[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 36 (Friday, February 22, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 12287-12289]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-04157]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Parts 300 and 679

RIN 0648-BB94


Amendment 94 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the 
Gulf of Alaska

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

ACTION: Notice of availability of a proposed fishery management plan 
amendment; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announces that 
the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) has submitted 
Amendment 94 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf 
of Alaska (GOA FMP) for review by the Secretary of Commerce 
(Secretary). Amendment 94 would revise the sablefish individual fishing 
quota program (IFQ Program) to align the annual harvest, or use caps 
that apply to vessels fishing IFQ leased from a community quota entity 
(CQE) with vessel use caps applicable to non-CQE participants in the 
IFQ Program. The proposed amendment would not change the sablefish 
vessel use cap applicable to the overall IFQ Program. Amendment 94 is 
necessary to increase the flexibility of the CQE and CQE community 
residents to participate in the IFQ Program. This action is intended to 
promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the GOA FMP, 
and other applicable laws.

DATES: Written comments on Amendment 94 must be received no later than 
5:00 p.m., Alaska local time (A.l.t.), on April 23, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by FDMS 
Docket Number NOAA-NMFS-2012-0040, 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-2012-0040, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     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.
    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 or Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
    Electronic copies of the Regulatory Impact Review (RIR) for 
Amendment 94 and the RIRs for the regulatory amendments are available 
from http://www.regulations.gov or from the NMFS Alaska Region Web site 
at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.
    Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other 
aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this 
rule may be submitted to NMFS at the above address or by email to 
OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov or fax to (202) 395-7285.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Peggy Murphy, 907-586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that each 
regional fishery management council submit any FMP or FMP amendment it 
prepares to the Secretary for review and approval, disapproval, or 
partial approval. The Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires the Secretary, 
upon receiving an FMP, to immediately publish a notice in the Federal 
Register that the FMP or amendment is available for public review and 
comment.
    Amendment 94 to the GOA FMP would revise the individual fishing 
quota program (IFQ Program) for sablefish fisheries. The IFQ program 
for the fixed-gear commercial fisheries for halibut and sablefish in 
waters in and off Alaska is a limited access privilege program 
implemented in 1995 (58 FR 59375, November 9, 1993). The IFQ Program 
limits access to the GOA halibut and sablefish fisheries to those 
persons holding quota share (QS) in specific management areas. The 
amount of halibut and sablefish that each QS holder may harvest is 
calculated annually and issued as IFQ in pounds.
    In 2002, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) 
recommended revisions to IFQ Program regulations and policy to 
explicitly allow a non-profit entity to hold QS on behalf of residents 
of specific rural communities located adjacent to the coast of the GOA. 
NMFS implemented the Council's recommendations as Amendment 66 to the 
GOA FMP in 2004 (69 FR 23681, April 30, 2004). Amendment 66 implemented 
the community quota entity program (CQE Program) to allow these 
specific communities to form non-profit corporations called CQEs to 
purchase catcher vessel QS under the IFQ Program. CQEs that purchase QS 
on behalf of an eligible community may lease the resulting annual IFQ 
to fishermen who are residents of the community. The CQE Program was 
developed to allow a distinct set of small, remote coastal communities 
to benefit from CQE purchase of QS through sustained community 
participation in the IFQ fisheries.
    The Council reviewed the IFQ Program and the CQE Program beginning 
in February 2010 and considered proposed changes to both programs. The 
Council adopted Amendment 94 on October 2, 2011.

[[Page 12288]]

Amendment 94 would amend the GOA FMP to make the vessel use caps 
applicable to vessels fishing sablefish IFQ derived from CQE-held 
sablefish QS similar to the use caps that apply to vessels fishing 
sablefish IFQ derived from individually-held QS. The current vessel use 
cap that applies to vessels fishing sablefish IFQ derived from CQE-held 
sablefish QS can be more restrictive than the vessel use caps that 
apply to vessels harvesting individually-held IFQ. Amendment 94 would 
provide community residents additional access to vessels to fish 
sablefish IFQ leased from CQEs and may promote more CQE participation 
in the IFQ Program.
    The existing FMP and IFQ CQE regulations provide that a vessel may 
not be used to harvest more than 50,000 pounds (22.7 mt) of sablefish 
IFQ from any sablefish QS source if the vessel is used to harvest IFQ 
derived from sablefish QS held by a CQE. As a result, community 
residents leasing sablefish IFQ from a CQE may use the IFQ only on 
vessels that harvest annually no more than 50,000 pounds of IFQ in 
total; sablefish IFQ derived from CQE-held QS plus sablefish IFQ 
derived from individually-held QS count towards the cap. The Council 
established these limitations in the original CQE Program to prevent 
consolidation of IFQ harvest on a small number of vessels and to 
broadly distribute the benefits from fishing activities among CQE 
community residents.
    Amendment 94 would revise the FMP to exclude sablefish IFQ derived 
from individually-held QS from the 50,000-pound vessel use cap. Only 
sablefish IFQ derived from CQE-held sablefish QS would be included in 
the vessel use cap. The effect of Amendment 94 would be that the 
following annual vessel use caps would apply to all vessels harvesting 
sablefish IFQ: no vessel could be used to harvest (1) more than 50,000 
pounds (22.7 mt) of sablefish IFQ leased from a CQE, and (2) more 
sablefish IFQ than the IFQ Program's overall sablefish IFQ vessel use 
caps. Under Amendment 94, the existing IFQ Program vessel use caps 
would remain the same at 1 percent of the Southeast sablefish IFQ total 
allowable catch (TAC) and 1 percent of the combined sablefish TAC in 
all sablefish regulatory areas off Alaska (GOA and BSAI).
    Under proposed Amendment 94, if, during any fishing year, a vessel 
harvested sablefish IFQ derived from CQE-held QS and individually-held 
QS, the harvests of IFQ derived from the individually-held sablefish QS 
would not accrue against the 50,000-pound vessel use cap for sablefish 
IFQ leased from a CQE. Instead, it would accrue against the overall 
vessel use caps that currently apply to all vessels harvesting 
sablefish IFQ. In effect, a vessel could not use more than 50,000 
pounds of sablefish IFQ derived from sablefish QS held by a CQE during 
the fishing year. However, it could use additional sablefish IFQ from 
individually-held QS up to the overall vessel use caps applicable in 
the IFQ Program, if the overall vessel use caps were greater than 
50,000 pounds. If any of the vessel use caps in the IFQ Program were 
lower than 50,000 pounds in a given year, then the lowest vessel use 
cap would apply.
    CQE representatives testified to the Council that the existing 
50,000-pound (22.7 mt) sablefish IFQ vessel use cap is restrictive 
because there is less flexibility and opportunity for community 
residents to use IFQ leased from CQEs on larger vessels. The use of 
CQE-leased sablefish IFQ on larger vessels could increase the 
employment of community members as crew and increase safety at sea 
during inclement weather. As discussed in the Purpose and Need section 
of the analysis prepared for Amendment 94, representatives of CQEs also 
testified to the Council that the ability to use CQE-leased sablefish 
IFQ on vessels owned by non-CQE community residents is important to the 
success of the CQE Program because many of the eligible CQE community 
residents may be entry-level fishermen or fishermen with no vessels or 
very small vessels. Changing the vessel use cap would provide CQEs the 
flexibility to lease IFQ to community residents who do not own vessels 
and allow them to find employment as crew members and fish the 
sablefish IFQ derived from the CQE-held QS on other vessels. The 
ability of community residents to lease IFQ from CQEs in the short-term 
could allow them to gain revenue from the sale of fish and could allow 
them to purchase QS from the CQEs over the longer term. Community 
residents then could work their way into the fishery. Enhancing 
individual resident holdings and CQE holdings is part of the purpose of 
the CQE Program.
    Additional opportunities for a CQE to lease sablefish IFQ to 
community residents would likely result under Amendment 94, as the pool 
of potential resident applicants for IFQ would increase if there were a 
larger pool of potential vessels upon which the community residents 
could use the leased IFQ. CQEs and residents leasing IFQ from CQEs may 
benefit from the availability of vessels that could not use additional 
CQE-leased IFQ onboard under the current use cap that includes 
individually-held IFQ. Anticipating these opportunities for potential 
CQE purchases of QS are important for communities to develop shorter 
and longer term plans to finance and develop community-based fisheries.
    An RIR was prepared for Amendment 94 that describes the CQE 
Program, the purpose and need for this action, the management 
alternatives evaluated to address this action, and the economic and 
socioeconomic effects of the alternatives (see ADDRESSES).
    Amendment 94 and its proposed implementing regulations are designed 
to comply with the Magnuson-Stevens Act mandate that regional fishery 
management councils must take into account the importance of fishery 
resources to communities in order to provide for the sustained 
participation of such communities, and to the extent practicable, 
minimize adverse economic impacts on such communities. The IFQ Program 
for Pacific halibut is implemented under the authority of the Northern 
Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 (Halibut Act). The Council does not have a 
halibut fishery management plan. The Council and Secretary, however, 
consider the impacts of all the IFQ management measures on fishery-
dependent communities. If Amendment 94 is approved, then sablefish and 
halibut components would be implemented in one rule. Amendment 94 is 
intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act, the GOA FMP, and other applicable laws.

[[Page 12289]]

    Public comments are being solicited on Amendment 94 and associated 
documents through the end of the comment period stated in this notice 
of availability. A proposed rule that would implement Amendment 94 will 
be published in the Federal Register for public comment following NMFS 
evaluation under Magnuson-Stevens Act procedures. Public comments, 
whether specifically directed to the amendment or the proposed rule, 
must be received, not just postmarked or otherwise transmitted, by 5 
p.m. A.l.t. on the last day of the comment period (see DATES). Comments 
received by the end of the comment period will be considered in the 
approval/disapproval decision on Amendment 94. Comments received after 
that date will not be considered in the decision to approve or 
disapprove Amendment 94.

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

    Dated: February 19, 2013.
James P. Burgess,
Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-04157 Filed 2-21-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P