[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 249 (Friday, December 28, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 76459-76472]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-31232]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XC370


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; North 
Pacific Groundfish and Halibut Observer Program Standard Ex-Vessel 
Prices

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

ACTION: Notification of standard ex-vessel prices.

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SUMMARY: NMFS publishes standard ex-vessel prices for groundfish and 
halibut for the calculation of the observer fee under the North Pacific 
Groundfish and Halibut Observer Program (Observer Program). This notice 
is intended to provide information to vessel owners, processors, and 
registered buyers about the standard ex-vessel prices that will be used 
to calculate the observer fee liability for landings of groundfish and 
halibut made in 2013. NMFS will send invoices to processors and 
registered buyers subject to the fee by January 15, 2014. Fees are due 
to NMFS on or before February 15, 2014.

DATES: Effective December 28, 2012.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For general questions about the 
observer fee and standard ex-vessel prices, contact the Sustainable 
Fisheries Division at 907-586-7228. For questions about the fee billing 
process, contact Troie Zuniga, Fee Coordinator, 907-586-7105.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The Observer Program deploys NMFS-certified observers (observers) 
who obtain information necessary for the conservation and management of 
the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and Gulf of Alaska (GOA) 
groundfish and halibut fisheries. Fishery managers use information 
collected by observers to monitor quotas, manage groundfish and 
prohibited species catch, and document and reduce fishery interactions 
with protected resources. Scientists use observer-collected information 
for stock assessments and marine ecosystem research.
    In 2012, NMFS restructured the Observer Program under Amendment 86 
to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and 
Aleutian Islands Management Area and Amendment 76 to the Fishery 
Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (Amendments 86/
76). The final rule implementing Amendments 86/76 added a new funding 
and deployment system for observer coverage in the groundfish and 
halibut fisheries off Alaska that allows NMFS to determine when and 
where to deploy observers according to management and conservation 
needs. The final rule was published in the Federal Register on November 
21, 2012 (77 FR 70062). Regulations implementing the Observer Program 
are set forth at 50 CFR part 679, subpart E.
    Restructuring divided the Observer Program into two observer 
coverage categories--partial and full. All groundfish and halibut 
vessels and processors are included in one of these two categories. The 
partial observer coverage category includes vessels and processors that 
are not required to have an observer at all times; the full observer 
coverage category includes vessels and processors required to have all 
of their operations observed. Vessels and processors in the full 
coverage category will arrange and pay for observer services from a 
permitted observer provider. Observer coverage for the partial coverage 
category will be funded through a system of fees based on the ex-vessel 
value of groundfish and halibut in fisheries covered by the new 
program. The proposed rule for Amendments 86/76 (77 FR 23326; April 18, 
2012) provides a detailed explanation of the vessels and processors in 
the partial coverage category, the landings subject to the observer 
fee, and the process for calculating standard ex-vessel prices. This 
notice summarizes that information.

[[Page 76460]]

Landings Subject to Observer Coverage Fee

    The objective of the observer fee assessment is to levy a fee on 
all landings accruing against a Federal total allowable catch (TAC) for 
groundfish or a commercial halibut quota made by vessels that are 
subject to Federal regulations and not included in the full coverage 
category. Therefore, a fee will only be assessed on landings of 
groundfish from vessels designated on a Federal Fisheries Permit (FFP) 
or from vessels landing individual fishing quota (IFQ) or community 
development quota (CDQ) halibut or IFQ sablefish. Within the subset of 
vessels subject to the observer fee, only landings accruing against the 
Federal TAC will be included in the fee assessment. A table with 
additional information about which landings are and are not subject to 
the observer fee is posted on the Alaska Region's Web site at http://www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/sustainablefisheries/observers/.

Fee Determination

    A fee equal to 1.25 percent of the ex-vessel value will be assessed 
on the landings of groundfish and halibut subject to the fee. Ex-vessel 
value is determined by multiplying the standard price for groundfish by 
the round weight equivalent for each species, gear, and port 
combination, and the standard price for halibut by the headed and 
gutted weight equivalent. NMFS will assess each landing report 
submitted via eLandings and each manual landing entered into the IFQ 
landing database and determine if the landing is subject to the 
observer fee and, if it is, which groundfish in the landing is subject 
to the observer fee. All IFQ or CDQ halibut in a landing subject to the 
observer fee will be assessed as part of the fee liability. For any 
groundfish or halibut subject to the observer fee, NMFS will apply the 
appropriate standard ex-vessel prices for the species, gear type, and 
port, and calculate the observer fee liability associated with the 
landing.
    Processors and registered buyers access the landing-specific, 
observer fee liability information through Processor Web (https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/webapps/processorWeb/) or eLandings (https://elandings.alaska.gov/). For IFQ halibut, CDQ halibut, and IFQ 
sablefish, this information will be available as soon as the IFQ report 
is submitted. For groundfish and sablefish that accrues against the 
fixed gear sablefish CDQ reserve, the observer fee liability 
information will generally be available within 24 hours of receipt of 
the report. The time lag on the groundfish and sablefish CDQ fee 
information is necessary because NMFS must process the landings report 
through the catch accounting system computer programs to determine if 
all of the groundfish in the landings is subject to the observer fee. 
Information about which groundfish in a landing accrues against a 
Federal TAC is not immediately available from the processor's data 
entry into eLandings.
    The intent of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and NMFS 
is for vessel owners to split the fee liability 50/50 with the 
processor or registered buyer. While vessels and processors are 
responsible for their portion of the fee, the owner of a shoreside 
processor or a stationary floating processor and the registered buyer 
are responsible for collecting the fee, including the vessel's portion 
of the fee, and remitting the full fee liability to NMFS.
    NMFS will send invoices to processors and registered buyers for 
their total fee liability, which is determined by the sum of the fees 
reported for each landing for that processor or registered buyer for 
the prior calendar year, by January 15, 2014. Processors and registered 
buyers must remit the fees to NMFS using Processor Web by February 15, 
2014. Processors and registered buyers will have access to this system 
through a User ID and password issued by NMFS. Instructions for 
electronic payment will be provided on the NMFS Alaska Region Web site 
at https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov and on the observer fee liability 
invoice to be mailed to each permit holder.

Standard Prices

    This notice provides the standard ex-vessel prices for groundfish 
and halibut species subject to the observer fee in 2013. Data sources 
for ex-vessel prices are:
     For groundfish other than sablefish IFQ and sablefish 
accruing against the fixed gear sablefish CDQ reserve, the State of 
Alaska's Commercial Fishery Entry Commission's (CFEC) gross revenue 
data, which are based on the Commercial Operator Annual Report and 
Alaska Department of Fish and Game fish tickets; and
     For halibut IFQ, halibut CDQ, sablefish IFQ, and sablefish 
accruing against the fixed gear sablefish CDQ reserve, the IFQ Buyer 
Report that is submitted annually to NMFS under Sec.  679.5(l)(7)(i).
    The standard prices in this notice were calculated using applicable 
guidance for protecting confidentiality of data submitted to or 
collected by NMFS. NMFS does not publish any price information that 
would permit the identification of an individual or business. At least 
four persons must make landings of a species with a particular gear 
type at a particular port in order for NMFS to publish that price data 
for that species-gear-port combination. Similarly, at least four 
processors in a particular port must purchase a species harvested with 
a particular gear type in order for NMFS to publish a price for that 
species-gear-port combination. Price data that is confidential because 
fewer than four persons contributed data to a particular species-gear-
port combination has been aggregated to protect confidential data.

Groundfish Standard Ex-Vessel Prices

    Table 1 shows the groundfish species standard ex-vessel prices for 
2013. These prices are based on the CFEC gross revenue data, which are 
based on landings data from Alaska Department of Fish and Game fish 
tickets and information from the Commercial Operator's Annual Report 
(COAR). The COAR contains statewide buying and production information. 
The COAR is considered the best routinely collected information to 
determine the ex-vessel value of groundfish harvested from waters off 
Alaska. More information about the sources of data and methods used to 
calculate standard ex-vessel prices for groundfish is in the proposed 
and final rules for Amendments 86/76 and on the NMFS Alaska Region's 
Web site at http://www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/sustainablefisheries/observers/.
    The standard ex-vessel prices for groundfish were calculated by 
adding the annual volume (weight) and ex-vessel value from the CFEC 
gross revenue files for 2009, 2010, and 2011 by the species, port, and 
gear category, and then dividing total ex-vessel value over the 3-year 
period in each category by total volume in each category. This 
calculation results in a weighted average ex-vessel price by species, 
port, and gear category. Three gear categories were used for the 
standard ex-vessel prices: pelagic trawl gear, non-pelagic trawl gear, 
and other gear (hook-and-line, pot, and jig).
    CFEC ex-vessel value data are available in the fall of the year 
following the year the fishing occurred. Thus, it is not possible to 
base ex-vessel fee liabilities on standard prices that are less than 2 
years old. More information about the reasons for using a 3-year 
rolling average standard ex-vessel price based on the CFEC gross 
earnings data is contained in the proposed rule for Amendments 86/76 
(77 FR 23326; April 18, 2012).

[[Page 76461]]

    If a particular species is not listed in Table 1, the standard ex-
vessel price for a species group, if it exists in the management area, 
will be used. If price data for a particular species remained 
confidential once aggregated to the ALL level, data is aggregated by 
species group (GOA Deep-water Flatfish; GOA Shallow-water Flatfish; GOA 
Skate, Other; and Other Rockfish). Standard prices for the species 
groups are shown at the bottom of Table 2.
    If a port-level price does not meet the confidentiality 
requirements, the data are aggregated by port-group. Port-group data is 
first aggregated by regulatory area in the GOA (Eastern GOA, Central 
GOA, and Western GOA) and by subarea in the BSAI (BS subarea and AI 
subarea). Port-group data for Southeast Alaska (SEAK) and the Eastern 
GOA--with the exception of Cordova, Whittier, and Yakutat in the SEAK--
also are presented separately when price data is available. If 
confidentiality requirements are still not met by aggregating prices 
across ports at these levels, the prices are aggregated at the level of 
BSAI or GOA, then statewide (AK) and ports outside of Alaska (OTAK), 
and finally all ports including those outside of Alaska (``ALL'').
    Standard prices are presented separately for non-pelagic trawl and 
pelagic trawl when non-confidential data is available. NMFS also 
calculated prices for a ``Pelagic Trawl/Non-pelagic Trawl Combined'' 
when combining trawl price data for landings of a species in a 
particular port or port group will not violate confidentiality 
requirements. Creating this standard price category allows NMFS to 
assess a fee on 2013 landings of some of the species with pelagic trawl 
gear based on a combined trawl gear price for the port or port group.
    If no standard ex-vessel price is listed for the species or species 
group and gear category combination, no fee will be assessed on that 
landing. Volume and value data for that species will be added to the 
standard ex-vessel prices in future years, if that data becomes 
available and display of a standard ex-vessel price meets 
confidentiality requirements.
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P

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Halibut and Sablefish IFQ and CDQ Standard Ex-vessel Prices

    Table 3 shows the observer fee standard ex-vessel prices for 
halibut and sablefish. These standard prices are calculated as a single 
annual average price, by port or port group. Volume and ex-vessel value 
data collected on the IFQ Buyer Report for 2012 landings was used to 
calculate the standard ex-vessel prices used to calculate the 2013 
observer fee liability for halibut IFQ, halibut CDQ, sablefish IFQ, and 
sablefish landings that accrue against the fixed gear sablefish CDQ 
reserve.

    Table 3--Standard Ex-vessel Prices for Halibut IFQ, Halibut CDQ,
 Sablefish IFQ, and Sablefish Accruing Against the Fixed Gear Sablefish
CDQ Reserve for the 2013 Observer Fee Liability (based on 2012 IFQ Buyer
                                Report).
------------------------------------------------------------------------
               Species                       Port/Area\1\       Price\2\
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Halibut (200)........................  Ketchikan..............     $6.58
                                       Petersburg.............     $6.43
                                       SEAK...................      6.02
                                       Cordova................      6.22
                                       EGOAxSE................      6.02
                                       Homer..................      6.11
                                       KEN....................      6.32
                                       Kodiak.................      5.98
                                       CGOA...................      6.02
                                       WGOA...................      6.02
                                       AI.....................      6.02
                                       Dutch Harbor/Unalaska..      5.52
                                       BS.....................      6.02
                                       AK.....................      6.02
                                       OTAK...................      6.02
                                       ALL....................      6.02
Sablefish (710)......................  Petersburg.............      5.13
                                       SEAK...................      4.26
                                       Cordova................      4.10
                                       EGOAxSE................      4.26
                                       WGOA...................      4.26
                                       Homer..................      6.14
                                       Kodiak.................      4.00
                                       CGOA...................      4.26
                                       AI.....................      4.26
                                       Dutch Harbor/Unalaska..      3.56
                                       BS.....................      4.26
                                       AK.....................      4.26
                                       OTAK...................      4.26
                                       ALL....................      4.26
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Regulatory areas are defined at Sec.   679.2. (AI = Aleutian Islands
  subarea; AK = Alaska; ALL = all ports including those outside Alaska;
  BS = Bering Sea subarea; CGOA = Central Gulf of Alaska; EGOAxSE =
  Eastern Gulf of Alaska except Southeast Alaska; OTAK = Outside Alaska;
  SEAK = Southeast Alaska; WGOA = Western Gulf of Alaska)
\2\ If a price is listed for the species and port combination, that
  price will be applied to the round weight equivalent for sablefish
  landings and the headed and gutted weight equivalent for halibut
  landings. If no price is listed for the port, use port group.


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

    Dated: December 21, 2012.
Emily H. Menashes,
Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-31232 Filed 12-27-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P