[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 127 (Friday, July 2, 2010)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 38452-38453]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-16195]



[[Page 38452]]

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

RIN 0648-AY42


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Central Gulf 
of Alaska License Limitation Program; Amendment 86

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

ACTION:  Notification of availability of fishery management plan 
amendment; request for comments.

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SUMMARY:  The North Pacific Fishery Management Council submitted 
Amendment 86 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf 
of Alaska (FMP) to NMFS for review. If approved, Amendment 86 would add 
a Pacific cod endorsement on licenses issued under the license 
limitation program (LLP) if those licenses have been used on vessels 
that meet minimum recent landing requirements using non-trawl gear, 
commonly known as fixed gear. This proposed action would exempt vessels 
that use jig gear from the requirement to hold an LLP license, modify 
the maximum length designation on a specific set of fixed gear LLP 
licenses, and allow entities representing specific communities to 
receive a limited number of fixed gear licenses with Pacific cod 
endorsements for use on vessels designated by entities representing the 
communities. This proposed action is intended to promote the goals and 
objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management 
Act, the FMP, and other applicable law.

DATES:  Comments on the amendment must be received on or before August 
31, 2010.

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-AY42,'' by any one of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal website 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 Amendment 86 to the Fishery Management Plan for 
Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska, and the Environmental Assessment 
(EA), Regulatory Impact Review (RIR), and Initial Regulatory 
Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) prepared for Amendment 86 are available 
from the NMFS Alaska website at http://www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Glenn Merrill, 907-586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) requires that each regional 
fishery management council submit any fishery management plan amendment 
it prepares to NMFS for review and approval, disapproval, or partial 
approval by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary). The Magnuson-Stevens 
Act also requires that NMFS, upon receiving a fishery management plan 
amendment, immediately publish a notice in the Federal Register 
announcing that the amendment is available for public review and 
comment. This notice announces that proposed Amendment 86 to the 
Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (FMP) is 
available for public review and comment.
    The groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic zone of the Gulf 
of Alaska are managed under the FMP. The FMP was prepared by the North 
Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) under the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act.
    The license limitation program (LLP) for Gulf of Alaska (GOA) 
groundfish fisheries was recommended by the North Pacific Fishery 
Management Council (Council) in June 1995 as Amendment 41 to the FMP. 
NMFS published a final rule to implement the LLP on October 1, 1998 (63 
FR 52642), and the LLP was implemented on January 1, 2000.
    The LLP for groundfish established specific criteria that must be 
met to allow a person to fish in federally managed groundfish 
fisheries. Under the LLP, NMFS issued LLP licenses to vessel owners 
based on the catch history of their vessels in federal groundfish 
fisheries during the mid 1990s. LLP licenses: (1) endorse fishing 
activities in specific regulatory areas in the GOA; (2) restrict the 
length of the vessel, the maximum length overall (MLOA), on which the 
LLP license may be used; (3) designate the fishing gear (trawl or non-
trawl gear) that may be used on a vessel; (4) designate the type of 
vessel operation permitted (catcher vessel or catcher/processor); and 
(5) are issued so that the endorsements for specific regulatory areas, 
gear designations, or vessel operational types are non-severable from 
the LLP license (i.e., once issued, the components of the LLP license 
cannot be transferred independently). By creating LLP licenses with 
these characteristics, the Council and NMFS limited the ability of a 
person to transfer an LLP license that was derived from the historic 
fishing activity of a vessel and use it on another vessel in a manner 
that could expand fishing capacity.
    In 2000, NMFS issued LLP licenses endorsed for trawl gear, and over 
800 licenses for non-trawl gear for use in the GOA. Non-trawl gear is 
commonly known as ``fixed gear'' which includes hook-and-line, pot, and 
jig gear. A vessel owner received an LLP license endorsed for the 
Southeast Outside District (SEO), Central Gulf of Alaska which includes 
the West Yakutat District (CG), or Western Gulf of Alaska (WG) 
regulatory area if that vessel met specific landing requirements in 
that specific regulatory area. The minimum landing requirements 
differed depending on the regulatory area, size of the vessel, and the 
operational type of the vessel.
    In late 2007, the Council began a process of reviewing the use of 
LLP licenses endorsed for fixed gear in the GOA. This review was 
initiated primarily at the request of active GOA fixed gear fishery 
participants who were concerned that vessel owners holding fixed gear-
endorsed LLP licenses that had not been assigned to vessels actively 
fishing could resume fishing under the licenses in the future and 
adversely affect their fishing operations. Specifically, fixed gear 
participants were concerned about the potential effects of additional 
effort in the GOA Pacific cod fishery that could increase competition 
and overcapacity in the

[[Page 38453]]

fishery. This overcapacity could have adverse affects on management of 
the fisheries if additional effort in the fishery made it more 
difficult for NMFS to close fisheries in a timely manner, thereby 
exceeding the total allowable catch for a fishery. Pacific cod is the 
primary species targeted by vessels using fixed gear in the GOA. During 
the process of developing this proposed action, the Council also 
received input from the public requesting modification to the LLP to 
establish minimum landing requirements that must be met to allow a 
vessel to continue to participate in the Pacific cod fixed gear 
fisheries in the GOA. In April 2009, after more than a year of review 
and extensive public comment, the Council recommended modifications to 
the LLP to revise eligibility criteria for fixed gear endorsements on 
LLP licenses.
    Proposed Amendment 86 would implement four distinct actions. First, 
a Pacific cod fishery endorsement would be added to LLP licenses based 
on landings in the directed Pacific cod fishery in the GOA from 2002 
through December 8, 2008. NMFS would assign Pacific cod endorsements 
that are designated for (1) pot, hook-and-line, and jig gear; (2) 
specific GOA regulatory areas (i.e., CG and WG); (3) specific 
operational types (i.e., catcher vessels or catcher/processors); and 
(4) specific landing requirements based on the MLOA designated on the 
LLP license (e.g., different landing requirements would need to be met 
for LLP licenses with an MLOA of under 60 feet than those equal to or 
greater than 60 feet). This proposed action does not include 
modifications to SEO endorsed licenses because fishing in this 
regulatory area is currently limited and the risk of additional effort 
in the fishery from latent fixed gear LLP license holders was deemed to 
be unlikely by the Council. The landing criteria selected would 
represent a minimal, but sufficient, amount of participation in the 
Pacific cod fishery to indicate some level of dependence on the 
fishery. An exemption from catcher/processor landing requirements would 
be provided only for LLP licenses that met the following criteria: (1) 
they have a catcher/processor endorsement; (2) they were assigned to 
vessels that did not meet minimum landing requirements to qualify for a 
Pacific cod endorsement for catcher/processors using hook-and-line gear 
in either regulatory area where those LLP licenses are endorsed; and 
(3) they were assigned to vessels that participated in industry efforts 
to reduce halibut prohibited species catch (PSC) in the directed 
Pacific cod fishery in the GOA during 2006, 2007, or 2008. This 
exemption would allow LLP license holders to receive a Pacific cod 
endorsement if they chose not to use their vessels in the GOA during 
2006, 2007, or 2008 to minimize halibut PSC through voluntary private 
contractual arrangements.
    Second, Amendment 86 would exempt vessels using jig gear from the 
requirement to be assigned an LLP license provided those vessels did 
not use more than five jigging machines, more than one line per 
machine, and more than 30 hooks on any one line. This exemption from 
the requirements of the LLP is intended to provide a limited 
opportunity for entry level vessel operators to participate in the 
federal fisheries without incurring the obligations and costs of the 
LLP. Pacific cod is the species most frequently caught by jig gear 
vessels, and it represents a small portion of the overall TAC, and few 
of the vessels using jig gear fish in federal waters.
    Third, Amendment 86 would modify the MLOA of an LLP license if it 
is assigned a Pacific cod endorsement. The first modification would 
reduce the MLOA of LLP licenses that are greater than 60 feet in 
length, but that have been consistently assigned to a vessel under 60 
feet in length overall from 2002 through December 8, 2008; and (2) the 
vessel to which that LLP license was assigned did not meet the landing 
thresholds applicable for an LLP license with an MLOA greater than or 
equal to 60 feet, but did meet the landing thresholds applicable to LLP 
licenses with an MLOA under 60 feet. The second modification would 
allow a small increase in MLOA up to 50 feet for a limited number of 
LLP licenses that had been assigned to smaller sized vessels during the 
qualifying period for the proposed action. These modifications would 
allow owners of smaller vessels to continue to use LLP licenses 
historically associated with their vessels and would not substantially 
increase fishing capacity in the fishery.
    Fourth, Amendment 86 would allow entities representing specific 
communities in the WG and CG to request a limited number of non-
transferrable Pacific cod endorsed LLP licenses to be endorsed for 
hook-and-line or pot gear with an MLOA of less than 60 feet. Once the 
community entity receives an LLP license, the community entity may 
assign that LLP license for use on a vessel designated by the entity. 
The number of LLP licenses and the specific gear type of those licenses 
would be limited for each community to ensure that approximately the 
same number of LLP licenses known to be held by community residents 
would be eligible for a Pacific cod endorsement. LLP licenses issued to 
a community would have an MLOA of 60 feet to limit the potential that 
communities could assign those LLP licenses to large vessels with 
potentially greater harvest capacity than the vessels traditionally 
used by residents of these communities.
    The RIR/IRFA prepared for this action describes the costs and 
benefits of the proposed amendment (see ADDRESSES for availability). 
All of the directly regulated entities would be expected to benefit 
from this action relative to the status quo because the proposed 
amendment would limit the potential for participants without historic 
or recent participation to enter the Central and Western GOA Pacific 
cod fisheries.
    Public comments are being solicited on proposed Amendment 86 to the 
GOA FMP through the end of the comment period (see DATES). NMFS intends 
to publish in the Federal Register and seek public comment on a 
proposed rule that would implement Amendment 86, following NMFS' 
evaluation of the proposed rule under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Public 
comments on the proposed rule must be received by the end of the 
comment period on Amendment 86 to be considered in the approval/
disapproval decision on Amendment 86. All comments received by the end 
of the comment period on Amendment 86, whether specifically directed to 
the GOA FMP amendment or the proposed rule, will be considered in the 
FMP approval/disapproval decision. Comments received after that date 
will not be considered in the approval/disapproval decision on the 
amendment. To be considered, comments must be received, not just 
postmarked or otherwise transmitted, by the close of business on the 
last day of the comment period.

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

    Dated: June 29, 2010.
Carrie Selberg,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2010-16195 Filed 7-1-10; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S