[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 46 (Wednesday, March 9, 2011)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 12884-12886]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-5369]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

[Docket No. 100413185-1155-02]
RIN 0648-AY84


Groundfish Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; 
American Fisheries Act; Recordkeeping and Reporting

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS issues this rule to amend the American Fisheries Act 
implementing regulations that previously required cooperatives 
participating in the directed fishery for pollock in the Bering Sea to 
prepare and submit preliminary annual reports to the North Pacific 
Fishery Management Council (Council). The Council determined that the 
requirement for cooperatives to submit a preliminary annual report is 
no longer necessary, and this action eliminates that requirement. This 
action does not eliminate the requirement for the cooperatives to 
submit a single annual report to the Council. This action promotes the 
goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) and other applicable laws.

DATES: Effective April 8, 2011.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of this rule, the Regulatory Impact Review 
(RIR), and the categorical exclusion memorandum may be obtained from 
the Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.
    Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other 
aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this 
final rule may be submitted by mail to NMFS, Alaska Region, P.O. Box 
21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668, Attn: Ellen Sebastian, Records Officer; 
in person at NMFS, Alaska Region, 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, 
Juneau, Alaska; and by e-mail to OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov, or by 
fax to 202-395-7285.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Patsy A. Bearden, 907-586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the U.S. groundfish fisheries 
in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands 
Management Area under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the 
Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP). The North 
Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared the FMP under the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act. Regulations implementing the FMP appear at 
subpart F of 50 CFR part 679. General regulations that pertain to U.S. 
fisheries appear at subpart H of 50 CFR part 600.

Background

    In October 1998, Congress enacted the American Fisheries Act (AFA), 
16 U.S.C. 1851, which ``rationalized'' the Bering Sea pollock fishery 
by identifying the vessels and processors eligible to participate in 
the fishery and allocating pollock among those eligible participants. 
The AFA allocates 10 percent of the Bering Sea pollock total allowable 
catch to the Western Alaska Community Development Quota (CDQ) Program. 
After subtracting the CDQ Program allocation, and an amount set aside 
for the catch of pollock in other Bering Sea fisheries, the AFA 
allocates the remaining available pollock quota (the ``directed fishing 
allowance'') among the AFA inshore sector (50 percent), the AFA 
catcher/processor sector (40 percent), and the AFA mothership sector 
(10 percent).
    The AFA allowed for development of pollock fishing cooperatives in 
the non-CDQ sectors. Thirteen cooperatives were developed under the 
AFA: Ten inshore catcher vessel cooperatives, two offshore catcher/
processor cooperatives, and one mothership cooperative. After NMFS 
allocates pollock quota to each of the inshore catcher vessel 
cooperatives, the cooperatives further subdivide each cooperative's 
pollock allocation among vessel owners in the cooperative through 
private contractual agreements. The cooperatives manage these 
allocations to optimize their harvest and to ensure that individual 
vessels and companies do not harvest more than their agreed upon share 
of pollock. The cooperatives also enforce contract

[[Page 12885]]

provisions and participate in a cooperative agreement to reduce salmon 
bycatch by the directed pollock fishery.
    The regulations establishing the AFA cooperative reporting 
requirements were published on December 30, 2002 (67 FR 79692). These 
regulations required that each cooperative prepare preliminary and 
final annual reports describing the cooperative's harvest of pollock, 
prohibited species, and non-pollock groundfish, including species for 
which NMFS establishes annual sideboards that limit incidental catch by 
AFA participants. The purpose of the annual reports was ``to assist the 
Council and NMFS in meeting the requirements of paragraph 210(a)(1) of 
the AFA, which requires that NMFS make such information available to 
the public in a manner that NMFS and the Council decide is 
appropriate'' (67 FR 79692). Another purpose of the AFA cooperative 
annual report was to provide the Council information upon which it 
could make decisions on cooperative allocations and sideboard 
protection measures.
    Prior to this action, all AFA cooperatives were required to submit 
both preliminary and final annual written reports on directed pollock 
fishing activity to the Council. The preliminary report was due on 
December 1, one month after the pollock fishery's closure on November 
1, while the final report was due on April 1 of the following year. The 
two reports resulted from the Council's recognition that one month 
following the fishery's closure may not be enough time for the AFA 
cooperative representatives to compile all of the required information 
for the annual report. Requiring cooperatives to file a second report 
also allowed cooperatives to update catch and bycatch data after the 
end of the year.
    In recent years, the Council has found that the preliminary AFA 
cooperative report is no longer necessary to develop recommendations on 
final groundfish specifications or on cooperative allocations and 
sideboard protection measures. The Council instead uses the Stock 
Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) Reports provided by the 
Council's Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area Groundfish 
Plan Team, and the total allowable catch (TAC) recommendations provided 
at the December Council meeting to develop these recommendations. The 
data in the SAFE Reports are more encompassing than the data found in 
the preliminary AFA cooperative reports.
    The SAFE Reports for the groundfish fisheries managed by the 
Council are compiled by the respective Plan Teams from chapters 
contributed by scientists at the NMFS Alaska Fisheries Science Center 
and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. These SAFE Reports include 
separate stock assessment and fishery evaluation sections. The stock 
assessment section includes recommended acceptable biological catch 
(ABC) levels for each stock and stock complex managed under the FMP. 
For purposes of determining TACs, the data provided in these reports is 
a sufficient substitute for that which has been provided by the 
preliminary reports on the pollock fishery from the cooperatives. The 
Council considers the ABC recommendations, together with social and 
economic factors, in determining TACs and other management strategies 
for the fisheries.
    At its June 2010 meeting, the Council determined that, combined 
with the SAFE Report and TAC recommendations, a single annual report 
from each AFA cooperative, renamed the ``annual AFA cooperative 
report,'' will provide sufficient information to the Council, the 
industry, and the public about the directed fisheries for pollock in 
the Bering Sea. Under this rule, the cooperatives will be required to 
submit one report containing the same information previously contained 
in two reports.
    Each AFA cooperative annual report will continue to be required to 
provide the following information:
     How the cooperative allocated pollock, other groundfish 
species, and prohibited species catch among the vessels in the 
cooperative;
     The catch and discard of these species by area for each 
vessel in the cooperative;
     How the cooperative monitored fisheries in which its 
members participate;
     A description of any actions taken by the cooperative in 
response to any vessel that exceeded the allocations made to the vessel 
by the cooperative;
     The total weight of pollock landed outside the State of 
Alaska on a vessel-by-vessel basis; and
     The number of salmon taken by species and season, and list 
each vessel's number of appearances on the weekly dirty 20 lists for 
non-Chinook salmon.
    This action does not result in a substantial change in the 
reporting requirements. Some decrease in miscellaneous costs might 
occur due to postage cost differences. It is also possible that the 
burden will decrease due to planning and writing of one report instead 
of two reports, one revising the other.
    NMFS published the proposed rule for this action in the Federal 
Register on December 20, 2010 (75 FR 79330), with a public comment 
period that closed January 4, 2011. No comments were received during 
this comment period.
    NMFS made the following change from the proposed rule to the final 
rule. In the final rule, NMFS changes the proposed report submittal 
language at Sec.  679.61(f)(1) to maintain the regulatory language 
currently in use. The proposed rule stated ``Annual reports must be 
postmarked or received by the submission deadline.'' This text is 
revised to read ``Annual reports must be postmarked by the submission 
deadline or received by a private courier service by the submission 
deadline.''
    This change gives equal treatment to cooperatives that send the 
annual report via postal service and those that send the report via 
private courier. As compared to the proposed rule, the final rule 
allows a cooperative that uses a private courier service a small amount 
of additional time to complete and send the report; however, this 
change does not necessarily delay the Council's receipt of the report 
or its availability to the public.

Classification

    The NMFS Assistant Administrator for Fisheries has determined that 
this rule is necessary for the conservation and management of the 
Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands groundfish fisheries and that it is 
consistent with the FMP, the national standards, and other provisions 
of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action will not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the 
proposed rule and is not repeated here.
    No comments were received regarding this certification, and no 
changes have been made from the proposed rule. As a result, a 
regulatory flexibility analysis was not required and none was prepared.
    This action will not increase recordkeeping and reporting costs.

Collection-of-Information Requirements

    This rule contains collection-of-information requirements subject 
to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), and which have been approved by 
the Office

[[Page 12886]]

of Management and Budget (OMB) under OMB Control Number 0648-0401.
    Public reporting burden per response is estimated to average 8 
hours for an AFA preliminary annual report and 4 hours for an AFA final 
annual report under old requirements. This rule removes the AFA 
preliminary annual report and renames the AFA final annual report as 
the AFA cooperative annual report, which is estimated to average 8 
hours per response. This rule reduces the reporting burden without 
imposing any new, additional reporting burden.
    These estimates of public reporting burden include the time for 
reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and 
maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the 
collection-of-information.
    Send comments regarding this burden estimate or any other aspect of 
this data collection, including suggestions for reducing the burden, to 
NMFS (see ADDRESSES); e-mail to OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov or fax to 
202-395-7285.
    Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is 
required to respond to, and no person shall be subject to penalty for 
failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the 
requirements of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays 
a currently valid OMB control number.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679

    Alaska, Fisheries, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: March 4, 2011.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 679 is amended 
as follows:

PART 679--FISHERIES OF THE EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE OFF ALASKA

0
1. The authority citation for part 679 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.; 1801 et seq.; 3631 et seq.; 
Pub. L. 108-447.


0
2. In Sec.  679.61, revise paragraph (f) introductory text, paragraph 
(f)(1), and paragraph (f)(2) introductory text to read as follows:


Sec.  679.61  Formation and operation of fishery cooperatives.

* * * * *
    (f) Annual reporting requirement. Any fishery cooperative governed 
by this section must submit an annual written report on fishing 
activity to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, 605 West 4th 
Avenue, Suite 306, Anchorage, AK 99501. The Council will make copies of 
each report available to the public upon request.
    (1) What is the submission deadline? The cooperative must submit 
the annual report by April 1 of each year. Annual reports must be 
postmarked by the submission deadline or received by a private courier 
service by the submission deadline.
    (2) What information must be included? The annual report must 
contain, at a minimum:
* * * * *

[FR Doc. 2011-5369 Filed 3-8-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P