[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 201 (Wednesday, October 17, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 63758-63762]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-25566]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 660

[Docket No. 100804324-1265-02]
RIN 0648-BC61


Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries Off West Coast States; 
Biennial Specifications and Management Measures; Inseason Adjustments

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

ACTION: Final rule; inseason adjustments to biennial groundfish 
management measures.

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SUMMARY: This final rule announces inseason changes to management 
measures in the Pacific Coast groundfish fisheries. This action, which 
is authorized by the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan 
(PCGFMP), is intended to allow fisheries to access more abundant 
groundfish stocks while protecting overfished and depleted stocks.

DATES: Effective 0001 hours (local time) November 1, 2012.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Colby Brady (Northwest Region, NMFS), 
phone: 206-526-6117, fax: 206-526-6736, colby.brady@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Electronic Access

    This final rule is accessible via the Internet at the Office of the 
Federal Register's Web site at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/search/home.action. Background information and documents are available at the 
Pacific Fishery Management Council's Web site at http://www.pcouncil.org/.

Background

    The Pacific Coast Groundfish FMP and its implementing regulations 
at title 50 in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 660, 
subparts C through G, regulate fishing for over 90 species of 
groundfish off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. 
Groundfish specifications and management measures are developed by the 
Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), and are implemented by 
NMFS. On November 3, 2010, NMFS published a proposed rule to implement 
the 2011-2012 harvest specifications and management measures for most 
species of the Pacific Coast groundfish fishery (75 FR 67810). The 
final rule to implement the 2011-12 harvest specifications and 
management measures for most species of the Pacific Coast Groundfish 
Fishery was published on May 11, 2011 (76 FR 27508). This final rule 
was subsequently amended by several inseason actions (76 FR 39313, 76 
FR 67092, 76 FR 79122, 77 FR 12503, 77 FR 22679, 77 FR 24634, 77 FR 
47322). On September 27, 2011, NMFS published a proposed rule to 
implement final 2012 specifications for overfished species and assessed 
flatfish species pursuant to Secretarial Amendment 1 to the Groundfish 
FMP (76 FR 59634). That final rule was effective January 1, 2012.
    The Council, in consultation with Pacific Coast Treaty Indian 
Tribes and the States of Washington, Oregon, and California, 
recommended the changes to current groundfish management measures 
implemented by this action at its September 12-September 17, 2012 
meeting. The Council recommended adjusting groundfish management 
measures for the remainder of the biennial period to respond to updated 
fishery information and additional inseason management needs. The 
adjustments to fishery management measures are not expected to result 
in greater impacts to overfished species than originally projected 
through the end of 2012. Estimated mortality of overfished and target 
species is the result of management measures designed to achieve, to 
the extent possible, but not exceed, annual catch limits (ACLs) of 
target species while fostering the rebuilding of overfished stocks by 
remaining within their rebuilding ACLs.

[[Page 63759]]

Open Access (OA) Fixed Gear Fishery Management Measures

Sablefish Daily Trip Limit (DTL) Trip Limits South of 36[deg] N. Lat.

    To ensure harvest opportunities for the OA fixed gear sablefish DTL 
fishery, and that its harvest guideline south of 36[deg] N. lat. is 
further attained, the Council considered increases to trip limits for 
sablefish in this fishery and the potential impacts on overall catch 
levels. The Council's Groundfish Management Team (GMT) made model-based 
landings projections of the OA fixed gear sablefish DTL fishery south 
of 36[deg] N. lat. for the remainder of 2012. These projections were 
based on the most recent information available under the current 2012 
trip limit scenario, and predicted a harvest projection of 41 percent 
(126 mt) of this fishery's harvest guideline (309 mt) under the status 
quo trip limits. Landings projections with the proposed increased trip 
limits predict a harvest of 52 percent (161 mt) of this fishery's 
harvest guideline. Projections for the other three fixed gear sablefish 
fisheries were tracking within their targets for 2012.
    Therefore, the Council recommended and NMFS is implementing trip 
limit changes for the OA fixed gear sablefish DTL fishery south of 
36[deg] N. lat. that increase OA fixed gear sablefish DTL fishery 
limits from ``300 lb per day (136 kg), or one landing per week of up to 
1,350 lb (612 kg), not to exceed 2,700 lb (1225 kg) per two months'' to 
``350 lb (159 kg) per day, or one landing per week of up to 1,750 lb 
(794 kg), not to exceed 3,500 lb (1,588 kg) per 2 months'' beginning in 
period 6, November 1, 2012 through the end of the year.
Recreational Fishery Management Measures

California Southern Management Area (SMA) Rockfish Conservation Area 
(RCA) Adjustments South of 34[deg]27' N. Lat.

    Due to uncertainty in the catch estimates, and to reduce the 
potential for cowcod mortality to exceed the non-trawl allocation in 
2012, the Council considered modifications to the current SMA RCA 
boundary. Recreational fishing for most groundfish is currently 
prohibited seaward of a boundary line approximating the 60 fathom depth 
(110 meters) contour in California south of 34[deg]27' N. lat. The new 
boundary would expand the closed area, restricting fishing to the area 
seaward of a boundary line approximating the 50 fathom depth (91 
meters) contour, south of 34[deg]27' N. lat., beginning November 1, 
2012, through December 31, 2012 (period 6). The Council considered this 
change as a precautionary measure to address uncertainty in the catch 
estimates, and to reduce the potential for cowcod mortality to exceed 
the non-trawl allocation in 2012.
    Therefore, the Council recommended and NMFS is implementing a shift 
to the seaward boundary line of the recreational Rockfish Conservation 
Area in the Southern Management Area south of 34[deg]27' N. lat. from 
the 60 fathom depth contour (110 meters) to the 50 fathom depth contour 
(91 meters), beginning November 1, 2012, through December 31, 2012 
(period 6).

Classification

    This final rule makes routine inseason adjustments to groundfish 
fishery management measures based on the best available information and 
is consistent with the Pacific Coast Groundfish FMP and its 
implementing regulations.
    This action is taken under the authority of 50 CFR 660.60(c) and is 
exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.
    These inseason changes in sablefish limits and recreational RCAs 
are based on the most recent data available. The aggregate data upon 
which these actions are based are available for public inspection at 
the Office of the Administrator, Northwest Region, NMFS, during 
business hours.
    For the following reasons, NMFS finds good cause to waive prior 
public notice and comment on the revisions to groundfish management 
measures under 5 U.S.C. 553(b) because notice and comment would be 
impracticable and contrary to the public interest. Also, for the same 
reasons, NMFS finds good cause to partially waive the 30-day delay in 
effectiveness pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), so that this final rule 
may become effective November 1, 2012.
    At the September Council meeting, the Council recommended that 
these changes, which are based on the most recent information 
available, be implemented by November 1, 2012. There was not sufficient 
time after that meeting to draft this document and undergo proposed and 
final rulemaking before these actions need to be in effect. For the 
actions to be implemented in this final rule, affording the time 
necessary for prior notice and opportunity for public comment would 
prevent NMFS from managing fisheries using the best available science 
to approach, without exceeding, the ACLs for federally managed species 
in accordance with the FMP and applicable law. The adjustments to 
management measures in this document affect commercial and recreational 
fisheries in southern California. These adjustments to management 
measures must be implemented in a timely manner, by November 1, 2012, 
to: allow OA fixed gear fishermen an opportunity to harvest their 
limits in 2012 for sablefish without exceeding the ACL south of 36[deg] 
N. lat.; and to allow recreational fishermen continued opportunities to 
harvest abundant species, while reducing the potential for cowcod 
mortality to exceed the non-trawl allocation in 2012. These changes in 
the OA fixed gear fishery south of 36[deg] and recreational fishery 
south of 34[deg]27' N. lat. will continue to allow fishermen 
opportunities to harvest available healthy stocks while staying within 
the ACLs for target and overfished species. If this rule is not 
implemented immediately, the public could have incorrect information 
regarding allowed OA fixed gear trip limits south of 36[deg], and 
recreational rockfish conservation area boundaries south of 34[deg]27' 
N. lat. which would cause confusion and be inconsistent with the 
Council's intent. It would be contrary to the public interest to delay 
implementation of these changes until after public notice and comment, 
because making this regulatory change by November 1, 2012, allows 
harvest as intended by the Council in fisheries that are important to 
coastal communities in a manner that prevents ACLs of overfished and 
target species from being exceeded.
    No aspect of this action is controversial and no change in 
operating practices in the fishery is required from those intended in 
this inseason adjustment.
    Delaying these changes would also keep management measures in place 
that are not based on the best available information. Such delay would 
impair achievement of the Pacific Coast Groundfish FMP goals and 
objectives of managing for appropriate harvest levels while providing 
for year-round fishing and marketing opportunities.
    Accordingly, for the reasons stated above, NMFS finds good cause to 
waive prior notice and comment and to partially waive the delay in 
effectiveness.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 660

    Fisheries, Fishing, Indian Fisheries.

    Dated: October 12, 2012.
Emily H. Menashes,
Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 660 is amended 
as follows:

[[Page 63760]]

PART 660--FISHERIES OFF WEST COAST STATES

0
1. The authority citation for part 660 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq., and 
16 U.S.C. 7001 et seq.


0
2. Table 3 (South) to part 660, subpart F is revised to read as 
follows:
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR17OC12.025


[[Page 63761]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR17OC12.026

0
3. In Sec.  660.360, paragraph (c)(3)(i)(A)(5) is revised to read as 
follows:


Sec.  660.360  Recreational fishery-management measures.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (3) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) * * *
    (5) South of 34[deg]27' N. lat. (Southern Management Area), 
recreational fishing for all groundfish (except California scorpionfish 
as specified below in this paragraph and in paragraph (c)(3)(v) of this 
section and ``other flatfish'' as specified in paragraph (c)(3)(iv) of 
this section) is prohibited seaward of a boundary line approximating 
the 50 fm (91.5 m) depth contour from March 1 through December 31 along 
the mainland coast and along islands and offshore seamounts, except in 
the CCAs where fishing is prohibited seaward of the 20 fm (37 m) depth 
contour when the fishing season is open (see paragraph (c)(3)(i)(B) of 
this section). Recreational fishing for all groundfish (except 
California scorpionfish and ``other flatfish'') is closed entirely from 
January 1 through February 28 (i.e., prohibited seaward of the 
shoreline). Recreational fishing for California scorpionfish south of 
34[deg]27' N. lat. is prohibited seaward of a boundary line 
approximating the 50 fm (91.5 m) depth contour from January 1 through 
December 31, except in the CCAs where

[[Page 63762]]

fishing is prohibited seaward of the 20 fm (37 m) depth contour when 
the fishing season is open.
* * * * *

[FR Doc. 2012-25566 Filed 10-16-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-C