[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 97 (Monday, May 20, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 29248-29257]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-11953]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

[Doc. No. 101108560-3462-02]
RIN 0648-BA43


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Revise 
Maximum Retainable Amounts of Groundfish Bering Sea and Aleutian 
Islands

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS issues a regulation to increase the maximum retainable 
amounts (MRAs) of groundfish using arrowtooth flounder (Atheresthes 
stomias) and Kamchatka flounder (Atheresthes evermanni) as basis 
species in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI). 
This action allows the use of BSAI arrowtooth flounder and Kamchatka 
flounder as basis species for the retention of species closed to 
directed fishing and is necessary to improve retention of otherwise 
marketable groundfish in these BSAI fisheries. This action also 
includes four regulatory amendments related to harvest management of 
Kamchatka flounder.
    Two amendments are necessary to account for Kamchatka flounder in 
the same manner as arrowtooth flounder in the BSAI and to aid in the 
recordkeeping, reporting, and catch accounting of flatfish in the BSAI.
    The third amendment is necessary to provide NMFS the flexibility to 
allocate Kamchatka flounder (and other species in the future) to the 
Western Alaska Community Development Quota (CDQ) Program in the annual 
harvest specifications. Through this action, NMFS intends to promote 
the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act, the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the 
Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area, and other applicable 
law.

DATES: Effective June 19, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the final Environmental Assessment/
Regulatory Impact Review/Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/RIR/
FRFA) for this action may be obtained from http://www.regulations.gov 
or from the Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. 
The proposed rule to implement this action may also be accessed at 
http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeff Hartman, 907-586-7228 or Tom 
Pearson, 907-481-1780.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic 
zone in the BSAI under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of 
the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP). The North 
Pacific Fishery Management Council (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 and 679.

[[Page 29249]]

    Regulations at Sec.  679.20(e) and (f), and Table 11 to 50 CFR part 
679 establish MRA percentages for groundfish species and species 
groups. An MRA is the maximum round weight of a species or species 
group closed to directed fishing that may be retained onboard a vessel. 
NMFS established MRAs to allow vessels engaged in fishing for species 
or species groups open to directed fishing (basis species) to retain a 
specified amount of species or species group closed to directed 
fishing. The percentage of a species or species group closed to 
directed fishing retained in relation to the basis species must not 
exceed the MRAs listed in Table 11 to 50 CFR part 679.
    MRA percentages serve as a management tool to slow harvest rates 
and reduce the incentive for targeting species closed to directed 
fishing. MRAs allow for some retention of species closed to directed 
fishing instead of requiring that catch of all species closed to 
directed fishing be discarded. MRA percentages reflect a balance 
between the recognized need to slow harvest rates and minimize the 
potential for discards, and, in some cases, provide an increased 
opportunity to harvest available total allowable catch (TAC) through 
limited retention.
    The Department of Commerce, NOAA Office for Law Enforcement or the 
United States Coast Guard, District 17, Enforcement Branch may review 
production data to determine if vessels have complied with specified 
MRAs by comparing the estimated round weight of the retained species 
closed to directed fishing with the estimated round weight of all 
retained basis species. The amount of round weight equivalent (defined 
at Sec.  679.2) of each retained species must not exceed the MRA, a 
specified percentage, of the round weight of a basis species. For 
example, when Pacific cod is open to directed fishing and arrowtooth 
flounder is closed to directed fishing, a vessel operator may retain a 
round weight equivalent amount of arrowtooth flounder of up to 35 
percent of the round weight equivalent of Pacific cod that is retained 
onboard the vessel. In this example, all incidental catch of arrowtooth 
flounder in excess of the 35 percent MRA, from Table 11 to 50 CFR part 
679, must be discarded.

MRAs for Groundfish in Arrowtooth Flounder Directed Fishery

    The Council recognized that efforts by the non-pelagic trawl fleet 
to improve retention of groundfish species in the BSAI arrowtooth 
flounder fishery are constrained by the current zero MRAs for 
groundfish where arrowtooth flounder is a basis species. Arrowtooth 
flounder has become an important species for some non-pelagic trawl 
vessels to retain and process. Specifically, arrowtooth flounder is 
harvested and processed by non-pelagic trawl catcher/processor vessels 
operating in non-pollock fisheries in the BSAI, more commonly known as 
the Amendment 80 sector (72 FR 52668, September 14, 2007). While this 
species is occasionally caught incidentally by other gear and operation 
type, they are typically discarded and not retained or processed.
    In October 2010, the Council recommended setting the MRAs for BSAI 
groundfish using arrowtooth flounder as the basis species at the same 
MRA percentages as those set for BSAI groundfish using Pacific cod as a 
basis species with two exceptions (Greenland turbot and the ``other 
species'' group). The EA/RIR prepared for this action demonstrates that 
the MRAs listed in Table 11 to 50 CFR part 679 for groundfish caught in 
the Pacific cod directed fishery represent a conservative guide for 
managing incidental catch in the arrowtooth flounder fishery. MRAs for 
groundfish species in the Pacific cod directed fishery are lower than 
the MRAs for a number of groundfish species that are commonly caught by 
the non-pelagic trawl fleet in other directed flatfish fisheries.
    The Council recommended that the MRAs for Greenland turbot in the 
arrowtooth flounder directed fishery be based on the approximate 
average incidental catch of Greenland turbot in those fisheries between 
2003 and 2009 because average gross earnings per pound of retained 
arrowtooth flounder increased during that time. The Council recommended 
that the MRAs for the aggregated ``other species'' group (skates, 
sharks, sculpins, and octopus) caught in the arrowtooth flounder 
fishery also be based on the approximate average incidental catch 
observed between 2003 and 2009. The Council intends these MRA 
modifications to allow vessels fishing in the arrowtooth flounder and/
or Kamchatka flounder fisheries some retention of incidentally-caught 
Greenland turbot and ``other species'' if Greenland turbot and ``other 
species'' are closed to directed fishing.

Prior Management Actions on Groundfish in Arrowtooth Flounder and 
Kamchatka Flounder Directed Fisheries

    Prior to 2011, arrowtooth flounder and Kamchatka flounder were 
managed together with a single overfishing level (OFL), acceptable 
biological catch (ABC), and TAC in the BSAI. Arrowtooth flounder and 
Kamchatka flounder are caught at the same time in the non-pelagic trawl 
fishery, and are often difficult to distinguish from each other. 
Throughout most of the BSAI, however, Kamchatka flounder are less 
abundant than arrowtooth flounder. As the directed fishery for 
arrowtooth flounder and market prices for Kamchatka flounder have 
increased, Kamchatka flounder in the arrowtooth flounder fishery has 
been caught in disproportionately greater amounts relative to Kamchatka 
flounder biomass estimates. In 2010, the Council recommended that 
separate OFLs, ABCs, and TACs be established for arrowtooth flounder 
and Kamchatka flounder to protect the stock of Kamchatka flounder (76 
FR 11139, March 1, 2011). The impacts of the harvest strategies and 
resulting TAC amounts were analyzed in the 2007 Alaska Groundfish 
Harvest Final Specifications Environmental Impact Statement available 
at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. For purposes of MRA compliance, 
Kamchatka flounder was grouped with ``other flatfish'' (see footnote 2 
to Table 11 to part 50 CFR 679), and arrowtooth flounder and Kamchatka 
flounder were assigned different MRAs.

 Revisions to MRAs and Prohibited Species Catch

    This rule revises Table 11 to 50 CFR part 679 to increase the MRAs 
for groundfish species and species groups closed to directed fishing 
using arrowtooth flounder as the basis species from zero percent to 20 
percent for pollock, Pacific cod, Atka mackerel, Alaska plaice, 
yellowfin sole, other flatfish, rock sole, flathead sole, and squid; 
from zero percent to 7 percent for Greenland turbot; from zero percent 
to 1 percent for sablefish; from zero percent to 2 percent for 
shortraker rockfish and rougheye rockfish (combined); from zero percent 
to 5 percent for aggregated rockfish; from zero percent to 7 percent 
for Greenland turbot; and from zero percent to 3 percent for the 
``other species'' group.
    This rule revises Table 11 to eliminate language that is no longer 
relevant because of revisions implemented through prior actions. NMFS 
moves Kamchatka flounder from ``other flatfish'' to the arrowtooth 
flounder category in Table 11 to 50 CFR part 679. NMFS revises footnote 
4, which defines ``other species,'' to remove the sentence ``Forage 
fish, as defined at Table 2c to this part are not included in the 
`other species' category.'' This revision eliminates an unnecessary 
clarification

[[Page 29250]]

because capelin, eulachon, and smelt were removed from ``other 
species'' category and placed in a forage fish species category in 1998 
(63 FR 13009, March 17, 1998). This revision eliminates a potential 
source of confusion for the entities subject to this rule who are 
required to use the revised Table 11 to comply with groundfish MRAs.

Management Measures

    Three additional regulatory amendments provide for the identical 
MRA, PSC, and harvest management measures for arrowtooth flounder and 
Kamchatka flounder. These amendments are necessary to facilitate 
recordkeeping, reporting, and catch accounting of arrowtooth flounder 
and Kamchatka flounder and would ensure consistent timing of the 
harvest of these two species. A fourth amendment is necessary to 
clarify how NMFS will determine whether to allocate a portion of a new 
TAC category to the Western Alaska Community Development Quota (CDQ) 
program.
    The first amendment revises Sec.  679.21(e)(3)(iv)(C) to include 
Kamchatka flounder in the same trawl fishery category for PSC 
management as arrowtooth flounder. This revision is necessary because 
arrowtooth flounder and Kamchatka flounder are harvested in a mixed 
groundfish fishery in which vessels typically encounter similar PSC 
species.
    The second amendment establishes identical seasonal opening dates 
for arrowtooth flounder and Kamchatka flounder, and is necessary to 
manage the Kamchatka flounder fishery in the same time period as the 
arrowtooth flounder fishery. Arrowtooth and Kamchatka flounder have 
historically been managed together because they are mixed-stock species 
and are often targeted together. Initiating the fishing season for 
these two species on different dates would cause significant management 
difficulties and therefore NMFS establishes concurrent seasonal 
management. This rule revises the BSAI groundfish seasons at Sec.  
679.23(e)(1) to include Kamchatka flounder with arrowtooth flounder and 
Greenland turbot so that the season for all these species would open on 
May 1.
    The third amendment revises Table 3 to 50 CFR part 679, which lists 
the product recovery rates (PRR) for groundfish species and conversion 
rates for Pacific halibut. These revisions consolidate the eight 
flatfish species (including Kamchatka flounder) in Table 3 to 50 CFR 
part 679 into a single row, and apply identical PRRs to these eight 
flatfish species. This consolidation of flatfish into one row would 
simplify Table 3 and is necessary to facilitate recordkeeping, 
reporting, and MRA determination. Currently, identical PRRs are listed 
in Table 3 to 50 CFR part 679 for these eight individual species of 
flatfish, with the exception of yellowfin sole, which is also listed as 
having a PRR for surimi. This rule establishes one surimi PRR for all 
the species within the consolidated flatfish category because the 
similar morphology of the species within this category is likely to 
produce a similar proportion of utilized surimi product. This rule uses 
the surimi PRR currently listed for yellowfin sole for the consolidated 
flatfish category. If the consolidated flatfish category was not 
assigned a PRR for surimi, compliance with MRAs could not be determined 
for this product form.
    The fourth amendment revises Sec.  679.20(b)(1)(ii) to explain how 
NMFS will determine whether to allocate a portion of a new TAC category 
to the CDQ Program in the annual harvest specifications. NMFS 
implemented the current regulations Sec.  679.20(b)(1)(ii) in the final 
rule for Amendment 80 to the FMP (72 FR 52668, September 14, 2007). 
These regulations state that if the groundfish harvest specifications 
change a TAC category allocated to a CDQ reserve by combining or 
splitting a species, species group, or management area, then the same 
percentage of the TAC apportioned to a CDQ reserve in Sec.  679.20 
(b)(1)(ii)(A) through (D) will apply to the new TAC category. However, 
section 305(i)(1)(B)(ii)(II) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act addresses 
allocations to the CDQ Program and provides more specific guidance, 
namely, ``the allocation under the (CDQ) program in any directed 
fishery of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (other than a fishery 
for halibut, sablefish, pollock, and crab) established after the date 
of enactment of this subclause shall be a total allocation (directed 
and nontarget combined) of 10.7 percent.'' In the final 2007 and 2008 
harvest specifications for groundfish of the BSAI (72 FR 9451, March 2, 
2007), NMFS explained our determination that the term ``directed 
fishery'' for purposes of section 305(i)(1) of the MSA means a fishery 
for which sufficient TAC exists to open a directed fishery for that 
species or species group and that this fishery is economically valuable 
enough for the CDQ groups to target.
    The creation of a new TAC category for Kamchatka flounder required 
NMFS, in the final 2011 and 2012 harvest specifications for groundfish 
of the BSAI (76 FR 11139, March 1, 2011), to determine if Kamchatka 
flounder was a ``directed fishery'' for purposes of the CDQ Program. If 
NMFS determined it was a directed fishery, 10.7 percent of the 
Kamchatka flounder TAC would be allocated to the CDQ Program. As 
described in more detail in the final 2011 and 2012 harvest 
specifications, NMFS determined that Kamchatka flounder was not a 
``directed fishery'' for purposes of the CDQ Program. This rule amends 
Sec.  679.20(b)(1)(ii) to explain how this determination will be made 
in future harvest specifications should new TAC categories be created.
    Specifically, this rule revises regulations at Sec.  
679.20(b)(1)(ii)(D) and removes regulations at Sec.  
679.20(b)(1)(ii)(E) that govern CDQ allocations for TAC categories that 
are established when one species or species group is split from an 
existing species or species group to form a new TAC category. The 
species specifically allocated to the CDQ Program in 50 CFR part 679 
are pollock, sablefish, the ``Amendment 80'' species (Aleutian Islands 
Pacific ocean perch, Pacific cod, Atka mackerel, yellowfin sole, rock 
sole, and flathead sole), Bering Sea Greenland turbot, and arrowtooth 
flounder. Paragraph (D)(2) is added to Sec.  679.20(b)(1)(ii) to state 
that, for all other groundfish species not specifically listed in Sec.  
679.20(b)(1)(ii)(A) through (D)(1), an amount equal to 10.7 percent of 
the BSAI TAC would be apportioned to a CDQ reserve if NMFS, after 
consultation with the Council, determines in the annual harvest 
specifications that a directed fishery in the BSAI exists for this 
species under section 305(i)(1)(B)(i) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. 
Thus, in determining that a directed fishery exists in the BSAI and 
whether the fishery is economically valuable enough for CDQ groups to 
target, the Council and NMFS would consider whether sufficient TAC 
exists to open a directed fishery for that species in the BSAI and 
determine through public comment submitted by CDQ groups whether CDQ 
groups are likely to conduct directed fishing for that species.

Response to Comments

    NMFS received one letter of comment on the proposed rule from the 
Alaska Seafood Cooperative. A summary of that comment and NMFS's 
response follows.
    Comment 1: The commenter supports the proposed rule, as a way to 
decrease bycatch in the arrowtooth and Kamchatka flounder fisheries, 
increase value within those fisheries, and increase vessels' ability to 
achieve optimum yield. The commenter also recommends one revision to 
the proposed rule.

[[Page 29251]]

    NMFS proposed that to reduce confusion regarding MRA compliance for 
thenon-pelagic trawl vessels (Amendment 80 sector), should either 
arrowtooth flounder or Kamchatka flounder close to directed fishing, 
then neither arrowtooth flounder nor Kamchatka flounder could be used 
as a basis species for the retention of groundfish in the Bering Sea 
and Aleutian Islands. NOAA Fisheries proposed this provision because 
Arrowtooth and Kamchatka flounder are morphologically similar and can 
only be distinguished by gill rakers. Once headed and gutted at sea, 
the two species are indistinguishable, creating reporting and 
enforcement challenges.
    The commenter stated that since 2011, when the Kamchatka flounder 
fishery has been open to directed fishing, participants in the 
Amendment 80 sector have cooperated with the NOAA Office for Law 
Enforcement to comply with MRA accounting requirements despite 
arrowtooth flounder and Kamchatcka flounder species identification 
issues, allowing for groundfish to be retained up to the MRA when 
Kamchatka flounder is open to directed fishing. Under current 
regulations, BSAI vessels retain arrowtooth flounder and other 
groundfish species up to the MRA when ``other species'' (including 
Kamchatka flounder) is open to directed fishing based on official NMFS 
observer sampling of arrowtooth flounder and Kamchatka flounder catch. 
Arrowtooth flounder and Kamchatka flounder are recorded in the E-
landings production report according to the ratio of each species 
within the observer's sample for each haul. NOAA Office for Law 
Enforcement would be able to verify compliance with MRAs by reviewing 
the amount of each species reported in the E-landings production 
report, and may assess if the retained catch of either arrowtooth 
flounder or Kamchatka flounder exceeded the MRA in Table 11. The 
commenter stated that since arrowtooth flounder and Kamchatka flounder 
have developed into viable fisheries, having the ability to retain non-
target species against them will allow the Amendment 80 sector to 
further improve the groundfish retention obligations.
    The commenter suggests that nothing in the proposed regulation 
would require a different MRA accounting methodology.
    To maintain consistency throughout Table 11 and avoid confusion to 
the public, the commenter recommends removing proposed footnote 9 in 
Table 11 and adding a separate row and column designating arrowtooth 
flounder and Kamchatka flounder in Table 11. This change would provide 
for separate MRA accounting for these two flounder species. The 
commenter also requests that if NMFS is unable to remove footnote 9 to 
Table 11, an editing improvement for Table 11 would be to list 
Kamchatka flounder in the same row and column as arrowtooth flounder.
    Response: NMFS agrees with this comment, and revises the final rule 
to remove footnote 9 to Table 11, and add a separate row and column 
designating arrowtooth flounder and Kamchatka flounder in Table 11. 
NMFS believes this revision is consistent with the intent of the 
proposed rule to reduce regulatory discards. This change will allow 
separate MRAs for groundfish caught incidentally to arrowtooth flounder 
and Kamchatka flounder. The NOAA Office for Law Enforcement verifies 
that the Amendment 80 sector's current application of observer catch 
composition data for MRA accounting is an effective method for 
distinguishing between arrowtooth flounder and Kamchatka flounder, and 
for ensuring that MRAs for arrowtooth flounder and Kamchatka flounder 
are not exceeded. NOAA Office for Law Enforcement verifies that the 
observer composition ratio of Kamchatka flounder to arrowtooth flounder 
is used to determine the amount of Kamchatka flounder and arrowtooth 
flounder that may be retained and that this method ensures that the 
aggregate retained Kamchatka flounder and arrowtooth flounder does not 
exceed the aggregate of 100 percent of the basis species and up to the 
MRA for the incidentally-caught species. Other groundfish fishery 
participants are not currently expected to retain these two species, 
and MRA compliance for these two species of flatfish has not been an 
issue for other gear and operation types in the BSAI.
    During 2011 the Amendment 80 sector successfully utilized this 
method for individual species-level MRA accounting for arrowtooth 
flounder when arrowtooth flounder was closed to directed fishing and 
Kamchatka flounder was open to directed fishing. A similar procedure is 
applied in other Bering Sea target fisheries, and NMFS believes that 
the non-pelagic trawl vessels that retain arrowtooth flounder or 
Kamchatka flounder will have a strong incentive to constrain catch of 
both species.

Revisions to the Proposed Rule in the Final Rule

    In this final rule, NMFS has removed footnote 9 in Table 11 to Part 
679, and listed arrowtooth flounder and Kamchatka flounder as separate 
lines in each row and column of Table 11. This allows fishery 
participants to use each species individually as a basis species should 
one of them close to directed fishing.
    This revision does not increase the total amount of any groundfish 
species that may be harvested in the BSAI groundfish fisheries. Those 
catch limits are established through the annual specifications process 
and remain the limit on total catch. This regulatory amendment allows 
greater retention of species caught incidentally in the BSAI arrowtooth 
flounder and Kamchatka flounder fishery and is intended to reduce 
regulatory discards and increase utilization of groundfish species 
already caught. All catch of groundfish or prohibited species in the 
arrowtooth flounder fishery that is reported or estimated to be caught 
using observer data will be subtracted from the TAC for those species, 
and fisheries will be closed by NMFS once those limits are reached.
    MRA compliance monitoring will continue to be based on procedures 
at Sec.  679.20(e), which estimate MRAs based on production weights, 
converted by standard product recovery rates to round weight equivalent 
weights as defined at Sec.  679.2, and MRAs in Table 11 to 50 CFR Part 
679. The final rule does not revise MRA percentages from the proposed 
rule, or otherwise revise arrowtooth flounder or Kamchatka flounder 
management in a manner that requires changes to the recordkeeping and 
reporting and MRA enforcement.

Classification

    The Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, determined that this final 
rule is necessary for the conservation and management of the groundfish 
fisheries off Alaska and that it is consistent with the Magnuson-
Stevens Act and other applicable laws.

Small Entity Compliance Guide

    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness 
Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for 
which an agency is required to prepare a final regulatory flexibility 
analysis (FRFA), the agency shall publish one or more guides to assist 
small entities in complying with the rule, and shall designate such 
publications as ``small entity compliance guides.'' The agency shall 
also explain the actions a small entity is required to take to comply 
with a rule or group of rules. The preamble to the proposed rule and 
this final rule serve as the small entity compliance guide. This action 
does not require any additional compliance from small

[[Page 29252]]

entities that is not described in the preamble. Copies of this final 
rule are available from NMFS at the following Web site: http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.

Executive Order 12866

    This rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of 
Executive Order 12866.

Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    This FRFA incorporates the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis 
(IRFA), a summary of the significant issues raised by the public 
comments, NMFS' responses to those comments, and a summary of the 
analyses completed to support the action. NMFS published the proposed 
rule on September 14, 2012 (77 FR 56789), with comments invited through 
October 15, 2012. An IRFA was prepared and summarized in the 
``Classification'' section of the preamble to the proposed rule. NMFS 
received no comments to the IRFA. The description of this action, its 
purpose, and its legal basis are described in the preamble to the 
proposed rule and are not repeated here. The FRFA describes the impacts 
on small entities, which are defined in the IRFA for this action and 
not repeated here. Analytical requirements for the FRFA are described 
in the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), sections 604(a)(1) through 
(5), and summarized below.
    The FRFA must contain:
    1. A succinct statement of the need for, and objectives of, the 
rule;
    2. A summary of the significant issues raised by the public 
comments in response to the initial regulatory flexibility analysis, a 
summary of the assessment of the agency of such issues, and a statement 
of any changes made in the proposed rule as a result of such comments;
    3. A description and an estimate of the number of small entities to 
which the rule will apply, or an explanation of why no such estimate is 
available;
    4. A description of the projected reporting, recordkeeping, and 
other compliance requirements of the rule, including an estimate of the 
classes of small entities which will be subject to the requirement and 
the type of professional skills necessary for preparation of the report 
or record; and
    5. A description of the steps the agency has taken to minimize the 
significant economic impact on small entities consistent with the 
stated objectives of applicable statutes, including a statement of the 
factual, policy, and legal reasons for selecting the alternative 
adopted in the final rule and why each one of the other significant 
alternatives to the rule considered by the agency which affect the 
impact on small entities was rejected.
    The ``universe'' of entities to be considered in a FRFA generally 
includes only those small entities that can reasonably be expected to 
be directly regulated by the final rule. If the effects of the rule 
fall primarily on a distinct segment of the industry, or portion 
thereof (e.g., user group, gear type, geographic area), that segment 
would be considered the universe for purposes of this analysis. In 
preparing a FRFA, an agency may provide either a quantifiable or 
numerical description of the effects of a rule (and alternatives to the 
rule), or more general descriptive statements, if quantification is not 
practicable or reliable.

Summary of Significant Issues Raised During Public Comment

    No comments were received that raised significant issues in 
response to the IRFA specifically or on the economic impacts of the 
rule generally; therefore, no changes were made to the rule as a result 
of comments on the IRFA.

Number and Description of Small Entities Regulated by the Final Rule

    NMFS estimated the number of small versus large entities by 
matching the gross earnings from all fisheries of record for 2009 with 
the vessels, the known ownership of those vessels, and the known 
affiliations of those vessels in the BSAI groundfish fisheries for that 
year. Based on those earnings data, the FRFA determined that there are 
354 catcher vessels directly regulated by this action that had gross 
earnings less than $4.0 million, thus categorizing them as small 
entities based on the threshold that the Small Business Administration 
uses to define small fishing entities. For catcher/processors, 18 
vessels had gross earnings less than $4 million, categorizing them as 
small entities. The preferred alternative also affects the six CDQ 
groups because it revises regulations governing how allocations are 
made to the CDQ Program of TAC categories established by splitting 
existing quota categories, as has occurred with arrowtooth flounder and 
Kamchatka flounder. Due to their status as non-profit corporations, the 
CDQ groups are also considered to be small entities under the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act.

Recordkeeping and Reporting

    Recordkeeping and reporting requirements will not change as a 
result of the final rule. The action under consideration requires no 
reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements that differ 
from the status quo.

Description of Significant Alternatives to the Final Rule

    The Council evaluated three alternatives and three suboptions to 
increase the MRAs of groundfish in the arrowtooth flounder fishery in 
the BSAI. Alternative 1, the status quo or no action alternative, would 
leave the MRAs for groundfish in the BSAI arrowtooth flounder fishery 
unchanged from current levels, and would continue to require fishermen 
to discard otherwise marketable groundfish.
    Alternative 2 would set the MRAs for groundfish using arrowtooth 
flounder as a basis species at the same MRA levels for groundfish using 
Pacific cod as a basis species, with two suboptions to modify the 
Greenland turbot MRA at 15 percent or 7 percent, and one suboption to 
modify the ``other species'' group MRA to 3 percent.
    Alternative 3 would set the MRAs for groundfish using arrowtooth 
flounder as a basis species at the same MRA levels for groundfish using 
flathead sole as a basis species. The Council also considered a 
suboption to Alternative 3 to change the MRA for Greenland turbot using 
arrowtooth flounder as a basis species to 15 percent.
    To provide the opportunity to the arrowtooth flounder trawl fishing 
industry to reduce discards by allowing increased retention of 
groundfish, the Council recommended Alternative 2 as the preferred 
alternative, with suboptions to modify the MRA for Greenland turbot and 
the ``other species'' group. In the EA/RIR/IRFA for this action, the 
preferred alternative listed here has been designated as Alternative 4. 
Alternative 2, combined with these suboptions, increases MRAs of 
groundfish closed to directed fishing for arrowtooth flounder as the 
basis species from zero percent to 20 percent for pollock, Pacific cod, 
Atka mackerel, Alaska plaice, yellowfin sole, other flatfish, rock 
sole, flathead sole, and squid; from zero percent to 7 percent for 
Greenland turbot; from zero percent to 1 percent for sablefish; from 
zero percent to 2 percent for shortraker and rougheye rockfish 
(combined); from zero percent to 5 percent for aggregated rockfish; and 
from zero percent to 3 percent for the ``other species'' group 
(consisting of skates, sharks, sculpins, and octopus in the aggregate). 
The Council recommended that the MRAs for Greenland turbot and 
aggregated ``other species'' be based on the approximate average 
incidental catch

[[Page 29253]]

observed in the arrowtooth flounder fishery between 2003 and 2009. A 
Greenland turbot MRA of 7 percent allows for increased retention of 
Greenland turbot when arrowtooth flounder is used as the basis species, 
when Greenland turbot is closed to directed fishing. Constraining the 
MRA for Greenland turbot to 7 percent instead of 15 percent may reduce 
the amount of incidentally-caught Greenland turbot in the Amendment 80 
sector directed fishery for arrowtooth flounder, allowing for a greater 
amount of Greenland turbot to be available for small entities in the 
longline fishery. The longline fishery relies on access to the 
Greenland turbot directed fishery. The recommended MRA for ``other 
species'' conserves the stocks that comprise the ``other species'' 
group while allowing for some retained catch of these species in the 
arrowtooth flounder fishery when the species that comprise the ``other 
species'' group are closed to directed fishing.
    Alternative 3 would increase the MRAs of groundfish closed to 
directed fishing for arrowtooth flounder as the basis species from zero 
percent to 20 percent for pollock, Pacific cod, Atka mackerel, squid, 
and for the ``other species'' group (skates, sharks, sculpins, and 
octopus in the aggregate); from zero percent to 35 percent for Alaska 
plaice, yellowfin sole, other flatfish, flathead sole, and Greenland 
turbot; from zero percent to 15 percent for sablefish and aggregated 
rockfish; and from zero percent to 7 percent for shortraker and 
rougheye rockfish (combined).
    Under Alternative 3, the Council recognized a greater potential for 
development of fisheries that could increase harvests of species and 
adversely impact the ability of NMFS to effectively manage several 
groundfish species within the TAC, and therefore did not recommend this 
alternative. In general, the development of a fishery is dependent upon 
a number of factors, including, but not limited to, the price of the 
MRA species, whether a market exists, accessibility of the species, 
storage availability, and processing capacity. In addition, the 
potential for a vessel to harvest a specific species varies across 
vessels. A vessel operator has more discretion to harvest specific 
groundfish species if the operator has the ability to limit incidental 
catch or the ability to discard low-valued fish, while targeting 
arrowtooth flounder.
    Alternatives 2 and 3 would be beneficial to the affected small 
entities by providing an opportunity to retain additional, economically 
valuable groundfish species when arrowtooth flounder is a basis 
species. Under Alternative 2, the benefits to small entities would be 
slightly lower than under Alternative 3. However, Alternative 2 with 
suboptions 2.2 and 2.3 (the preferred alternative), that sets the MRA 
for Greenland turbot at 7 percent and the MRA for the species that 
comprise the ``other species'' group at 3 percent, reduces unintended 
impacts to the Greenland turbot directed fishery more effectively and 
provides greater protection for the species that comprise the ``other 
species'' group than does Alternative 3. Allowing a greater amount of 
Greenland turbot retained catch under Alternative 3 may result in 
earlier closure of the Greenland turbot directed fishery, as compared 
with Alternative 2 with suboption 2.2. No negative impacts on small 
entities are associated with either Alternative 2 or 3.
    Four additional amendments to the regulations are implemented by 
this action. The purposes of these amendments are to provide MRA 
management for Kamchatka flounder that is identical to the MRA 
management applied to arrowtooth flounder; to coordinate fishing 
seasons; to facilitate recordkeeping, reporting, and catch accounting 
of Kamchatka flounder as well as other flatfish species and species 
groups; and to provide the Council and NMFS greater flexibility in the 
annual harvest specifications process to allocate TAC (for such species 
as Kamchatka flounder) to the CDQ Program in the future. These 
regulatory amendments are required to manage Kamchatka flounder with 
the same management measures that apply to arrowtooth flounder because 
of the close association of these two species in the groundfish 
fisheries.
    No negative impacts on small entities are associated with these 
regulatory amendments. Participants in the Amendment 80 sector are the 
primary entities that will be affected by this action since only 
Amendment 80 sector operators have developed markets for arrowtooth 
flounder and Kamchatka flounder and have expressed interest in 
retaining these two groundfish species. Small entities are unlikely to 
be disadvantaged by the opportunity to retain valuable incidental catch 
that would otherwise be discarded and made unavailable to sell as a 
marketable product.

Collection-of-Information Requirements

    This rule contains no new or revisions to a collection-of 
information subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679

    Alaska, Fisheries.

    Dated: May 15, 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.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 679 is amended 
as follows:

PART 679--FISHERIES OF THE EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE OFF ALASKA

0
1. The authority citation for part 679 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.; 1801 et seq.; 3631 et seq.; 
Pub. L. 108-447.


0
2. In Sec.  679.20, remove paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(E) and revise paragraph 
(b)(1)(ii)(D) to read as follows:


Sec.  679.20  General limitations.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (ii) * * *
    (D) CDQ reserves for other groundfish species. (1) An amount equal 
to 10.7 percent of the BSAI TACs for Bering Sea Greenland turbot and 
arrowtooth flounder, and 7.5 percent of the trawl gear allocation of 
sablefish in the BS and AI is apportioned from the nonspecified reserve 
established under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section to a CDQ reserve 
for each of these species by management area, subarea, or district.
    (2) For all other groundfish species not specifically listed in 
paragraphs (b)(1)(ii)(A) through (b)(1)(ii)(D)(1) of this section, an 
amount equal to 10.7 percent of the BSAI TAC will be apportioned to a 
CDQ reserve if NMFS, after consultation with the Council and in 
consideration of public comment, determines in the annual harvest 
specifications process under paragraph (c) of this section that a 
directed fishery in the BSAI exists for this species under section 
305(i)(1)(B)(i) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. In making this 
determination, the Council and NMFS shall consider whether sufficient 
TAC exists to open a directed fishery for that species in the BSAI and 
that this species or species group is economically viable for the CDQ 
group to target.
* * * * *

0
3. In Sec.  679.21, revise paragraph (e)(3)(iv)(C) to read as follows:


Sec.  679.21  Prohibited species bycatch management.

* * * * *
    (e) * * *
    (3) * * *

[[Page 29254]]

    (iv) * * *
    (C) Greenland turbot/arrowtooth flounder/Kamchatka flounder/
sablefish fishery. Fishing with trawl gear during any weekly reporting 
period that results in a retained aggregate amount of Greenland turbot, 
arrowtooth flounder, Kamchatka flounder, and sablefish that is greater 
than the retained amount of any other fishery category defined under 
this paragraph (e)(3)(iv).
* * * * *

0
4. In Sec.  679.23, revise paragraph (e)(1) to read as follows:


Sec.  679.23  Seasons.

* * * * *
    (e) * * *
    (1) Directed fishing for arrowtooth flounder, Kamchatka flounder, 
and Greenland turbot. Directed fishing for arrowtooth flounder, 
Kamchatka flounder, and Greenland turbot in the BSAI is authorized from 
1200 hours, A.l.t., May 1 through 2400 hours, A.l.t., December 31, 
subject to the other provisions of this part.
* * * * *

0
5. Revise Table 3 to part 679 to read as follows:

                       Table 3 to Part 679--Product Recovery Rates for Groundfish Species and Conversion Rates for Pacific Halibut
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                Product code
                                                   -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     1, 41,
     Species code               FMP Species          86, 92,                               6 H&G   7 H&G   8 H&G  10 H&G            12
                                                     93, 95   3 Bled  4 Gutted  5 Gutted   with    west    east     w/o     11    Salted    13    14 Roe
                                                      Whole            head on  head off    roe     cut     cut    tail   Kirimi     &     Wings
                                                      fish                                                                         Split
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
110...................  Pacific Cod...............      1.00    0.98      0.85  ........    0.63    0.57    0.47    0.44  ......    0.45  ......    0.05
                        Flatfish other than             1.00    0.98      0.90  ........    0.80    0.72    0.65    0.62    0.48  ......  ......    0.08
                         Pacific Halibut.
143...................  Thornyhead Rockfish.......      1.00    0.98      0.88  ........    0.55    0.60    0.50  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......
160...................  Sculpins..................      1.00    0.98      0.87  ........  ......    0.50    0.40  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......
193...................  Atka Mackerel.............      1.00    0.98      0.87  ........    0.67    0.64    0.61  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......
270...................  Pollock...................      1.00    0.98      0.80  ........    0.70    0.65    0.56    0.50    0.25  ......  ......    0.07
510...................  Smelts....................      1.00    0.98      0.82  ........  ......    0.71  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......
511...................  Eulachon..................      1.00    0.98      0.82  ........  ......    0.71  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......
516...................  Capelin...................      1.00    0.98      0.89  ........  ......    0.78  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......
                        Sharks....................      1.00    0.98      0.83  ........  ......    0.72  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......
                        Skates....................      1.00    0.98      0.90  ........  ......  ......    0.32  ......  ......  ......    0.32  ......
710...................  Sablefish.................      1.00    0.98      0.89  ........  ......    0.68    0.63    0.50  ......  ......  ......  ......
870...................  Octopus...................      1.00    0.98      0.81  ........  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......
875...................  Squid.....................      1.00    0.98      0.69  ........  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......
                        Rockfish..................      1.00    0.98      0.88  ........  ......    0.60    0.50  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......
200...................  PACIFIC HALIBUT Conversion  ........  ......      0.90       1.0  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......
                         rates to Net Weight.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                       Table 3 to Part 679--Product Recovery Rates for Groundfish Species and Conversion Rates for Pacific Halibut
                                                                       [Continued]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                               Product code
                                                 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                               20       21       22
     Species code             FMP Species            15                                     Fillets  Fillets  Fillets     23        24
                                                  Pectoral    16      17      18      19      with     with     with    Fillets  Fillets    30      31
                                                   girdle    Heads  Cheeks   Chins   Belly   skin &  skin no  ribs no  skinless    deep   Surimi   Mince
                                                                                              ribs     ribs     skin   boneless    skin
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
110..................  Pacific Cod..............     0.05   ......    0.05  ......    0.01     0.45     0.35     0.25     0.25   .......    0.15     0.5
                       Flatfish other than        ........  ......  ......  ......  ......     0.32     0.27     0.27     0.22   .......    0.18  ......
                        Pacific Halibut.
143..................  Thornyhead Rockfish......  ........    0.20    0.05    0.05    0.05     0.40     0.30     0.35     0.25   .......  ......  ......
160..................  Sculpins.................  ........  ......  ......  ......  ......  .......  .......  .......  ........  .......  ......  ......
193..................  Atka Mackerel............  ........  ......  ......  ......  ......  .......  .......  .......  ........  .......    0.15  ......
270..................  Pollock..................  ........    0.15  ......  ......  ......     0.35     0.30     0.30     0.21      0.16    0.16    0.22
                                                                                                                                             \1\
                                                                                                                                            0.17
                                                                                                                                             \2\
510..................  Smelts...................  ........  ......  ......  ......  ......  .......     0.38  .......  ........  .......  ......  ......
511..................  Eulachon.................  ........  ......  ......  ......  ......  .......  .......  .......  ........  .......  ......  ......
516..................  Capelin..................  ........  ......  ......  ......  ......  .......  .......  .......  ........  .......  ......  ......
                       Sharks...................  ........  ......  ......  ......  ......  .......     0.30     0.30     0.25   .......  ......  ......
                       Skates...................  ........  ......  ......  ......  ......  .......  .......  .......  ........  .......  ......  ......
710..................  Sablefish................  ........  ......    0.05  ......  ......     0.35     0.30     0.30     0.25   .......  ......  ......
870..................  Octopus..................  ........  ......  ......  ......  ......  .......  .......  .......  ........  .......  ......  ......
875..................  Squid....................  ........  ......  ......  ......  ......  .......  .......  .......  ........  .......  ......  ......
                       Rockfish.................  ........    0.15    0.05    0.05    0.10     0.40     0.30     0.33     0.25   .......  ......  ......
200..................  PACIFIC HALIBUT            ........  ......  ......  ......  ......  .......  .......  .......  ........  .......  ......  ......
                        Conversion rates to Net
                        Weight.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 29255]]


   Table 3 to Part 679--Product Recovery Rates for Groundfish Species and Conversion Rates for Pacific Halibut
                                                   [Continued]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                   Product code
                                 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                             88, 89
 Species code     FMP Species                                                       37      Infested
                                    32    33 Oil    34        35         36     Butterfly      or        98, 99
                                   Meal            Milt    Stomachs   Mantles    backbone  decomposed   Discards
                                                                                 removed      fish
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
110..........  Pacific Cod......    0.17  ......  ......  .........  .........       0.43        0.00       1.00
               Flatfish other       0.17  ......  ......  .........  .........  .........        0.00       1.00
                than Pacific
                Halibut.
143..........  Thornyhead           0.17  ......  ......  .........  .........  .........        0.00       1.00
                Rockfish.
160..........  Sculpins.........    0.17  ......  ......  .........  .........  .........        0.00       1.00
193..........  Atka Mackerel....    0.17  ......  ......  .........  .........  .........        0.00       1.00
270..........  Pollock..........    0.17  ......  ......  .........  .........       0.43        0.00       1.00
510..........  Smelts...........    0.17  ......  ......  .........  .........  .........        0.00       1.00
511..........  Eulachon.........    0.17  ......  ......  .........  .........  .........        0.00       1.00
516..........  Capelin..........    0.17  ......  ......  .........  .........  .........        0.00       1.00
               Sharks...........    0.17  ......  ......  .........  .........  .........        0.00       1.00
               Skates...........    0.17  ......  ......  .........  .........  .........        0.00       1.00
710..........  Sablefish........    0.17  ......  ......  .........  .........  .........        0.00       1.00
870..........  Octopus..........    0.17  ......  ......  .........       0.85  .........        0.00       1.00
875..........  Squid............    0.17  ......  ......  .........       0.75  .........        0.00       1.00
               Rockfish.........  ......  ......  ......  .........  .........  .........        0.00       1.00
200..........  PACIFIC HALIBUT    ......  ......  ......  .........  .........  .........        0.00       0.75
                Conversion rates
                to Net Weight.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Standard pollock surimi rate during January through June.
\2\ Standard pollock surimi rate during July through December.
Notes: To obtain round weight of groundfish, divide the product weight of groundfish by the table PRR. To obtain
  IFQ net weight of Pacific halibut, multiply the product weight of halibut by the table conversion rate. To
  obtain round weight from net weight of Pacific halibut, divide net weight by 0.75 or multiply by 1.33333.


0
6. Revise Table 11 to part 679 to read as follows:

[[Page 29256]]



                                                                        Table 11 to Part 679--BSAI Retainable Percentages
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
            BASIS SPECIES                                                                               INCIDENTAL CATCH SPECIES
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                           Arrow-          Yellow    Other                      Green   Sable   Short-   Aggregated          Aggregated   Other
   Code              Species           Pollock  Pacific    Atka    Alaska   Tooth   Kam-     fin   flatfish   Rock   Flathead   land    fish    raker/    rockfish    Squid    forage    species
                                                  cod    mackerel  plaice    \9\   chatka   sole      \2\     sole     sole    turbot    \1\   rougheye      \6\              fish \7\     \4\
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
110.......  Pacific cod..............       20   na \5\       20       20      35      35      20       20       20       20        1       1        2           5       20          2        20
121.......  Arrowtooth...............       20       20       20       20      na      20      20       20       20       20        7       1        2           5       20          2         3
117.......  Kamchatka................       20       20       20       20      20      na      20       20       20       20        7       1        2           5       20          2         3
122.......  Flathead sole............       20       20       20       35      35      35      35       35       35       na       35      15        7          15       20          2        20
123.......  Rock sole................       20       20       20       35      35      35      35       35       na       35        1       1        2          15       20          2        20
127.......  Yellowfin sole...........       20       20       20       35      35      35      na       35       35       35        1       1        2           5       20          2        20
133.......  Alaska Plaice............       20       20       20       na      35      35      35       35       35       35        1       1        2           5       20          2        20
134.......  Greenland turbot.........       20       20       20       20      35      35      20       20       20       20       na      15        7          15       20          2        20
136.......  Northern.................       20       20       20       20      35      35      20       20       20       20       35      15        7          15       20          2        20
141.......  Pacific Ocean perch......       20       20       20       20      35      35      20       20       20       20       35      15        7          15       20          2        20
152/151...  Shortraker/Rougheye......       20       20       20       20      35      35      20       20       20       20       35      15       na           5       20          2        20
193.......  Atka mackerel............       20       20       na       20      35      35      20       20       20       20        1       1        2           5       20          2        20
270.......  Pollock..................       na       20       20       20      35      35      20       20       20       20        1       1        2           5       20          2        20
710.......  Sablefish \1\............       20       20       20       20      35      35      20       20       20       20       35      na        7          15       20          2        20
875.......  Squid....................       20       20       20       20      35      35      20       20       20       20        1       1        2           5       na          2        20
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Other flatfish \2\...................       20       20       20       35      35      35      35       na       35       35        1       1        2           5       20          2        20
Other rockfish \3\...................       20       20       20       20      35      35      20       20       20       20       35      15        7          15       20          2        20
Other species \4\....................       20       20       20       20      35      35      20       20       20       20        1       1        2           5       20          2        na
Aggregated amount non-groundfish            20       20       20       20      35      35      20       20       20       20        1       1        2           5       20          2        20
 species \8\.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Sablefish: for fixed gear restrictions, see Sec.   679.7(f)(3)(ii) and (f)(11).
\2\ Other flatfish includes all flatfish species, except for Pacific halibut (a prohibited species), flathead sole, Greenland turbot, rock sole, yellowfin sole, Alaska plaice, arrowtooth
  flounder, and Kamchatka flounder.
\3\ Other rockfish includes all ``rockfish'' as defined at Sec.   679.2, except for Pacific ocean perch; and northern, shortraker, and rougheye rockfish.
\4\ The other species group includes sculpins, sharks, skates, and octopus.
\5\ na = not applicable
\6\ Aggregated rockfish includes all ``rockfish'' as defined at Sec.   679.2, except shortraker and rougheye rockfish.
\7\ Forage fish are defined at Table 2c to this part.
\8\ All legally retained species of fish and shellfish, including CDQ halibut and IFQ halibut that are not listed as FMP groundfish in Tables 2a and 2c to this part.


[[Page 29257]]

[FR Doc. 2013-11953 Filed 5-17-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P