and Game sets the quota for the commercial DSR 
fishery after estimates of incidental catch in all fisheries (including 
halibut) and anticipated recreational harvest have been deducted from 
the DSR TAC. Of the 382 mt TAC for DSR in 2008, 87 were available for 
the commercial fishery.
    Section 679.21(d)(4) authorizes the exemption of specified non-
trawl fisheries from the halibut PSC limit. As in past years, NMFS, 
after consultation with the Council, proposes to exempt pot gear, jig 
gear, and the sablefish IFQ (Individual Fishing Quota) hook-and-line 
gear fishery categories from the non-trawl halibut PSC limit for 2009 
and 2010. The Council and NMFS recommend these exemptions because (1) 
the pot gear fisheries have low halibut bycatch mortality (averaging 19 
mt annually from 2001 through 2007 and 20 mt through October 11, 2008); 
(2) the halibut and sablefish IFQ fisheries have low halibut bycatch 
mortality because the IFQ program requires retention of legal-sized 
halibut by vessels using hook-and-line gear if a halibut IFQ permit 
holder is aboard and is holding unused halibut IFQ; and (3) halibut 
mortality for the jig gear fisheries is assumed to be negligible. 
Halibut mortality is assumed to be negligible in the jig gear fisheries 
given the low amount of groundfish harvested by jig gear (averaging 284 
mt annually from 2001 through 2007, and 83 mt through October 11, 
2008), the selective nature of jig gear, and the likelihood of high 
survival rates of halibut caught and released by jig gear.
    Section 679.21(d)(5) provided NMFS the authority to seasonally 
apportion the halibut PSC limits after consultation with the Council. 
The FMP and regulations require that the Council and NMFS 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 final 2008 and 2009 harvest specifications (73 FR 10562, 
February 27, 2008) summarized the Council's and NMFS's findings with 
respect to each of these FMP considerations. The Council's and NMFS's 
findings for 2009 and 2010 are unchanged from 2008. Table 7 lists the 
proposed 2009 and 2010 Pacific halibut PSC limits, allowances, and 
apportionments. Section 679.21(d)(5)(iii) and (iv), respectively, 
specify that any underages or overages of a seasonal apportionment of a 
PSC limit will be added to or removed from the next respective seasonal 
apportionment within the fishing year.

                               Table 7--Proposed 2009 and 2010 Pacific Halibut PSC Limits, Allowances, and Apportionments
                                                               [Values are in metric tons]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        Trawl gear                                                             Hook-and-line gear \1\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                            Other than DSR                                      DSR
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Season                        Amount                 Season                  Amount                 Season                  Amount
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
January 20-April 1.......................      550 (27.5%)  January 1-June 10...........        250 (86%)  January 1-December 31.......        10 (100%)
April 1-July 1...........................        400 (20%)  June 10-September 1.........           5 (2%)  n/a.........................              n/a
July 1-September 1.......................        600 (30%)  September 1-December 31.....         35 (12%)  n/a.........................              n/a
September 1-October 1....................       150 (7.5%)  n/a.........................              n/a  n/a.........................              n/a
October 1-December 31....................        300 (15%)  n/a.........................              n/a  n/a.........................              n/a
    Total................................     2,000 (100%)  n/a.........................       290 (100%)  n/a.........................        10 (100%)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ The Pacific halibut PSC limit for hook-and-line gear is allocated to the demersal shelf rockfish (DSR) fishery and fisheries other than DSR. The
  hook-and-line sablefish fishery is exempt from halibut PSC limits.

    Section 679.21(d)(3)(ii) authorizes further apportionment of the 
trawl halibut PSC limit to trawl fishery categories. The annual 
apportionments are based on each category's proportional share of the 
anticipated halibut bycatch mortality during a 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 category, comprised of sablefish, 
rockfish, deep-water flatfish, rex sole, and arrowtooth flounder; and 
(2) a shallow-water species category, comprised of pollock, Pacific 
cod, shallow-water flatfish, flathead sole, Atka mackerel, skates, and 
``other species'' (Sec.  679.21(d)(3)(iii)). Table 8 lists the proposed 
2009 and 2010 seasonal apportionments of Pacific halibut PSC trawl 
limits for the deep-water and shallow-water species fishery categories. 
Based on public comment and information contained in the final 2008 
SAFE report, the Council may recommend or NMFS may make changes in the 
seasonal, gear-type, or fishery category apportionments of halibut PSC 
limits for the final 2009 and 2010 harvest specifications.

[[Page 73230]]



   Table 8--Proposed 2009 and 2010 Seasonal Apportionments of Pacific
  Halibut PSC Trawl Limits Between the Trawl Gear Shallow-Water Species
                  and the Deep-Water Species Categories
                       [Values are in metric tons]
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                     Shallow-    Deep-water
              Season                  water         \1\         Total
------------------------------------------------------------------------
January 20-April 1...............          450          100          550
April 1-July 1...................          100          300          400
July 1-September 1...............          200          400          600
September 1-October 1............          150        (\3\)          150
Subtotal January 20-October 1....          900          800        1,700
October 1-December 31 \2\........          n/a          n/a          300
                                  --------------------------------------
    Total........................          n/a          n/a       2,000
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Vessels participating in cooperatives in the Central Gulf of Alaska
  Rockfish Pilot Program will receive a portion of the third season
  (July 1-September 1) deep-water category halibut PSC apportionment. At
  this time, this amount is not known but will be posted later on the
  Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov when it
  becomes available.
\2\ There is no apportionment between shallow-water and deep-water trawl
  fishery categories during the fifth season (October 1 through December
  31).
\3\ Any remainder.

Estimated Halibut Bycatch in Prior Years

    The best available information on estimated halibut bycatch is data 
collected by observers during 2008. The calculated halibut bycatch 
mortality by trawl, hook-and-line, and pot gears through November 1, 
2008, is 1,836 mt, 407 mt, and 22 mt, respectively, for a total halibut 
mortality of 2,265 mt.
    Halibut bycatch restrictions seasonally constrained trawl gear 
fisheries during the 2008 fishing year. The trawl fishery during the 
second season was closed for the deep-water species category on April 
21 (73 FR 22062, April 24, 2008), and during the fourth season on 
September 11 (73 FR 53159, September 15, 2008). The trawl fishery 
during the first season was closed for the shallow-water species 
category on March 10 (73 FR 13464, March 13, 2008) and opened on March 
21 through May 21 (73 FR 15942, March 26, 2008, and 73 FR 30318, May 
27, 2008). To prevent exceeding the fourth season halibut PSC limit for 
the shallow-water species category, directed fishing using trawl gear 
was limited to one 48-hour open period beginning September 1 (73 FR 
51601, September 4, 2008), and to one 36-hour period beginning 
September 10 (73 FR 52930, September 12, 2008). The trawl fishery for 
all groundfish targets (with the exception of vessels participating in 
the Rockfish Program in the Central GOA) closed for the fifth season on 
November 6, 2008 (73 FR 66561, November 10, 2008) and reopened on 
November 16, 2008 (73 FR 69586, November 19, 2008). Directed fishing 
for groundfish using hook-and-line gear closed for the year on October 
16 (73 FR 62212, October 20, 2008). The amount of groundfish that trawl 
gear might have harvested if halibut PSC limits had not restricted the 
2008 season is unknown.

Expected Changes in Groundfish Stocks and Catch

    Proposed 2009 and 2010 ABCs for pollock, Pacific cod, deep-water 
flatfish, flathead sole, arrowtooth flounder, Pacific ocean perch, and 
pelagic shelf rockfish are higher than those established for 2008, 
while the proposed 2009 and 2010 ABCs for rex sole and sablefish are 
lower than those established for 2008. For the remaining target 
species, the Council recommended that ABC levels remain unchanged from 
2008. More information on these changes is included in the final SAFE 
report (November 2007). This document is available from the Council 
(see ADDRESSES).
    In the GOA, the total proposed 2009 and 2010 TAC amounts are 
279,264 mt, an increase of six percent from the 2008 TAC total of 
262,826 mt. Table 9 compares the final 2008 TACs to the proposed 2009 
and 2010 TACs.

   Table 9--Comparison of Final 2008 and Proposed 2009 and 2010 Total
           Allowable Catch amount (TACs) in the Gulf of Alaska
             [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                               Proposed
                    Species                      Final 2008    2009 and
                                                    TACs      2010 TACs
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pollock.......................................       60,180       78,170
Pacific cod...................................       50,269       50,269
Deep-water flatfish...........................        8,903        9,172
Rex sole......................................        9,132        8,468
Flathead sole.................................       11,054       11,215
Shallow water flatfish........................       22,256       22,256
Arrowtooth flounder...........................       43,000       43,000
Sablefish.....................................       12,730       11,633
Pacific ocean perch...........................       14,999       15,072
Shortraker rockfish...........................          898          898
Rougheye rockfish.............................        1,286        1,279
Other rockfish................................        1,730        1,730
Northern rockfish.............................        4,549        4,349
Pelagic shelf rockfish........................        5,227        5,140
Thornyhead rockfish...........................        1,910        1,910
Big skates....................................        3,330        3,330

[[Page 73231]]

 
Longnose skates...............................        2,887        2,887
Other skates..................................        2,104        2,104
Demersal shelf rockfish.......................          382          382
Atka mackerel.................................        1,500        1,500
``Other species''.............................        4,500        4,500
                                               -------------------------
    Total.....................................      262,826      279,264
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Current Estimates of Halibut Biomass and Stock Condition

    The most recent halibut stock assessment was developed by the 
International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) staff in December 2007 
for the 2008 commercial fishery; this assessment was considered by the 
IPHC at its annual January 2008 meeting. Information from ongoing 
passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag recoveries, as well as 
inconsistencies in the traditional closed-area stock assessments for 
some areas, has prompted the IPHC to reexamine the stock assessment 
framework and corresponding harvest policy. It had been assumed that 
once the halibut reached legal commercial size there was little 
movement between regulatory areas. PIT tag recoveries indicate greater 
movement between regulatory areas than previously thought. In response 
to this new information, IPHC staff developed a coast-wide assessment 
based on a single stock. The assessment recommends a coast-wide harvest 
rate of 20 percent of the exploitable biomass overall, but a lower 
harvest rate of 15 percent for Areas 4B, C, D, and E. The current 
exploitable halibut biomass in Alaska for 2008 was estimated to be 
163,719 mt, down from 187,755 mt estimated for 2007. Approximately half 
of the decrease is due to changes in the assessment model and the other 
half to anticipated lower commercial and survey catch rates in 2008. 
The female spawning biomass remains far above the minium acceptable 
level, which occurred in the 1970s.
    The halibut resource is fully utilized. The IPHC estimates that the 
long term, potential yield for the entire halibut stock is 26,980 mt 
round weight per year. The average annual yield (catch) of the 
commercial halibut fisheries in Alaska has averaged 33,675 mt over the 
14 year period from 1994 to 2007. This is 25 percent higher than the 
potential annual yield. The IPHC believes that this reflects the good 
condition of the Pacific halibut resource, as the halibut biomass 
presently is greater than that which could be expected to sustain a 
26,980 mt annual harvest. In January 2008, the IPHC approved Alaska 
commercial catch limits totaling 30,349 mt round weight for 2008, a 
four percent decrease from 31,661 mt round weight in 2007.
    Additional information on the Pacific halibut stock assessment may 
be found in the IPHC's 2007 Pacific halibut stock assessment (December 
2007), available on the IPHC Web site at http://
www.iphc.washington.edu. The IPHC considered the 2007 Pacific halibut 
assessment for 2008 at its January 2008 annual meeting when the IPHC 
set the 2008 commercial halibut fishery quotas. Through November 4, 
2008, commercial hook-and-line harvests of halibut off Alaska totaled 
28,036 mt, round weight. The IPHC will consider the 2008 Pacific 
halibut assessment for 2009 at its January 2009 annual meeting when it 
sets the 2009 commercial halibut fishery quotas.

Other Factors

    The allowable commercial catch of halibut will be adjusted to 
account for the overall halibut PSC mortality limit established for 
groundfish fisheries. The 2009 and 2010 groundfish fisheries are 
expected to use the entire proposed annual halibut PSC limit of 2,300 
mt. The allowable directed commercial catch is determined by first 
accounting for recreational and subsistence catch, waste, and bycatch 
mortality, and then providing the remainder to the directed fishery. 
Groundfish fishing is not expected to affect adversely the halibut 
stocks. Methods available for reducing halibut bycatch include (1) 
publication of individual vessel bycatch rates on the NMFS Alaska 
Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov, (2) modifications 
to gear, (3) changes in groundfish fishing seasons, (4) individual 
transferable quota programs, and (5) time/area closures.
    Reductions in groundfish TAC amounts provide no incentive for 
fishermen to reduce bycatch rates. Costs that would be imposed on 
fishermen as a result of reducing TAC amounts depend on the species and 
amounts of groundfish forgone.
    The definition of ``Authorized fishing gear'' at Sec.  679.2 
specifies requirements for biodegradable panels and tunnel openings for 
groundfish pots to reduce halibut bycatch. As a result, low bycatch and 
mortality rates of halibut in pot fisheries have justified exempting 
pot gear from PSC limits.
    The definitions at Sec.  679.2 for ``Authorized fishing gear,'' 
defines ``pelagic trawl gear'' in a manner intended to reduce bycatch 
of halibut by displacing fishing effort off the bottom of the sea floor 
when certain halibut bycatch levels are reached during the fishing 
year. The definition provides standards for physical conformation and 
performance of the trawl gear in terms of crab bycatch (Sec.  
679.7(a)(14)). Furthermore, all hook-and-line vessel operators are 
required to employ careful release measures when handling halibut 
bycatch (Sec.  679.7(a)(13)). These measures are intended to reduce 
handling mortality, thereby lowering overall halibut bycatch mortality 
in the groundfish fisheries, and to increase the amount of groundfish 
harvested under the available halibut mortality bycatch limits.
    NMFS and the Council will review the methods available for reducing 
halibut bycatch listed here to determine their effectiveness and will 
initiate changes, as necessary, in response to this review or to public 
testimony and comment.

Halibut Discard Mortality Rates

    The Council recommended and NMFS proposes that the halibut discard 
mortality rates (DMRs) developed and recommended by the IPHC for the 
2009 and 2010 GOA groundfish fisheries be used to monitor the proposed 
2009 and

[[Page 73232]]

2010 GOA halibut bycatch mortality limits. The IPHC recommended use of 
long-term average DMRs for the 2009 and 2010 groundfish fisheries. The 
IPHC will analyze observer data annually and recommend changes to the 
DMRs where a fishery DMR shows large variation from the mean. Most of 
the IPHC's assumed DMRs were based on an average of mortality rates 
determined from NMFS observer data collected between 1996 and 2005. 
Long-term average DMRs were not available for some fisheries, so rates 
from the most recent years were used. For the ``other species'' and 
skate fisheries, where insufficient mortality data are available, the 
mortality rate of halibut caught in the Pacific cod fishery for each 
gear type was recommended as the default rate. Table 10 lists the 
proposed 2009 and 2010 DMRs, which are unchanged from the 2008 DMRs. 
The DMRs for hook-and-line target fisheries range from 10 to 14 
percent. The DMRs for trawl target fisheries range from 53 to 76 
percent. Each DMR for the pot target fisheries is 16 percent. A copy of 
the document justifying these DMRs is available from the Council (see 
ADDRESSES) and is discussed in Appendix A of the final 2007 SAFE 
report, dated November 2008.

  Table 10--Proposed 2009 and 2010 Halibut Discard Mortality Rates for
                  Vessels Fishing in the Gulf of Alaska
           [Values are percent of halibut assumed to be dead]
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                              Mortality
               Gear                     Target fishery         rate (%)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hook-and-line....................  Other species...........           14
                                   Skates..................           14
                                   Pacific cod.............           14
                                   Rockfish................           10
Trawl............................  Arrowtooth flounder.....           69
                                   Atka mackerel...........           60
                                   Deep-water flatfish.....           53
                                   Flathead sole...........           61
                                   Non-pelagic pollock.....           59
                                   Other species...........           63
                                   Skates..................           63
                                   Pacific cod.............           63
                                   Pelagic pollock.........           76
                                   Rex sole................           63
                                   Rockfish................           67
                                   Sablefish...............           65
                                   Shallow-water flatfish..           71
Pot..............................  Other species...........           16
                                   Skates..................           16
                                   Pacific cod.............           16
------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

    Section 679.64 establishes groundfish harvesting and processing 
sideboard limits on AFA catcher processors and catcher vessels 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 
expansion in their fisheries by those fishermen and processors who 
receive exclusive harvesting and processing privileges under the AFA. 
Section 679.7(k)(1)(ii) prohibits listed AFA catcher processors from 
harvesting any species of fish in the GOA. Additionally, Sec.  
679.7(k)(1)(iv) prohibits listed AFA catcher processors from processing 
any pollock in the GOA and any groundfish harvested in Statistical Area 
630 of the GOA.
    AFA catcher vessels that are less than 125 ft (38.1 m) LOA, have 
annual landings of pollock in the Bering Sea 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 sideboard limits under Sec.  
679.64(b)(2)(ii). Sideboard limits for non-exempt AFA catcher vessels 
operating in the GOA are based on their traditional harvest levels in 
groundfish fisheries covered by the GOA FMP. Section 679.64(b)(3)(iii) 
establishes the GOA groundfish sideboard limits based on the retained 
catch of non-exempt AFA catcher vessels of each sideboard species from 
1995 through 1997 divided by the TAC for that species over the same 
period. Table 11 lists the proposed 2009 and 2010 groundfish sideboard 
limits for non-exempt AFA catcher vessels. All targeted or incidental 
catch of sideboard species made by non-exempt AFA catcher vessels will 
be deducted from the sideboard limits in Table 11. NMFS slightly 
adjusted the ratios used to calculate these sideboard limits as a 
result of two vessels changing status from non-exempt to exempt, based 
on NMFS administrative review of these vessels' applications for non-
exempt status. This results in slight decreases to the catch-to-TAC 
ratios used to establish the non-exempt AFA CV sideboard limits.

[[Page 73233]]



  Table 11--Proposed 2009 and 2010 GOA Non-Exempt American Fisheries Act Catcher Vessel (CV) Groundfish Harvest
                                                Sideboard Limits
                                 [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                             Ratio of                  Proposed
                                                                            1995-1997                  2009 and
                                                                            non-exempt    Proposed    2010 non-
             Species               Apportionments by     Area/component       AFA CV      2009 and   exempt  AFA
                                      season/gear                            catch to    2010 TACs        CV
                                                                            1995-1997                 sideboard
                                                                               TAC                      limit
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Pollock........................  A Season--January     Shumagin (610)...       0.6047        4,472        2,704
                                   20-March 10.
                                                       Chirikof (620)....       0.1167        8,367          976
                                                       Kodiak (630)......       0.2028        4,133          838
                                  B Season--March 10-   Shumagin (610)...       0.6047        4,472        2,704
                                   May 31.
                                                       Chirikof (620)....       0.1167       10,198        1,190
                                                       Kodiak (630)......       0.2028        2,302          467
                                  C Season--August 25- Shumagin (610)....       0.6047        7,378        4,461
                                   October 1.
                                                       Chirikof (620)....       0.1167        3,628          423
                                                       Kodiak (630)......       0.2028        5,966        1,210
                                  D Season--October 1-  Shumagin (610)...       0.6047        7,378        4,461
                                   November 1.
                                                       Chirikof (620)....       0.1167        3,628          423
                                                       Kodiak (630)......       0.2028        5,966        1,210
                                  Annual.............   WYK (640)........       0.3495        1,694          592
                                                       SEO (650).........       0.3495        6,157        2,152
 Pacific cod....................   A Season \1\--       W inshore........       0.1365       10,502        1,434
                                   January 1-June 10.
                                                       W offshore........       0.1026        1,167          120
                                                       C inshore.........       0.0689       15,350        1,058
                                                       C offshore........       0.0721        1,706          123
                                  B Season \2\--        W inshore........       0.1365        7,002          956
                                   September 1-
                                   December 31.
                                                       W offshore........       0.1026          778           80
                                                       C inshore.........       0.0689       10,233          705
                                                       C offshore........       0.0721        1,137           82
                                  Annual.............   E inshore........       0.0079        2,155           17
                                                       E offshore........       0.0078          239            2
 Flatfish, deep-water...........   Annual............   W................       0.0000          707            0
                                                       C.................       0.0647        6,927          448
                                                       E.................       0.0128        1,538           20
 Rex sole.......................   Annual............   W................       0.0007          948            1
                                                       C.................       0.0384        6,241          240
                                                       E.................       0.0029        1,279            4
 Flathead sole..................   Annual............   W................       0.0036        2,000            7
                                                       C.................       0.0213        5,000          107
                                                       E.................       0.0009        4,215            4
 Flatfish, shallow-water........   Annual............   W................       0.0156        4,500           70
                                                       C.................       0.0587       13,000          763
                                                       E.................       0.0126        4,756           60
 Arrowtooth flounder............   Annual............   W................       0.0021        8,000           17
                                                       C.................       0.0280       30,000          840
                                                       E.................       0.0002        5,000            1
 Sablefish......................   Annual, trawl gear   W................       0.0000          345            0
                                                       C.................       0.0642        1,005           65
                                                       E.................       0.0433          244           11
 Pacific ocean perch............   Annual............   W................       0.0023        3,704            9
                                                       C.................       0.0748        8,225          615
                                                       E.................       0.0466        3,143          146
 Shortraker rockfish............   Annual............   W................       0.0000          120            0
                                                       C.................       0.0218          315            7
                                                       E.................       0.0110          463            5
 Rougheye rockfish..............   Annual............   W................       0.0000          142            0
                                                       C.................       0.0237          830           20
                                                       E.................       0.0124          325            4
 Other rockfish.................   Annual............   W................       0.0034          357            1
                                                       C.................       0.1699          569           97
                                                       E.................       0.0000          804            0
 Northern rockfish..............   Annual............   W................       0.0003        2,047            1
                                                       C.................       0.0277        2,302           64
 Pelagic shelf rockfish.........   Annual............   W................       0.0001          986            0
                                                       C.................       0.0000        3,566            0
                                                       E.................       0.0067          588            4

[[Page 73234]]

 
 Thornyhead rockfish............   Annual............   W................       0.0280          267            7
                                                       C.................       0.0280          860           24
                                                       E.................       0.0280          783           22
 Big skates.....................   Annual............   W................       0.0063          632            4
                                                       C.................       0.0063        2,065           13
                                                       E.................       0.0063          633            4
 Longnose skates................   Annual............   W................       0.0063           78            0
                                                       C.................       0.0063        2,041           13
                                                       E.................       0.0063          768            5
 Other skates...................   Annual............   Gulfwide.........       0.0063        2,104           13
 Demersal shelf rockfish........   Annual............   SEO..............       0.0020          382            1
 Atka mackerel..................   Annual............   Gulfwide.........       0.0309        1,500           46
 Other species..................   Annual............   Gulfwide.........       0.0063        4,500           28
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\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.

    The halibut PSC sideboard limits for non-exempt AFA catcher vessels 
in the GOA are based on the aggregate retained groundfish catch by non-
exempt AFA catcher vessels in each PSC target category from 1995 
through 1997 divided by the retained catch of all vessels in that 
fishery from 1995 through 1997 (Sec.  679.64(b)(4)). Table 12 lists the 
proposed 2009 and 2010 catcher vessel halibut PSC limits for non-exempt 
AFA vessels using trawl gear in the GOA.

  Table 12--Proposed 2009 and 2010 Non-Exempt American Fisheries Act Catcher Vessel Halibut Prohibited Species
                           Catch (PSC) Limits for Vessels Using Trawl Gear in the GOA
                                           [Values are in metric tons]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                             Ratio of
                                                                            1995-1997
                                                                            non-exempt                 Proposed
                                                                              AFA CV      Proposed     2009 and
        Seasons               Season dates             Target fishery        retained     2009 and    2010 non-
                                                                             catch to     2010 PSC    exempt AFA
                                                                              total        limit        CV PSC
                                                                             retained                   limit
                                                                              catch
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1.....................  January 20-April 1......  shallow-water..........        0.340          450          153
                                                  deep-water.............        0.070          100            7
2.....................  April 1-July 1..........  shallow-water..........        0.340          100           34
                                                  deep-water.............        0.070          300           21
3.....................  July 1-September 1......  shallow-water..........        0.340          200           68
                                                  deep-water.............        0.070          400           28
4.....................  September 1-October 1...  shallow-water..........        0.340          150           51
                                                  deep-water.............        0.070            0            0
5.....................  October 1-December 31...  all targets............        0.205          300           61
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Non-AFA Crab Vessel Groundfish Sideboard Limits

    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 all GOA 
groundfish fisheries (except the fixed-gear sablefish fishery). 
Sideboard limits also apply to landings made using an LLP license 
derived from the history of a restricted vessel, even if that LLP is 
used on another vessel.
    Sideboard limits for non-AFA crab vessels operating in the GOA are 
based on their traditional harvest levels of TAC in groundfish 
fisheries covered by the GOA FMP. Section 680.22(d) and (e) base the 
groundfish sideboard limits in the GOA on the retained catch by non-AFA 
crab vessels of each sideboard species from 1996 through 2000 divided 
by the total retained harvest of that species over the same period. 
Table 13 lists these proposed 2009 and 2010 groundfish sideboard limits 
for non-AFA crab vessels. All targeted or incidental catch of sideboard 
species made by non-AFA crab vessels will be deducted from the 
sideboard limits in Table 13.
    Vessels exempt from Pacific cod sideboards are those that landed 
less than 45,359 kilograms of Bering Sea snow crab and more than 500 mt 
of groundfish (in round weight

[[Page 73235]]

equivalents) from the GOA between January 1, 1996, and December 31, 
2000, and any vessel named on an LLP that was generated in whole or in 
part by the fishing history of a vessel meeting the criteria in Sec.  
680.22(a)(3).

 Table 13--Proposed 2009 and 2010 GOA Non-American Fisheries Act Crab Vessel Groundfish Harvest Sideboard Limits
                                 [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                             Ratio of
                                                                            1996-2000                  Proposed
                                                                             non-AFA                   2009 and
                                                                           crab vessel    Proposed    2010 non-
             Species                  Season/gear        Area/component      catch to     2009 and     AFA crab
                                                                            1996-2000    2010 TACs      vessel
                                                                              total                   sideboard
                                                                             harvest                    limit
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pollock.........................  A Season--January    Shumagin (610)....       0.0098        4,472           44
                                   20-March 10.
                                                       Chirikof (620)....       0.0031        8,367           26
                                                       Kodiak (630)......       0.0002        4,133            1
                                  B Season--March 10-  Shumagin (610)....       0.0098        4,472           44
                                   May 31.
                                                       Chirikof (620)....       0.0031       10,198           32
                                                       Kodiak (630)......       0.0002        2,302            0
                                  C Season--August 25- Shumagin (610)....       0.0098        7,378           72
                                   October 1.
                                                       Chirikof (620)....       0.0031        3,628           11
                                                       Kodiak (630)......       0.0002        5,966            1
                                  D Season--October 1- Shumagin (610)....       0.0098        7,378           72
                                   November 1.
                                                       Chirikof (620)....       0.0031        3,628           11
                                                       Kodiak (630)......       0.0002        5,966            1
                                  Annual.............  WYK (640).........       0.0000        1,694            0
                                                       SEO (650).........       0.0000        6,157            0
Pacific cod.....................  A Season \1\--       W inshore.........       0.0902       11,278        1,017
                                   January 1-June 10.
                                                       W offshore........       0.2046        1,253          256
                                                       C inshore.........       0.0383       15,905          609
                                                       C offshore........       0.2074        1,767          366
                                  B Season \2\--       W inshore.........       0.0902        7,519          678
                                   September 1-
                                   December 31.
                                                       W offshore........       0.2046          835          171
                                                       C inshore.........       0.0383       10,603          406
                                                       C offshore........       0.2074        1,178          244
                                  Annual.............  E inshore.........       0.0110        3,470           38
                                                       E offshore........       0.0000          386            0
Flatfish deep-water.............  Annual.............  W.................       0.0035          707            2
                                                       C.................       0.0000        6,927            0
                                                       E.................       0.0000        1,538            0
Rex sole........................  Annual.............  W.................       0.0000          948            0
                                                       C.................       0.0000        6,241            0
                                                       E.................       0.0000        1,279            0
Flathead sole...................  Annual.............  W.................       0.0002        2,000            0
                                                       C.................       0.0004        5,000            2
                                                       E.................       0.0000        4,215            0
Flatfish shallow-water..........  Annual.............  W.................       0.0059        4,500           27
                                                       C.................       0.0001       13,000            1
                                                       E.................       0.0000        4,756            0
Arrowtooth flounder.............  Annual.............  W.................       0.0004        8,000            3
                                                       C.................       0.0001       30,000            3
                                                       E.................       0.0000        5,000            0
Sablefish.......................  Annual, trawl gear.  W.................       0.0000          345            0
                                                       C.................       0.0000        1,005            0
                                                       E.................       0.0000          244            0
Pacific ocean perch.............  Annual.............  W.................       0.0000        3,704            0
                                                       C.................       0.0000        8,225            0
                                                       E.................       0.0000        3,143            0
Shortraker rockfish.............  Annual.............  W.................       0.0013          120            0
                                                       C.................       0.0012          315            0
                                                       E.................       0.0009          463            0
Rougheye rockfish...............  Annual.............  W.................       0.0067          142            1
                                                       C.................       0.0047          830            4
                                                       E.................       0.0008          325            0
Other rockfish..................  Annual.............  W.................       0.0035          357            1
                                                       C.................       0.0033          569            2
                                                       E.................       0.0000          804            0
Northern rockfish...............  Annual.............  W.................       0.0005        2,047            1
                                                       C.................       0.0000        2,302            0

[[Page 73236]]

 
Pelagic shelf rockfish..........  Annual.............  W.................       0.0017          986            2
                                                       C.................       0.0000        3,566            0
                                                       E.................       0.0000          588            0
Thornyhead rockfish.............  Annual.............  W.................       0.0047          267            1
                                                       C.................       0.0066          860            6
                                                       E.................       0.0045          783            4
Big skate.......................  Annual.............  W.................       0.0392          632           25
                                                       C.................       0.0159        2,065           33
                                                       E.................       0.0000          633            0
Longnose skate..................  Annual.............  W.................       0.0392           78            3
                                                       C.................       0.0159        2,041           32
                                                       E.................       0.0000          768            0
Other skates....................  Annual.............  Gulfwide..........       0.0176        2,104           37
Demersal shelf rockfish.........  Annual.............  SEO...............       0.0000          382            0
Atka mackerel...................  Annual.............  Gulfwide..........       0.0000        1,500            0
Other species...................  Annual.............  Gulfwide..........       0.0176        4,500           79
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\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.

Rockfish Program Groundfish Sideboard Limitations and Halibut Mortality 
Limitations

    Section 679.82(d)(7) establishes sideboards to limit the ability of 
participants eligible for the Rockfish Program to harvest fish in 
fisheries other than the Central GOA rockfish fisheries. The Rockfish 
Program provides certain economic advantages to harvesters. Harvesters 
could use this economic advantage to increase their participation in 
other fisheries, adversely affecting the participants in other 
fisheries. The proposed sideboards for 2009 and 2010 limit the total 
amount of catch that could be taken by eligible harvesters and limit 
the amount of halibut mortality to historic levels. The sideboard 
measures are in effect only during the month of July. Traditionally, 
the Central GOA rockfish fisheries opened in July. The sideboards are 
designed to restrict fishing during the historical season for the 
fishery, but allow eligible rockfish harvesters to participate in 
fisheries before or after the historical rockfish season. The sideboard 
provisions are discussed in detail in the proposed rule (71 FR 33040, 
June 7, 2006) and final rules (71 FR 67210, November 20, 2006, and 72 
FR 37678, July 11, 2007) for the Rockfish Program. Table 14 lists the 
proposed 2009 and 2010 Rockfish Program harvest limits in the WYK 
District and the Western GOA. Table 15 lists the proposed 2009 and 2010 
Rockfish Program halibut mortality limits for catcher processors and 
catcher vessels.

Table 14--Proposed 2009 and 2010 Rockfish Program Harvest Limits by Sector for West Yakutat District and Western
                        GOA by the Catcher Processor (CP) and Catcher Vessel (CV) Sectors
                                 [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                          Proposed     Proposed
                                                  CP sector    CV sector     Proposed     2009 and     2009 and
             Area                   Fishery       (% of TAC)   (% of TAC)    2009 and     2010 CP      2010 CV
                                                                            2010 TACs      limit        limit
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
West Yakutat District........  Pelagic shelf            72.4          1.7          247          179            4
                                rockfish.
                               Pacific ocean            76.0          2.9        1,105          840           32
                                perch.
Western GOA..................  Pelagic shelf            63.3          0.0          986          624            0
                                rockfish.
                               Pacific ocean            61.1          0.0        3,704        2,263            0
                                perch.
                               Northern                 78.9          0.0        2,047        1,615            0
                                rockfish.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 73237]]


Table 15--Proposed 2009 and 2010 Rockfish Program Halibut Mortality Limits for the Catcher Processor and Catcher
                                                 Vessel Sectors
                                 [Values are rounded to the nearest metric ton]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                           Annual
                                                   Shallow-    Deep-water                 shallow-   Annual deep-
                                                    water       complex       Annual       water        water
                     Sector                        complex    halibut PSC    halibut      complex      complex
                                                 halibut PSC   sideboard    mortality   halibut PSC  halibut PSC
                                                  sideboard      ratio      limit (mt)   sideboard    sideboard
                                                    ratio                                limit (mt)   limit (mt)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Catcher processor..............................         0.54         3.99        2,000           11           80
Catcher vessel.................................         6.32         1.08        2,000          126           22
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Gulf of Alaska Amendment 80 Vessel Groundfish Harvest and PSC Limits

    Amendment 80 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the 
Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area, hereinafter referred 
to as the ``Amendment 80 program,'' established a limited access 
privilege program for the non-AFA trawl catcher processor sector. In 
order to limit the ability of participants eligible for the Amendment 
80 program to expand their harvest efforts in the GOA, the Amendment 80 
program established groundfish and halibut PSC limits for Amendment 80 
program participants 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 shown in Table 37 to part 679. 
Sideboard limits in the GOA are proposed for pollock in the Western and 
Central Regulatory Areas and in the WYK District, for Pacific cod 
gulfwide, for Pacific ocean perch and pelagic shelf rockfish in the 
Western Regulatory Area and WYK District, and for northern rockfish in 
the Western Regulatory Area. The harvest of Pacific ocean perch, 
pelagic shelf rockfish, and northern rockfish in the Central Regulatory 
Area of the GOA is subject to regulation under the Central GOA Rockfish 
Program. Amendment 80 program vessels not qualified under the Rockfish 
Program are excluded from directed fishing for these rockfish species 
in the Central GOA. Under regulations, the F/V GOLDEN FLEECE is 
prohibited from directed fishing for pollock, Pacific cod, Pacific 
ocean perch, pelagic shelf rockfish, and northern rockfish in the GOA. 
These sideboard limits are necessary to restrict the ability of 
participants eligible for the Amendment 80 program to expand their 
harvest efforts in the GOA.
    Groundfish sideboard limits for Amendment 80 vessels operating in 
the GOA are based on their average aggregate harvests from 1998 to 
2004. Table 16 lists the proposed 2009 and 2010 sideboard limits for 
Amendment 80 vessels. All targeted or incidental catch of sideboard 
species made by Amendment 80 vessels will be deducted from the 
sideboard limits in Table 16.

            Table 16--Proposed 2009 and 2010 GOA Groundfish Sideboard Limits for Amendment 80 Vessels
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                             Ratio of
                                                                            Amendment                  2009 and
                                   Apportionments and                       80 sector     2009 and       2010
             Species                 allocations by           Area           vessels      2010 TAC    Amendment
                                         season                             1998-2004       (mt)      80 vessel
                                                                             catch to                 sideboards
                                                                               TAC                       (mt)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pollock.........................  A Season--January    Shumagin (610)....        0.003        4,472           13
                                   20-February 25.
                                                       Chirikof (620)....        0.002        8,367           17
                                                       Kodiak (630)......        0.002        4,133            8
                                  B Season--March 10-  Shumagin (610)....        0.003        4,472           13
                                   May 31.
                                                       Chirikof (620)....        0.002       10,198           20
                                                       Kodiak (630)......        0.002        2,302            5
                                  C Season--August 25- Shumagin (610)....        0.003        7,378           22
                                   September 15.
                                                       Chirikof (620)....        0.002        3,628            7
                                                       Kodiak (630)......        0.002        5,966           12
                                  D Season--October 1- Shumagin (610)....        0.003        7,378           22
                                   November 1.
                                                       Chirikof (620)....        0.002        3,628            7
                                                       Kodiak (630)......        0.002        5,966           12
                                  Annual.............  WYK (640).........        0.002        2,042            4
Pacific cod.....................  A Season \1\--       W.................        0.020       11,669          233
                                   January 1-June 10.
                                                       C.................        0.044       17,056          750
                                  B Season \2\--       W.................        0.020        7,780          156
                                   September 1-
                                   December 31.
                                                       C.................        0.044       11,370          500
                                  Annual.............  WYK...............        0.034        2,394           81
Pacific ocean perch.............  Annual.............  W.................        0.994        3,704        3,682
                                                       WYK...............        0.961        1,105        1,062
Northern rockfish...............  Annual.............  W.................        1.000        2,047        2,047

[[Page 73238]]

 
Pelagic shelf rockfish..........  Annual.............  W.................        0.764          986          753
                                                       WYK...............        0.896          247          221
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\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.

    The halibut PSC sideboard limits for Amendment 80 vessels in the 
GOA are based on the historic use of halibut PSC by Amendment 80 
vessels in each PSC target category from 1998 through 2004 (Table 38 to 
50 CFR part 679). These values are slightly lower than the average 
historic use to accommodate two factors: Allocation of halibut PSC 
cooperative quota under the Central GOA Rockfish Program and the 
exemption of the F/V GOLDEN FLEECE from this restriction. Table 17 
lists the proposed 2009 and 2010 halibut PSC limits for Amendment 80 
vessels.

 Table 17--Proposed 2009 and 2010 Halibut Prohibited Species Catch (PSC) Limits for Amendment 80 Vessels in the
                                                       GOA
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                             Historic
                                                                            Amendment                  2009 and
                                                                            80 use of     2009 and       2010
        Season                Season dates             Target fishery       the annual  2010 annual   Amendment
                                                                           halibut PSC   PSC limit    80 vessel
                                                                           limit catch      (mt)      PSC limit
                                                                              (ratio)                    (mt)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1.....................  January 20-April 1......  shallow-water..........       0.0048        2,000           10
                        ........................  deep-water.............       0.0115        2,000           23
2.....................  April 1-July 1..........  shallow-water..........       0.0189        2,000           38
                                                  deep-water.............       0.1072        2,000          214
3.....................  July 1-September 1......  shallow-water..........       0.0146        2,000           29
                                                  deep-water.............       0.0521        2,000          104
4.....................  September 1-October 1...  shallow-water..........       0.0074        2,000           15
                                                  deep-water.............       0.0014        2,000            3
5.....................  October 1-December 31...  shallow-water..........       0.0227        2,000           45
                                                  deep-water.............       0.0371        2,000           74
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Classification

    NMFS has determined that the proposed harvest specifications are 
consistent with the FMP and preliminarily determined that the proposed 
harvest specifications are consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and 
other applicable laws.
    This action is authorized under 50 CFR 679.20 and is exempt from 
review under Executive Order 12866.
    NMFS prepared a Final EIS for Alaska Groundfish Harvest 
Specifications and made it available to the public on January 12, 2007 
(72 FR 1512). On February 13, 2007, NMFS issued the Record of Decision 
(ROD) for the Final EIS. Copies of the Final EIS and ROD for this 
action are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). The Final EIS analyzes 
the environmental consequences of the proposed action and its 
alternatives on resources in the action area. The Final EIS found no 
significant environmental consequences from the proposed action or its 
alternatives.
    NMFS also prepared an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis 
(IRFA) as required by Section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act. 
The IRFA evaluated the impacts on small entities of alternative harvest 
strategies for the groundfish fisheries in the Exclusive Economic Zone 
(EEZ) off of Alaska. While the specification numbers may change from 
year to year, the harvest strategy for establishing those numbers 
remains the same. NMFS therefore is using the same IRFA prepared in 
connection with the EIS. NMFS published a notice of the availability of 
the IRFA and its summary in the classification section of the proposed 
harvest specifications for the groundfish fisheries in the GOA in the 
Federal Register on December 15, 2006 (71 FR 75460). The comment period 
on the GOA proposed harvest specifications and IRFA ended on January 
16, 2007. NMFS did not receive any comments on the IRFA.
    A description of the proposed action, why it is being considered, 
and the legal basis for this proposed action are contained in the 
preamble above. This IRFA meets the statutory requirements of the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980, as amended by the Small Business 
Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (5 U.S.C. 601-612). A copy 
of this analysis is available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). A summary of 
the IRFA follows.
    The action under consideration is a harvest strategy to govern the 
catch of groundfish in the GOA. The preferred alternative is the status 
quo harvest strategy in which TACs fall within the range of ABCs 
recommended by the Council's harvest specification process and TACs 
recommended by the Council. This action is taken in accordance with the 
FMP prepared by the Council pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
    The directly regulated small entities include approximately 747 
small catcher vessels and fewer than 20 small catcher processors. The 
entities directly regulated by this action are those that harvest 
groundfish in the exclusive

[[Page 73239]]

economic zone of the GOA, and in parallel fisheries within State of 
Alaska waters. These include entities operating catcher vessels and 
catcher processor vessels within the action area, and entities 
receiving direct allocations of groundfish. Catcher vessels and catcher 
processors were considered to be small entities if they had annual 
gross receipts of $4 million per year or less from all economic 
activities, including the revenue of their affiliated operations. Data 
from 2005 were the most recent available and were used to determine the 
number of small entities.
    Estimates of first wholesale gross revenues for the GOA were used 
as indices of the potential impacts of the alternative harvest 
strategies on small entities. An index of revenues were projected to 
decline under the preferred alternative due to declines in ABCs for key 
species in the GOA. The index of revenues declined by less than 4 
percent between 2007 and 2008 and by less than one percent between 2007 
and 2009.
    The preferred alternative (Alternative 2) was compared to four 
other alternatives. These included Alternative 1, which would have set 
TACs to generate fishing rates equal to the maximum permissible ABC (if 
the full TAC were harvested), unless the sum of TACs exceeded the GOA 
OY, in which case harvests would be limited to the OY. Alternative 3 
would have set TACs to produce fishing rates equal to the most recent 
five-year average fishing rate. Alternative 4 would have set TACs to 
equal the lower limit of the GOA OY range. Alternative 5 would have set 
TACs equal to zero. Alternative 5 is the ``no action'' alternative.
    Alternatives 3, 4, and 5 were all associated with smaller levels 
for important fishery TACs than Alternative 2. Estimated total first 
wholesale gross revenues were used as an index of potential adverse 
impacts to small entities. As a consequence of the lower TAC levels, 
Alternatives 3, 4, and 5 all had smaller of these first wholesale 
revenue indices than Alternative 2. Thus, Alternatives 3, 4, and 5 had 
greater adverse impacts on small entities. Alternative 1 appeared to 
generate higher values of the gross revenue index for fishing 
operations in the GOA than Alternative 2. A large part of the 
Alternative 1 GOA revenue appears to be due to the assumption that the 
full Alternative 1 TAC would be harvested. Much of the larger revenue 
is due to increases in flatfish TACs that were much greater for 
Alternative 1 than for Alternative 2. In recent years, halibut bycatch 
constraints in these fisheries have kept actual flatfish catches from 
reaching Alternative 1 levels. Therefore, a large part of the revenues 
associated with Alternative 1 are unlikely to occur. Also, Alternative 
2 TACs are constrained by the ABCs that the Plan Teams and SSC are 
likely to recommend to the Council on the basis of a full consideration 
of biological issues. These ABCs are often less than the maximum 
permissible ABCs of Alternative 1. Therefore higher TACs under 
Alternative 1 may not be consistent with prudent biological management 
of the resource. For these reasons, Alternative 2 is the preferred 
alternative.
    This action does not modify recordkeeping or reporting 
requirements, or duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any Federal 
rules.
    Adverse impacts on marine mammals resulting from fishing activities 
conducted under this rule are discussed in the Final EIS (see 
ADDRESSES).

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

    Dated: November 25, 2008.
John Oliver,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Operations, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. E8-28617 Filed 12-1-08; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P