[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 63 (Monday, April 2, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 19605-19609]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-7854]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

RIN 0648-BB77


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Pacific 
Salmon

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

ACTION: Notice of availability of fishery management plan amendments; 
request for comments.

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SUMMARY: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) 
submitted Amendments 10, 11, and 12 to the Fishery Management Plan for 
the Salmon Fisheries in the EEZ off the Coast of Alaska (FMP) to NMFS 
for review. If approved, Amendment 10 would provide authority for NMFS 
to recover the administrative costs of processing applications for any 
future permits that may be required under this FMP, except for exempted 
fishing permits and prohibited species donation permits. If approved, 
Amendment 11 would revise the timeline associated with the Council's 
process to identify Habitat Areas of Particular Concern so that the 
process coincides with the Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) 5-year review, 
revise habitat research priority objectives, and update EFH 
conservation recommendations for, and the analysis of the impacts of, 
non-fishing activities. If approved, Amendment 12 would comprehensively 
revise and update the FMP to reflect the Council's salmon management 
policy and Federal law. Amendments 10, 11, and 12 are intended to 
promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act, the FMP, and other applicable laws.

DATES: Written comments on the amendment must be received on or before 
5 p.m., Alaska local time, on June 1, 2012.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by FDMS Docket Number 
NOAA-NMFS-2011-0295, by any one of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov. 
To submit comments via the e-Rulemaking Portal, first click the 
``submit a comment'' icon, then enter NOAA-NMFS-2011-0295 in the 
keyword search. Locate the

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document you wish to comment on from the resulting list and click on 
the ``Submit a Comment'' icon on that line.
     Fax: Address written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant 
Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region 
NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Fax comments to 907-586-7557.
     Mail: Address written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant 
Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region 
NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, 
AK 99802-1668.
     Hand delivery to the Federal Building: Address written 
comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant Regional Administrator, 
Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Ellen 
Sebastian. Deliver comments to 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, 
AK.
    Instructions: Comments must be submitted by one of the above 
methods to ensure that the comments are received, documented, and 
considered by NMFS. Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered. 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 (for example, 
name, address) voluntarily submitted by the commenter will 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). You may submit attachments to 
electronic comments in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF 
file formats only.
    Electronic copies of the proposed Fishery Management Plan for the 
Salmon Fisheries in the EEZ off Alaska that incorporates Amendments 10, 
11, and 12, and the draft Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact 
Review prepared for Amendment 12 may be obtained from http://www.regulations.gov or from the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gretchen Harrington, 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 or 
fishery management plan amendment it prepares to NMFS for review and 
approval, disapproval, or partial approval by the Secretary of 
Commerce. 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 Amendments 10, 11, and 12 to 
the FMP are available for public review and comment. The salmon 
fisheries in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ, 3 to 200 nautical miles) 
off Alaska are managed under the FMP. The FMP was prepared by the 
Council under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 
et seq. The following paragraphs provide information on Amendments 10, 
11, and 12. Because Amendment 12 would comprehensively amend the FMP 
and incorporates FMP language for Amendments 10 and 11, it is described 
first in this NOA. Descriptions of Amendments 10 and 11 follow the 
description of Amendment 12.

Fishery Management Plan for the Salmon Fisheries in the EEZ off the 
Coast of Alaska

    The FMP originally was approved in 1979 and last comprehensively 
revised in 1990. The FMP conserves and manages the Pacific salmon 
commercial and sport fisheries that occur in the EEZ off Alaska. The 
FMP establishes two management areas: the East Area is the EEZ in the 
Gulf of Alaska east of Cape Suckling (143[deg]53.6'' West Longitude) 
and the West Area is the EEZ off the coast of Alaska west of Cape 
Suckling. The FMP manages commercial salmon fisheries differently in 
each area. In the East Area, the FMP delegates management of the 
commercial troll salmon fishery to the State of Alaska (State) to 
manage in compliance with the Pacific Salmon Treaty, Magnuson-Stevens 
Act, and FMP. The FMP prohibits commercial salmon fishing with net gear 
in the East Area. In the West Area, the FMP prohibits commercial salmon 
fishing, except for commercial salmon fishing with net gear in three 
defined areas of the EEZ adjacent to Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound, 
and the Alaska Peninsula. The FMP delegates management of the sport 
fishery to the State in both areas.
    Although the FMP has been amended nine times in the last two 
decades, no comprehensive consideration of management strategy or scope 
of Federal management has occurred since 1990. State fisheries 
regulations and Federal and international laws affecting Alaska salmon 
have changed since 1990, and the reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Act 
expanded the requirements for FMPs. Additionally, the current FMP is 
vague with respect to management authority for commercial salmon 
fishing in the three defined areas that occur in the West Area.
    Therefore, the Council determined that the FMP must be updated, in 
order to comply with the current Magnuson-Stevens Act requirements, and 
amended, to more clearly reflect the Council's policy with regard to 
the State's continued management authority over commercial fisheries in 
the West Area, the Southeast Alaska commercial troll fishery, and the 
sport fishery.

Amendment 12

    In December 2011, the Council voted unanimously to recommend 
Amendment 12 to the FMP. The Council considered revisions to the FMP at 
five separate meetings that occurred over more than a year. At each 
regularly scheduled and noticed public meeting, the Council took public 
testimony and considered written and oral public comments, providing 
stakeholders with opportunities for involvement on this issue. 
Additionally, the Council conducted a special open workshop for 
stakeholders in September 2011, which was attended by more than 20 
members of the public, three Council members, Council staff, and State 
and Federal agency staff. The Council considered the comments and 
suggestions made during that workshop in developing Amendment 12.
    Amendment 12 would comprehensively revise the FMP to reflect the 
Council's salmon management policy, which is to facilitate State of 
Alaska salmon management in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 
Pacific Salmon Treaty, and applicable Federal law. Under this policy, 
the Council identified six management objectives to guide salmon 
management under the FMP and achieve the management policy: (1) Prevent 
overfishing and achieve optimum yield, (2) manage salmon as a unit 
throughout their range, (3) minimize bycatch and bycatch mortality, (4) 
maximize economic and social benefits to the Nation over time, (5) 
protect wild stocks and fully utilize hatchery production, and (6) 
promote safety. The Council, NMFS, and the State of Alaska will 
consider these management objectives in developing FMP amendments and 
associated management measures.
    To reflect the Council's policy and objectives, Amendment 12 would 
redefine the FMP's management area to

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exclude the Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound, and the Alaska Peninsula 
net fishing areas and the sport fishery from the West Area. In removing 
these three areas and the sport fishery from the FMP, the Council 
provided a rationale for why Federal conservation and management are 
not necessary, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The Council 
recognized that FMP management would only apply to the portion of the 
fisheries in the EEZ, and that salmon are more appropriately managed as 
a unit in consideration of all fishery removals to meet in-river 
escapement goals. The Council determined that excluding these areas and 
the sport fishery from the West Area and the FMP would allow the State 
to manage Alaska salmon stocks as seamlessly as practicable throughout 
their range, rather than imposing dual State and Federal management. 
Under Amendment 12, the FMP would continue to apply to the vast 
majority of the EEZ west of Cape Suckling and would maintain the 
prohibition on commercial salmon fishing in the redefined West Area.
    In the East Area, Amendment 12 would maintain the current scope of 
the FMP and would reaffirm that management of the commercial and sport 
salmon fisheries in the East Area is delegated to the State. The FMP 
relies on a combination of State management and management under the 
Pacific Salmon Treaty to ensure that salmon stocks, including trans-
boundary stocks, are managed as a unit throughout their ranges and 
interrelated stocks are managed in close coordination. Maintaining the 
FMP in the East Area would leave existing management structures in 
place, recognizing that the FMP is the nexus for the application of the 
Pacific Salmon Treaty and other applicable Federal law.
    The Council also recommended a number of FMP provisions to update 
the FMP and bring it into compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and 
other applicable Federal law. Amendment 12 would include these changes 
in a reorganized FMP with a more concise title, ``Fishery Management 
Plan for the Salmon Fisheries in the EEZ off Alaska.''
    The primary new FMP provision is a mechanism to establish annual 
catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures (AMs) for the salmon 
stocks caught in the East Area commercial troll fishery, the only 
commercial fishery authorized under the FMP. Amendment 12 would not 
establish ACLs or AMs in the West Area because no commercial salmon 
fisheries are authorized in the West Area. The mechanism to establish 
ACLs and AMs for the commercial troll fishery builds on the FMP's 
existing framework for establishing status determination criteria. The 
commercial troll fishery harvests primarily Chinook and coho salmon; 
though chum, sockeye, and pink salmon are also harvested occasionally. 
The FMP currently separates these salmon stocks into three tiers for 
the purposes of status determination criteria.
    Tier 1 stocks are Chinook salmon stocks covered by the Pacific 
Salmon Treaty. Amendment 12 would not establish a mechanism for 
specifying ACLs and AMs for Chinook salmon because the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act exempts stocks managed under an international fisheries agreement 
in which the United States participates from the ACL requirement (16 
U.S.C. 1853 note).
    Under Amendment 12, the mechanisms for specifying ACLs for Tier 2 
(coho salmon) and Tier 3 (coho, pink, chum, and sockeye salmon stocks 
managed as mixed-species complexes) salmon stocks would be established 
using the State's scientifically-based management measures to control 
catch and prevent overfishing. This approach represents an alternative 
approach to the methods prescribed in NMFS's National Standard 1 
Guidelines (50 CFR 600.310) for specifying ACLs. The National Standard 
1 Guidelines contemplate limited circumstances where the standard 
approaches to specification of reference points, including ACLs, and 
management measures detailed in the guidelines may not be appropriate. 
The National Standard 1 Guidelines specifically cite Pacific salmon as 
an example of stocks that may require an alternative approach. Under 
this flexibility within the guidelines, the Council may propose an 
alternative approach for satisfying the requirements of National 
Standard 1, other than those set forth in the guidelines. The 
guidelines require that the Council document its rationale for 
proposing an alternative approach in an FMP amendment and document its 
consistency with the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Amendment 12 would modify 
the FMP to include the rationale for this alternative approach as the 
mechanism for specifying ACLs.
    The Council proposes an alternative approach because the State's 
escapement-based management system is a more effective management 
system for preventing overfishing of Alaska salmon than a system that 
places rigid numeric limits on the number of fish that may be caught. 
Escapement is defined as the annual estimated size of the spawning 
salmon stock in a given river, stream, or watershed. Given salmon's 
particular life history attributes, the Council's preferred method to 
annually ensure that surviving spawners will maximize present and 
future yields is a system that establishes escapement goals intended to 
maximize surplus productivity of future runs, estimates run strength in 
advance, monitors actual run strength and escapement during the 
fishery, and utilizes in-season management measures, including fishery 
closures, to ensure that minimum escapement goals are achieved. 
Further, escapement-based management, with real-time monitoring of run 
strength, inherently accounts for total catch and all sources of 
natural mortality. As part of the alternative approach the Council 
recommends that Amendment 12 establish a peer review process in the FMP 
that utilizes the State's existing salmon expertise and processes for 
developing escapement goals as fishing level recommendations.
    The State's escapement-based management system includes the added 
features of in-season monitoring to confirm actual run strength and in-
season management measures that adjust fishing pressure, or close a 
fishery, to ensure that escapement goals are met if pre-season 
predictions of run strength prove inaccurate. Under Amendment 12, these 
features would be the AMs to prevent ACLs from being exceeded and to 
correct overages of the ACL if they do occur.
    Amendment 12 also would revise the definition of optimum yield. For 
the East Area, several economic, social, and ecological factors are 
involved in the definition of OY. For Chinook salmon stocks in Tier 1, 
an all-gear maximum sustainable yield (MSY) is prescribed in terms of 
catch by the Pacific Salmon Treaty and takes into account the 
biological productivity of Chinook salmon and ecological factors in 
setting this limit. Under Amendment 12, the portion of the all-gear 
catch limit allocated to troll gear would represent the OY for that 
fishery and takes into account the economic and social factors 
considered by the State of Alaska in making allocation decisions. For 
stocks in Tiers 2 and 3, MSY currently is defined in terms of 
escapement. MSY escapement goals account for biological productivity 
and ecological factors, including the consumption of salmon by a 
variety of marine predators. Under Amendment 12, the OY for the troll 
fishery would be that fishery's annual catch, which, when combined with 
the catch from all other salmon fisheries, results in a post-harvest 
run size equal to the MSY escapement goal for each

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indicator stock. The portion of the annual catch harvested by the troll 
fishery reflects the biological, economic, and social factors 
considered by the State of Alaska in determining when to open and close 
the coho salmon harvest by the troll fishery.
    For the redefined West Area under Amendment 12, commercial fishing 
is prohibited; therefore the directed harvest OY would be zero. The 
redefined West Area has been closed to commercial net fishing since 
1952 and commercial troll fishing since 1973 and there has not been any 
commercial yield from this area. This proposed OY recognizes that 
salmon are fully utilized by state-managed fisheries and that the State 
manages fisheries based on the best available information using the 
State's escapement goal management system. This OY also recognizes that 
non-Alaska salmon are fully utilized and managed by their respective 
management authorities when they return to their natal regions.
    Amendment 12 would add a fishery impact statement to the FMP that 
includes fishery information required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act (16 
U.S.C. 1853(a)(2), (3), (5), (9), (11), and (13)). The fishery impact 
statement contained in Amendment 12 analyzes the effects of the 
conservation and management measures on participants in the fisheries, 
fishing communities affected by the FMP, and safety of human life at 
sea. The fishery impact statement also describes the salmon fishery, 
specifies the present and probable future condition of the fishery, and 
describes the commercial, recreational, and charter fishing sectors 
which participate in the salmon fishery. Additionally, the fishery 
impact statement assesses the economic impacts of the salmon fishery by 
sector.
    Amendment 12 also would revise the current FMP process for Federal 
review of State management measures to more fully describe the process 
and bring the process into compliance with Magnuson-Stevens Act 
requirements (16 U.S.C. 1856(a)(3)(B)). With the delegation of 
management authority of the East Area commercial troll salmon fishery 
and the East Area sport fishery to the State of Alaska, the Council and 
NMFS must stay apprised of State management measures governing 
commercial and sport salmon fishing in the East Area and, if necessary, 
review those measures for consistency with the FMP, the Magnuson-
Stevens Act, and other applicable Federal law. Also, members of the 
public may request that the Secretary review State salmon management 
measures in the East Area for consistency with the FMP, the Magnuson-
Stevens Act and other applicable Federal law. Under Amendment 12, the 
FMP would describe (1) how the Council and NMFS fulfill this oversight 
role, (2) the ways in which the Council and NMFS will monitor State 
management measures that regulate salmon fishing in the East Area, (3) 
the process by which NMFS will review State management measures 
governing salmon fisheries in the East Area for consistency with the 
FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable Federal law, (4) 
the process by which a member of the public can petition NMFS to review 
State management measures in the East Area for consistency with the 
FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable Federal law, and 
(5) the process NMFS will follow if NMFS determines that State 
management measures in the East Area are inconsistent with the FMP, the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, or other applicable Federal laws.
    Amendment 12 would remove existing FMP language governing the 
issuance of Federal salmon permits. The Council recommended removing 
FMP language related to Federal salmon permits because Federal permits 
are no longer necessary. All current participants have State of Alaska 
limited entry permits. According to language included in the original 
1979 FMP, provisions for Federal salmon permits were established as a 
complement to the State limited entry permit, in order to limit 
capacity in the EEZ so that persons who did not receive a State limited 
entry permit would not simply shift their fishing efforts into Federal 
waters. Additionally, the 1979 FMP explains that there was an interest 
in ensuring that the few vessels that had fished in the EEZ but not 
landed their catch in Alaska could continue to have access to the EEZ, 
even if they were not eligible for a state limited entry permit. The 
problems identified in the 1979 FMP were addressed by this Federal 
permit system. In 1979 or 1980, NMFS issued 2 non-transferrable limited 
entry permits and these permits are no longer active in the fishery.
    An Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review was prepared 
for Amendment 12 that describes the management background, the purpose 
and need for action, the management alternatives, and the 
environmental, social, and economic impacts of the alternatives (see 
ADDRESSES). Additional details on the basis of specific policy and 
management measures are provided in the analysis.

Amendment 10

    In October 2009, the Council adopted a motion to revise all six of 
its fishery management plans to provide authority for recovering the 
administrative costs of processing applications for permits required 
under those plans, except for exempted fishing permits and prohibited 
species donation permits. Amendment 10 would amend the FMP to provide 
authority for NMFS to recover the administrative costs of processing 
applications for any future permits that may be required under this 
FMP, except for exempted fishing permits and prohibited species 
donation permits. Amendment 10 would implement the following FMP 
language: ``NMFS may assess and collect fees to recover the 
administrative costs incurred by the Federal government in processing 
applications for permits required to participate in the fisheries 
managed under this FMP as authorized by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 
U.S.C 1853(b).'' If Amendments 10 and 12 are approved by NMFS, this 
language would be included at section 4.2 of the FMP. If Amendment 10 
is approved but Amendment 12 is not, then this language would be 
included at section 5.2 of the FMP.

Amendment 11

    In April 2011, the Council recommended Amendment 11 to (1) revise 
the timeline associated with the Council's process to identify Habitat 
Areas of Particular Concern so that the process coincides with the EFH 
5-year review, (2) revise habitat research priority objectives, and (3) 
update EFH conservation recommendations for, and the analysis of the 
impacts of, non-fishing activities. If Amendments 11 and 12 are 
approved by NMFS, Amendment 11 would to include the most recent 
scientific information resulting from the 5-year review in chapter 7 of 
the FMP and the FMP's Appendix A ``Essential Fish Habitat and Habitat 
Areas of Particular Concern''. If Amendment 11 is approved but 
Amendment 12 is not, then this language would be included in section 
6.3 of the FMP and in the FMP's Appendix E. These changes are necessary 
to update the FMP based upon the best scientific information available 
and the guidelines articulated in the final rule to implement the EFH 
provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (see 50 CFR part 600, subpart 
J).
    NMFS is soliciting public comments on proposed Amendments 10, 11, 
and 12 through the end of the comment period (see DATES). NMFS will 
consider all comments received by the end of the comment period on 
Amendments 10,

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11, and 12, in the FMP approval/disapproval decision. To be considered, 
comments must be received, not just postmarked or otherwise 
transmitted, by 5 p.m. Alaska local time on the last day of the comment 
period. Comments received after that date will not be considered in the 
approval/disapproval decision on the amendment.
    NMFS intends to publish in the Federal Register a proposed rule 
that would implement Amendment 12 and seek public comment on that 
proposed rule, following NMFS's 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 for Amendment 12 to be 
considered in the approval/disapproval decision on Amendment 12. 
Implementing regulations are not needed for either Amendment 10 or 
Amendment 11, and therefore no proposed rule for these amendments will 
be published.

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

    Dated: March 28, 2012.
Carrie Selberg,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-7854 Filed 3-30-12; 8:45 am]
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