[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 28 (Monday, February 11, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 9660-9665]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-02978]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 300

[Docket No. 130123063-3063-01]
RIN 0648-BC75


Pacific Halibut Fisheries; Catch Sharing Plan

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

ACTION: Proposed rule.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: NMFS proposes to approve and implement changes to the Pacific 
Halibut Catch Sharing Plan (Plan) for the International Pacific Halibut 
Commission's (IPHC or Commission) regulatory area off Washington, 
Oregon, and California (Area 2A). NMFS proposes to implement the 
portions of the Plan and management measures that are not implemented 
through the IPHC. These measures include the sport fishery allocations 
and management measures for Area 2A. These actions are intended to 
enhance the conservation of Pacific halibut, provide greater angler 
opportunity where available, and protect overfished groundfish species 
from being incidentally caught in the halibut fisheries.

DATES: Comments on the proposed changes to the Plan and on the proposed 
domestic Area 2A halibut management measures must be received on 
February 26, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2013-0015, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0015, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to William Stelle, Regional 
Administrator, Northwest Region, NMFS, 7600 Sand Point Way NE., 
Seattle, WA 98115-0070.
     Fax: 206-526-6736; Attn: Sarah Williams.
    Instructions: 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 by NMFS. 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, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. 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, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah Williams, phone: 206-526-4646, 
fax: 206-526-6736, or email: sarah.williams@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Electronic Access

    This rule is accessible via the Internet at the Office of the 
Federal Register Web site at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/aces/aces140.html. Background information and documents are available at the 
NMFS Northwest Region Web site at http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/Groundfish-Halibut/Groundfish-Fishery-Management/index.cfm and at the Council's 
Web site at http://www.pcouncil.org.

Background

    The Northern Pacific Halibut Act (Halibut Act) of 1982, 16 U.S.C. 
773-773K, gives the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) general 
responsibility for implementing the provisions of the Halibut 
Convention between the United States and Canada (Halibut Convention) 
(16 U.S.C. 773c). It requires the Secretary to adopt regulations as may 
be necessary to carry out the purposes and objectives of the Halibut 
Convention and the Halibut Act. Section 773c of the Halibut Act also 
authorizes the regional fishery management councils to develop 
regulations in addition to, but not in conflict with, regulations of 
the IPHC to govern the Pacific halibut catch in their corresponding 
U.S. Convention waters. Each year between 1988 and 1995, the Pacific 
Fishery Management Council (Council) developed a catch sharing plan in 
accordance with the Halibut Act to allocate the total allowable catch 
(TAC) of Pacific halibut between treaty Indian and non-treaty 
harvesters and among non-treaty commercial and sport fisheries in Area 
2A.
    In 1995, NMFS implemented the long-term Plan recommended by the 
Pacific Council (60 FR 14651, March 20, 1995, as amended by 61 FR 
35548). In each of the intervening years between 1995 and the present, 
minor revisions to the Plan have been made to adjust for the changing 
needs of the fisheries, in accordance with 50 CFR 300.62. These 
revisions are not codified. The Plan allocates 35 percent of the Area 
2A Pacific halibut TAC to Washington treaty Indian tribes in Subarea 
2A-1, and 65 percent of the Area 2A TAC to non-tribal fisheries.
    The TAC allocation to non-tribal fisheries is divided into three 
shares, with the Washington sport fishery (north of the Columbia River) 
receiving 36.6 percent, the Oregon/California sport fishery receiving 
31.7 percent, and the commercial fishery receiving 31.7 percent. The 
commercial fishery is further divided into a directed commercial 
fishery that is allocated 85 percent of the commercial allocation of 
Pacific halibut TAC, and an incidental catch in the salmon troll 
fishery that is allocated 15 percent of the commercial allocation. The 
directed commercial fishery in Area 2A is confined to southern 
Washington (south of 46[deg]53.30' N. lat.), Oregon, and California. 
North of 46[deg]53.30' N. lat. (Pt. Chehalis), the Plan allows for 
incidental halibut retention in the sablefish primary fishery when the 
overall Area 2A TAC is above 900,000 lb (408.2 mt). The Plan also 
divides the sport fisheries into six geographic subareas, each with 
separate allocations, seasons, and bag limits.
    This proposed rule describes catch limit information presented at 
the

[[Page 9661]]

IPHC's annual meeting which occurred January 21-25, 2013, in Victoria, 
BC. The IPHC has set the 2013 Area 2A TAC at 990,000 pounds.

Incidental Halibut Retention in the Sablefish Primary Fishery North of 
Pt. Chehalis, WA

    The Plan provides that incidental halibut retention in the 
sablefish primary fishery north of Pt. Chehalis, Washington, will be 
allowed when the Area 2A TAC is greater than 900,000 lb (408.2 mt), 
provided that a minimum of 10,000 lb (4.5 mt) is available above a 
Washington recreational TAC of 214,100 lb (97.1 mt). In 2013, the TAC 
is 990,000 lb (449 mt); therefore incidental halibut retention will be 
allowed in this fishery. The Council will recommend landing 
restrictions for public review at its March 2013 meeting and make final 
recommendations at its April 2013 meeting. Following this meeting NMFS 
will publish the restrictions in the Federal Register.
    Through this proposed rule, NMFS requests public comments on the 
Pacific Council's recommended modifications to the Plan and the 
resulting proposed domestic fishing regulations by February 26, 2013. 
The States of Washington and Oregon will conduct public workshops 
shortly to obtain input on the sport season dates. Following the 
proposed rule comment period NMFS will review public comments and 
comments from the states, and issue a final rule for Areas 2A, 2C, 3A, 
3B, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, and 4E. This final rule will also contain the IPHC 
regulations for the 2013 Pacific halibut fisheries. This proposed rule 
provides for a 15-day public comment period, which will allow NMFS time 
to incorporate the final U.S. domestic regulations into the IPHC 
regulations in order to have the combined regulations in place as close 
to March 1 as possible. The regulations need to be in effect in early 
March because the fishing season begins in mid-March. The 2013 
commercial season starting date(s) need to be published soon after the 
IPHC meeting in January 2013 to notify the public of that date so the 
industry can plan for the season.
    Publishing the IPHC regulations in the same Federal Register notice 
with the final domestic regulations for Washington, Oregon, and 
California is in the best interest of the public because it results in 
the occurrence of all the halibut regulations in one Federal Register 
notice. Therefore fishery participants only have to reference one 
document for all Pacific halibut regulations applicable to the Area 2A 
fishery; both the IPHC regulations and domestic regulations. Combining 
these regulations also eliminates errors that may occur from trying to 
separate the halibut regulations into two different rules.

Proposed Changes to the Plan

    Each year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), 
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), California Department of 
Fish and Game (CDFG), and the tribes with treaty fishing rights for 
halibut consider whether changes to the Plan are needed or desired by 
their fishery participants. In 2012, fishery managers from WDFW and 
ODFW held public meetings before both the September and November 
Pacific Council meetings to get public input on revisions to the Plan. 
At the September 2012 Pacific Council meeting, WDFW, ODFW, and CDFG 
recommended changes to the Plan, while NMFS and the tribes did not 
recommend any changes to the Plan for the 2013 fishing season. 
Following the meeting, WDFW and ODFW again reviewed their proposals 
with the public and drafted their recommended revisions for review and 
recommendation by the Pacific Council.
    At its November 2-7, 2012, meeting the Pacific Council considered 
the results of state-sponsored workshops on the proposed changes to the 
Plan, and made its final recommendations for modifications to the Plan. 
The following are the Council's proposed changes to the Plan:
    1. In the Plan, sections (e)(1) and (e)(1)(iii), incidental halibut 
catch in the salmon troll fishery, adjust the months for the incidental 
take fishery from May-June to April-June. The goal of this change is to 
allow salmon fishers access to the incidental halibut allocation 
earlier in the year.
    2. In the Plan, section (f)(1)(iv) Columbia River subarea, adjust 
the spring season schedule from Thursday-Saturdays to Fridays-Sundays 
and replace the automatic regulatory closure for the spring fishery 
with a closure that would occur upon reaching 80 percent of the subarea 
allocation. The goal of the days of the week change is to allow better 
access to the spring fishery and to make the spring and summer season 
open days consistent. The goal of removing the regulatory closure is to 
allow the spring fishery to stay open longer in the spring, when effort 
is generally higher. The summer season has often underutilized the 
allocation, therefore allowing the spring fishery to stay open longer 
is designed to better utilize the allocation for the whole subarea. 
Since 2008 the summer fishery has harvested less than 20 percent of the 
subarea quota even though the allocation was 30 percent, leaving a 
portion of the allocation unharvested that could be harvested in the 
spring since the summer fishery occurs after the spring fishery.
    3. In the Plan, section (f)(1)(v), Oregon Central Coast subarea, 
several changes are proposed. This subarea consists of three fisheries, 
nearshore, spring and, summer. Changes are proposed to all three 
fisheries. The goal is to better align the allocations for the 
nearshore and spring fisheries with recent increasing effort. The 
proposed modifications to each fishery's allocation changes the 
allocations from fixed percentages to percentages that depend on the 2A 
TAC. This change is proposed to maximize the number of days the entire 
subarea can be open. The effort in the nearshore fishery has increased 
in recent years, requiring the fishery to close early. Eliminating the 
summer fishery and increasing the nearshore and spring allocations will 
allow more fishing days overall. The elimination of the summer fishery 
when the Area 2A TAC is below 700,000 lbs is necessary because if the 
TAC is at that level, the resulting summer fishery allocation is not 
enough to allow one day of fishing.
    a. For the nearshore fishery, adjust the open days from daily to 3 
days per week Thursday -Saturday and adjust the allocation to this 
fishery from 12 percent of the subarea quota to 12 percent of the 
subarea quota if the 2A TAC is above 700,000 lbs or greater and 25 
percent of the subarea quota if the 2A TAC is less than 700,000 lbs.
    b. For the spring fishery, adjust the allocation from 63 percent of 
the subarea allocation to 63 percent of the subarea quota if the 2A TAC 
is above 700,000 lbs or greater and 75 percent of the subarea quota if 
the 2A TAC is less than 700,000 lbs. Also, adjust the closure date for 
this fishery if the TAC is less than 700,000 lbs from July 31st to 
October 31st or attainment of the fishery allocation.
    c. For the summer fishery, adjust the allocation from 25 percent of 
the subarea allocation to 25 percent of the subarea quota if the 2A TAC 
is above 700,000 lbs or greater and 0 percent of the subarea quota if 
the 2A TAC is less than 700,000 lbs. This closes the summer fishery if 
the TAC is less than 700,000 lbs.
    NMFS proposes to approve the Pacific Council recommendations and to 
implement the changes described above. A version of the Plan including 
these changes can be found at http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/Groundfish-Halibut/Pacific-Halibut/Index.cfm.

[[Page 9662]]

Proposed 2013 Sport Fishery Management Measures

    In this rulemaking, NMFS also proposes sport fishery management 
measures that are necessary to implement the Plan in 2013. The annual 
domestic management measures are published each year through a final 
rule in combination with the IPHC regulations, as discussed above. For 
the 2012 fishing season the final rule was published on March 22, 2012 
(77 FR 16740), and the following section numbers refer to sections 
within that final rule. The final 2013 TAC for Area 2A has been 
determined by the IPHC in the amount of 990,000 lbsWhere season dates 
are not indicated, those dates will be provided in the final rule, 
following consideration of the 2013 TAC and consultation with the 
states and the public.
    In Section 8 of the annual domestic management measures, ``Fishing 
Periods,'' paragraphs (2) and (3) are proposed to read as follows and 
paragraph (6) is added to read as follows:
    (1) * * *
    (2) Each fishing period in the Area 2A directed fishery shall begin 
at 0800 hours and terminate at 1800 hours local time on (insert season 
dates) unless the Commission specifies otherwise.
    (3) Notwithstanding paragraph (2), and paragraph (7) of section 11, 
an incidental catch fishery is authorized during salmon troll seasons 
in Area 2A in accordance with regulations promulgated by NMFS. This 
fishery will occur between 1200 hours local time on (insert date) and 
1200 hours local time on (insert season date).
    (4) * * *
    (5) * * *
    (6) Notwithstanding paragraph (7) of section 11, an incidental 
catch fishery is authorized during the sablefish primary fishery in 
Area 2A in accordance with regulations promulgated by NMFS.
    In section 26 of the annual domestic management measures, ``Sport 
Fishing for Halibut,'' paragraph 1(a)-(b) will be updated with 2012 
total allowable catch limits in the final rule. In section 26 of the 
annual domestic management measures, ``Sport Fishing for Halibut'' 
paragraph (8) is proposed to read as follows:
    (8) * * *
    (a) The area in Puget Sound and the U.S. waters in the Strait of 
Juan de Fuca, east of a line extending from 48[deg]17.30' N. lat., 
124[deg]23.70' W. long. north to 48[deg]24.10' N. lat., 124[deg]23.70' 
W. long., is not managed in-season relative to its quota. This area is 
managed by setting a season that is projected to result in a catch of 
57,393 lbs (26 mt).
    (i) The fishing season in eastern Puget Sound (east of 
123[deg]49.50' W. long., Low Point) is (insert season dates), and the 
fishing season in western Puget Sound (west of 123[deg]49.50' W. long., 
Low Point) is (insert season dates), 5 days a week (Thursday through 
Monday).
    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person.
    (b) The quota for landings into ports in the area off the north 
Washington coast, west of the line described in paragraph (2)(a) of 
section 26 and north of the Queets River (47[deg]31.70' N. lat.), is 
(See Table 1 for range).
    (i) The fishing seasons are:
    (A) Commencing on May 9 and continuing 2 days a week (Thursday and 
Saturday) until 108,030 lbs (49 mt) are estimated to have been taken 
and the season is closed by the Commission or until May 25.
    (B) If sufficient quota remains the fishery will reopen on June 6 
in the entire north coast subarea, continuing 2 days per week (Thursday 
and Saturday) until there is not sufficient quota for another full day 
of fishing and the area is closed by the Commission. When there is 
insufficient quota remaining to reopen the entire north coast subarea 
for another day, then the nearshore areas described below will reopen 
for 2 days per week (Thursday and Saturday), until the overall quota of 
108,030 lbs (49 mt) is estimated to have been taken and the area is 
closed by the Commission, or until September 30, whichever is earlier. 
After May 25, any fishery opening will be announced on the NMFS hotline 
at 800-662-9825. No halibut fishing will be allowed after May 25 unless 
the date is announced on the NMFS hotline. The nearshore areas for 
Washington's North Coast fishery are defined as follows:
    (1) WDFW Marine Catch Area 4B, which is all waters west of the 
Sekiu River mouth, as defined by a line extending from 48[deg]17.30' N. 
lat., 124[deg]23.70' W. long. north to 48[deg]24.10' N. lat., 
124[deg]23.70' W. long., to the Bonilla-Tatoosh line, as defined by a 
line connecting the light on Tatoosh Island, WA, with the light on 
Bonilla Point on Vancouver Island, British Columbia (at 48[deg]35.73' 
N. lat., 124[deg]43.00' W. long.) south of the International Boundary 
between the U.S. and Canada (at 48[deg]29.62' N. lat., 124[deg]43.55' 
W. long.), and north of the point where that line intersects with the 
boundary of the U.S. territorial sea.
    (2) Shoreward of the recreational halibut 30-fm boundary line, a 
modified line approximating the 30-fm depth contour from the Bonilla-
Tatoosh line south to the Queets River. The 30-fm depth contour is 
defined in groundfish regulations at 50 CFR 660.71(e).
    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person.
    (iii) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is prohibited 
within the North Coast Recreational Yelloweye Rockfish Conservation 
Area (YRCA). It is unlawful for recreational fishing vessels to take 
and retain, possess, or land halibut taken with recreational gear 
within the North Coast Recreational YRCA. A vessel fishing in the North 
Coast Recreational YRCA may not be in possession of any halibut. 
Recreational vessels may transit through the North Coast Recreational 
YRCA with or without halibut on board. The North Coast Recreational 
YRCA is a C-shaped area off the northern Washington coast intended to 
protect yelloweye rockfish. The North Coast Recreational YRCA is 
defined in groundfish regulations at Sec.  660.70(a).
    (c) The quota for landings into ports in the area between the 
Queets River, WA (47[deg]31.70' N. lat.) and Leadbetter Point, WA 
(46[deg]38.17' N. lat.), is 42,739 lbs (19.3 mt).
    (i) This subarea is divided between the all-waters fishery (the 
Washington South coast primary fishery), and the incidental nearshore 
fishery in the area from 47[deg]31.70' N. lat. south to 46[deg]58.00' 
N. lat. and east of a boundary line approximating the 30 fm depth 
contour. This area is defined by straight lines connecting all of the 
following points in the order stated as described by the following 
coordinates (the Washington South coast, northern nearshore area):
    (1) 47[deg]31.70' N. lat, 124[deg]37.03' W. long;
    (2) 47[deg]25.67' N. lat, 124[deg]34.79' W. long;
    (3) 47[deg]12.82' N. lat, 124[deg]29.12' W. long;
    (4) 46[deg]58.00' N. lat, 124[deg]24.24' W. long.
    The south coast subarea quota will be allocated as follows: 40,739 
lbs (18.4 mt) for the primary fishery and 2,000 lb (0.9 mt) for the 
nearshore fishery. The primary fishery commences on May 5 and continues 
2 days a week (Sunday and Tuesday) until May 21. If the primary quota 
is projected to be obtained sooner than expected the management closure 
may occur earlier. Beginning on June 2 the primary fishery will be open 
2 days per week (Sunday and/or Tuesday) until the quota for the south 
coast subarea primary fishery is taken and the season is closed by the 
Commission, or until September 30, whichever is earlier. The fishing 
season in the nearshore area commences on May 5 and continues seven 
days per week. Subsequent to closure of the

[[Page 9663]]

primary fishery the nearshore fishery is open seven days per week, 
until 42,739 lbs (19.3 mt) is projected to be taken by the two 
fisheries combined and the fishery is closed by the Commission or 
September 30, whichever is earlier. If the fishery is closed prior to 
September 30, and there is insufficient quota remaining to reopen the 
northern nearshore area for another fishing day, then any remaining 
quota may be transferred in-season to another Washington coastal 
subarea by NMFS via an update to the recreational halibut hotline.
    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person.
    (iii) Seaward of the boundary line approximating the 30-fm depth 
contour and during days open to the primary fishery, lingcod may be 
taken, retained and possessed when allowed by groundfish regulations at 
50 CFR 660.360, Subpart G.
    (iv) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is prohibited 
within the South Coast Recreational YRCA and Westport Offshore YRCA. It 
is unlawful for recreational fishing vessels to take and retain, 
possess, or land halibut taken with recreational gear within the South 
Coast Recreational YRCA and Westport Offshore YRCA. A vessel fishing in 
the South Coast Recreational YRCA and/or Westport Offshore YRCA may not 
be in possession of any halibut. Recreational vessels may transit 
through the South Coast Recreational YRCA and Westport Offshore YRCA 
with or without halibut on board. The South Coast Recreational YRCA and 
Westport Offshore YRCA are areas off the southern Washington coast 
established to protect yelloweye rockfish. The South Coast Recreational 
YRCA is defined at 50 CFR 660.70(d). The Westport Offshore YRCA is 
defined at 50 CFR 660.70(e).
    (d) The quota for landings into ports in the area between 
Leadbetter Point, WA (46[deg]38.17' N. lat.) and Cape Falcon, OR 
(45[deg]46.00' N. lat.), is 11,895 lbs (5.39 mt).
    (i) The fishing season commences on May 3, and continues 3 days a 
week (Friday through Sunday) until 9,516 lbs (4.3 mt) are estimated to 
have been taken and the season is closed by the Commission or until 
11,895 lbs (5.39 mt) has been taken and the season is closed by the 
Commission, or until September 30, whichever is earlier. Subsequent to 
this closure, if there is insufficient quota remaining in the Columbia 
River subarea for another fishing day, then any remaining quota may be 
transferred in-season to another Washington and/or Oregon subarea by 
NMFS via an update to the recreational halibut hotline. Any remaining 
quota would be transferred to each state in proportion to its 
contribution.
    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person.
    (iii) Pacific Coast groundfish may not be taken and retained, 
possessed or landed, except sablefish and Pacific cod when allowed by 
Pacific Coast groundfish regulations, when halibut are on board the 
vessel.
    (e) The quota for landings into ports in the area off Oregon 
between Cape Falcon (45[deg]46.00' N. lat.) and Humbug Mountain 
(42[deg]40.50' N. lat.), is 191,979 lbs (87.8 mt).
    (i) The fishing seasons are:
    (A) The first season (the ``inside 40-fm'' fishery) commences May 2 
and continues 3 days a week (Thursday through Saturday) through October 
31, in the area shoreward of a boundary line approximating the 40-fm 
(73-m) depth contour, or until the sub-quota for the central Oregon 
``inside 40-fm'' fishery 23,038 lbs (10.4 mt) or any in-season revised 
subquota is estimated to have been taken and the season is closed by 
the Commission, whichever is earlier. The boundary line approximating 
the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour between 45[deg]46.00' N. lat. and 
42[deg]40.50' N. lat. is defined at Sec.  660.71(k).
    (B) The second season (spring season), which is for the ``all-
depth'' fishery, is open from May 9, 2013, to (insert dates). The 
projected catch for this season is 120,947 lbs (54.8 mt). If sufficient 
unharvested catch remains for additional fishing days, the season will 
re-open. Depending on the amount of unharvested catch available, the 
potential season re-opening dates will be: (insert dates no later than 
July 31). If NMFS decides in-season to allow fishing on any of these 
re-opening dates, notice of the re-opening will be announced on the 
NMFS hotline (206) 526-6667 or (800) 662-9825. No halibut fishing will 
be allowed on the re-opening dates unless the date is announced on the 
NMFS hotline.
    (C) If sufficient unharvested catch remains, the third season 
(summer season), which is for the ``all-depth'' fishery, will be open 
from August 2, 2013 to (insert dates) or until the combined spring 
season and summer season quotas in the area between Cape Falcon and 
Humbug Mountain, OR, totaling 191,979 lbs (87.8 mt), are estimated to 
have been taken and the area is closed by the Commission, or October 
31, whichever is earlier. NMFS will announce on the NMFS hotline in 
July whether the fishery will re-open for the summer season in August. 
No halibut fishing will be allowed in the summer season fishery unless 
the dates are announced on the NMFS hotline. Additional fishing days 
may be opened if sufficient quota remains after the last day of the 
first scheduled open period (insert date following establishment of 
season dates). If, after this date, an amount greater than or equal to 
60,000 lb (27.2 mt) remains in the combined all-depth and inside 40-fm 
(73-m) quota, the fishery may re-open every Friday and Saturday, 
beginning (insert dates of next possible open period as established 
preseason), and ending October 31. If after September 2, an amount 
greater than or equal to 30,000 lb (13.6 mt) remains in the combined 
all-depth and inside 40-fm (73-m) quota, and the fishery is not already 
open every Friday and Saturday, the fishery may re-open every Friday 
and Saturday, beginning September 6 and 7, and ending October 31. After 
September 2, the bag limit may be increased to two fish of any size per 
person, per day. NMFS will announce on the NMFS hotline whether the 
summer all-depth fishery will be open on such additional fishing days, 
what days the fishery will be open and what the bag limit is.
    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person, unless otherwise specified. NMFS will announce on the NMFS 
hotline any bag limit changes.
    (iii) During days open to all-depth halibut fishing, no Pacific 
Coast groundfish may be taken and retained, possessed or landed, except 
sablefish and Pacific cod, when allowed by Pacific Coast groundfish 
regulations, if halibut are on board the vessel.
    (iv) When the all-depth halibut fishery is closed and halibut 
fishing is permitted only shoreward of a boundary line approximating 
the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour, halibut possession and retention by 
vessels operating seaward of a boundary line approximating the 40-fm 
(73-m) depth contour is prohibited.
    (v) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is prohibited 
within the Stonewall Bank YRCA. It is unlawful for recreational fishing 
vessels to take and retain, possess, or land halibut taken with 
recreational gear within the Stonewall Bank YRCA. A vessel fishing in 
the Stonewall Bank YRCA may not possess any halibut. Recreational 
vessels may transit through the Stonewall Bank YRCA with or without 
halibut on board. The Stonewall Bank YRCA is an area off central 
Oregon, near Stonewall Bank, intended to protect yelloweye rockfish. 
The Stonewall Bank YRCA is defined at Sec.  660.70(f).
    (f) The area south of Humbug Mountain, Oregon (42[deg]40.50' N. 
lat.) and off the California coast is not managed

[[Page 9664]]

in-season relative to its quota. This area is managed on a season that 
is projected to result in a catch of 6,063 lbs (2.75 mt).
    (i) The fishing season will commence on May 1 and continue 7 days a 
week until October 31.
    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person.

Classification

    Regulations governing the U.S. fisheries for Pacific halibut are 
developed by the IPHC, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the 
North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), and the Secretary 
of Commerce. Section 5 of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 
(Halibut Act, 16 U.S.C. 773c) provides the Secretary of Commerce with 
the general responsibility to carry out the Convention between Canada 
and the United States for the management of Pacific halibut, including 
the authority to adopt regulations as may be necessary to carry out the 
purposes and objectives of the Convention and Halibut Act. This 
proposed rule is consistent with the Secretary of Commerce's authority 
under the Halibut Act.
    This action has been determined to be not significant for purposes 
of Executive Order 12866.
    NMFS has prepared an RIR/IRFA on the proposed changes to the Plan 
and the annual domestic Area 2A halibut management measures. Copies of 
these documents are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). NMFS prepared 
an IRFA that describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if 
adopted, would have on small entities. A description of the action, why 
it is being considered, and the legal basis for this action are 
contained at the beginning of this section in the preamble and in the 
SUMMARY section of the preamble. The IRFA is available from NMFS (see 
ADDRESSES). A summary of the IRFA follows:
    A fish-harvesting business is considered a ``small'' business by 
the Small Business Administration (SBA) if it has annual receipts not 
in excess of $4.0 million. For related fish-processing businesses, a 
small business is one that employs 500 or fewer persons. For wholesale 
businesses, a small business is one that employs not more than 100 
people. For marinas and charter/party boats, a small business is one 
with annual receipts not in excess of $6.5 million. All of the 
businesses that would be affected by this action are considered small 
businesses under Small Business Administration guidance.
    In 2012, 604 vessels were issued IPHC licenses to retain halibut. 
IPHC issues licenses for: the directed commercial fishery in Area 2A 
(147 licenses in 2012); incidental halibut caught in the salmon troll 
fishery (316 licenses in 2012); and the charterboat fleet (141 licenses 
in 2012). No vessel may participate in more than one of these three 
fisheries per year. However, only 227 of the commercial licensed 
vessels landed halibut in 2012 according to PacFIN. A similar situation 
may occur for charterboat vessels. The number of charter boats in 
Northern California, Oregon, and Washington that were involved in 
groundfish trips including halibut during 2010 was 161. Of these, 89 
vessels fished in either the Columbia River or Central Oregon 
fisheries. This suggests that 60 percent of the IPHC charterboat 
license holders may be affected by these regulations.
    The IRFA analyzed the impacts of the changes to the Plan and 
regulations. The following are the Council's proposed changes to the 
Plan::
    1. In the Plan, sections (e)(1)and (e)(1)(iii), incidental halibut 
catch in the salmon troll fishery, adjust the months for the incidental 
take fishery from May-June to April-June. The goals of these changes 
are to allow salmon fishers access to the incidental halibut allocation 
earlier in the year.
    2. In the Plan, section (f)(1)(iv) Columbia River subarea, adjust 
the spring season schedule from Thursday-Saturdays to Fridays-Sundays 
and remove the automatic regulatory closure for the spring fishery. The 
goal of the days of the week change is to allow better access to the 
spring fishery and to make the spring and summer season open days 
consistent. The goal of removing the regulatory closure is to allow the 
spring fishery to stay open longer when effort is higher. The summer 
season has often underutilized the allocation, therefore allowing the 
spring fishery to stay open longer is designed to better utilize the 
allocation for the whole subarea. Since 2008 the summer fishery has 
harvested less than 20 percent of the subarea quota even though the 
allocation was 30 percent, leaving a portion of the allocation 
unharvested that could be harvested in the spring since the summer 
fishery occurs after the spring fishery.
    3. In the Plan, section (f)(1)(v), Oregon Central Coast subarea, 
several changes are proposed. This subarea consists of three fisheries, 
nearshore, spring and, summer. Changes are proposed to all three 
fisheries. The goal is to better align the allocations for the 
nearshore and spring fisheries with recent increasing effort. The 
proposed changes to each fisheries allocation changes the allocations 
from fixed percentages to amounts based on the 2A TAC. This change is 
proposed to maximize the number of days the entire subarea can be open. 
The effort in the nearshore fishery has increased in recent years 
requiring the fishery to close early. Therefore eliminating the summer 
fishery and increasing the nearshore and spring allocations will allow 
more fishing days overall. The elimination of the summer fishery below 
700,000 lbs is necessary because if the 2A TAC is at that level the 
resulting summer fishery allocation is not enough to allow one day of 
fishing.
    a. For the nearshore fishery, adjust the open days from daily to 3 
days per week Thursday-Saturday and adjust the allocation to this 
fishery from 12 percent of the subarea quota to 12 percent of the 
subarea quota if the 2A TAC is above 700,000 lbs or greater and 25 
percent of the subarea quota if the 2A TAC is less than 700,000 lbs.
    b. For the spring fishery, adjust the allocation from 63 percent of 
the subarea allocation to 63 percent of the subarea quota if the 2A TAC 
is above 700,000 lbs or greater and 75 percent of the subarea quota if 
the 2A TAC is less than 700,000 lbs. Also, adjust the closure date for 
this fishery if the TAC is less than 700,000 lbs from July 31st to 
October 31st or attainment of the fishery allocation.
    c. For the summer fishery, adjust the allocation from 25 percent of 
the subarea allocation to 25 percent of the subarea quota if the 2A TAC 
is above 700,000 lbs or greater and 0 percent of the subarea quota if 
the 2A TAC is less than 700,000 lbs. This closes the summer fishery if 
the TAC is less than 700,000 lbs.
    As mentioned in the preamble, WDFW and ODFW held public meetings 
and crafted alternative changes to the Plan to adjust management of the 
sport halibut fisheries in their states to maximize angler 
participation given the TAC. The states then narrowed the alternatives 
under consideration and brought the resulting subset of alternatives to 
the Council at the Council's September and November 2012 meetings. The 
range of alternatives that were rejected includes alternate fishery 
structures, such as opening the sport fisheries on different days of 
the week than the final preferred alternative. Generally, by the time 
the alternatives reach the Council, because they have been through the 
state public review process, there is not a large number of 
alternatives. Rather, the range of alternatives has generally been 
reduced to the proposed action and the

[[Page 9665]]

status quo. However, the Council and the States still considered a 
range of alternatives that could have similarly improved angler 
enjoyment of participation in the fisheries while simultaneously 
protecting halibut and co-occurring groundfish species from 
overharvest. In 2010, 202 non-trawl vessels landed 1.6 million lbs of 
Pacific halibut and earned $6.5 million in ex-vessel revenues from 
prices that averaged just over $4.00 per pound. In 2011, the non-tribal 
commercial fleet (excluding trawlers), landed about 1.1 million lbs, 
earning $6.0 million in ex-vessel revenues, from prices that averaged 
$5.30 per pound. Preliminary data, complete through November of 2012, 
shows 234 vessels landing 1.0 million lbs, earning $5.0 million in ex-
vessel revenues, and an average price of $4.70 per pound. Total ex-
vessel revenues including tribal revenues were $7.8 million in 2010, 
$8.0 million in 2011, and through November 2012, $7.0 million.
    The Pacific Fishery Management Council analyzed 2006-2010 
recreational activity. (See discussion under 3.2.1.4 Recreational 
Fisheries-Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for Proposed 
Harvest Specifications and Management Measures for the 2013-2014 
Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery and Amendment 21-2 to the Pacific 
Coast Fishery Management Plan). The data that underlie the Council's 
analysis indicates that the years, the total number of directed charter 
and private halibut trips has ranged from 19,000 (2009) to 26,000 trips 
(2007 & 2008). (This data are trips are based on recreational activity 
from Northern California to the Canadian border.) Anglers also take 
halibut in conjunction with salmon and bottomfish recreational trips. 
Over the 2006-2010 period, the total number of directed and private 
recreational trips including directed halibut trips has ranged from 
216,000 trips (2008) to 354,000 trips (2009). Over these years, 
directed halibut trips had averaged about 8% of all trips, but have 
been as high as 12% in 2008 when there was a significant decline in 
salmon trips. In 2010, charterboat vessels undertook about 5500 
directed halibut trips. The highest charterboat rate found on the 
internet was $285 per angler trip. Using this rate suggests that 
charterboat halibut rate revenues were on the order of $1.6 million. 
This estimate does not include revenues associated with halibut caught 
in conjunction with salmon, bottomfish, or other recreational trips.
    The FEIS provides information to project amount of economic impact 
generated from halibut fisheries. Estimates of groundfish revenues and 
recreational trips can be related to personal income projections. Based 
these relationships, $8 million in halibut ex-vessel revenues and 
26,000 in recreational trips lead to an estimate of $14 million in 
personal income. Personal income is considered a key indicator of 
economic activity, and is used in economic analysis to evaluate 
distributional effects on local and regional economies associated with 
changes in regulations. Income impacts include the amount of employee 
salaries and benefits, business owner (proprietor) income, and 
property-related income (rents, dividends, interest, royalties, etc.) 
that result from commercial fishing and recreational expenditures. The 
proposed changes to the Plan and regulations do not include any 
reporting or recordkeeping requirements. These changes will not 
duplicate, overlap or conflict with other laws or regulations. These 
changes to the Plan and annual domestic Area 2A halibut management 
measures are not expected to meet any of the RFA tests of having a 
``significant'' economic impact on a ``substantial number'' of small 
entities because the changes will not affect overall allocations. They 
are designed to provide the best fishing opportunities within the 
overall TAC. The major effect of halibut management on small entities 
will be from the internationally set TAC decisions made by IPHC. Based 
on the recommendations of the states, the Council and NMFS propose 
minor changes to the Plan to provide increased recreational and 
commercial opportunities under the allocations that result from the 
TAC. There are no large entities involved in the halibut fisheries; 
therefore, none of these changes will have a disproportionate negative 
effect on small entities versus large entities. Based on the economic 
dimensions of the fishery, these minor proposed changes to the Plan are 
not expected to have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities. Nonetheless, NMFS has prepared an IRFA. 
Because the goal of the proposed action is to maximize angler 
participation, and thus to maximize the economic benefits of the 
fishery, and the action is not expected to have a significant economic 
impact, NMFS did not analyze alternatives other than the proposed 
changes and the status quo for purposes of the IRFA. Through this 
proposed rule, NMFS requests comments on this conclusion.
    Pursuant to Executive Order 13175, the Secretary recognizes the 
sovereign status and co-manager role of Indian tribes over shared 
Federal and tribal fishery resources. Section 302(b)(5) of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act establishes a 
seat on the Pacific Council for a representative of an Indian tribe 
with federally recognized fishing rights from California, Oregon, 
Washington, or Idaho.
    The U.S. Government formally recognizes that 13 Washington Tribes 
have treaty rights to fish for Pacific halibut. In general terms, the 
quantification of those rights is 50 percent of the harvestable surplus 
of Pacific halibut available in the tribes' usual and accustomed (U and 
A) fishing areas. Under the Plan, the tribal fishery is allocated a 
percentage of the Area 2A TAC. Tribal fishing areas for purposes of the 
halibut fishery are described at 50 CFR 300.64. Each of the treaty 
tribes has the discretion to administer their fisheries and to 
establish their own policies to achieve program objectives. 
Accordingly, tribal allocations and regulations, including the proposed 
changes to the Plan, have been developed in consultation with the 
affected tribe(s) and, insofar as possible, with tribal consensus.
    NMFS NWR initiated consultation on the halibut fishery under 
Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) following the listing of 
yelloweye, canary, and bocaccio rockfish of the Puget Sound/Georgia 
Basin. Area 2A partially overlaps with the Distinct Population Segments 
(DPSs) for listed rockfish. At this time the consultation is not 
completed. NMFS has prepared a 7(a)(2)/7(d) determination memo under 
the (ESA) finding that bycatch in the 2013 fishery is not likely to 
result in a significant impact on listed species, that direct effects 
of the fishery (e.g. direct takes) are not likely to jeopardize the 
continued existence of any listed species, and that in no way will the 
2013 fishery make an irreversible or irretrievable commitment of 
resources by the agency.

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.

    Dated: February 4, 2013.
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. 2013-02978 Filed 2-8-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P