[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 235 (Thursday, December 6, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 72791-72812]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-29508]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

[Docket No. 121018563-2563-01]
RIN 0648-XC311


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea 
and Aleutian Islands; 2013 and 2014 Harvest Specifications for 
Groundfish

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes 2013 and 2014 harvest specifications, 
apportionments, and prohibited species catch (PSC) allowances for the 
groundfish fisheries of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) 
management area. This action is necessary to establish harvest limits 
for groundfish during the 2013 and 2014 fishing years, and to 
accomplish the goals and objectives of the Fishery Management Plan for 
Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area. The 
intended effect of this action is to conserve and manage the groundfish 
resources in the BSAI in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act.

DATES: Comments must be received by January 7, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2012-0210, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal www.regulations.gov. To 
submit comments via the e-Rulemaking Portal, first click the ``submit a 
comment'' icon, then enter NOAA-NMFS-2012-0210 in the keyword search. 
Locate the document you wish to comment on from the resulting list and 
click on the ``Submit a Comment'' icon on that line.
     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.
     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.
     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 for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address) submitted voluntarily by the sender 
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). 
Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word 
or Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
    Electronic copies of the Alaska Groundfish Harvest Specifications 
Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the Initial Regulatory 
Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), and the Supplemental IRFA prepared for 
this action may be obtained from http://www.regulations.gov or from the 
Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. The final 
2011 Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) report for the 
groundfish resources of the BSAI, dated November 2011, is available 
from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) at 605 West 
4th Avenue, Suite 306, Anchorage, AK 99501-2252, phone 907-271-2809, or 
from the Council's Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/npfmc. 
The draft 2012 SAFE report for the BSAI will be available from the same 
sources in November 2012.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Whitney, 907-586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Federal regulations at 50 CFR part 679 
implement the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea 
and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP) and govern the groundfish 
fisheries in the BSAI. The Council prepared the FMP and NMFS approved 
it under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 
(Magnuson-Stevens Act). General regulations governing U.S. fisheries 
also appear at 50 CFR part 600.
    The FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS, after 
consulting with the Council, to specify annually the total allowable 
catch (TAC) for each target species category, the sum of which must be 
within the optimum yield (OY) range of 1.4 million to 2.0 million 
metric tons (mt) (see Sec.  679.20(a)(1)(i)). Section 679.20(c)(1) 
further requires NMFS to publish proposed harvest specifications in the 
Federal Register and solicit public comments on proposed annual TACs 
and apportionments thereof, PSC allowances, prohibited species quota 
(PSQ) reserves established by Sec.  679.21, seasonal allowances of 
pollock, Pacific cod, and Atka mackerel TAC, American Fisheries Act 
allocations, Amendment 80 allocations, and Community Development Quota 
(CDQ) reserve

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amounts established by Sec.  679.20(b)(1)(ii). The proposed harvest 
specifications set forth in Tables 1 through 12 of this action satisfy 
these requirements.
    Under Sec.  679.20(c)(3), NMFS will publish the final harvest 
specifications for 2013 and 2014 after (1) considering comments 
received within the comment period (see DATES), (2) consulting with the 
Council at its December 2012 meeting, and (3) considering new 
information presented in the Final EIS (see ADDRESSES) and the final 
2012 SAFE reports prepared for the 2013 and 2014 groundfish fisheries.

Other Actions Potentially Affecting the 2013 and 2014 Harvest 
Specifications

    The BSAI Groundfish Plan Team (Plan Team) and SSC reviewed models 
supporting a separate Aleutian Islands Pacific cod stock assessment. 
This Aleutian Islands stock assessment model is still in development. 
In the event that the SSC approves a stock assessment model as 
appropriate for setting Aleutian Islands management benchmarks, then it 
will be used to set a separate overfishing level (OFL), acceptable 
biological catch (ABC), and TAC for Pacific cod in the Aleutian Island 
Pacific cod stock. This could happen as soon as the next stock 
assessment cycle for the 2014 and 2015 OFL, ABC, and TAC. If the 
Council recommends separate OFLs, ABCs, and TACs for the Bering Sea 
subarea and Aleutian Islands subarea and takes no further management 
actions for sector allocations, then NMFS will interpret that the 
current Pacific cod sector allocations required by Amendments 80 and 85 
to the FMP will continue to apply at the BSAI-wide level. This result 
could impact the OFLs, ABCs, and TACs for Pacific cod in Table 1 for 
2014.
    The Plan Team also is reviewing the stock structure of the BSAI 
groundfish and may recommend allocating current OFLs or ABCs by 
subareas or reporting areas.

Proposed ABC and TAC Harvest Specifications

    At the October 2012 Council meeting, the Scientific and Statistical 
Committee (SSC), Advisory Panel (AP), and Council reviewed the most 
recent biological and harvest information about the condition of the 
BSAI groundfish stocks. The Council's Plan Team compiled and presented 
this information, which was initially compiled by the Plan Team and 
presented in the final 2011 SAFE report for the BSAI groundfish 
fisheries, dated November 2011 (see ADDRESSES). The amounts proposed 
for the 2013 and 2014 harvest specifications are based on the 2011 SAFE 
report and are subject to change in the final harvest specifications to 
be published by NMFS following the Council's December 2012 meeting. In 
November 2012, the Plan Team updated the 2011 SAFE report to include 
new information collected during 2012, such as NMFS stock surveys, 
revised stock assessments, and catch data. At its December 2012 
meeting, the Council will consider information contained in the final 
2012 SAFE report, recommendations from the November 2012 Plan Team 
meeting, public testimony from the December 2012 SSC and AP meetings, 
and relevant written comments in making its recommendations for the 
final 2013 and 2014 harvest specifications.
    In previous years, some of the largest changes from the proposed to 
the final harvest specifications have been based on the most recent 
NMFS stock surveys, which provide updated estimates of stock biomass 
and spatial distribution, and changes to the models used in the stock 
assessments. These changes are recommended by the Plan Team in November 
2012 and are included in the 2012 final SAFE report. The 2012 final 
SAFE report includes the most recent information, such as 2012 catch. 
The final harvest specification amounts for these stocks are not 
expected to vary greatly from the proposed specification amounts 
published here.
    If the final 2012 SAFE report indicates that the stock biomass 
trend is increasing for a species, then the final 2013 and 2014 harvest 
specifications may reflect that increase from the proposed harvest 
specifications. Conversely, if the final 2012 SAFE report indicates 
that the stock biomass trend is decreasing for a species, then the 
final 2013 and 2014 harvest specifications may reflect a decrease from 
the proposed harvest specifications. In addition to changes driven by 
biomass trends, there may be changes in TACs due to the sum of ABCs 
exceeding 2 million mt. Since the FMP requires TACs to be set to an OY 
between 1.4 and 2 million mt, the Council may be required to recommend 
TACs that are lower than the ABCs recommended by the Plan Team if 
setting TACs equal to ABC would cause TAC to exceed an OY of 2 million 
mt. Generally, ABCs greatly exceed 2 million mt in years with a large 
pollock biomass. NMFS anticipates that, both for 2013 and 2014, the sum 
of the ABCs for pollock will exceed 2 million mt. NMFS also anticipates 
that decreases in the biomass of Atka mackerel and Greenland turbot 
will lead to smaller TACs in 2013 and 2014 than in 2012. NMFS expects 
that the total TAC for the BSAI for both 2013 and 2014 will equal 2 
million mt.
    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 a series of 
six tiers to define OFLs and ABCs based on the level of reliable 
information available to fishery scientists. Tier one represents the 
highest level of information quality available while tier six 
represents the lowest.
    In October 2012, the SSC adopted the proposed 2013 and 2014 OFLs 
and ABCs recommended by the Plan Team for all groundfish species. The 
Council adopted the SSC's OFL and ABC recommendations and the AP's TAC 
recommendations. These amounts are unchanged from the final 2013 
harvest specifications published in the Federal Register on February 
23, 2012 (77 FR 10669). For 2013 and 2014, the Council recommended and 
NMFS proposes the OFLs, ABCs, and TACs listed in Table 1. The proposed 
ABCs reflect harvest amounts that are less than the specified 
overfishing amounts. The sum of the proposed 2013 and 2014 ABCs for all 
assessed groundfish is 2,639,792 mt, which is higher than the final 
2012 ABC total of 2,511,778 mt (77 FR 10669, February 23, 2012).

Specification and Apportionment of TAC Amounts

    The Council recommended proposed TACs for 2013 and 2014 that are 
equal to proposed ABCs for sablefish, Greenland turbot, Pacific ocean 
perch, shortraker rockfish, and rougheye rockfish. The Council 
recommended proposed TACs for 2013 and 2014 that are less than the 
proposed ABCs for pollock, Pacific cod, Atka mackerel, yellowfin sole, 
rock sole, Kamchatka flounder, arrowtooth flounder, flathead sole, 
``other flatfish,'' Alaska plaice, northern rockfish, ``other 
rockfish,'' squids, sharks, skates, sculpins, and octopuses.
    Section 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(1) requires the Aleutian Islands (AI) 
pollock TAC to be set at 19,000 mt when the AI pollock ABC equals or 
exceeds 19,000 mt. The Bogoslof pollock TAC is set to accommodate 
incidental catch amounts. With the exceptions of sablefish, Greenland 
turbot, Pacific ocean perch, shortraker rockfish, and rougheye 
rockfish, TACs are set below ABCs. TACs are set so that the sum of the 
overall TAC does not exceed the BSAI OY.

[[Page 72793]]

    The proposed groundfish OFLs, ABCs, and TACs are subject to change 
pending the completion of the final 2012 SAFE report and the Council's 
recommendations for final 2013 and 2014 harvest specifications during 
its December 2012 meeting. These proposed amounts are consistent with 
the biological condition of groundfish stocks as described in the 2011 
SAFE report, and adjusted for other biological and socioeconomic 
considerations. Pursuant to section 3.2.3.4.1 of the FMP, the Council 
could recommend adjusting the TACs if ``warranted on the basis of 
bycatch considerations, management uncertainty, or socioeconomic 
considerations, or if required in order to cause the sum of the TACs to 
fall within the OY range.'' Table 1 lists the proposed 2013 and 2014 
OFL, ABC, TAC, initial TAC (ITAC), and CDQ amounts for groundfish for 
the BSAI. The proposed apportionment of TAC amounts among fisheries and 
seasons is discussed below.
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Groundfish Reserves and the Incidental Catch Allowance (ICA) for 
Pollock, Atka Mackerel, Flathead Sole, Rock Sole, Yellowfin Sole, and 
AI Pacific Ocean Perch

    Section 679.20(b)(1)(i) requires the placement of 15 percent of the 
TAC for each target species category, except for pollock, hook-and-line 
and pot gear allocation of sablefish, and Amendment 80 species, in a 
non-specified reserve. Section 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(B) requires that 20 
percent of the hook-and-line and pot gear allocation of sablefish be 
allocated to the fixed gear sablefish CDQ reserve. Section 
679.20(b)(1)(ii)(D) requires that 7.5 percent of the trawl gear 
allocations of sablefish and 10.7 percent of Bering Sea Greenland 
turbot, and arrowtooth flounder be allocated to the respective CDQ 
reserves. Section 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(C) requires that 10.7 percent of the 
TACs for Atka mackerel, AI Pacific ocean perch, yellowfin sole, rock 
sole, flathead sole, and Pacific cod be allocated to the CDQ reserves. 
Sections 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A) and 679.31(a) also require the allocation 
of 10 percent of the BSAI pollock TACs to the pollock CDQ directed 
fishing allowance (DFA). The entire Bogoslof District pollock TAC is 
allocated as an ICA (see Sec.  679.20(a)(5)(ii)). With the exception of 
the hook-and-line and pot gear sablefish CDQ reserve, the regulations 
do not further apportion the CDQ reserves by gear. Sections 679.30 and 
679.31 set forth regulations governing the management of the CDQ 
reserves.
    Pursuant to Sec.  679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(1), NMFS proposes a pollock 
ICA of 3 percent of the Bering Sea subarea pollock TAC after 
subtracting the 10 percent CDQ reserve. This allowance is based on 
NMFS' examination of the pollock incidentally retained and discarded 
catch, including the incidental catch by CDQ vessels, in target 
fisheries other than pollock from 1999 through 2012. During this 14-
year period, the pollock incidental catch ranged from a low of 2.3 
percent in 2012 to a high of 5 percent in 1999, with a 14-year average 
of 3.2 percent. Pursuant to Sec.  679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(2)(i) and (ii), 
NMFS proposes a pollock ICA of 1,600 mt for the AI subarea after 
subtracting the 10 percent CDQ DFA. This allowance is based on NMFS' 
examination of the pollock incidental catch, including the incidental 
catch by CDQ vessels, in target fisheries other than pollock from 2003 
through 2012. During this 10-year period, the incidental catch of 
pollock ranged from a low of 5 percent in 2006 to a high of 10 percent 
in 2003, with a 10-year average of 7 percent.
    Pursuant to Sec.  679.20(a)(8) and (10), NMFS proposes ICAs of 
5,000 mt of flathead sole, 10,000 mt of rock sole, 2,000 mt of 
yellowfin sole, 10 mt of Western Aleutian District Pacific ocean perch, 
75 mt of Central Aleutian District Pacific ocean perch, 200 mt of 
Eastern Aleutian District Pacific ocean perch, 40 mt for Western 
Aleutian District Atka mackerel, 75 mt for Central Aleutian District 
Atka mackerel, and 1,000 mt of Eastern Aleutian District and Bering Sea 
subarea Atka mackerel after subtraction of the 10.7 percent CDQ 
reserve. These ICAs are based on NMFS' examination of the average 
incidental retained and

[[Page 72796]]

discarded catch in other target fisheries from 2003 through 2012.
    The regulations do not designate the remainder of the non-specified 
reserve by species or species group. Any amount of the reserve may be 
apportioned to a target species that contributed to the non-specified 
reserve, provided that such apportionments do not result in overfishing 
(see Sec.  679.20(b)(1)(i)).

Allocations of Pollock TAC Under the American Fisheries Act (AFA)

    Section 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A) requires that the pollock TAC 
apportioned to the Bering Sea subarea, after subtracting 10 percent for 
the CDQ program and 3 percent for the ICA, be allocated as a DFA as 
follows: 50 percent to the inshore sector, 40 percent to the catcher/
processor sector, and 10 percent to the mothership sector. In the 
Bering Sea subarea, 40 percent of the DFA is allocated to the A season 
(January 20 to June 10) and 60 percent of the DFA is allocated to the B 
season (June 10 to November 1) (Sec.  679.20(a)(5)(i)(B)). The AI 
directed pollock fishery allocation to the Aleut Corporation is the 
amount of pollock remaining in the AI subarea after subtracting 1,900 
mt for the CDQ DFA (10 percent) and 1,600 mt for the ICA (Sec.  
679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(2)(ii)). In the AI subarea, 40 percent of the ABC 
is allocated to the A season and the remainder of the directed pollock 
fishery is allocated to the B season. Table 2 lists these proposed 2013 
and 2014 amounts.
    Section 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(4) also includes several specific 
requirements regarding Bering Sea subarea pollock allocations. First, 
8.5 percent of the pollock allocated to the catcher/processor sector 
will be available for harvest by AFA catcher vessels with catcher/
processor sector endorsements, unless the Regional Administrator 
receives a cooperative contract that provides for the distribution of 
harvest among AFA catcher/processors and AFA catcher vessels in a 
manner agreed to by all members. Second, AFA catcher/processors not 
listed in the AFA are limited to harvesting not more than 0.5 percent 
of the pollock allocated to the catcher/processor sector. Table 2 lists 
the proposed 2013 and 2014 allocations of pollock TAC. Tables 13 
through 16 list the AFA catcher/processor and catcher vessel harvesting 
sideboard limits. In past years, the proposed harvest specifications 
included text and tables describing pollock allocations to the Bering 
Sea subarea inshore pollock cooperatives and open access sector. These 
allocations are based on the submission of AFA inshore cooperative 
applications due to NMFS on December 1 of each calendar year. Because 
AFA inshore cooperative applications for 2013 have not been submitted 
to NMFS, thereby preventing NMFS from calculating 2013 allocations, 
NMFS has not included inshore cooperative text and tables in these 
proposed harvest specifications. NMFS will post 2013 AFA inshore 
cooperative allocations on the Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov when they become available in December 2012.
    Table 2 also lists proposed seasonal apportionments of pollock and 
harvest limits within the Steller Sea Lion Conservation Area (SCA). The 
harvest of pollock within the SCA, as defined at Sec.  
679.22(a)(7)(vii), is limited to 28 percent of the DFA until noon, 
April 1, as provided in Sec.  679.20(a)(5)(i)(C). The remaining 12 
percent of the 40 percent annual DFA allocated to the A season may be 
taken outside the SCA before noon, April 1, or inside the SCA after 
noon, April 1. The A season pollock SCA harvest limit will be 
apportioned to each sector in proportion to each sector's allocated 
percentage of the DFA. Table 2 lists these proposed 2013 and 2014 
amounts by sector.
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Allocation of the Atka Mackerel TACs

    Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii) allocates the Atka mackerel TACs to the 
Amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access sectors, after subtracting 
the CDQ reserves, jig gear allocation, and ICAs for the BSAI trawl 
limited access sector and non-trawl gear (Table 3). The allocation of 
the ITAC for Atka mackerel to the Amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited 
access sectors is established in Table 33 to part 679 and in Sec.  
679.91. Pursuant to Sec.  679.20(a)(8)(i), up to 2 percent of the 
Eastern Aleutian District and Bering Sea subarea Atka mackerel ITAC may 
be allocated to jig gear. The amount of this allocation is determined 
annually by the Council based on several criteria, including the 
anticipated harvest capacity of the jig gear fleet. The Council 
recommended and NMFS proposes a 0.5 percent allocation of the Atka 
mackerel ITAC in the Eastern Aleutian District and Bering Sea subarea 
to jig gear in 2013 and 2014. This percentage is applied after 
subtracting the CDQ reserve and the ICA. Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(C)(3) 
limits the annual TAC for Area 542 to no more than 47 percent of the 
Area 542 ABC. Section 679.7(a)(19) prohibits retention of Atka mackerel 
in Area 543, and the proposed amount is set to account for discards in 
other fisheries.
    Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(A) apportions the Atka mackerel TAC 
(including the CDQ reserve) into two equal seasonal allowances. Section 
679.23(e)(3) sets the first seasonal allowance for directed fishing 
with trawl gear from January 20 to June 10 (A season), and the second 
seasonal allowance from June 10 to November 1 (B season). Section 
679.23(e)(4)(iii) applies Atka mackerel seasons to CDQ Atka mackerel 
fishing. The jig gear allocation is not apportioned by season.
    Sections 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(C)(1)(i) and (ii) require the Amendment 
80 cooperatives and CDQ groups to limit harvest to 10 percent of their 
Central Aleutian District Atka mackerel allocation equally divided 
between the A and B seasons within waters 10 nm to 20 nm of Gramp Rock 
and Tag Island, as described on Table 12 to part 679. Vessels not 
fishing under the authority of an Amendment 80 cooperative quota or CDQ 
allocation are prohibited from conducting directed fishing for Atka 
mackerel inside Steller sea lion critical habitat in the Central 
Aleutian District.
    Two Amendment 80 cooperatives have formed for the 2013 fishing 
year. Because all Amendment 80 vessels are part of a cooperative, no 
allocation to the Amendment 80 limited access sector is required. NMFS 
will post 2013 Amendment 80 cooperative allocations on the Alaska 
Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov prior to the start 
of the fishing year on January 1, 2013, based on the harvest 
specifications effective on that date.
    Table 3 lists these 2013 and 2014 Atka mackerel season and area 
allowances, as well as the sector allocations. The 2014 allocations for 
Amendment 80 species between Amendment 80 cooperatives and the 
Amendment 80 limited access sector will not be known until eligible 
participants apply for participation in the program by November 1, 
2013. NMFS will post 2014 Amendment 80 cooperatives and Amendment 80 
limited access allocations on the Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov when they become available in December 2013.
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Allocation of the Pacific Cod TAC

    Sections 679.20(a)(7)(i) and (ii) allocate the Pacific cod TAC in 
the BSAI, after subtracting 10.7 percent for the CDQ program, as 
follows: 1.4 percent to vessels using jig gear, 2.0 percent to hook-
and-line and pot catcher vessels less than 60 ft (18.3 m) length 
overall (LOA), 0.2 percent to hook-and-line catcher vessels greater 
than or equal to 60 ft (18.3 m) LOA, 48.7 percent to hook-and-line 
catcher/processors, 8.4 percent to pot catcher vessels greater than or 
equal to 60 ft (18.3 m) LOA, 1.5 percent to pot catcher/processors, 2.3 
percent to AFA trawl catcher/processors, 13.4 percent to non-AFA trawl 
catcher/processors, and 22.1 percent to trawl catcher vessels. The ICA 
for the hook-and-line and pot sectors will be deducted from the 
aggregate portion of Pacific cod TAC allocated to the hook-and-line and 
pot sectors. For 2013 and 2014, the Regional Administrator proposes an 
ICA of 500 mt, based on anticipated incidental catch in these 
fisheries.
    The allocation of the ITAC for Pacific cod to the Amendment 80 
sector is established in Table 33 to part 679 and Sec.  679.91. Two 
Amendment 80 cooperatives have formed for the 2013 fishing year. 
Because all Amendment 80 vessels are part of a cooperative, no 
allocation to the Amendment 80 limited access sector is required. NMFS 
will post 2013 Amendment 80 cooperative allocations on the Alaska 
Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov prior to the start 
of the fishing year on January 1, 2013, based on the harvest 
specifications effective on that date.
    The 2014 allocations for Amendment 80 species between Amendment 80 
cooperatives and the Amendment 80 limited access sector will not be 
known until eligible participants apply for participation in the 
program by November 1, 2013. NMFS will post 2014 Amendment 80 
cooperatives and Amendment 80 limited access allocations on the Alaska 
Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov when they become 
available in December 2013.
    The Pacific cod ITAC is apportioned into seasonal allowances to 
disperse the Pacific cod fisheries over the fishing year (see 
Sec. Sec.  679.20(a)(7) and 679.23(e)(5)). In accordance with Sec.  
679.20(a)(7)(iv)(B) and (C), any unused portion of a seasonal Pacific 
cod allowance will become available at the beginning of the next 
seasonal allowance.
    The CDQ and non-CDQ season allowances by gear based on the proposed 
2013 and 2014 Pacific cod TACs are listed in Table 4 based on the 
sector allocation percentages of Pacific cod set forth at Sec. Sec.  
679.20(a)(7)(i)(B) and 679.20(a)(7)(iv)(A); and the seasonal allowances 
of Pacific cod set forth at Sec.  679.23(e)(5).
    Section 679.7(a)(19) prohibits retaining Pacific cod in Area 543 
and Sec.  679.7(a)(23) prohibits directed fishing for Pacific cod with 
hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear in the AI subarea November 1 through 
December 31.

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Sablefish Gear Allocation

    Sections 679.20(a)(4)(iii) and (iv) require that for the Bering Sea 
and AI subareas, a portion of the TACs be allocated to trawl gear and 
another portion to hook-and-line or pot gear. Gear allocations of the 
TACs for the Bering Sea subarea are 50 percent for trawl gear and 50 
percent for hook-and-line or pot gear. Gear allocations for the AI 
subarea are 25 percent for trawl gear and 75 percent for hook-and-line 
or pot gear. Section 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(B) requires apportioning 20 
percent of the hook-and-line and pot gear allocation of sablefish from 
the nonspecified reserves to the CDQ reserve. Additionally, Sec.  
679.20(b)(1)(ii)(D) requires that 7.5 percent of the trawl gear 
allocation of sablefish from the nonspecified reserves, established 
under Sec.  679.20(b)(1)(i), be assigned to the CDQ reserve. The 
Council recommended that only trawl sablefish TAC be established 
biennially. The harvest specifications for the hook-and-line gear and 
pot gear sablefish Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) fisheries will be 
limited to the 2013 fishing year to ensure those fisheries are 
conducted concurrently with the halibut IFQ fishery. Concurrent 
sablefish and halibut IFQ fisheries would reduce the potential for 
discards of halibut and sablefish in those fisheries. The sablefish IFQ 
fisheries would remain closed at the beginning of each fishing year 
until the final harvest specifications for the sablefish IFQ fisheries 
are in effect. Table 5 lists the proposed 2013 and 2014 gear 
allocations of the sablefish TAC and CDQ reserve amounts.
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Allocation of the Aleutian Islands Pacific Ocean Perch, and BSAI 
Flathead Sole, Rock Sole, and Yellowfin Sole TACs

    Sections 679.20(a)(10)(i) and (ii) require that NMFS allocate AI 
Pacific ocean perch, and BSAI flathead sole, rock sole, and yellowfin 
sole TACs between the Amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access 
sectors, after subtraction of 10.7 percent for the CDQ reserve and an 
ICA for the BSAI trawl limited access sector and vessels using non-
trawl gear. The allocation of the ITAC for AI Pacific ocean perch, and 
BSAI flathead sole, rock sole, and yellowfin sole to the Amendment 80 
sector is established in Tables 33 and 34 to part 679 and in Sec.  
679.91.
    Two Amendment 80 cooperatives have formed for the 2013 fishing 
year. Because all Amendment 80 vessels are part of a cooperative, no 
allocation to the Amendment 80 limited access sector is required. NMFS 
will post 2013 Amendment 80 cooperative allocations on the Alaska 
Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov prior to the start 
of the fishing year on January 1, 2013, based on the harvest 
specifications effective on that date.
    The 2014 allocations for Amendment 80 species between Amendment 80 
cooperatives and the Amendment 80 limited access sector will not be 
known until eligible participants apply for participation in the 
program by November 1, 2013. NMFS will post 2014 Amendment 80 
cooperatives and Amendment 80 limited access allocations on the Alaska 
Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov when they become 
available in December 2013.
    Table 6 lists the proposed 2013 and 2014 allocations and seasonal 
apportionments of the AI Pacific ocean perch, and BSAI flathead sole, 
rock sole, and yellowfin sole TACs.

[[Page 72803]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP06DE12.006

Allocation of PSC Limits for Halibut, Salmon, Crab, and Herring

    Section 679.21(e) sets forth the BSAI PSC limits. Pursuant to Sec.  
679.21(e)(1)(iv) and (e)(2), the 2013 and 2014 BSAI halibut mortality 
limits are 3,675 mt for trawl fisheries and 900 mt for the non-trawl 
fisheries. Sections 679.21(e)(3)(i)(A)(2) and (e)(4)(i)(A) allocate 326 
mt of the trawl halibut mortality limit and 7.5 percent, or 67 mt, of 
the non-trawl halibut mortality limit as the PSQ reserve for use by the 
groundfish CDQ program.
    Section 679.21(e)(4)(i) authorizes the apportionment of the non-
trawl halibut PSC limit into PSC bycatch allowances among six fishery 
categories. Table 9 lists the fishery bycatch allowances for the trawl 
fisheries, and Table 10 lists the fishery bycatch allowances for the 
non-trawl fisheries.
    Pursuant to section 3.6 of the BSAI FMP, the Council recommends, 
and NMFS agrees, that certain specified non-trawl fisheries be exempt 
from the halibut PSC limit. As in past years after consultation with 
the Council, NMFS exempts pot gear, jig gear, and the sablefish IFQ 
hook-and-line gear fishery categories from halibut bycatch restrictions 
for the following reasons: (1) The pot gear fisheries have low halibut 
bycatch mortality; (2) NMFS estimates halibut mortality for the jig 
gear fleet to be negligible because of the small size of the fishery 
and the selectivity of the gear; and (3) the sablefish and halibut IFQ 
fisheries have low halibut bycatch mortality because the IFQ program 
requires legal-size halibut to be retained by vessels using hook-and-
line gear if a halibut IFQ permit holder or a hired master is aboard 
and is holding unused halibut IFQ (subpart D of 50 CFR part 679). In 
2012, total groundfish catch for the pot gear fishery in the BSAI was 
30,430 mt, with an associated halibut bycatch mortality of 5 mt.
    The 2012 jig gear fishery harvested about 108 mt of groundfish. 
Most vessels in the jig gear fleet are less than 60 ft (18.3 m) LOA and 
thus are exempt from observer coverage requirements. As a result, 
observer data are not available on halibut bycatch in the jig gear 
fishery. However, as mentioned above, NMFS estimates a negligible 
amount of halibut bycatch mortality because of the selective nature of 
jig gear and the low mortality rate of halibut caught with jig gear and 
released.
    Section 679.21(f)(2), annually allocates portions of either 47,591 
or 60,000 Chinook salmon PSC among the AFA sectors depending upon past 
catch performance and upon whether or not Chinook salmon bycatch 
incentive plan agreements are formed. If an AFA sector participates in 
an approved Chinook salmon bycatch incentive plan agreement, then NMFS 
will allocate a portion of the 60,000 PSC limit to that sector as 
specified in Sec.  679.21(f)(3)(iii)(A). If no Chinook salmon bycatch 
incentive plan agreement is approved, or if the sector has exceeded its 
performance standard under Sec.  679.21(f)(6), NMFS will allocate a 
portion of the 47,591 Chinook salmon PSC limit to that sector as 
specified in Sec.  679.21(f)(3)(iii)(B). In 2013, the Chinook salmon 
PSC limit is 60,000, and the AFA sector Chinook salmon allocations are 
seasonally allocated with 70 percent of the allocation for the A season 
pollock fishery, and 30 percent of the allocation for the B season 
pollock fishery as stated in Sec.  679.21(f)(3)(iii)(A). The basis for 
these PSC limits is described in detail in the final rule implementing 
management measures for Amendment 91 (75 FR 53026, August 30, 2010). 
NMFS publishes the approved Chinook salmon bycatch incentive plan 
agreements, allocations and reports at: http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/sustainablefisheries/bycatch/default.htm.
    Section 679.21(e)(1)(viii) specifies 700 fish as the 2013 and 2014 
Chinook salmon PSC limit for the AI subarea pollock fishery. Section 
679.21(e)(3)(i)(A)(3)(i) allocates 7.5 percent, or 53 Chinook salmon, 
as the AI subarea PSQ for the CDQ program and allocates the remaining 
647 Chinook salmon to the non-CDQ fisheries.
    Section 679.21(e)(1)(vii) specifies 42,000 fish as the 2013 and 
2014 non-

[[Page 72804]]

Chinook salmon PSC limit in the Catcher Vessel Operational Area (CVOA). 
Section 679.21(e)(3)(i)(A)(3)(ii) allocates 10.7 percent, or 4,494, 
non-Chinook salmon in the CVOA as the PSQ for the CDQ program, and 
allocates the remaining 37,506 non-Chinook salmon to the non-CDQ 
fisheries.
    PSC limits for crab and herring are specified annually based on 
abundance and spawning biomass. Due to the lack of new information as 
of October 2012 regarding Zone 1 red king crab and BSAI herring PSC 
limits and apportionments, the Council recommended and NMFS proposes 
using the crab and herring 2013 and 2014 PSC limits and apportionments 
based on the 2011 survey data for the proposed 2013 and 2014 limits and 
apportionments. The Council will reconsider these amounts in December 
2012. Pursuant to Sec.  679.21(e)(3)(i)(A)(1), 10.7 percent of each PSC 
limit specified for crab is allocated as a PSQ reserve for use by the 
groundfish CDQ program.
    Based on 2011 survey data, the red king crab mature female 
abundance is estimated at 27.6 million red king crabs, and the 
effective spawning biomass is estimated at 43.1 million lb (19,550 mt). 
Based on the criteria set out at Sec.  679.21(e)(1)(i), the proposed 
2013 and 2014 PSC limit of red king crab in Zone 1 for trawl gear is 
97,000 animals. This limit derives from the mature female abundance 
estimate of more than 8.4 million red king crab and the effective 
spawning biomass estimate of more than 55 million lbs (24,948 mt).
    Section 679.21(e)(3)(ii)(B)(2) establishes criteria under which 
NMFS must specify an annual red king crab bycatch limit for the Red 
King Crab Savings Subarea (RKCSS). The regulations limit the RKCSS to 
up to 25 percent of the red king crab PSC allowance. NMFS proposes the 
Council's recommendation that the red king crab bycatch limit be equal 
to 25 percent of the red king crab PSC allowance within the RKCSS 
(Table 8). Based on 2011 survey data, Tanner crab (Chionoecetes bairdi) 
abundance is estimated at 670 million animals. Pursuant to criteria set 
out at Sec.  679.21(e)(1)(ii), the calculated 2013 and 2014 C. bairdi 
crab PSC limit for trawl gear is 980,000 animals in Zone 1 and 
2,970,000 animals in Zone 2. These limits derive from the C. bairdi 
crab abundance estimate being in excess of 400 million animals for both 
the Zone 1 and Zone 2 allocations. Pursuant to Sec.  679.21(e)(1)(iii), 
the PSC limit for snow crab (C. opilio) is based on total abundance as 
indicated by the NMFS annual bottom trawl survey. The C. opilio crab 
PSC limit is set at 0.1133 percent of the Bering Sea abundance index 
minus 150,000 crabs. Based on the 2011 survey estimate of 6.337 billion 
animals, the calculated limit is 7,029,520 animals.
    Pursuant to Sec.  679.21(e)(1)(v), the PSC limit of Pacific herring 
caught while conducting any trawl operation for BSAI groundfish is 1 
percent of the annual eastern Bering Sea herring biomass. The best 
estimate of 2013 and 2014 herring biomass is 209,419 mt. This amount 
was derived using 2011 survey data and an age-structured biomass 
projection model developed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. 
Therefore, the herring PSC limit proposed for 2013 and 2014 is 2,094 mt 
for all trawl gear as presented in Tables 7 and 8.
    Section 679.21(e)(3)(i)(A) requires PSQ reserves to be subtracted 
from the total trawl PSC limits. The amount of the 2013 PSC limits 
assigned to the Amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access sectors are 
specified in Table 35 to part 679. The resulting allocation of PSC to 
CDQ PSQ, the Amendment 80 sector, and the BSAI trawl limited access 
sector are listed in Table 7. Pursuant to Sec.  679.21(e)(1)(iv) and 
Sec.  679.91(d) through (f), crab and halibut trawl PSC assigned to the 
Amendment 80 sector is then further allocated to Amendment 80 
cooperatives as PSC cooperative quota as presented in Table 11. Two 
Amendment 80 cooperatives have formed for the 2013 fishing year. 
Because all Amendment 80 vessels are part of a cooperative, no 
allocation to the Amendment 80 limited access sector is required. NMFS 
will post 2013 Amendment 80 cooperative allocations on the Alaska 
Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov prior to the start 
of the fishing year on January 1, 2013, based on the harvest 
specifications effective on that date.
    The 2014 allocations for Amendment 80 species between Amendment 80 
cooperatives and the Amendment 80 limited access sector will not be 
known until eligible participants apply for participation in the 
program by November 1, 2013. NMFS will post 2014 Amendment 80 
cooperatives and Amendment 80 limited access allocations on the Alaska 
Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov when they become 
available in December 2013.
    Section 679.21(e)(5) authorizes NMFS, after consulting with the 
Council, to establish seasonal apportionments of PSC amounts for the 
BSAI trawl limited access and Amendment 80 limited access sectors in 
order to maximize the ability of the fleet to harvest the available 
groundfish TAC and to minimize bycatch. The factors considered are (1) 
Seasonal distribution of prohibited species, (2) seasonal distribution 
of target groundfish species, (3) PSC bycatch needs on a seasonal basis 
relevant to prohibited species biomass, (4) expected variations in 
bycatch rates throughout the year, (5) expected start of fishing 
effort, and (6) economic effects of seasonal PSC apportionments on 
industry sectors.
    NMFS proposes the Council's recommendation of the seasonal PSC 
apportionments in Table 9 to maximize harvest among gear types, 
fisheries, and seasons while minimizing bycatch of PSC based on the 
above criteria.

[[Page 72805]]

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[[Page 72806]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP06DE12.008

Halibut Discard Mortality Rates (DMRs)

    To monitor halibut bycatch mortality allowances and apportionments, 
the Regional Administrator uses observed halibut bycatch rates, DMRs, 
and estimates of groundfish catch to project when a fishery's halibut 
bycatch mortality allowance or seasonal apportionment is reached. The 
DMRs are based on the best information available, including information 
contained in the annual SAFE report.
    NMFS proposes the halibut DMRs developed and recommended by the 
International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) and the Council for the 
2013 and 2014 BSAI groundfish fisheries for use in monitoring the 2013

[[Page 72807]]

and 2014 halibut bycatch allowances (see Tables 7, 9, 10, and 11). The 
IPHC developed these DMRs for the 2013 to 2015 BSAI fisheries using the 
10-year mean DMRs for those fisheries. The IPHC will analyze observer 
data annually and recommend changes to the DMRs when a fishery DMR 
shows large variation from the mean. A discussion of the DMRs and their 
justification is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). Table 12 
lists the 2013 and 2014 DMRs.
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Listed AFA Catcher/Processor Sideboard Limits

    Pursuant to Sec.  679.64(a), the Regional Administrator is 
responsible for restricting the ability of listed AFA catcher/
processors to engage in directed fishing for groundfish species other 
than pollock to protect participants in other groundfish fisheries from 
adverse effects resulting from the AFA and from fishery cooperatives in 
the directed pollock fishery. The basis for these proposed sideboard 
limits is described in detail in the final rules implementing the major 
provisions of the AFA (67 FR 79692, December 30, 2002) and Amendment 80 
(72 FR 52668, September 14, 2007). Table 13 lists the proposed 2013 and 
2014 catcher/processor sideboard limits.
    All harvests of groundfish sideboard species by listed AFA catcher/
processors, whether as targeted catch or incidental catch, will be 
deducted from the sideboard limits in Table 13. However, groundfish 
sideboard species that are delivered to listed AFA catcher/processors 
by catcher vessels will not be deducted from the 2013 and 2014 
sideboard limits for the listed AFA catcher/processors.

[[Page 72808]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP06DE12.010

    Section 679.64(a)(2) and Tables 40 and 41 to part 679 establish a 
formula for calculating PSC sideboard limits for listed AFA catcher/
processors. The basis for these sideboard limits is described in detail 
in the final rules implementing the major provisions of the AFA (67 FR 
79692, December 30, 2002) and Amendment 80 (72 FR 52668, September 14, 
2007).
    PSC species listed in Table 14 that are caught by listed AFA 
catcher/processors participating in any groundfish fishery other than 
pollock will accrue against the proposed 2013 and 2014 PSC sideboard 
limits for the listed AFA catcher/processors. Section 679.21(e)(3)(v) 
authorizes NMFS to close directed fishing for groundfish other than 
pollock for listed AFA catcher/processors once a proposed 2013 or 2014 
PSC sideboard limit listed in Table 14 is reached.
    Crab or halibut PSC caught by listed AFA catcher/processors while 
fishing for pollock will accrue against the bycatch allowances annually 
specified for either the midwater pollock or the pollock/Atka mackerel/
''other species'' fishery categories, according to regulations at Sec.  
679.21(e)(3)(iv).

[[Page 72809]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP06DE12.011

AFA Catcher Vessel Sideboard Limits

    Pursuant to Sec.  679.64(b), the Regional Administrator is 
responsible for restricting the ability of AFA catcher vessels to 
engage in directed fishing for groundfish species other than pollock to 
protect participants in other groundfish fisheries from adverse effects 
resulting from the AFA and from fishery cooperatives in the directed 
pollock fishery. Section 679.64(b) establishes formulas for setting AFA 
catcher vessel groundfish and PSC sideboard limits for the BSAI. The 
basis for these sideboard limits is described in detail in the final 
rules implementing the major provisions of the AFA (67 FR 79692, 
December 30, 2002) and Amendment 80 (72 FR 52668, September 14, 2007). 
Tables 15 and 16 list the proposed 2013 and 2014 AFA catcher vessel 
sideboard limits.
    All catch of groundfish sideboard species made by non-exempt AFA 
catcher vessels, whether as targeted catch or as incidental catch, will 
be deducted from the 2013 and 2014 sideboard limits listed in Table 15.

[[Page 72810]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP06DE12.012


[[Page 72811]]


    Halibut and crab PSC limits listed in Table 16 that are caught by 
AFA catcher vessels participating in any groundfish fishery other than 
pollock will accrue against the 2013 and 2014 PSC sideboard limits for 
the AFA catcher vessels. Sections 679.21(d)(8) and 679.21(e)(3)(v) 
authorize NMFS to close directed fishing for groundfish other than 
pollock for AFA catcher vessels once a proposed 2013 and 2014 PSC 
sideboard limit listed in Table 16 is reached. The PSC that is caught 
by AFA catcher vessels while fishing for pollock in the Bering Sea 
subarea will accrue against the bycatch allowances annually specified 
for either the midwater pollock or the pollock/Atka mackerel/``other 
species'' fishery categories under regulations at Sec.  
679.21(e)(3)(iv).
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP06DE12.013

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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 an EIS for this action (see ADDRESSES) 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 EIS. Copies 
of the EIS and ROD for this action are available from NMFS. The EIS 
analyzes the environmental consequences of the proposed groundfish 
harvest specifications and its alternatives on resources in the action 
area. The EIS found no significant environmental consequences from the 
proposed action or its alternatives.
    NMFS prepared an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) as 
required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act analyzing the 
methodology for establishing the relevant TACs. The IRFA evaluates the 
impacts on small entities of alternative harvest strategies for the 
groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic zone off Alaska. As set 
forth in the methodology, TACs are set to a level that fall within the 
range of ABCs recommended by the SSC; the sum of the TACs must achieve 
OY specified in the FMP. While the specific numbers that the 
methodology may produce vary from year to year, the methodology itself 
remains constant.
    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. A copy of the 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 BSAI. The preferred alternative is the existing harvest strategy 
in which TACs fall within the range of ABCs recommended by the SSC. 
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 216 
small catcher vessels, six small catcher/processors, and six CDQ 
groups. The entities directly regulated by this action are those that 
harvest groundfish in the exclusive economic zone of the BSAI and in 
parallel fisheries within State of Alaska waters. These include 
entities operating catcher vessels and catcher/processors 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 (see Table 2 of the IRFA).
    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 BSAI 
OY, in which case TACs would have been limited to

[[Page 72812]]

the OY. Alternative 3 would have set TACs to produce fishing rates 
equal to the most recent five-year average fishing rates. Alternative 4 
would have set TACs equal to the lower limit of the BSAI OY range. 
Alternative 5, the ``no action'' alternative, would have set TACs equal 
to zero.
    The TACs associated with the preferred harvest strategy are those 
adopted by the Council in October 2012, as per Alternative 2. OFLs and 
ABCs for the species were based on recommendations prepared by the 
Council's BSAI Plan Team in September 2012, and reviewed and modified 
by the Council's SSC in October 2012. The Council based its TAC 
recommendations on those of its AP, which were consistent with the 
SSC's OFL and ABC recommendations.
    Alternative 1 selects harvest rates that will allow fishermen to 
harvest stocks at the level of ABCs, unless total harvests were 
constrained by the upper bound of the BSAI OY of two million mt. As 
shown in Table 1 of the preamble, the sum of ABCs in 2013 and 2014 
would be about 2,639,792 mt, which falls above the upper bound of the 
OY range. The sum of TACs is equal to the sum of ABCs. In this 
instance, Alternative 1 is consistent with the preferred alternative 2, 
meets the objectives of that action, and has small entity impacts that 
are equivalent to the preferred alternative.
    Alternative 3 selects harvest rates based on the most recent 5 
years of harvest rates (for species in Tiers 1 through 3) or for the 
most recent 5 years of harvests (for species in Tiers 4 through 6). 
This alternative is inconsistent with the objectives of this action, 
(the Council's preferred harvest strategy) because it does not take 
account of the most recent biological information for this fishery.
    Alternative 4 would lead to significantly lower harvests of all 
species to reduce TACs from the upper end of the OY range in the BSAI, 
to its lower end of 1.4 million mt. Overall, this would reduce 2013 
TACs by about 30 percent, which would lead to significant reductions in 
harvests of species harvested by small entities. While reductions of 
this size would be associated with offsetting price increases, the size 
of these increases is very uncertain. There are close substitutes for 
BSAI groundfish species available from the GOA. While production 
declines in the BSAI would undoubtedly be associated with significant 
price increases in the BSAI, these increases would still be constrained 
by production of substitutes, and are very unlikely to offset revenue 
declines from smaller production. Thus, this alternative action would 
have a detrimental impact on small entities.
    Alternative 5, which sets all harvests equal to zero, would have a 
significant adverse impact on small entities and would be contrary to 
obligations to achieve OY on a continuing basis, as mandated by the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act.
    In 2011, there were 216 individual catcher vessels with gross 
revenues less than or equal to $4 million. Many of these vessels are 
members of AFA inshore pollock cooperatives, GOA rockfish cooperatives, 
or crab rationalization cooperatives, and, since under the RFA it is 
the aggregate gross receipts of all participating members of the 
cooperative that must meet the ``under $4 million'' threshold, they are 
considered to be large entities within the meaning of the RFA. After 
accounting for membership in these cooperatives, NMFS estimates that 
there are an estimated 112 small catcher vessel entities remaining in 
the BSAI groundfish sector. These 112 vessels had average gross 
revenues of about $1.3 million, and median gross revenues of about $1.2 
million. The 25th percentile of gross revenues was about $556,000, and 
the 75th percentile was about $1.97 million.
    In 2011, 12 catcher/processors grossed less than $4 million. In 
2011, six vessels in this group were affiliated through membership in 
three cooperatives (the Amendment 80 ``Alaska Seafood Cooperative,'' 
the Freezer Longline Conservation Cooperative, or the crab 
rationalization Intercooperative Exchange). After taking account of 
these affiliations, NMFS estimates that there are six small catcher/
processor entities. These six entities had mean gross revenues of about 
$2.0 million and median gross revenues of about $1.8 million, in 2011.
    The proposed harvest specifications extend the current 2013 OFLs, 
ABCs, and TACs, to 2013 and 2014. As noted in the IRFA, the Council may 
modify these OFLs, ABCs, and TACs in December 2012, when it reviews the 
November meeting report from its groundfish Plan Team, and the December 
Council meeting reports of its SSC and AP. Because most 2013 TACs in 
the proposed 2013 and 2014 harvest specifications are unchanged from 
the 2012 and 2013 harvest specification TACs, NMFS does not expect 
adverse impacts on small entities. Also, NMFS does not expect any 
changes made by the Council in December to be large enough to have an 
impact on small entities.
    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 these harvest specifications are discussed in the EIS 
(see ADDRESSES), and in the 2012 SIR (http://www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/analyses/specs/2012-13supplementaryinfoJan2012.pdf).

    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.; Pub. L. 105-277; Pub. L. 106-
31; Pub. L. 106-554; Pub. L. 108-199; Pub. L. 108-447; Pub. L. 109-
241; Pub. L. 109-479.

    Dated: December 3, 2012.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, performing the functions and 
duties of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-29508 Filed 12-5-12; 8:45 am]
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