[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 38 (Tuesday, February 26, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 13161-13206]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-04162]



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Vol. 78

Tuesday,

No. 38

February 26, 2013

Part II





Department of Commerce





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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration





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50 CFR Part 679





Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Gulf of Alaska; 
Final 2013 and 2014 Harvest Specifications for Groundfish; Final Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 78 , No. 38 / Tuesday, February 26, 2013 / 
Rules and Regulations

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

[Docket No. 120918468-3111-02]
RIN 0648-XC254


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Gulf of 
Alaska; Final 2013 and 2014 Harvest Specifications for Groundfish

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

ACTION: Final rule; closures.

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SUMMARY: NMFS announces final 2013 and 2014 harvest specifications, 
apportionments, and Pacific halibut prohibited species catch limits for 
the groundfish fishery of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). 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 GOA. The intended 
effect of this action is to conserve and manage the groundfish 
resources in the GOA in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act.

DATES: Effective at 1200 hrs, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), February 26, 
2013, through 2400 hrs, A.l.t., December 31, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the Final Alaska Groundfish Harvest 
Specifications Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Record of Decision 
(ROD), Supplementary Information Report (SIR) to the EIS, and the Final 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) prepared for this action are 
available from http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. The final 2012 Stock 
Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) report for the groundfish 
resources of the GOA, dated November 2012, is available from the North 
Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) at 605 West 4th Avenue, 
Suite 306, Anchorage, AK 99510-2252, phone 907-271-2809, or from the 
Council's Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/npfmc.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Obren Davis, 907-586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the GOA groundfish fisheries in 
the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the GOA under the Fishery 
Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (FMP). The Council 
prepared the FMP under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), 16 U.S.C. 1801 
et seq. Regulations governing U.S. fisheries and implementing the FMP 
appear at 50 CFR parts 600, 679, and 680.
    The FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS, after 
consultation with the Council, to specify the total allowable catch 
(TAC) for each target species, the sum of which must be within the 
optimum yield (OY) range of 116,000 to 800,000 metric tons (mt). 
Section 679.20(c)(1) further requires NMFS to publish and solicit 
public comment on proposed annual TACs, Pacific halibut prohibited 
species catch (PSC) limits, and seasonal allowances of pollock and 
Pacific cod. Upon consideration of public comment received under Sec.  
679.20(c)(1), NMFS must publish notice of final harvest specifications 
for up to two fishing years as annual target TAC, per Sec.  
679.20(c)(3)(ii). The final harvest specifications set forth in Tables 
1 through 31 of this document reflect the outcome of this process, as 
required at Sec.  679.20(c).
    The proposed 2013 and 2014 harvest specifications for groundfish of 
the GOA and Pacific halibut PSC limits were published in the Federal 
Register on December 5, 2012 (77 FR 72297). Comments were invited and 
accepted through January 4, 2013. NMFS did not receive any comments on 
the proposed harvest specifications. In December 2012, NMFS consulted 
with the Council regarding the 2013 and 2014 harvest specifications. 
After considering public testimony, as well as biological and economic 
data that were available at the Council's December 2012 meeting, NMFS 
is implementing the final 2013 and 2014 harvest specifications, as 
recommended by the Council. For 2013, the sum of the TAC amounts is 
436,255 mt. For 2014, the sum of the TAC amounts is 427,772 mt.

Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) and TAC Specifications

    In December 2012, the Council, its Advisory Panel (AP), and its 
Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), reviewed current biological 
and harvest information about the condition of groundfish stocks in the 
GOA. This information was compiled by the Council's GOA Plan Team and 
was presented in the draft 2012 SAFE report for the GOA groundfish 
fisheries, dated November 2012 (see ADDRESSES). The SAFE report 
contains a review of the latest scientific analyses and estimates of 
each species' biomass and other biological parameters, as well as 
summaries of the available information on the GOA ecosystem and the 
economic condition of the groundfish fisheries off Alaska. From these 
data and analyses, the Plan Team estimates an overfishing level (OFL) 
and ABC for each species or species group. The 2012 SAFE report was 
made available for public review during the public comment period for 
the proposed harvest specifications.
    In previous years, the largest changes from the proposed to the 
final harvest specifications have been based on recent NMFS stock 
surveys, which provide updated estimates of stock biomass and spatial 
distribution, and changes to the models used for producing stock 
assessments. In October 2012, the Council also reviewed the proposed 
TACs recommended for several flatfish and other rockfish species, 
adjusting them downward from ABCs. At the November 2012 Plan Team 
meeting, NMFS scientists presented updated and new survey results, 
changes to stock assessment models, and accompanying stock assessment 
estimates for all groundfish species and species groups that are 
included in the final 2012 SAFE report. The SSC reviewed this 
information at the December 2012 Council meeting. Changes from the 
proposed to the final harvest specifications in 2013 and 2014 for newly 
assessed groundfish stocks are discussed below.
    The final 2013 and 2014 OFLs, ABCs, and TACs are based on the best 
available biological and socioeconomic information, including projected 
biomass trends, information on assumed distribution of stock biomass, 
and revised methods used to calculate stock biomass. The FMP specifies 
the formulas, or tiers, to be used to compute OFLs and ABCs. The 
formulas applicable to a particular stock or stock complex are 
determined by the level of reliable information available to fisheries 
scientists. This information is categorized into a successive series of 
six tiers to define OFL and ABC amounts, with tier 1 representing the 
highest level of information quality available and tier 6 representing 
the lowest level of information quality available. The Plan Team used 
the FMP tier structure to calculate OFL and ABC amounts for each 
groundfish species. The SSC adopted the final 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. The final TAC recommendations were based on

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the ABCs as adjusted for other biological and socioeconomic 
considerations, including maintaining the sum of all TACs within the 
required OY range of 116,000 to 800,000 mt.
    The Council recommended TACs for 2013 and 2014 that are equal to 
ABCs for pollock, sablefish, deep-water flatfish, rex sole, Pacific 
ocean perch, northern rockfish, shortraker rockfish, dusky rockfish, 
rougheye rockfish, demersal shelf rockfish, thornyhead rockfish, 
``other rockfish,'' big skates, longnose skates, other skates, 
sculpins, sharks, and octopuses in the Central, Western, and West 
Yakutat district of the GOA. The Council recommended TACs for 2013 and 
2014 that are less than the ABCs for Pacific cod, shallow-water 
flatfish, arrowtooth flounder, flathead sole, ``other rockfish,'' and 
Atka mackerel in the Southeast Outside (SEO) District. The Pacific cod 
TACs are set to accommodate the State of Alaska's (State's) guideline 
harvest levels (GHLs) for Pacific cod so that the ABC is not exceeded. 
The shallow-water flatfish, arrowtooth flounder, and flathead sole TACs 
are set to allow for increased harvest opportunities for these targets 
while conserving the halibut PSC limit for use in other, more fully 
utilized, fisheries. The ``other rockfish'' TAC in the SEO is set to 
reduce the amount of discards. The Atka mackerel TAC is set to 
accommodate incidental catch amounts in other fisheries.
    The final 2013 and 2014 harvest specifications approved by the 
Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) are unchanged from those recommended 
by the Council and are consistent with the preferred harvest strategy 
alternative in the EIS (see ADDRESSES). NMFS finds that the Council's 
recommended OFLs, ABCs, and TACs are consistent with the biological 
condition of the groundfish stocks as described in the final 2012 SAFE 
report. NMFS also finds that the Council's recommendations for OFLs, 
ABCs, and TACs are consistent with the biological condition of 
groundfish stocks as adjusted for other biological and socioeconomic 
considerations, including maintaining the total TAC within the OY 
range. NMFS reviewed the Council's recommended TAC specifications and 
apportionments, and approves these harvest specifications under 50 CFR 
679.20(c)(3)(ii). The apportionment of TAC amounts among gear types and 
sectors, processing sectors, and seasons is discussed below.
    Tables 1 and 2 list the final 2013 and 2014 OFLs, ABCs, TACs, and 
area apportionments of groundfish in the GOA. The sums of the 2013 and 
2014 ABCs are 595,920 mt and 584,094 mt, respectively, which are lower 
in 2013 and 2014 than the 2012 ABC sum of 606,048 mt (77 FR 15194, 
March 14, 2012).

Specification and Apportionment of TAC Amounts

    The ABC for the pollock stock in the combined Western, Central, and 
West Yakutat Regulatory Areas (W/C/WYK) has been decreased to account 
for the GHL established by the State for the Prince William Sound (PWS) 
pollock fishery. Based upon genetic studies, fisheries scientists 
believe that the pollock in PWS is not a separate stock from the 
combined W/C/WYK population. At the November 2012 Plan Team meeting, 
State fisheries managers recommended fixing the PWS GHL at 2.5 percent 
of the annual W/C/WYK pollock ABC. For 2013, this yields a PWS pollock 
GHL of 2,827 mt, an increase of 57 mt from the 2012 PWS GHL of 2,770 
mt. For 2014, the PWS pollock GHL is 2,583 mt, a decrease from the 2012 
PWS pollock GHL.
    The apportionment of annual pollock TAC among the Western and 
Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA reflects the seasonal biomass 
distribution and is discussed in greater detail below. The annual 
pollock TAC in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA is 
apportioned among Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630, and divided 
equally among each of the following four seasons: The A season (January 
20 through March 10), the B season (March 10 through May 31), the C 
season (August 25 through October 1), and the D season (October 1 
through November 1) (Sec.  679.23(d)(2)(i) through (iv), and Sec.  
679.20(a)(5)(iv)(A) through (B)). Tables 3 and 4 list the final 2013 
and 2014 distribution of pollock in the Western and Central Regulatory 
Areas of the GOA, and area and seasonal allowances of annual TAC.
    The AP, SSC, and Council recommended apportionment of the ABC for 
Pacific cod in the GOA among regulatory areas based on the three most 
recent NMFS summer trawl surveys. The 2013 and 2014 Pacific cod TACs 
are affected by the State's fishery for Pacific cod in State waters in 
the Central and Western Regulatory Areas, as well as in PWS. The Plan 
Team, SSC, AP, and Council recommended that the sum of all State and 
Federal water Pacific cod removals from the GOA not exceed ABC 
recommendations. Accordingly, the Council reduced the 2013 and 2014 
Pacific cod TACs in the Eastern, Central, and Western Regulatory Areas 
to account for State GHLs. Therefore, the 2013 Pacific cod TACs are 
less than the ABCs by the following amounts: (1) Eastern GOA, 808 mt; 
(2) Central GOA, 12,322 mt; and (3) Western GOA, 7,070 mt. The 2014 
Pacific cod TACs are less than the ABCs by the following amounts: (1) 
Eastern GOA, 842 mt; (2) Central GOA, 12,840 mt; and (3) Western GOA, 
7,367 mt. These amounts reflect the sum of the State's 2013 and 2014 
GHLs in these areas, which are 25 percent of the Eastern, Central, and 
Western GOA ABCs, respectively.
    NMFS establishes seasonal apportionments of the annual Pacific cod 
TAC in the Central and Western Regulatory Areas. Sixty percent of the 
annual TAC is apportioned to the A season for hook-and-line, pot, and 
jig gear from January 1 through June 10, and for trawl gear from 
January 20 through June 10. Forty percent of the annual TAC is 
apportioned to the B season for hook-and-line, pot, and jig gear from 
September 1 through December 31, and for trawl gear from September 1 
through November 1 (Sec. Sec.  679.23(d)(3) and 679.20(a)(12)). The 
Central and Western GOA Pacific cod TACs are allocated among various 
gear and operational sectors. The Pacific cod sector apportionments are 
discussed in detail in a subsequent section of this preamble.
    The Council's recommendation for sablefish area apportionments 
takes into account the prohibition on the use of trawl gear in the SEO 
District of the Eastern Regulatory Area and makes available five 
percent of the combined Eastern Regulatory Area ABCs to trawl gear for 
use as incidental catch in other groundfish fisheries in the WYK 
District (Sec.  679.20(a)(4)(i)). Tables 7 and 8 list the final 2013 
and 2014 allocations of sablefish TAC to hook-and-line and trawl gear 
in the GOA.

Halibut Prohibited Species Catch Limits Revisions

    At its June 2012 meeting, the Council took final action to reduce 
halibut PSC limits in the GOA trawl and hook-and-line groundfish 
fisheries. The Council's preferred alternative for Amendment 95 to the 
GOA FMP would change the process for setting halibut PSC limits. 
Halibut PSC limits would be established in Federal regulations and 
would remain in effect until changed by a subsequent Council action to 
amend those regulations.
    If approved by the Secretary, Amendment 95 would reduce the GOA 
halibut PSC limit for the groundfish trawl gear sector and groundfish 
catcher vessel (CV) hook-and-line gear sector by 15 percent. The 
Council's proposed reduction would be phased in over 3 years: 7 percent 
in year 1, 5 percent in year 2 (to 12 percent), and 3 percent in year 3 
(for a total of 15 percent). The

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Council's proposed reduction for the catcher/processor (C/P) hook-and-
line gear sector would be 7 percent, which would be implemented in one 
step in year 1. The Council used 1,973 mt as the baseline for the 
proposed trawl halibut PSC limit reductions. This is based on a 
deduction of 27 mt from the 2,000 mt trawl halibut PSC limit, per 
halibut PSC limit reductions made in conjunction with the 
implementation of the Central Gulf of Alaska Rockfish Program in 2011 
(76 FR 81248, December 27, 2011). The Council recommended that the 
first year of implementation would occur in 2014 and that all 
reductions would occur by 2016.

Changes From the Proposed 2013 and 2014 Harvest Specifications in the 
GOA

    In October 2012, the Council's recommendations for the proposed 
2013 and 2014 harvest specifications (77 FR 72297, December 5, 2012) 
were based largely on information contained in the final 2011 SAFE 
report for the GOA groundfish fisheries, dated November 2011 (see 
ADDRESSES). The Council proposed that the final OFLs, ABCs, and TACs 
established for the 2013 groundfish fisheries (77 FR 15194, March 14, 
2012) be used for the proposed 2013 and 2014 harvest specifications, 
pending completion and review of the 2012 SAFE report at its December 
2012 meeting.
    As described previously, the SSC adopted the final 2013 and 2014 
OFLs and ABCs recommended by the Plan Team. The Council adopted the 
SSC's OFL and ABC recommendations and the AP's TAC recommendations for 
2013 and 2014. The final 2013 ABCs are higher than the 2013 ABCs 
published in the proposed 2013 and 2014 harvest specifications (77 FR 
72297, December 5, 2012) for rex sole, flathead sole, demersal shelf 
rockfish, and sculpins. The final 2013 ABCs are lower than the proposed 
2013 ABCs for pollock, Pacific cod, sablefish, shallow-water flatfish, 
arrowtooth flounder, Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, dusky 
rockfish, and rougheye rockfish. The final 2014 ABCs are higher than 
the proposed 2014 ABCs for rex sole, flathead sole, rougheye rockfish, 
demersal shelf rockfish, and sculpins. The final 2014 ABCs are lower 
than the proposed 2014 ABCs for pollock, Pacific cod, sablefish, 
shallow-water flatfish, arrowtooth flounder, Pacific ocean perch, 
northern rockfish, and dusky rockfish. For the remaining target 
species, shortraker rockfish, thornyhead rockfish, ``other rockfish,'' 
Atka mackerel, skates, sharks, squids, and octopuses, the Council 
recommended, and the Secretary approved, final 2013 and 2014 ABCs that 
are the same as the proposed 2013 and 2014 ABCs.
    Additional information explaining the changes between the proposed 
and final ABCs is included in the final 2012 SAFE report, which was not 
available when the Council made its proposed ABC and TAC 
recommendations in October 2012. At that time, the most recent stock 
assessment information was contained in the final 2011 SAFE report. The 
final 2012 SAFE report contains the best and most recent scientific 
information on the condition of the groundfish stocks, as previously 
discussed in this preamble, and is available for review (see 
ADDRESSES). The Council considered the final 2012 SAFE report in 
December 2012 when it made recommendations for the final 2013 and 2014 
harvest specifications. In the GOA, the total final 2013 TAC amount is 
436,255 mt, a decrease of 3 percent from the total proposed 2013 TAC 
amount of 447,752 mt. The total final 2014 TAC amount is 427,722 mt, a 
decrease of 4.5 percent from the total proposed 2014 TAC amount of 
447,752 mt.
    The largest individual TAC decrease was for Pacific cod, which 
changed eleven percent from the proposed 2013 TAC to the final 2013 
TAC. This decrease was based on changes to the Pacific cod assessment 
method used by the stock assessment scientists, which established a 
lower Pacific cod ABC. The Pacific cod TAC was set equal to ABC, as 
were those for most other species. The Council recommended setting the 
TACs at amounts below ABCs for some species, including shallow-water 
flatfish, rex sole, flathead sole, and sculpins. The Council believed, 
and NMFS concurs, that setting TACs for these species equal to ABCs 
would not reflect anticipated harvest levels accurately, as the Council 
and NMFS expect halibut PSC limits to constrain these fisheries in 2013 
and 2014. With the exception of Pacific cod, the percentage change to 
the final 2013 TAC from the proposed 2013 TAC is plus or minus five 
percent of the proposed TACs. These changes corresponded to associated 
changes in the ABCs, as recommended by the SSC, and to the TACs, as 
recommended by the AP, and Council. With respect to the 2014 TACs, the 
largest difference between the proposed TAC and final TAC was an 11 
percent decrease in the pollock TAC. The percentage change to the final 
2014 TAC from the proposed 2014 TAC for all other species ranged from 
plus three to minus eight percent of the proposed TACs.
    Detailed information providing the basis for the changes described 
above is contained in the final 2012 SAFE report. The final TACs are 
based on the best scientific information available. These TACs are 
specified in compliance with the harvest strategy described in the 
proposed and final rules for the 2013 and 2014 harvest specifications. 
The changes in TACs between the proposed rule and this final rule are 
compared in the following table.
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    The final 2013 and 2014 TAC recommendations for the GOA are within 
the OY range established for the GOA and do not exceed the ABC for any 
species or species group. Tables 1 and 2 list the final OFL, ABC, and 
TAC amounts for GOA groundfish for 2013 and 2014, respectively.

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BILLING CODE 3510-22-C

Apportionment of Reserves

    Section 679.20(b)(2) requires NMFS to set aside 20 percent of each 
TAC for pollock, Pacific cod, flatfish, sculpins, sharks, squids, and 
octopuses in reserves for possible apportionment at a later date during 
the fishing year. For 2013 and 2014, NMFS proposed reapportionment of 
all the reserves in the proposed 2013 and 2014 harvest specifications 
published in the Federal Register on December 5, 2012 (77 FR 72297). 
NMFS did not receive any public comments on the proposed 
reapportionments. For the final 2013 and 2014 harvest specifications, 
NMFS reapportioned, as proposed, all the reserves for pollock, Pacific 
cod, flatfish, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses. The TAC amounts 
shown in Tables 1 and 2 reflect reapportionment of reserve amounts for 
these species and species groups.

Apportionments of Pollock TAC Among Seasons and Regulatory Areas, and 
Allocations for Processing by Inshore and Offshore Components

    In the GOA, pollock is apportioned by season and area, and is 
further allocated for processing by inshore and offshore components. 
Pursuant to Sec.  679.20(a)(5)(iv)(B), the annual pollock TAC specified 
for the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA is apportioned 
into four equal seasonal allowances of 25 percent. As established by 
Sec.  679.23(d)(2)(i) through (iv), the A, B, C, and D season 
allowances are available from January 20 to March 10, March 10 to May 
31, August 25 to October 1, and October 1 to November 1, respectively.
    Pollock TACs in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA 
are apportioned among Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630, pursuant to 
Sec.  679.20(a)(5)(iv)(A). In the A and B seasons, the apportionments 
are in proportion to the distribution of pollock biomass based on the 
four most recent NMFS winter surveys. In the C and D seasons, the 
apportionments are in proportion to the distribution of pollock biomass 
based on the four most recent NMFS summer surveys. However, for 2013 
and 2014, the Council recommends, and NMFS approves, averaging the 
winter and summer distribution of pollock in the Central Regulatory 
Area for the A season instead of using the distribution based on only 
the winter surveys. The average is intended to reflect the migration 
patterns and distribution of pollock, and the performance of the 
fishery, in that area during the A season for the 2013 and 2014 fishing 
years. During the A season, the apportionment is based on an adjusted 
estimate of the relative distribution of pollock biomass of 
approximately 16 percent, 62 percent, and 22 percent in Statistical 
Areas 610, 620, and 630, respectively. During the B season, the 
apportionment is based on the relative distribution of pollock biomass 
at 16 percent, 74 percent, and 10 percent in Statistical Areas 610, 
620, and 630, respectively. During the C and D seasons, the 
apportionment is based on the relative distribution of pollock biomass 
at 37 percent, 28 percent, and 35 percent in Statistical Areas 610, 
620, and 630, respectively.
    Within any fishing year, the amount by which a seasonal allowance 
is underharvested or overharvested may be added to, or subtracted from, 
subsequent seasonal allowances in a manner to be determined by the 
Regional Administrator (Sec.  679.20(a)(5)(iv)(B)). The rollover amount 
is limited to 20 percent of the unharvested seasonal apportionment for 
the statistical area. Any unharvested pollock above the 20-percent 
limit could be further distributed to the other statistical areas, in 
proportion to the estimated biomass in the subsequent season in those 
statistical areas (Sec.  679.20(a)(5)(iv)(B)). The pollock TACs in the 
WYK and SEO District of 3,385 mt and 10,774 mt, respectively, in 2013, 
and 3,093 mt and10,774 mt, respectively, in 2014, are not allocated by 
season.
    Section 679.20(a)(6)(i) requires the allocation of 100 percent of 
the pollock TAC in all regulatory areas and all seasonal allowances to 
vessels catching pollock for processing by the inshore component after 
subtraction of amounts projected by the Regional Administrator to be 
caught by, or delivered to, the offshore component incidental to 
directed fishing for other groundfish species. Thus, the amount of 
pollock available for harvest by vessels harvesting pollock for 
processing by the offshore component is that amount that will be taken 
as incidental catch during directed fishing for groundfish species 
other than pollock, up to the maximum retainable amounts allowed by 
Sec.  679.20(e) and (f). At this time, these incidental catch amounts 
of pollock are unknown and will be determined during the fishing year 
during the course of fishing activities by the offshore component.
    Tables 3 and 4 list the final 2013 and 2014 seasonal biomass 
distribution of pollock in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas, 
area apportionments, and seasonal allowances. The amounts of pollock 
for processing by the inshore and offshore components are not shown.

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Annual and Seasonal Apportionments of Pacific Cod TAC

    Section 679.20(a)(12)(i) requires the allocation among gear and 
operational sectors of the Pacific cod TACs in the Western and Central 
Regulatory Areas of the GOA. Section 679.20(a)(6)(ii) requires the 
allocation between the inshore and offshore components of the Pacific 
cod TACs in the Eastern Regulatory Area of the GOA. NMFS allocates the 
2013 and 2014 Pacific cod TAC based on these sector allocations 
annually between the inshore and offshore components in the Eastern 
GOA; seasonally between vessels using jig gear, CVs less than 50 feet 
in length

[[Page 13174]]

overall using hook-and-line gear, CVs equal to or greater than 50 feet 
in length overall using hook-and-line gear, C/Ps using hook-and-line 
gear, CVs using trawl gear, C/Ps using trawl gear, and vessels using 
pot gear in the Central GOA; and seasonally between vessels using jig 
gear, CVs using hook-and-line gear, C/Ps using hook-and-line gear, CVs 
using trawl gear, and vessels using pot gear in the Western GOA. The 
overall seasonal apportionments in the Western and Central GOA are 60 
percent of the annual TAC to the A season and 40 percent of the annual 
TAC to the B season.
    Under Sec.  679.20(a)(12)(ii), any overage or underage of the 
Pacific cod allowance from the A season will be subtracted from, or 
added to, the subsequent B season allowance. In addition, any portion 
of the hook-and-line, trawl, pot, or jig sector allocations that are 
determined by NMFS as likely to go unharvested by a sector may be 
reapportioned to other sectors for harvest during the remainder of the 
fishery year.
    Pursuant to Sec.  679.20(a)(12)(i), NMFS allocates the 2013 and 
2014 Pacific cod TACs in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of 
the GOA. In accordance with the FMP, the annual jig sector allocations 
may increase to up to 6 percent of the annual Western and Central GOA 
Pacific cod TACs, depending on the annual performance of the jig sector 
(See Table 1 of Amendment 83 to the FMP for a detailed discussion of 
the jig sector allocation process (76 FR 74670, December 1, 2011)). 
NMFS is increasing the jig sector's Pacific cod allocation in the 
Western GOA to 2.5 percent of the annual Pacific cod TAC. This includes 
a base allocation of 1.5 percent and an additional 1.0 percent because 
this sector harvested greater than 90 percent of its initial 2012 
allocation in the Western GOA. NMFS also is increasing the jig sector's 
Pacific cod allocation in the Central GOA to 2.0 percent of the annual 
Pacific cod TAC. This includes a base allocation of 1.0 percent and an 
additional 1.0 percent because this sector harvested greater than 90 
percent of its initial 2012 allocation in the Central GOA. The jig 
sector allocations are further apportioned between the A (60 percent) 
and B (40 percent) season. The sector allocations based on gear type, 
operation type, and vessel length overall are allocated the remainder 
of the annual Pacific cod TAC in the Western and Central GOA. Tables 5 
and 6 list the seasonal apportionments and allocations of the 2013 and 
2014 Pacific cod TACs.
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Allocations of the Sablefish TACs

    Section 679.20(a)(4)(i) and (ii) require allocations of sablefish 
TACs for each of the regulatory areas and districts to hook-and-line 
and trawl gear. In the Western and Central Regulatory Areas, 80 percent 
of each TAC is allocated to hook-and-line gear, and 20 percent of each 
TAC is allocated to trawl gear. In the Eastern Regulatory Area, 95 
percent of the TAC is allocated to hook-and-line gear, and 5 percent is 
allocated to trawl

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gear. The trawl gear allocation in the Eastern Regulatory Area may only 
be used to support incidental catch of sablefish in directed fisheries 
for other target species (Sec.  679.20(a)(4)(i)).
    In recognition of the prohibition against trawl gear in the SEO 
District of the Eastern Regulatory Area, the Council recommended and 
NMFS approves the allocation of 5 percent of the combined Eastern 
Regulatory Area sablefish TAC to trawl gear in the WYK District, making 
the remainder of the WYK sablefish TAC available to vessels using hook-
and-line gear. NMFS allocates 100 percent of the sablefish TAC in the 
SEO District to vessels using hook-and-line gear. This recommendation 
results in a 2013 allocation of 261 mt to trawl gear and 1,769 mt to 
hook-and-line gear in the WYK District, a 2013 allocation of 3,190 mt 
to hook-and-line gear in the SEO District, and a 2014 allocation of 245 
mt to trawl gear in the WYK District. Table 7 lists the allocations of 
the 2013 sablefish TACs to hook-and-line and trawl gear. Table 8 lists 
the allocations of the 2014 sablefish TACs to trawl gear.
    The Council recommended that the hook-and-line sablefish TAC be 
established annually to ensure that this Individual Fishery Quota (IFQ) 
fishery is conducted concurrent with the halibut IFQ fishery and is 
based on recent sablefish survey information. The Council also 
recommended that only a trawl sablefish TAC be established for two 
years so that retention of incidental catch of sablefish by trawl gear 
could commence in January in the second year of the groundfish harvest 
specifications. Since there is an annual assessment for sablefish and 
the final harvest specifications are expected to be published before 
the IFQ season begins (typically, early March), the Council recommended 
that the hook-and-line sablefish TAC be set on an annual basis, rather 
than for two years, so that the best scientific information available 
could be considered in establishing the sablefish ABCs and TACs. With 
the exception of the trawl allocations that were provided to the 
Rockfish Program cooperatives, directed fishing for sablefish with 
trawl gear is closed during the fishing year. Also, fishing for 
groundfish with trawl gear is prohibited prior to January 20. 
Therefore, it is not likely that the sablefish allocation to trawl gear 
would be reached before the effective date of the final 2013 and 2014 
harvest specifications.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.010

Demersal Shelf Rockfish (DSR)

    The recommended 2013 and 2014 DSR TAC is 303 mt, and management of 
DSR is delegated to the State. In 2006, the Alaska Board of Fish 
allocated future SEO District DSR TACs between the commercial fishery 
(84 percent) and the sport fishery (16 percent) after deductions were 
made for anticipated subsistence harvests (7 mt). This results in 2013 
and 2014 allocations of 255 mt

[[Page 13178]]

to the commercial fishery and 48 mt to the sport fishery.
    The State deducts estimates of incidental catch of DSR in the 
commercial halibut fishery and test fishery mortality from the DSR 
commercial fishery allocation. In 2013, this resulted in 139 mt being 
available for the directed commercial DSR fishery apportioned between 
four outer coast areas. DSR harvest in the halibut fishery is linked to 
the annual halibut catch limits; therefore the State can only estimate 
potential DSR incidental catch in that fishery when those halibut catch 
limits are established by the IPHC. Federally-permitted CVs using hook-
and-line or jig gear fishing for groundfish and Pacific halibut in the 
SEO District of the GOA are required to retain all DSR (Sec.  
679.20(j)). The State announced the opening of directed fishing for DSR 
effective on January 30, 2013.

Apportionments to the Central GOA Rockfish Program

    These final 2013 and 2014 groundfish harvest specifications for the 
GOA include the various fishery cooperative allocations and sideboard 
limitations established by the Central GOA Rockfish Program. Under the 
Rockfish Program, the primary rockfish species (Pacific ocean perch, 
northern rockfish, and dusky rockfish) are allocated to participants 
after deducting for incidental catch needs in other directed groundfish 
fisheries. Program participants are primarily trawl catcher vessels and 
trawl catcher/processors, with limited participation by vessels using 
longline gear.
    The Rockfish Program assigns quota share and cooperative quota to 
participants for primary and secondary species, allows a participant 
holding a license limitation program (LLP) license with rockfish quota 
share to form a rockfish cooperative with other persons, and allows 
holders of C/P LLP licenses to opt-out of the fishery. The Rockfish 
Program also has an entry level fishery for rockfish primary species 
for vessels using longline gear. Additionally, the Rockfish Program 
continues to establish sideboard limits to restrict the ability of 
harvesters operating under the Rockfish Program to increase their 
participation in other, non-Rockfish Program fisheries. Besides 
groundfish species, the Rockfish Program allocates a portion of the 
halibut PSC limit from the third season deep-water species fishery 
allowance for the GOA trawl fisheries to Rockfish Program participants 
(Sec.  679.81(d)), which includes 117 mt to the CV sector and 74 mt to 
the C/P sector.
    Section 679.81(a)(2)(ii) requires allocations of 5 mt of Pacific 
ocean perch, 5 mt of northern rockfish, and 30 mt of dusky rockfish to 
the entry level longline fishery in 2013 and 2014. The allocation for 
the entry level longline fishery would increase incrementally each year 
if the catch exceeds 90 percent of the allocation of a species. The 
incremental increase in the allocation would continue each year until 
it is the maximum percent of the TAC for that species. In 2012, the 
catch did not exceed 90 percent of any allocated rockfish species. 
Therefore, NMFS is not increasing the entry level longline fishery 2013 
and 2014 allocations in the Central GOA. Longline gear includes hook-
and-line, jig, troll, and handline gear. The remainder of the TACs for 
the rockfish primary species would be allocated to the CV and C/P 
cooperatives. Table 9 lists the allocations of the 2013 and initial 
2014 TACs for each rockfish primary species to the entry level longline 
fishery, the incremental increase for future years, and the maximum 
percent of the TAC for the entry level longline fishery.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.011

    Section 679.81(a)(2)(iii) requires allocations of the primary 
rockfish species among various components of the Rockfish Program. 
Tables 10 and 11 list the final 2013 and 2014 allocations of rockfish 
in the Central GOA to the entry level longline fishery and other 
participants in the Rockfish Program, which include CV and C/P 
cooperatives. NMFS also is setting aside incidental catch amounts 
(ICAs) for other directed fisheries in the Central GOA of 900 mt of 
Pacific ocean perch, 125 mt of northern rockfish, and 200 mt of dusky 
rockfish. These amounts are based on recent average incidental catches 
in the Central GOA by other groundfish fisheries.
    Allocations between vessels belonging to CV or C/P cooperatives are 
not included in these final harvest specifications. Rockfish Program 
applications for CV cooperatives and C/P cooperatives are not due to 
NMFS until March 1 of each calendar year, thereby preventing NMFS from 
calculating 2013 and 2014 allocations in conjunction with these final 
harvest specifications. NMFS will post these allocations on the Alaska 
Region Web site at (http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/sustainablefisheries/goarat/default.htm) when they become available 
after March 1.

[[Page 13179]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.012

    Section 679.81(c) requires allocations of rockfish secondary 
species to CV and C/P cooperatives in the Central GOA. CV cooperatives 
receive allocations of Pacific cod, sablefish from the trawl gear 
allocation, and thornyhead rockfish. C/P cooperatives receive 
allocations of sablefish from the trawl allocation, rougheye rockfish, 
shortraker rockfish, and thornyhead rockfish. Tables 12 and 13 lists 
the apportionments of the 2013 and 2014 TACs of rockfish secondary 
species in the Central GOA to CV and C/P cooperatives.

[[Page 13180]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.013

Halibut PSC Limits

    Section 679.21(d) establishes the annual halibut PSC limit 
apportionments to trawl and hook-and-line gear, and authorizes the 
establishment of apportionments for pot gear. In December 2012, the 
Council recommended halibut PSC limits of 1,973 mt for trawl gear and 
300 mt for hook-and-line gear for the 2013 and 2014 groundfish 
fisheries. As discussed previously in this preamble, at its June 2012 
meeting the Council took action to further reduce the GOA halibut PSC 
limits. If approved and implemented by the Secretary, these reductions 
may lead to adjustments or reductions to the 2014 halibut PSC limits in 
this action at the beginning of 2014.
    Ten mt of the hook-and-line limit is further allocated to the DSR 
fishery in the SEO District. The DSR fishery is defined at Sec.  
679.21(d)(4)(iii)(A). This fishery has been apportioned 10 mt in 
recognition of its small-scale harvests of groundfish. Most vessels in 
the DSR fishery are less than 60 ft (18.3 m) length overall and have 
been exempt from observer coverage. Therefore, observer data are not 
available to verify actual bycatch amounts. NMFS estimates low halibut 
bycatch in the DSR fishery because (1) the duration of the DSR 
fisheries and the gear soak times are short; (2) the DSR fishery occurs 
in the winter when less overlap occurs in the distribution of DSR and 
halibut; and (3) the directed commercial DSR fishery has a low DSR TAC. 
Of the

[[Page 13181]]

300 mt TAC for DSR in 2012, 128 mt was available for the commercial 
fishery, of which 105 mt were harvested.
    The FMP authorizes the Council to exempt specific gear from the 
halibut PSC limits. NMFS, after consultation with the Council, exempts 
pot gear, jig gear, and the sablefish IFQ hook-and-line gear fishery 
categories from the non-trawl halibut limit for 2013 and 2014. The 
Council recommended, and NMFS approves, these exemptions because (1) 
the pot gear fisheries have low annual halibut bycatch mortality; (2) 
IFQ program regulations prohibit discard of halibut if any halibut IFQ 
permit holder on board a catcher vessel holds unused halibut IFQ (Sec.  
679.7(f)(11)); (3) sablefish IFQ fishermen typically hold halibut IFQ 
permits and are therefore required to retain the halibut they catch 
while fishing sablefish IFQ; and (4) NMFS estimates negligible halibut 
mortality for the jig gear fisheries. NMFS estimates that halibut 
mortality is negligible in the jig gear fisheries given the small 
amount of groundfish harvested by jig gear, the selective nature of jig 
gear, and the high survival rates of halibut caught and released with 
jig gear.
    Section 679.21(d)(5) authorizes NMFS to seasonally apportion the 
halibut PSC limits after consultation with the Council. The FMP and 
regulations require the Council and NMFS to consider the following 
information in seasonally apportioning halibut PSC limits: (1) Seasonal 
distribution of halibut, (2) seasonal distribution of target groundfish 
species relative to halibut distribution, (3) expected halibut bycatch 
needs on a seasonal basis relative to changes in halibut biomass and 
expected catch of target groundfish species, (4) expected bycatch rates 
on a seasonal basis, (5) expected changes in directed groundfish 
fishing seasons, (6) expected actual start of fishing effort, and (7) 
economic effects of establishing seasonal halibut allocations on 
segments of the target groundfish industry. The Council obtained the 
information it considered when setting the halibut PSC limits from the 
2012 SAFE report, NMFS catch data, State of Alaska catch data, IPHC 
stock assessment and mortality data, and public testimony. NMFS concurs 
with the Council's recommendations listed in Table 14, which shows the 
final 2013 and 2014 Pacific halibut PSC limits, allowances, and 
apportionments. Sections 679.21(d)(5)(iii) and (iv) specify that any 
underages or overages of a seasonal apportionment of a PSC limit will 
be deducted from or added to the next respective seasonal apportionment 
within the fishing year.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.014

    Section 679.21(d)(3)(ii) authorizes further apportionment of the 
trawl halibut PSC limit to trawl fishery categories. The annual 
apportionments are based on each category's proportional share of the 
anticipated halibut bycatch mortality during the fishing year and 
optimization of the total amount of groundfish harvest under the 
halibut PSC limit. The fishery categories for the trawl halibut PSC 
limits are (1) a deep-water species fishery, composed of sablefish, 
rockfish, deep-water flatfish, rex sole, and arrowtooth flounder; and 
(2) a shallow-water species fishery, composed of pollock, Pacific cod, 
shallow-water flatfish, flathead sole, Atka mackerel, skates, and 
``other species'' (sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses) (Sec.  
679.21(d)(3)(iii)). Table 15 lists the final 2013 and 2014 
apportionments of Pacific halibut PSC trawl limits between the trawl 
gear deep-water and the shallow-water species fishery categories.
    Table 28d to 50 CFR part 679 specifies the amount of halibut PSC 
that is assigned to the CV and C/P sectors that are participating in 
the Central GOA Rockfish Program. This includes 117 mt of halibut PSC 
to the CV sector and 74 mt of halibut PSC to the C/P sector. These 
amounts are allocated from the trawl deep-water species fishery's 
halibut PSC third seasonal apportionment.
    Section 679.21(d)(5)(iii)(B) limits the amount of the halibut PSC 
limit allocated to Rockfish Program participants that could be re-
apportioned to the general GOA trawl fisheries to no more than 55 
percent of

[[Page 13182]]

the unused annual halibut PSC apportioned to Rockfish Program 
participants. The remainder of the unused Rockfish Program halibut PSC 
limit is unavailable for use by vessels directed fishing with trawl 
gear for the remainder of the fishing year.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.015

    Section 679.21(d)(4) requires that the ``other than DSR'' halibut 
PSC apportionment to vessels using hook-and-line gear must be 
apportioned between CVs and C/Ps. NMFS must calculate the halibut PSC 
limit apportionments for the entire GOA to hook-and-line CVs and C/Ps 
in accordance with Sec.  679.21(d)(4)(iii)(B)(1) and (2) in conjunction 
with these harvest specifications. A comprehensive description and 
example of the calculations necessary to apportion the ``other than 
DSR'' hook-and-line halibut PSC limit between the hook-and-line CV and 
C/P sectors were included in the proposed rule to implement Amendment 
83 (76 FR 44700, July 26, 2011) and is not repeated here.
    For 2013 and 2014, NMFS is apportioning halibut PSC limits of 166 
mt and 124 mt to the hook-and-line CV and hook-and-line C/P sectors, 
respectively. These amounts differ from the proposed halibut PSC limits 
of 174 mt and 117 mt, respectively. Pacific cod is apportioned among 
the management areas in the GOA based on the percentage of overall 
biomass per area, as calculated in the 2012 Pacific cod stock 
assessment. Updated information in the final 2012 SAFE report describes 
this distributional change, which is based on allocating ABC among 
regulatory areas on the basis of the three most recent stock surveys. 
The distribution of the total GOA Pacific cod ABC has changed to 35 
percent Western GOA, 61 percent Central GOA, and 4 percent Eastern GOA. 
The corresponding TAC amounts are a component in the halibut PSC 
calculations made in accordance with Sec.  679.21(d)(4)(iii)(B)(1) and 
(2). The net effect of the change in Pacific cod distribution across 
the GOA also affects the annual halibut PSC limit each hook-and-line 
sector receives.
    In addition, these annual limits are divided into three seasonal 
apportionments, using seasonal percentages of 86 percent, 2 percent, 
and 12 percent. Table 16 lists the 2013 and 2014 annual and seasonal 
halibut PSC apportionments between the hook-and-line sectors in the 
GOA.
    No later than November 1 of each year, NMFS would calculate the 
projected unused amount of halibut PSC limit by either of the hook-and-
line sectors for the remainder of the year. The projected unused amount 
of halibut PSC limit would be made available to the other hook-and-line 
sector for the remainder of that fishing year if NMFS determines that 
an additional amount of halibut PSC is necessary for that sector to 
continue its directed fishing operations (Sec.  
679.21(d)(4)(iii)(B)(3)).

[[Page 13183]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.016

Estimated Halibut Bycatch in Prior Years

    The best available information on estimated halibut bycatch 
consists of data collected by fisheries observers during 2012. The 
calculated halibut bycatch mortality by trawl and hook-and-line gear in 
2012 is 1,723 mt and 182 mt, respectively, for a total halibut 
mortality of 1,905 mt.
    Halibut bycatch restrictions seasonally constrained trawl gear 
fisheries during the 2012 fishing year. Table 17 lists the closure 
dates for fisheries that resulted from the attainment of seasonal or 
annual halibut PSC limits.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.017

Current Estimates of Halibut Biomass and Stock Condition

    The IPHC annually assesses the abundance and potential yield of the 
Pacific halibut using all available data from the commercial and sport 
fisheries, other removals, and scientific surveys. Additional 
information on the Pacific halibut stock assessment may be found in the 
IPHC's 2012 Pacific halibut stock assessment (December 2012), available 
on the IPHC Web site at www.iphc.int. The IPHC considered the 2012 
Pacific halibut stock assessment at its January 2013 annual meeting 
when it set the

[[Page 13184]]

2013 commercial halibut fishery catch limits.
    The halibut resource is fully utilized. Recent catches in the 
commercial halibut fisheries off Alaska have averaged 31,535 mt round 
weight per year (1994 through 2011). In January 2013, the IPHC 
recommended Alaska commercial catch limits totaling 13,910 mt round 
weight for 2013, a 10 percent decrease from 15,427 mt in 2012. Through 
December 31, 2012, commercial hook-and-line harvests of halibut off 
Alaska totaled 14,981 mt round weight.
    The 2013 catch limit recommendations for Alaska decreased for each 
IPHC management area except Area 2C. For Area 3A, the catch limit 
decreased to 6,670 mt from 7,208 mt round weight in 2012; for Area 3B, 
the catch limit decreased to 2,594 mt from 3,066 mt in 2012; for Area 
4A, the catch limit decreased to 806 mt from 948 mt in 2012; for Area 
4B, the catch limit decreased to 877 mt from 1,130 mt in 2012; and for 
combined Areas CDE, the catch limit decreased to 1,167 mt from 1,491 mt 
in 2012. The only increase in catch limit recommendations in Alaska is 
for Area 2C, to 1,796 mt round weight from 1,587 mt round weight in 
2012.
    For more information, see the proposed 2013 and 2014 harvest 
specifications (77 FR 72297, December 5, 2012), which discusses the 
potential impacts of expected fishing for groundfish on halibut stocks, 
as well as methods available for reducing halibut bycatch in the 
groundfish fisheries.

Halibut Discard Mortality Rates

    To monitor halibut bycatch mortality allowances and apportionments, 
the Regional Administrator uses observed halibut incidental catch 
rates, discard mortality 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 is implementing the Council's recommendation that the halibut 
DMRs developed and recommended by the IPHC for the 2013 through 2015 
GOA groundfish fisheries be used for monitoring the final 2013 and 2014 
halibut bycatch mortality allowances (see Tables 14 through 16). The 
IPHC developed the DMRs for the 2013 through 2015 GOA groundfish 
fisheries using the 10-year mean DMRs for those fisheries. Long-term 
average DMRs were not available for some fisheries, so rates from the 
most recent years were used. For the skate, sculpin, shark, squid, and 
octopus fisheries, where insufficient mortality data are available, the 
mortality rate of halibut caught in the Pacific cod fishery for that 
gear type was recommended as a default rate. 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 
how the IPHC establishes them is available from the Council (see 
ADDRESSES).
    Table 18 lists the final 2013 and 2014 DMRs. These DMRs are 
unchanged from the proposed 2013 and 2014 harvest specifications (77 FR 
72297, December 5, 2012).
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.018


[[Page 13185]]



Chinook Salmon Prohibited Species Catch Limits

    In 2012, NMFS issued a final rule to implement Amendment 93 to the 
GOA FMP (77 FR 42629, July 20, 2012). Amendment 93 established separate 
Chinook salmon PSC limits in the Western and Central GOA in the 
directed pollock fishery. These limits require NMFS to close the 
pollock directed fishery in the Western and Central regulatory areas of 
the GOA if the applicable limit is reached (Sec.  679.21(h)(6)). The 
annual Chinook salmon PSC limits in the pollock directed fishery of 
6,684 salmon in the Western GOA and 18,316 salmon in the Central GOA 
are set in regulation at Sec.  679.21(h)(2)(i) and (ii). In addition, 
all salmon (regardless of species) taken in the pollock directed 
fisheries in the Western and Central GOA must be retained until an 
observer at the processing facility that takes delivery of the catch is 
provided an opportunity to count the number of salmon and to collect 
any scientific data or biological samples from the salmon (Sec.  
679.21(h)(4)).
American Fisheries Act C/P and CV Groundfish Harvest and PSC Limits
    Section 679.64 establishes groundfish harvesting and processing 
sideboard limitations on AFA C/Ps and CVs in the GOA. These sideboard 
limits are necessary to protect the interests of fishermen and 
processors who do not directly benefit from the AFA from those 
fishermen and processors who receive exclusive harvesting and 
processing privileges under the AFA. Section 679.7(k)(1)(ii) prohibits 
listed AFA C/Ps from harvesting any species of groundfish in the GOA. 
Additionally, Sec.  679.7(k)(1)(iv) prohibits listed AFA C/Ps from 
processing any pollock harvested in a directed pollock fishery in the 
GOA and any groundfish harvested in Statistical Area 630 of the GOA.
    AFA CVs that are less than 125 ft (38.1 meters) length overall, 
have annual landings of pollock in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands 
less than 5,100 mt, and have made at least 40 groundfish landings from 
1995 through 1997 are exempt from GOA sideboard limits under Sec.  
679.64(b)(2)(ii). Sideboard limits for non-exempt AFA CVs in the GOA 
are based on their traditional harvest levels of TAC in groundfish 
fisheries covered by the FMP. Section 679.64(b)(3)(iii) establishes the 
groundfish sideboard limitations in the GOA based on the retained catch 
of non-exempt AFA CVs of each sideboard species from 1995 through 1997 
divided by the TAC for that species over the same period.
    Tables 19 and 20 list the final 2013 and 2014 groundfish sideboard 
limits for non-exempt AFA CVs. NMFS will deduct all targeted or 
incidental catch of sideboard species made by non-exempt AFA CVs from 
the sideboard limits listed in Tables 19 and 20.
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P

[[Page 13186]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.019


[[Page 13187]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.020


[[Page 13188]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.021


[[Page 13189]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.022


[[Page 13190]]



Non-Exempt AFA Catcher Vessel Halibut PSC Limits

    The halibut PSC sideboard limits for non-exempt AFA CVs in the GOA 
are based on the aggregate retained groundfish catch by non-exempt AFA 
CVs in each PSC target category from 1995 through 1997 divided by the 
retained catch of all vessels in that fishery from 1995 through 1997 
(Sec.  679.64(b)(4)). Table 21 lists the final 2013 and 2014 non-exempt 
AFA CV halibut PSC limits for vessels using trawl gear in the GOA. 
These halibut PSC limits are unchanged from the proposed 2013 and 2014 
harvest specifications.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.023

Non-AFA Crab Vessel Groundfish Harvest Limitations

    Section 680.22 establishes groundfish catch limits for vessels with 
a history of participation in the Bering Sea snow crab fishery to 
prevent these vessels from using the increased flexibility provided by 
the Crab Rationalization Program to expand their level of participation 
in the GOA groundfish fisheries. Sideboard limits restrict these 
vessels' catch to their collective historical landings in each GOA 
groundfish fishery (except the fixed-gear sablefish fishery). Sideboard 
limits also apply to catch made using an LLP license derived from the 
history of a restricted vessel, even if that LLP license is used on 
another vessel.
    The basis for these sideboard limits is described in detail in the 
final rules implementing the major provisions of the Allocation of 
Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands King and Tanner Crab Fishery Resources 
(70 FR 10174, March 2, 2005), Amendment 34 to the Fishery Management 
Plan for Bering Sea/Aleutian Island King and Tanner Crabs (76 FR 35772, 
June 20, 2011), and Amendment 83 to the GOA FMP (76 FR 74670, December 
1, 2011).
    Tables 22 and 23 list the final 2013 and 2014 groundfish sideboard 
limitations for non-AFA crab vessels. All targeted or incidental catch 
of sideboard species made by non-AFA crab vessels or associated LLP 
licenses will be deducted from these sideboard limits.

[[Page 13191]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.024


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[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.025


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[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.026


[[Page 13194]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.027


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[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.028


[[Page 13196]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.029

Rockfish Program Groundfish Sideboard and Halibut PSC Limitations

    The Rockfish Program establishes three classes of sideboard 
provisions: CV groundfish sideboard restrictions, C/P rockfish 
sideboard restrictions, and C/P opt-out vessel sideboard restrictions. 
These sideboards are intended to limit the ability of rockfish 
harvesters to expand into other fisheries.
    CVs participating in the Rockfish Program may not participate in 
directed fishing for northern rockfish, Pacific ocean perch, and 
pelagic shelf rockfish (dusky rockfish) in the West Yakutat district 
and Western GOA from July 1 through July 31. Furthermore, CVs may not 
participate in directed fishing for arrowtooth flounder, deep-water 
flatfish, and rex sole in the GOA from July 1 through July 31 (Sec.  
679.82(d)).
    Catcher/processors participating in Rockfish Program cooperatives 
are restricted by rockfish and halibut PSC limitations. These C/Ps are 
prohibited from directed fishing for northern rockfish, Pacific ocean 
perch, and pelagic shelf rockfish (dusky rockfish) in the West Yakutat 
district and Western GOA from July 1 through July 31. Holders of C/P-
designated LLP licenses that opt-out of participating in a Rockfish 
Program cooperative will be able to access that portion of each 
sideboard limit that is not assigned to rockfish cooperatives. Tables 
24 and 25 list the final 2013 and 2014 Rockfish Program C/P sideboard 
limits in the West Yakutat district and the Western GOA. Due to 
confidentiality requirements associated with fisheries data, the 
sideboard limits for the West Yakutat district are not displayed.

[[Page 13197]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.030

    The C/P sector is subject to halibut PSC sideboard limits for the 
trawl deep-water and shallow-water species fisheries during the period 
July 1 through July 31. No halibut PSC sideboard limits apply to the CV 
sector, as vessels participating in cooperatives receive a portion of 
the annual halibut PSC limit. C/Ps that opt-out of the Rockfish Program 
would be able to access that portion of the deep-water and shallow-
water halibut PSC sideboard limit not assigned to C/P rockfish 
cooperatives. The sideboard provisions for C/Ps that elect to opt-out 
of participating in a rockfish cooperative are described in Sec.  
679.82(c), (e), and (f). Sideboards are linked to the catch history of 
specific vessels that may choose to opt-out. Once NMFS determines which 
C/Ps have opted-out of the Rockfish Program in 2013, the ratios and 
amounts used to calculate opt-out sideboard ratios will be known. NMFS 
will then calculate any applicable opt-out sideboards and post these 
allocations on the Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/sustainablefisheries/goarat/default.htm). 
Table 26 lists the 2013 and 2014 Rockfish Program halibut PSC limits 
for the catcher/processor sector.

[[Page 13198]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.031

Amendment 80 Program Groundfish and PSC Sideboard Limits

    Amendment 80 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the 
Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (Amendment 80 Program) 
established a limited access privilege program for the non-AFA trawl C/
P sector. To limit the ability of participants eligible for the 
Amendment 80 Program to expand their harvest efforts in the GOA, the 
Amendment 80 Program established groundfish and halibut PSC catch 
limits for Amendment 80 Program participants.
    Section 679.92 establishes groundfish harvesting sideboard limits 
on all Amendment 80 program vessels, other than the F/V GOLDEN FLEECE, 
to amounts no greater than the limits shown in Table 37 to 50 CFR part 
679. Under regulations at Sec.  679.92(d), the F/V GOLDEN FLEECE is 
prohibited from directed fishing for pollock, Pacific cod, Pacific 
ocean perch, dusky rockfish, and northern rockfish in the GOA.
    Groundfish sideboard limits for Amendment 80 Program vessels 
operating in the GOA are based on their average aggregate harvests from 
1998 through 2004. Tables 27 and 28 list the final 2013 and 2014 
sideboard limits for Amendment 80 Program vessels. These limits are 
based on the final 2013 and 2014 TACs established by this action, and 
thus may differ proportionately from the sideboard limits in the 
proposed harvest specifications. NMFS will deduct all targeted or 
incidental catch of sideboard species made by Amendment 80 Program 
vessels from the sideboard limits in Tables 27 and 28.

[[Page 13199]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.032


[[Page 13200]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.033

    The PSC sideboard limits for Amendment 80 Program vessels in the 
GOA are based on the historic use of halibut PSC by Amendment 80 
Program vessels in each PSC target category from 1998 through 2004. 
These values are slightly lower than the average historic use to 
accommodate two factors: Allocation of halibut PSC cooperative quota 
under the Central GOA Rockfish Program and the exemption of the F/V 
GOLDEN FLEECE from this restriction (Sec.  679.92(b)(2)). Table 29 
lists the final 2013 and 2014 halibut PSC limits for Amendment 80 
Program vessels, as contained in Table 38 to 50 CFR part 679. These 
halibut PSC limits are unchanged from those listed in the proposed 2013 
and 2014 harvest specifications.

[[Page 13201]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.034

Directed Fishing Closures

    Pursuant to Sec.  679.20(d)(1)(i), if the Regional Administrator 
determines (1) that any allocation or apportionment of a target species 
or species group allocated or apportioned to a fishery will be reached; 
or (2) with respect to pollock and Pacific cod, that an allocation or 
apportionment to an inshore or offshore component or sector allocation 
will be reached, the Regional Administrator may establish a directed 
fishing allowance (DFA) for that species or species group. If the 
Regional Administrator establishes a DFA and that allowance is or will 
be reached before the end of the fishing year, NMFS will prohibit 
directed fishing for that species or species group in the specified GOA 
regulatory area or district (Sec.  679.20(d)(1)(iii)).
    The Regional Administrator has determined that the TACs for the 
species listed in Table 30 are necessary to account for the incidental 
catch of these species in other anticipated groundfish fisheries for 
the 2013 and 2014 fishing years.

[[Page 13202]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.035

    Consequently, in accordance with Sec.  679.20(d)(1)(i), the 
Regional Administrator establishes the DFA for the species or species 
groups listed in Table 30 as zero mt. Therefore, in accordance with 
Sec.  679.20(d)(1)(iii), NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for those 
species, areas, gear types, and components in the GOA listed in Table 
30. These closures will remain in effect through 2400 hrs, A.l.t., 
December 31, 2014.
    Section 679.64(b)(5) provides for management of AFA CV groundfish 
harvest limits and PSC bycatch limits using directed fishing closures 
and PSC closures according to procedures set out at Sec. Sec.  
679.20(d)(1)(iv), 679.21(d)(8), and 679.21(e)(3)(v). The Regional 
Administrator has determined that, in addition to the closures listed 
above, many of the non-exempt AFA CV sideboard limits listed in Tables 
19 and 20 are necessary as incidental catch to support other 
anticipated groundfish fisheries for the 2013 and 2014 fishing years. 
In accordance with Sec.  679.20(d)(1)(iv), the Regional Administrator 
sets the DFAs for the species and species groups in Table 31 at zero. 
Therefore, in accordance with Sec.  679.20(d)(1)(iii), NMFS is 
prohibiting directed fishing by non-exempt AFA CVs in the GOA for the 
species and specified areas listed in Table 31. These closures will 
remain in effect through 2400 hrs, A.l.t., December 31, 2014.

[[Page 13203]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR26FE13.036

    Section 680.22 provides for the management of non-AFA crab vessel 
sideboards using directed fishing closures in accordance with Sec.  
680.22(e)(2) and (3). The Regional Administrator has determined that 
the non-AFA crab vessel sideboards listed in Tables 22 and 23 are 
insufficient to support a directed fishery and has set the sideboard 
DFA at zero, with the exception of Pacific cod pot CV sector 
apportionments in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas. Therefore, 
NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing by non-AFA crab vessels in the GOA 
for all species and species groups listed in Tables 22 and 23, with the 
exception of the Pacific cod pot CV sector apportionments in the 
Western and Central Regulatory Areas.
    Section 679.82 provides for the management of Rockfish Program 
sideboard limits using directed fishing closures in accordance with 
Sec.  679.82(d) and (e). The Regional Administrator has determined that 
the CV sideboards listed in Tables 24 and 25 are insufficient to 
support a directed fishery and has set the sideboard DFA at zero. 
Therefore, NMFS is closing directed fishing for Pacific ocean perch and 
dusky rockfish in the WYK district and the Western Regulatory Area, and 
for northern rockfish in the Western Regulatory Area by CVs 
participating in the Central GOA Rockfish Program during the month of 
July in 2013 and 2014. These closures will remain in effect through 
2400 hrs, A.l.t., December 31, 2014.
    Closures implemented under the 2012 and 2013 GOA harvest 
specifications for groundfish (77 FR 15194, March 14, 2012) remain 
effective under authority of these final 2013 and 2014 harvest 
specifications, and are posted at the following Web site: http://www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/cm/info_bulletins/.
    While these closures are in effect, the maximum retainable amounts 
at Sec.  679.20(e) and (f) apply at any time during a fishing trip. 
These closures to directed fishing are in addition to closures and 
prohibitions found in regulations at 50 CFR part 679. NMFS may 
implement other closures during the 2013 and 2014 fishing years as 
necessary for effective conservation and management.

Comments and Response

    NMFS did not receive any comments in response to the proposed 2013 
and 2014 harvest specifications (77 FR 72297, December 5, 2012).

Classification

    NMFS has determined that these final harvest specifications are 
consistent with the FMP and 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 and 13563.
    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. In 
January 2013, NMFS prepared a Supplemental Information Report (SIR) for 
this action. Copies of the EIS, ROD, and SIR for this action are 
available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). The EIS analyzes the environmental 
consequences of the groundfish harvest specifications and alternative 
harvest strategies on resources in the action area. The EIS found no 
significant environmental consequences of this action and its 
alternatives. The preferred alternative is a harvest strategy in which 
TACs are set at a level that falls within the range of ABCs recommended 
by the Council's SSC; the sum of the TACs must achieve the OY specified 
in the FMP. The SIR evaluates the need to prepare a Supplemental EIS 
(SEIS) for

[[Page 13204]]

the 2013 and 2014 groundfish harvest specifications.
    An SEIS should be prepared if (1) the agency makes substantial 
changes in the proposed action that are relevant to environmental 
concerns, or (2) significant new circumstances or information exist 
relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed action 
or its impacts (40 CFR 1502.9(c)(1)). After reviewing the information 
contained in the SIR and SAFE reports, the Regional Administrator has 
determined that (1) approval of the 2013 and 2014 harvest 
specifications, which were set according to the preferred harvest 
strategy in the EIS, do not constitute a change in the action; and (2) 
there are no significant new circumstances or information relevant to 
environmental concerns and bearing on the action or its impacts. 
Additionally, the 2013 and 2014 harvest specifications will result in 
environmental impacts within the scope of those analyzed and disclosed 
in the EIS. Therefore, supplemental National Environmental Policy Act 
documentation is not necessary to implement the 2013 and 2014 harvest 
specifications.
    Pursuant to section 604 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 
601 et seq., a FRFA was prepared for this action. The FRFA incorporates 
the IRFA, and includes a summary of the significant issues raised by 
public comments in response to the IRFA, NMFS' responses to those 
comments, and a summary of the analyses completed to support the 
action.
    A copy of the FRFA prepared for this final rule is available from 
NMFS (see ADDRESSES). A description of this action, its purpose, and 
its legal basis are contained at the beginning of the preamble to this 
final rule and are not repeated here.
    NMFS published the proposed rule on December 5, 2012 (77 FR 72297). 
NMFS prepared an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) to 
accompany this action, and included a summary in the proposed rule. The 
comment period closed on January 4, 2013. No comments were received on 
the IRFA or the economic impacts of the rule more generally.
    The entities directly regulated by this action are those that 
receive allocations of groundfish in the EEZ of the GOA, and in 
parallel fisheries within State of Alaska waters, during the annual 
harvest specifications process. These directly regulated entities 
include the groundfish CVs and C/Ps active in these areas. Direct 
allocations of groundfish are also made to Central GOA Rockfish Program 
cooperatives. These entities are, therefore, also considered to be 
directly regulated.
    In 2011, there were 1,049 individual CVs with revenues less than or 
equal to $4 million. Some of these vessels are members of AFA inshore 
pollock cooperatives, or of GOA rockfish cooperatives. Vessels that 
participate in these cooperatives are considered to be large entities 
within the meaning of the RFA. After accounting for membership in these 
cooperatives, there are an estimated 1,002 small CVs remaining in the 
GOA.
    In 2011, nine C/Ps grossed less than $4 million. Some of these 
vessels were affiliated through ownership by the same business firm. 
NMFS estimates that these vessels were owned by eight separate firms. 
Vessels in this group were also affiliated through membership in two 
cooperatives (the Amendment 80 Alaska Seafood Cooperative and the 
Freezer Longline Conservation Cooperative). After taking account of 
firm and cooperative affiliations, NMFS estimates that these nine 
vessels represent four small entities.
    The number of Rockfish Program cooperatives can change yearly. In 
2011, there were 10 separate cooperatives. The Rockfish Program 
cooperatives are directly regulated, since they receive allocations of 
TAC through the harvest specifications process. The cooperatives are 
large entities, since they are affiliated with firms with a combined 
total gross revenue of over $4 million.
    This action does not modify recordkeeping or reporting 
requirements.
    NMFS considered other, alternative harvest strategies when choosing 
the preferred harvest strategy (Alternative 2) in December 2006. These 
included the following:
     Alternative 1: Set TACs to produce fishing mortality 
rates, F, that are equal to maxFABC, unless the sum of the TACs is 
constrained by the OY established in the FMPs. This is equivalent to 
setting TACs to produce harvest levels equal to the maximum permissible 
ABCs, as constrained by OY. The term ``maxFABC'' refers to the maximum 
permissible value of FABC under Amendment 56 to the groundfish FMPs. 
Historically, the TAC has been set at or below the ABC, therefore, this 
alternative represents a likely upper limit for setting the TAC within 
the OY and ABC limits.
     Alternative 3: For species in Tiers 1, 2, and 3, set TAC 
to produce F equal to the most recent 5-year average actual F. For 
species in Tiers 4, 5, and 6, set TAC equal to the most recent 5-year 
average actual catch. For stocks with a high level of scientific 
information, TACs would be set to produce harvest levels equal to the 
most recent 5-year average actual fishing mortality rates. For stocks 
with insufficient scientific information, TACs would be set equal to 
the most recent 5-year average actual catch. This alternative 
recognizes that for some stocks, catches may fall well below ABCs, and 
recent average F may provide a better indicator of actual F than FABC 
does.
     Alternative 4: (1) Set TACs for rockfish species in Tier 3 
at F75%. Set TACs for rockfish species in Tier 5 at F=0.5M. Set 
spatially explicit TACs for shortraker and rougheye rockfish in the 
GOA. (2) Taking the rockfish TACs as calculated above, reduce all other 
TACs by a proportion that does not vary across species, so that the sum 
of all TACs, including rockfish TACs, is equal to the lower bound of 
the area OY (116,000 mt in the GOA). This alternative sets conservative 
and spatially explicit TACs for rockfish species that are long-lived 
and late to mature and sets conservative TACs for the other groundfish 
species.
     Alternative 5: (No Action) Set TACs at zero.
    These alternatives do not both meet the objectives of this action 
although they have a smaller adverse economic impact on small entities 
than the preferred alternative. The Council rejected these alternatives 
as harvest strategies in 2006, and the Secretary did so in 2007.
    Alternative 1 selected harvest rates that will allow fishermen to 
harvest stocks at the level of ABCs, unless total harvests are 
constrained by the upper bound of the GOA OY of 800,000 metric tons. 
The sums of ABCs in 2013 and 2014 are 595,920 mt and 584,094 mt, 
respectively. The sums of the TACs in 2013 and 2014 are 436,255 mt and 
427,722 mt, respectively. Thus, although the sum of ABCs in each year 
is less than 800,000 metric tons, the sums of the TACs in each year are 
less than the sums of the ABCs.
    In most cases, the Council has set TACs equal to ABCs. The 
divergence between aggregate TACs and aggregate ABCs reflects a variety 
of special species- and fishery-specific circumstances:
     Pacific cod TACs are set equal to 75 percent of the 
Pacific cod ABCs in each year to account for the guideline harvest 
levels set by the State of Alaska for Pacific cod in its fisheries that 
are equal to 25 percent of the Council's ABCs. Thus, this difference 
does not actually reflect a Pacific cod harvest below the Pacific cod 
ABC.
     Shallow-water flatfish and flathead sole TACs are set 
below ABCs in the

[[Page 13205]]

Western and Central GOA regulatory areas. Arrowtooth flounder TACs are 
set below ABC in all GOA regulatory areas. Catches of these flatfish 
species rarely, if ever, approach the proposed ABCs or TACs. Important 
trawl fisheries in the GOA take halibut PSC, and are constrained by 
limits on the allowable halibut PSC mortality. These limits routinely 
force the closure of trawl fisheries before they have harvested the 
available groundfish ABC. Thus, actual harvests of groundfish in the 
GOA routinely fall short of some ABCs and TACs. Markets can also 
constrain harvests below the TACs, as has been the case with arrowtooth 
flounder, in the past. These TACs are set to allow for increased 
harvest opportunities for these targets while conserving the halibut 
PSC limit for use in other, more fully utilized, fisheries.
     The other rockfish TAC is set below the ABC in the 
Southeast Outside district based on several factors. In addition to 
conservation concerns for the rockfish species in this group, there is 
a regulatory prohibition against using trawl gear east of 140[deg] W. 
longitude. Because most species of other rockfish are caught 
exclusively with trawl gear, the catch of such species with other gear 
types, such as hook-and-line, is low. The commercial catch of other 
rockfish in the Eastern regulatory area, which includes the West 
Yakutat and Southeast Outside districts, in the last decade has ranged 
from approximately 70 mt to 248 mt per year.
     The GOA-wide Atka mackerel TAC is set below the ABC. The 
estimates of survey biomass continue to be unreliable in the GOA. 
Therefore, the Council recommended and NMFS agrees that the Atka 
mackerel TAC in the GOA be set at an amount to support incidental catch 
in other directed fisheries.
    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, 
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 GOA to 
its lower end of 116,000 mt. Overall, this would reduce 2013 TACs by 
about 73 percent. This would lead to significant reductions in harvests 
of species harvested by small entities. While production declines in 
the GOA would undoubtedly be associated with price increases in the 
GOA, these increases would still be constrained by the availability of 
substitutes, and are very unlikely to offset revenue declines from 
smaller production. Thus, this action would have a detrimental economic 
impact on small entities.
    Alternative 5, which sets all harvests equal to zero, may also 
address conservation issues, but would have a significant adverse 
economic impact on small entities.
    Impacts on marine mammals resulting from fishing activities 
conducted under this rule are discussed in the EIS (see ADDRESSES).
    Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), the Acting Assistant Administrator 
for Fisheries, NOAA, finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in 
effectiveness for this rule because delaying this rule would be 
contrary to the public interest. The Plan Team review occurred in 
November 2012, and Council consideration and recommendations occurred 
in December 2012. Accordingly, NMFS review could not begin until 
January 2013. For all fisheries not currently closed because the TACs 
established under the final 2012 and 2013 harvest specifications (77 FR 
15194, March 14, 2012) were not reached, it is possible that they would 
be closed prior to the expiration of a 30-day delayed effectiveness 
period, because their TACs could be reached within that time period. If 
implemented immediately, this rule would allow these fisheries to 
continue to fish because the new TACs implemented by this rule are 
higher than the ones under which they are currently fishing.
    Certain fisheries, such as those for pollock and Pacific cod are 
intensive, fast-paced fisheries. Other fisheries, such as those for 
sablefish, flatfish, rockfish, Atka mackerel, skates, sculpins, sharks, 
squids, and octopuses are critical as directed fisheries and as 
incidental catch in other fisheries. U.S. fishing vessels have 
demonstrated the capacity to catch the TAC allocations in many of these 
fisheries. If this rule allowed for a 30-day delay in effectiveness and 
if a TAC is reached, NMFS would close directed fishing or prohibit 
retention for the applicable species. Any delay in allocating the final 
TACs in these fisheries would cause confusion to the industry and 
potential economic harm through unnecessary discards, thus undermining 
the intent of the rule. Waiving the 30-day delay allows NMFS to prevent 
economic loss to fishermen that could otherwise occur should the 2013 
TACs be reached. Determining which fisheries may close is impossible 
because these fisheries are affected by several factors that cannot be 
predicted in advance, including fishing effort, weather, movement of 
fishery stocks, and market price. Furthermore, the closure of one 
fishery has a cascading effect on other fisheries by freeing-up fishing 
vessels, allowing them to move from closed fisheries to open ones, 
increasing the fishing capacity in those open fisheries, and causing 
them to close at an accelerated pace.
    In fisheries subject to declining sideboards, a failure to 
implement the updated sideboards before initial season's end could deny 
the intended economic protection to the non-sideboarded sectors. 
Conversely, in fisheries with increasing sideboards, economic benefit 
could be denied to the sideboarded sectors.
    If the final harvest specifications are not effective by March 23, 
2013, which is the start of the 2013 Pacific halibut season as 
specified by the IPHC, the hook-and-line sablefish fishery will not 
begin concurrently with the Pacific halibut IFQ season. This would 
result in confusion for the industry and economic harm from unnecessary 
discard of sablefish that are caught along with Pacific halibut, as 
both hook-and-line sablefish and Pacific halibut are managed under the 
same IFQ program. Immediate effectiveness of the final 2013 and 2014 
harvest specifications will allow the sablefish IFQ fishery to begin 
concurrently with the Pacific halibut IFQ season.
    In addition, the immediate effectiveness of this action is required 
to provide consistent management and conservation of fishery resources 
based on the best available scientific information. This is 
particularly true for those species that have lower 2013 ABCs and TACs 
than those established in the 2012 and 2013 harvest specifications (77 
FR 15194, March 14, 2012). Immediate effectiveness also would give the 
fishing industry the earliest possible opportunity to plan and conduct 
its fishing operations with respect to new information about TACs. 
Therefore, NMFS finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in 
effectiveness under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3).

Small Entity Compliance Guide

    The following information is a plain language guide to assist small 
entities in complying with this final rule as required by the Small 
Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996. This final rule's 
primary purpose is to announce the final 2013 and 2014 harvest 
specifications and prohibited species bycatch allowances for the 
groundfish fisheries of the GOA. This action is necessary to establish 
harvest

[[Page 13206]]

limits and associated management measures for groundfish during the 
2013 and 2014 fishing years, and to accomplish the goals and objectives 
of the FMP. This action affects all fishermen who participate in the 
GOA fisheries. The specific amounts of OFL, ABC, TAC, and PSC are 
provided in tables to assist the reader. NMFS will announce closures of 
directed fishing in the Federal Register and information bulletins 
released by the Alaska Region. Affected fishermen should keep 
themselves informed of such closures.

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1540(f), 1801 et 
seq.; 16 U.S.C. 3631 et seq.; Public Law 105-277; Public Law 106-31; 
Public Law 106-554; Public Law 108-199; Public Law 108-447; Public 
Law 109-241; Public Law 109-479.

    Dated: February 19, 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. 2013-04162 Filed 2-25-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P