[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 212 (Friday, November 1, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 65602-65604]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-26106]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

RIN 0648-BD03


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea 
and Aleutian Islands Management Area; Amendment 102

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

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

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SUMMARY: NMFS announces that the North Pacific Fishery Management 
Council (Council) has submitted Amendment 102 to the Fishery Management 
Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management 
Area (BSAI FMP) for review by the Secretary of Commerce. Amendment 102 
would implement a Community Quota Entity (CQE) Program for sablefish in 
the Aleutian Islands regulatory area. The proposed CQE Program would be 
similar to the existing CQE Program in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). 
Amendment 102 is necessary to provide additional fishing opportunities 
in fishery dependent communities of the Aleutian Islands and sustain 
participation in the sablefish IFQ fisheries. This action is intended 
to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the BSAI FMP, 
and other applicable laws.

DATES: Comments on Amendment 102 must be received no later than 5 p.m., 
Alaska local time (A.l.t.), on December 31, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by FDMS 
Docket Number NOAA-NMFS-2013-0048, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0048, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Address written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant 
Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region, 
NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, 
AK 99802-1668.
     Fax: Address written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant 
Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region 
NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Fax comments to 907-586-7557.
     Hand delivery to the Federal Building: Address written 
comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant Regional Administrator, 
Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Ellen 
Sebastian. Deliver comments to 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, 
AK.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address), confidential business information, 
or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender 
will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter 
``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). 
Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, 
Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
    Electronic copies of the Regulatory Impact Review (RIR) and 
proposed rule for Amendment 102 and the RIR/Initial Regulatory 
Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) for the regulatory amendment to allow IFQ 
derived from D share halibut quota share to be fished on category C 
vessels in Area 4B are available from http://www.regulations.gov or 
from the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that each 
regional fishery management council submit any fishery management plan 
(FMP) or FMP amendment it prepares to the Secretary for review and 
approval, disapproval, or partial approval. The Magnuson-Stevens Act 
also requires the Secretary, upon receiving an FMP, to immediately 
publish a notice in the Federal Register that the FMP or amendment is 
available for public review and comment.
    Amendment 102 to the BSAI FMP would revise the individual fishing 
quota program (IFQ Program) for the sablefish fisheries in the Aleutian 
Islands. The IFQ Program for the fixed-gear commercial fisheries for 
halibut and sablefish in waters in and off Alaska is a limited access 
privilege program implemented in 1995 (58 FR 59375, November 9, 1993). 
The IFQ Program limits access to the BSAI halibut and sablefish 
fisheries to those persons holding quota share (QS) in specific 
management areas. The amount of halibut and sablefish that each QS 
holder may harvest is calculated annually and issued as IFQ in pounds.
    In 2002, the Council recommended revisions to IFQ Program 
regulations and policy to allow a non-profit entity to hold QS on 
behalf of residents of specific rural communities located adjacent to 
the coast of the GOA. NMFS implemented the Council's recommendations as 
Amendment 66 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf 
of Alaska (GOA FMP) in 2004 (69 FR 23681, April 30, 2004). Amendment 66 
implemented the community quota entity program (CQE Program) to allow 
these communities to form new non-profit organizations called CQEs to 
purchase catcher vessel QS under the IFQ Program. GOA CQEs that 
purchase QS on behalf of an eligible community may lease the resulting 
annual IFQ to fishermen who are residents of the community. The GOA CQE 
Program was developed to allow a distinct set of small, remote, coastal 
communities in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska to purchase halibut 
and sablefish QS for use by community residents in order to help 
minimize adverse economic impacts of the IFQ Program on such 
communities and provide for the sustained participation of the 
communities in the IFQ fisheries.
    The Council recommended the CQE Program for the GOA, but not for

[[Page 65603]]

communities located adjacent to the coast of the BSAI. The CQE Program 
adopted by the Council, and implemented by NMFS, was specifically 
intended to provide opportunities to remote coastal communities in the 
GOA that met specific criteria that included historic participation in 
the GOA halibut and sablefish fisheries. The Council did not apply the 
CQE Program to the BSAI because nearly all small, remote, coastal 
communities in the BSAI also participate in the Western Alaska 
Community Development Quota Program (CDQ Program) that is authorized 
under section 305(i) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. NMFS annually 
withholds a proportion of the IFQ allocation of halibut and sablefish 
for use as a CDQ reserve. The CDQ reserve of halibut and sablefish is 
allocated to CDQ groups that represent 65 coastal communities 
throughout the BSAI. This allocation to the CDQ Program allows the 
distribution of benefits from that allocation to be shared among the 
residents of the CDQ Program communities. In contrast, the CQE Program 
authorizes communities to purchase halibut and sablefish QS for use by 
community residents. At the time the Council recommended, and NMFS 
implemented, the CQE Program for the GOA, communities located in the 
BSAI did not meet the geographic scope, or intent, of the CQE Program.
    In February 2010, the Council received a proposed amendment to the 
BSAI FMP from the Adak Community Development Corporation, on behalf of 
the community of Adak. The proposal recognized that there may be 
opportunity for Adak and other similarly situated communities in the 
Aleutian Islands to maintain and improve access to commercial halibut 
and sablefish fisheries through a community QS holding program similar 
to the GOA CQE Program. The Council initiated a formal discussion paper 
for review in December 2010. During its review, the Council considered 
the discussion paper and comments from the public, NMFS, and the State 
of Alaska. The Council initiated a formal analysis of the alternatives 
to develop an Aleutian Islands CQE program. Formal analysis was 
completed for initial review in October 2011 and a preferred 
alternative was selected. The Council's preferred alternative had 
several associated components and options that comprised the structure 
and provisions of the program which were based on those of the CQE 
Program in the GOA. The Council took final action in February 2012 and 
recommended Amendment 102 to the BSAI FMP to establish a CQE Program in 
the Aleutian Islands.
    The basic provisions of proposed Amendment 102 are similar to those 
in the GOA FMP as described in the CQE Program for GOA communities 
(April 30, 2004, 69 FR 23681), and as amended by Amendment 94 to the 
GOA FMP (Feb. 22, 2013, 78 FR 12287) because the goals of the GOA CQE 
Program and the proposed Aleutian Islands CQE Program are similar. The 
Council, however, determined that the Aleutian Islands Program would 
differ in certain ways in order to address the Council's requirements 
for the proposed Aleutian Islands CQE Program. The provisions of 
Amendment 102 to the BSAI FMP are summarized here.

Community Quota Share Purchases

    Amendment 102 would revise the BSAI FMP to allow a CQE representing 
an eligible Aleutian Islands coastal community to be eligible to 
purchase and hold commercial catcher vessel sablefish QS under the IFQ 
Program as defined and described in the BSAI FMP.

1. Eligible Community

    A potentially eligible community would need to meet all the 
following criteria to participate in the proposed Aleutian Islands CQE 
Program: (a) Be located within the Aleutian Islands; (b) not be 
eligible for the CDQ Program; (c) have a population of more than 20 and 
less than 1,500 persons based on the 2000 U.S. Census; (d) have direct 
access to saltwater; (e) lack direct road access to communities with a 
population greater than 1,500 persons; (f) have historic participation 
in the halibut and sablefish fisheries; and (g) be specifically 
designated on a list adopted by the Council and included in regulation. 
These specific criteria for community eligibility, with the exception 
of criteria (a) and (b), would be identical to those implemented for 
the GOA CQE Program. Under these criteria, only one community, Adak, 
AK, would be eligible.
    Amendment 102 would revise the BSAI FMP to establish that the 
administrative entity (i.e., the CQE) eligible to hold sablefish QS on 
behalf of the eligible community of Adak must also be the entity 
approved by NMFS under Amendment 18 to the Fishery Management Plan for 
Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands King and Tanner Crabs to hold the Western 
Aleutian Islands golden king crab allocation on behalf of Adak. This 
provision differs from the GOA CQE Program in that the Council 
specifically designated the entity that holds the Western Aleutian 
Islands golden king crab allocation on behalf of Adak to the be non-
profit CQE representing Adak. However, the governing body of Adak must 
approve the CQE to operate on behalf of the community. The CQE approval 
by a community governing body is required under the GOA CQE Program.

2. Management Areas

    Amendment 102 would revise the BSAI FMP to allow a qualified non-
profit organization to purchase and hold sablefish QS and associated 
IFQ designated for the Aleutian Islands subarea on behalf of any 
community meeting the qualifying criteria described above. NMFS 
believes that at this time, Adak is the only Aleutian Islands community 
that would meet the qualifying criteria. The CQE could assign the 
resulting annual sablefish IFQ to fixed gear sablefish fishery 
participants according to defined CQE Program provisions.

3. Use and Ownership Provisions

    a. Individual community use cap. Amendment 102 would revise the 
BSAI FMP to establish a community use cap that would limit the amount 
of sablefish QS that each eligible community, as represented by a CQE, 
could purchase and hold. Amendment 102 would establish the CQE use cap 
for sablefish equal to 15 percent of the Aleutian Islands sablefish QS 
pool (4,789,874 QS units).
    b. Cumulative community use cap. A cumulative community use cap 
would limit the amount of sablefish QS that all Aleutian Islands CQEs 
could purchase and hold collectively. Under the proposed action, Adak 
would be the only eligible community; therefore, the community use cap 
of 15 percent of the Aleutian Islands sablefish QS pool (4,789,874 QS 
units) also would serve as the cumulative community use cap.
    c. Quota share blocks. Two block provisions would be applicable to 
an Aleutian Islands CQE under this FMP amendment. The first block 
provision would allow an Aleutian Islands CQE to purchase both blocked 
and unblocked Aleutian Islands sablefish QS, without restrictions on 
the size of blocked QS that may be held.
    The second block provision would limit the number of QS blocks an 
Aleutian Islands CQE could hold. This limit would be the same as the 
limit currently applied to a GOA CQE. Under the current GOA CQE 
Program, each community represented by a CQE is limited to holding, at 
any point in time, a maximum of 5 blocks of sablefish QS in the 
Aleutian Islands subarea.
    d. Vessel size. An Aleutian Islands CQE could purchase and hold all

[[Page 65604]]

categories of Aleutian Islands sablefish catcher vessel QS (B share and 
C share QS). The IFQ derived from sablefish B share and C share QS 
could be used on any size vessel regardless of the QS vessel category 
from which the IFQ was derived as long as the QS is held by a CQE.

4. Transfer Provisions

    a. CQE transfer of QS. On an annual basis, an Aleutian Islands CQE 
could transfer sablefish IFQ derived from QS held by the CQE. CQEs 
holding QS may lease the IFQ derived from those QS only to residents of 
the eligible community with the exception that on an annual basis for a 
period of 5 years after the effective date of implementation of the 
program, a CQE may lease annual IFQ derived from CQE held QS to non-
residents of the eligible community. After the 5-year period, the CQE 
must lease annual IFQ derived from CQE held QS to residents of the 
eligible community.
    b. Limit on IFQ per lessee. Any CQE owning catcher vessel QS could 
lease, but could not exceed, 50,000 pounds of sablefish IFQ per lessee 
annually. The 50,000-pound (22.7-mt) limit would include any quota 
owned by the individual (lessee).
    c. Limit on IFQ per vessel. No vessel could be used, during any 
fishing year, to harvest more than 50,000 pounds (22.7 mt) of IFQ 
sablefish derived from QS held by a CQE, and no vessel used to harvest 
IFQ sablefish derived from CQE held QS could be used to harvest more 
IFQ sablefish than the vessel use caps specified in Sec.  679.42(h). A 
vessel could be used to harvest additional IFQ from non-CQE-held QS up 
to the overall vessel use cap applicable in the IFQ Program, if the 
overall vessel use cap were greater than 50,000 pounds (22.7 mt). If 
the vessel use cap in the IFQ Program were lower than 50,000 pounds 
(22.7 mt) in a given year, then the lowest vessel use cap would apply.
    d. Sale of QS. An Aleutian Islands CQE holding sablefish catcher 
vessel QS could only transfer the QS to another CQE eligible community 
or any person meeting the provisions outlined in Section 3.7.1.4 of the 
BSAI FMP. At this time, Adak would be the only community eligible to be 
represented by a CQE in the Aleutian Islands; therefore, a CQE 
representing Adak could only transfer its catcher vessel QS to an 
individual or initial recipient eligible under the IFQ Program rules. 
An Aleutian Islands CQE could not transfer Aleutian Islands sablefish 
QS to any of the GOA CQEs eligible to hold QS under the GOA CQE Program 
because those CQEs are prohibited under existing regulations from 
purchasing QS outside the GOA.
    e. Purposes of sale. An Aleutian Islands CQE may only transfer QS 
for one of the following purposes: to generate revenues to sustain, 
improve, or expand the program; or to liquidate the CQE's QS assets for 
reasons outside the program. Should an eligible community transfer 
their QS for reasons not consistent with these purposes, the CQE 
administrative entity would not be qualified to purchase and hold QS on 
behalf of that community for a period of 3 years.
    A RIR was prepared for Amendment 102 that describes the CQE 
Program, the purpose and need for this action, the management 
alternatives evaluated to address this action, and the economic and 
socioeconomic effects of the alternatives (see ADDRESSES). An IRFA is 
also included in the proposed rule for Amendment 102 that describes the 
impact of the proposed rule on small entities (see ADDRESSES).
    Amendment 102 and its proposed implementing regulations are 
designed to comply with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the national 
standards, and other applicable law. The proposed amendment and 
implementing regulations particularly address national standard 8, 
which provides that conservation and management programs shall, 
consistent with the conservation requirements of the Act, take into 
account the importance of fishery resources to fishing communities in 
order to provide for the sustained participation of such communities, 
and to the extent practicable, minimize adverse economic impacts on 
such communities. The IFQ Program for Pacific halibut is implemented 
under the authority of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982. The 
Council does not have a halibut fishery management plan. The Council 
and Secretary of Commerce, however, consider the impacts of all the IFQ 
management measures on fishery-dependent communities. If Amendment 102 
is approved, then sablefish and halibut components would be implemented 
in one rule. Amendment 102 is intended to promote the goals and 
objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the BSAI FMP, and other 
applicable laws.
    Public comments are being solicited on Amendment 102 and associated 
documents through the end of the comment period stated in this notice 
of availability. A proposed rule that would implement Amendment 102 
will be published in the Federal Register for public comment following 
NMFS evaluation under Magnuson-Stevens Act procedures. Public comments, 
whether specifically directed to the amendment or the proposed rule, 
must be received, not just postmarked or otherwise transmitted, by 5 
p.m., A.l.t., on the last day of the comment period (see DATES). 
Comments received by the end of the comment period will be considered 
in the approval/disapproval decision on Amendment 102. Comments 
received after that date will not be considered in the decision to 
approve or disapprove Amendment 102.

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

    Dated: October 29, 2013.
James P. Burgess,
Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-26106 Filed 10-31-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P