[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 239 (Thursday, December 12, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 75843-75895]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-29598]



[[Page 75843]]

Vol. 78

Thursday,

No. 239

December 12, 2013

Part III





Department of Commerce





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





 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration





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





15 CFR Part 902

50 CFR Parts 300 and 679





Pacific Halibut Fisheries; Catch Sharing Plan for Guided Sport and 
Commercial Fisheries in Alaska; Final Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 78 , No. 239 / Thursday, December 12, 2013 / 
Rules and Regulations

[[Page 75844]]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

15 CFR Part 902

50 CFR Parts 300 and 679

[Docket No. 101027534-3999-02]
RIN 0648-BA37


Pacific Halibut Fisheries; Catch Sharing Plan for Guided Sport 
and Commercial Fisheries in Alaska

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS issues regulations to implement a catch sharing plan for 
the guided sport (charter) and commercial fisheries for Pacific halibut 
in waters of International Pacific Halibut Commission Regulatory Areas 
2C (Southeast Alaska) and 3A (Central Gulf of Alaska). This catch 
sharing plan replaces the Guideline Harvest Level program, defines an 
annual process for allocating halibut between the charter and 
commercial fisheries in Area 2C and Area 3A, and establishes 
allocations for each fishery. The commercial fishery will continue to 
be managed under the Individual Fishing Quota system. To allow 
flexibility for individual commercial and charter fishery participants, 
the catch sharing plan also authorizes annual transfers of commercial 
halibut quota to charter halibut permit holders for harvest in the 
charter fishery. This action is necessary to achieve the halibut 
fishery management goals of the North Pacific Fishery Management 
Council.

DATES: Effective January 13, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the Environmental Assessment/Regulatory 
Impact Review/Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (Analysis) 
prepared for this action are available from http://www.regulations.gov 
or from the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. A Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis 
(FRFA) was prepared and is included in the Classification section of 
this final rule.
    Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other 
aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this 
final rule may be submitted to NMFS, Alaska Region, P.O. Box 21668, 
Juneau, AK 99082-1668, Attn: Ellen Sebastian, Records Officer, in 
person at NMFS, Alaska Region, 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, 
AK; and by email to OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov, or fax to (202) 395-
7285.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Julie Scheurer, 907-586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This final rule implements the catch sharing 
plan for the halibut fisheries for International Pacific Halibut 
Commission regulatory areas 2C and 3A in Alaska. NMFS published a 
proposed rule in the Federal Register on June 28, 2013 (78 FR 39122) 
with comments invited through August 12, 2013. The comment period was 
extended to August 26, 2013 (78 FR 44920, July 25, 2013).

Table of Contents

I. Regulatory Authority
II. Catch Sharing Plan for Area 2C and Area 3A
    A. Need for Action
    B. General
    C. Specification of the Annual Combined Catch Limits
    D. Calculation of Annual Commercial Fishery and Charter Fishery 
Allocations and Catch Limits
    E. Annual Process for Setting Charter Management Measures
    F. Other Restrictions Under the CSP
    G. Guided Angler Fish (GAF)
III. Other Regulatory Changes
IV. Changes From the Proposed Rule
V. Comments and Responses
VI. OMB Revisions to Paperwork Reduction Act References in 15 CFR 
902.1(b)
VII. Classification

I. Regulatory Authority

    A comprehensive history of management of the charter fishery for 
halibut was published in the proposed rule for this action (78 FR 
39122, June 28, 2013).
    The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) and NMFS manage 
fishing for Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) through 
regulations implementing the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 
(Halibut Act) (16 U.S.C. 773-773k). The IPHC adopts regulations 
governing the Pacific halibut fishery under the Convention between the 
United States and Canada for the Preservation of the Halibut Fishery of 
the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea (Convention), signed at Ottawa, 
Ontario, on March 2, 1953, as amended by a Protocol Amending the 
Convention (signed at Washington, DC, on March 29, 1979). For the 
United States, regulations developed by the IPHC are subject to 
acceptance by the Secretary of State with concurrence from the 
Secretary of Commerce. After acceptance, NMFS publishes the IPHC 
regulations in the Federal Register as annual management measures 
pursuant to 50 CFR 300.62. The final rule implementing IPHC regulations 
for the 2013 fishing season was published March 15, 2013 (78 FR 16423). 
IPHC regulations affecting sport fishing for halibut and vessels in the 
charter fishery in Areas 2C and 3A may be found in sections 3, 25, and 
28 of that final rule.
    The Halibut Act, at sections 773c(a) and (b), provides the 
Secretary of Commerce with general responsibility to carry out the 
Convention and the Halibut Act. In adopting regulations that may be 
necessary to carry out the purposes and objectives of the Convention 
and the Halibut Act, the Secretary of Commerce is directed to consult 
with the Secretary of the department in which the U.S. Coast Guard is 
operating (currently the Department of Homeland Security).
    The Halibut Act, at section 773c(c), also provides the North 
Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) with authority to develop 
regulations, including limited access regulations, that are in addition 
to, and not in conflict with, approved IPHC regulations. Regulations 
developed by the Council may be implemented by NMFS only after approval 
by the Secretary of Commerce. The Council has exercised this authority 
in the development of subsistence halibut fishery management measures 
and the guideline harvest level (GHL) program, codified at 50 CFR 
300.65, and the limited access program for charter operators in the 
charter fishery, codified at 50 CFR 300.67. The Council also developed 
the Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Program for the commercial halibut 
and sablefish fisheries, codified at 50 CFR part 679, under the 
authority of section 773c(c) of the Halibut Act and section 303(b) of 
the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. 
1801 et seq.).
    The Council developed the regulations to implement this catch 
sharing plan pursuant to section 773c(c) of the Halibut Act.

II. Catch Sharing Plan for Area 2C and Area 3A

    The following paragraphs summarize the catch sharing plan (CSP) 
implemented by this final rule. Additional information is provided in 
the preamble to the proposed rule.

A. Need for Action

    The Council developed the CSP in IPHC Regulatory Areas 2C and 3A to 
address the ongoing allocation conflict between the commercial and 
charter halibut fisheries. The commercial halibut fishery is subject to 
defined allocations of individual harvest shares that generally rise 
and fall with changes

[[Page 75845]]

in halibut abundance, while the allocations to the charter halibut 
fishery, which experienced many years of sustained annual growth in 
Areas 2C and 3A, were not increased or decreased in direct relationship 
with changes in fishery abundance. The commercial IFQ and charter 
halibut fishery are harvesting a fully utilized resource. The primary 
objectives of the CSP are to define an annual process for allocating 
halibut between the charter and commercial halibut fisheries in Area 2C 
and Area 3A, establish by regulation sector allocations that vary in 
proportion with changing levels of annual halibut abundance and that 
balance the differing needs of the charter and commercial halibut 
fisheries over a wide range of halibut abundance in each area, and 
describe a public process by which the Council may develop 
recommendations to the IPHC for charter angler harvest restrictions 
that are intended to limit harvest to the annual charter halibut 
fishery catch limit in each area.

B. General

    The CSP allocations will replace the GHL with a percentage 
allocation of the annual combined (commercial and charter) catch limit 
to the charter halibut fishery, with the remainder allocated to the 
commercial halibut fishery. The Council intends to continue the process 
it used in 2011 and 2012 to recommend to the IPHC annual management 
measures for the charter halibut fishery prior to the upcoming fishing 
season based on projected harvests and charter catch limits.
    The annual CSP catch limits for the commercial and charter halibut 
fisheries will be determined by a predictable and standardized process 
by which the IPHC develops and adopts its annual management measures 
for the halibut fisheries. This rule establishes a regulatory formula 
for determining the commercial and charter halibut fisheries' catch 
limits for each area. The IPHC's annual combined catch limits for 2C 
and 3A will be apportioned between the annual charter catch limit and 
annual commercial catch limit in each area in accordance with the CSP's 
sector allocation formula published in this final rule. At its annual 
meeting in January, the IPHC will consider the Council's 
recommendations designed to constrain the charter halibut fisheries in 
2C and 3A to their allocated annual catch limits, and will consider the 
advice of IPHC staff, advisors, and the public. The IPHC will be 
expected to adopt the catch limits and appropriate management measures 
necessary to maintain the sectors' harvest within those catch limits as 
part of the IPHC's halibut fishery conservation and management 
regulations. Should the Secretary of State accept the IPHC regulations, 
with concurrence of the Secretary of Commerce, the approved IPHC 
regulations will be published in the Federal Register as specified by 
regulations at 50 CFR 300.62.
    The IPHC annual management measures remain in effect until 
superseded. In most years, the effective date of the IPHC annual 
management measures has been around March 15. Thus, the period between 
the February 1 opening of the sport season and the mid-March effective 
date of the superseding annual management measures has been subject to 
the previous year's IPHC regulations. This schedule will continue 
unless the IPHC changes the February 1 opening for the sport fishing 
season. However, implementation of the annual management measures in 
March likely does not impact the charter halibut fishery because there 
has historically been little or no charter halibut harvest from 
February 1 through mid-March.
    Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) saltwater charter 
logbooks will be used as the primary data source to estimate the number 
of halibut harvested in the charter halibut fishery following each 
charter halibut fishing season and to project the number of halibut 
harvested in the charter fishery in the following year. The ADF&G 
saltwater charter logbook is the primary reporting requirement for 
operators in the charter fisheries for all species harvested in 
saltwater in Areas 2C and 3A.
    In order to provide flexibility for individual commercial and 
charter halibut fishery participants, the CSP authorizes annual 
transfers of commercial halibut IFQ as guided angler fish (GAF) to 
charter halibut permit holders for harvest in the charter halibut 
fishery. GAF offers charter halibut permit holders in Area 2C or Area 
3A an opportunity to lease a limited amount of IFQ from commercial 
quota share (QS) holders to allow charter clients to harvest halibut in 
addition to, or instead of, the halibut harvested under the daily bag 
limit for charter anglers. Charter anglers using GAF are subject to the 
harvest limits in place for unguided sport anglers in that area. 
Currently, there is a two-fish of any size daily bag limit for unguided 
sport anglers in Areas 2C and 3A. GAF harvested in the charter halibut 
fishery will be accounted for as commercial halibut IFQ harvest.
    Except for authorizing commercial halibut QS holders to transfer 
IFQ as GAF to charter halibut permit holders, the CSP does not change 
the management of the commercial halibut fisheries in Area 2C and Area 
3A. The directed commercial halibut fisheries in Area 2C and Area 3A 
are managed under the IFQ Program pursuant to regulations at 50 CFR 679 
subparts A through E. This rule amends only sections of the IFQ 
Program's regulations to authorize transfers between IFQ and GAF and 
establish the requirements for using GAF.

C. Specification of the Annual Combined Catch Limits

    Under the CSP, the IPHC is expected to specify an annual combined 
catch limit for Area 2C and for Area 3A at its annual meeting in 
January. Each area's annual combined catch limit in net pounds will be 
the total allowable halibut harvest for the directed commercial halibut 
fishery plus the total allowable halibut harvest for the charter 
halibut fishery under the CSP.
    The IPHC process for determining the annual combined catch limit 
under the CSP will be similar to the process it has typically used in 
the past for determining annual commercial catch limits. A notable 
exception is how each fishery's wastage will be deducted from the 
combined catch limit (described further below). This process was 
explained in detail in the proposed rule and in Figure 1 below.

BILLING CODE 3510-22-P

[[Page 75846]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR12DE13.034

D. Calculation of Annual Commercial Fishery and Charter Fishery 
Allocations and Catch Limits

    The CSP contemplates that the IPHC will divide the annual combined 
catch limits (CCLs) into separate annual catch limits for the 
commercial and charter halibut fisheries pursuant to the CSP's 
allocation formulas. The IPHC will multiply the CSP allocation 
percentages for each area by the annual CCL to calculate the commercial 
and charter halibut allocations in net pounds. Fishery-specific catch 
limits will be calculated by deducting separate estimates of wastage 
from the commercial and charter halibut

[[Page 75847]]

allocations, as described in the following section. NMFS will publish 
the CCLs and associated allocations for the charter and commercial 
halibut fisheries in the Federal Register as part of the IPHC annual 
management measures pursuant to 50 CFR 300.62. This is similar to the 
process by which the IPHC allocates its combined catch limit for 
halibut for Areas 4C-4D-4E among each of those three subareas pursuant 
to the Council's Area 4 Catch Sharing Plan (http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/npfmc/PDFdocuments/halibut/Area4CSP605.pdf).
    The CSP establishes three allocation tiers for Area 2C as shown in 
Table 1 and Figure 2 below.

Table 1--Area 2C Catch Sharing Plan (CSP) Allocations to the Charter and
Commercial Halibut Fisheries Relative to the Annual Combined Catch Limit
                                  (CCL)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                    Charter halibut   Commercial halibut
  Area 2C annual combined catch       fishery CSP         fishery CSP
 limit for halibut in net pounds   allocation (% of    allocation (% of
              (lb)                  annual combined     annual combined
                                     catch limit)        catch limit)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
0 to 4,999,999 lb...............  18.3%.............  81.7%.
5,000,000 to 5,755,000 lb.......  915,000 lb........  Area 2C CCL minus
                                                       915,000 lb.
5,755,001 lb and up.............  15.9%.............  84.1%.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                                      [GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR12DE13.035
                                                      
    When the IPHC sets an annual CCL of less than 5,000,000 lb (2,268 
mt) in Area 2C, the commercial halibut fishery allocation will be 81.7 
percent and the charter halibut fishery allocation will be 18.3 percent 
of the annual CCL. When the IPHC sets the annual CCLs at the second 
tier, between 5,000,000 lb and 5,755,000 lb (2,610.4 mt), the 
allocation to the charter halibut fishery will be a fixed 915,000 lb 
(405 mt), to smooth the vertical drop in the poundage allocation that 
would occur without this adjustment. The rationale for this fixed 
poundage adjustment is described in the preamble to the proposed rule 
on page 39131. The commercial halibut fishery will be allocated the 
Area 2C CCL minus the 915,000 lb fixed allocation to the charter 
halibut fishery. When the IPHC sets the annual CCL at the third tier, 
greater than 5,755,000 lb (2,610.4 mt), in Area 2C, the commercial 
halibut fishery allocation will be 84.1 percent and the charter halibut 
fishery allocation will be 15.9 percent of the Area 2C annual CCL.
    The CSP establishes five allocation tiers in Area 3A as shown in 
Table 2 and Figure 3 below.

[[Page 75848]]



Table 2--Area 3A Catch Sharing Plan (CSP) Allocations to the Charter and
Commercial Halibut Fisheries Relative to the Annual Combined Catch Limit
                                  (CCL)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                    Charter halibut   Commercial halibut
  Area 3A annual combined catch       fishery CSP         fishery CSP
 limit for halibut in net pounds   allocation (% of    allocation (% of
              (lb)                  annual combined     annual combined
                                     catch limit)        catch limit)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
0 to 9,999,999 lb...............  18.9%.............  81.1%.
10,000,000 to 10,800,000 lb.....  1,890,000 lb......  Area 3A CCL minus
                                                       1,890,000 lb.
10,800,001 to 20,000,000 lb.....  17.5%.............  82.5%.
20,000,001 to 25,000,000 lb.....  3,500,000 lb......  Area 3A CCL minus
                                                       3,500,000 lb.
25,000,001 lb and up............  14.0%.............  86.0%.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                                      [GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR12DE13.036
                                                      
    For Area 3A, when the IPHC sets the annual CCLs at the first tier, 
less than 10,000,000 lb (4,535.9 mt), the commercial halibut fishery 
allocation will be 81.1 percent and the charter halibut fishery 
allocation will be 18.9 percent of the Area 3A annual CCL. For Area 3A 
annual CCLs between 10,000,000 lb and 10,800,000 lb (4,898.8 mt), the 
allocation to the charter halibut fishery will be 1,890,000 lb (857.3 
mt). The commercial halibut fishery will be allocated the Area 3A CCL 
minus the 1,890,000 lb fixed allocation to the charter halibut fishery. 
When the CCL is greater than 10,800,000 lb and less than 20,000,000 lb, 
the commercial halibut fishery will be allocated 82.5 percent and the 
charter fishery will be allocated 17.5 percent. When the CCL for Area 
3A is set at greater than 20,000,000 lb and less than or equal to 
25,000,000 lb (11,339.8 mt), the charter halibut fishery will receive a 
fixed 3,500,000 lb allocation. The commercial halibut fishery 
allocation will equal the CCL minus 3,500,000 lb. Finally, at CCLs 
greater than 25,000,000 lb, the commercial halibut fishery allocation 
will be 86 percent and the charter halibut fishery allocation will be 
14 percent of the Area 3A annual CCL.
    Under the CSP, the commercial and charter halibut fisheries are 
separately accountable for their discard mortality or ``wastage,'' such 
that each fishery's wastage will be deducted from its respective 
allocation to obtain its catch limit (see Figure 1).

E. Annual Process for Setting Charter Management Measures

    Charter halibut annual management measures in Area 2C and 3A will 
be set according to the annual process described in the proposed rule 
for this action. In short, each year the Council will review an 
analysis of potential charter management measures for the Area 2C and 
Area 3A charter halibut fisheries for the upcoming fishing year. This 
will allow the Council and public to engage in a transparent process 
for considering both stakeholder input and the most current information 
regarding the charter fishery and its management. After reviewing the 
analysis and considering public testimony, the Council will identify 
the charter halibut

[[Page 75849]]

management measures to recommend to the IPHC that will most likely 
constrain charter halibut harvest for each area within its allocation, 
while considering impacts on charter operations. The IPHC will consider 
the Council recommendations and input from its stakeholders and staff 
and then will adopt either the Council's recommendation or alternative 
charter halibut management measures designed to keep charter harvest in 
Area 2C and Area 3A to the allocations specified by this final rule. 
These measures will be necessary to limit the combined commercial and 
charter harvest in Area 2C and 3A within each area's combined catch 
limit. NMFS will publish in the Federal Register the charter halibut 
management measures for each area as part of the IPHC annual management 
measures accepted by the Secretary of State with the concurrence of the 
Secretary of Commerce.
    The Council, its Scientific and Statistical Committee, the IPHC, 
and NMFS will continue to assess effectiveness of this method of 
recommending and implementing charter management measures after the CSP 
is implemented.
    Two restrictions are removed from Federal regulations: the one-fish 
daily bag limit for Area 2C at Sec.  300.65(d)(2)(i); and the line 
limit at Sec.  300.65(d)(2)(iii). Instead, daily charter halibut 
fishery bag limits will be established in the IPHC annual management 
measures.

F. Other Restrictions Under the CSP

    NMFS is implementing five additional restrictions under the CSP. 
First, the prohibition on retention of halibut by skipper and crew on a 
charter vessel fishing trip in Area 2C is extended to also include Area 
3A. Second, individuals who hold both a charter halibut permit and 
commercial halibut IFQ will be prohibited from fishing for commercial 
and charter halibut on the same vessel during the same day in Area 2C 
and Area 3A. Third, individuals who hold both a charter halibut permit 
and a Subsistence Halibut Registration Certificate will be prohibited 
from using both permits to harvest halibut on the same vessel during 
the same day in Area 2C and Area 3A. Fourth, charter vessel operators 
will be required to indicate the date of a charter vessel fishing trip 
in the saltwater charter logbook and to complete all of the required 
fields in the logbook before the halibut are offloaded. And finally, 
the logbook signature requirement for charter anglers in Area 2C will 
be extended to include charter anglers in Area 3A.

G. Guided Angler Fish (GAF)

    The CSP authorizes supplemental individual transfers of commercial 
halibut IFQ as GAF to qualified charter halibut permit holders for 
harvest by charter vessel anglers in Areas 2C and 3A. Using GAF, 
qualified charter halibut permit holders may offer charter vessel 
anglers the opportunity to retain halibut up to the limit for unguided 
anglers when the charter management measure in place limits charter 
vessel anglers to a more restrictive harvest limit.
    An IFQ holder is eligible to transfer halibut IFQ as GAF if he or 
she holds at least one unit of halibut QS and has received an annual 
IFQ permit authorizing harvest of IFQ in either the Area 2C and Area 3A 
commercial halibut fishery. A charter halibut permit holder is eligible 
to receive IFQ as GAF if he or she holds one or more charter halibut 
permits in the management area that corresponds to the IFQ permit area 
from which the IFQ would be transferred. Holders of military charter 
halibut permits and Community Quota Entities holding community charter 
halibut permits will also be eligible to receive IFQ as GAF. No changes 
to the eligibility criteria were made from the proposed rule.
    For transfers between IFQ and GAF, the IFQ holder and charter 
halibut permit holder receiving GAF will be required to submit an 
application to NMFS. Application forms and instructions will be 
available on the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.
    NMFS will issue GAF in numbers of halibut. NMFS will post the 
conversion from IFQ pounds to a GAF for Area 2C and Area 3A for each 
fishing year on the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. NMFS will post the conversion factor for the 
current fishing year before the beginning of the commercial halibut 
fishing season each year. The methods for calculating the conversion 
factors were described in the preamble to the proposed rule and are not 
repeated here.
    Upon completion of the transfer between IFQ and GAF, NMFS will 
issue a GAF permit to the holder of a charter halibut permit. The GAF 
permit will be assigned to the charter halibut permit specified by the 
GAF permit holder at the time of application. The GAF permit holder may 
offer GAF for harvest by charter vessel anglers on board the vessel on 
which the operator's GAF permit and the assigned charter halibut permit 
are used.
    Charter operators will be required to possess GAF in their GAF 
permit accounts prior to allowing charter vessel anglers to retain 
halibut as GAF. Transfers cannot occur after the fish have been caught. 
The GAF permit holder also will be required to have the GAF permit and 
the assigned charter halibut permit on board the vessel on which 
charter vessel anglers retain GAF, and to present the permits if 
requested by an authorized enforcement officer. GAF permit holders will 
be required to retain all GAF permits and GAF permit logs for two years 
after the date of issuance and to make them available for inspection 
upon request of an authorized enforcement officer.
    NMFS will issue a revised GAF permit to the GAF permit holder each 
time during the year that it approves a transfer between IFQ and GAF 
for that GAF permit. Each GAF permit will be assigned to only one 
charter halibut permit in Area 2C or Area 3A, specified on the 
application for transfer between IFQ and GAF. That assignment cannot be 
changed during the year. Once GAF is transferred to a charter halibut 
permit holder and assigned to a specified charter halibut permit, it 
may not be transferred to another charter halibut permit holder.
    Unused GAF may be returned to the IFQ holder by two methods: a 
voluntary return that can be requested in August and that will be 
completed on or after September 1, and an automatic return 15 days 
before the end of the commercial halibut fishing season. On and after 
the automatic return date, unused GAF will no longer be authorized for 
use in the charter fishery in the current year. Applications for 
transfer of IFQ to GAF will not be accepted during the one month prior 
to the automatic return date, to ensure that all GAF transactions are 
completed before the automatic return date. No application is required 
for the automatic return of unused GAF. NMFS will return any remaining 
unharvested GAF to the IFQ holder from whom it was derived. On or as 
soon as possible after the voluntary or automatic GAF return dates, 
NMFS will convert GAF in number of fish to IFQ in net pounds using the 
conversion factor for that year and return the converted IFQ to the IFQ 
holder's account.
    This rule includes three restrictions on GAF transfers. First, IFQ 
holders in Area 2C will be limited to transferring up to 1,500 lb 
(680.4 kg) or 10 percent, whichever is greater, of their initially 
issued annual halibut IFQ for use as GAF. In Area 3A, IFQ holders may 
transfer up to 1,500 lb or 15 percent, whichever is greater, of their 
initially issued annual halibut IFQ for use as GAF. Second, no more 
than a total of 400 GAF will be assigned during one

[[Page 75850]]

year to a GAF permit assigned to a charter halibut permit that is 
endorsed for six or fewer anglers. And third, no more than a total of 
600 GAF will be assigned during one year to a GAF permit assigned to a 
charter halibut permit endorsed for more than six anglers. This rule 
does not limit the amount of GAF transfers for military charter halibut 
permits. Community Quota Entities (CQEs) that hold quota share are 
allowed to transfer IFQ as GAF. The limits on these transfers depend on 
whether the GAF permit holder is a CQE, an eligible community resident, 
or a non-resident. GAF transfer restrictions were described in more 
detail on pages 39140-39141 of the proposed rule for this action and 
are not repeated here.
    This rule implements new recordkeeping and reporting requirements 
for GAF in the ADF&G saltwater charter logbooks, in addition to 
saltwater charter logbook reporting requirements currently specified at 
Sec.  300.65(d). The ADF&G saltwater charter logbook will continue to 
be used as the primary reporting method for operators in the charter 
halibut fishery. The person to whom ADF&G issued a saltwater charter 
logbook is required to retain and make available for inspection by 
authorized enforcement personnel the completed original logbooks for 
two years following the charter vessel fishing trip. This rule also 
will require GAF permit holders to record information on the GAF 
permit; separately report retained GAF by 11:59 p.m. (Alaska local 
time) on the last day of the fishing trip in which GAF were retained 
using a NMFS-approved electronic reporting system; record the 
electronic reporting confirmation number on the GAF permit log; and 
retain the GAF permits and GAF permit logs for two years.
    Charter guides will be required to mark retained GAF by removing 
the tips of the upper and lower lobes of the caudal (tail) fin. 
Additionally, the charter vessel guide will be required to retain the 
carcass showing caudal fin clips until the halibut fillets are 
offloaded so that enforcement can verify the length and that the fish 
was retained as GAF. For each halibut retained as GAF, charter vessel 
guides will immediately record on the GAF permit log the date and total 
halibut length in inches.
    GAF permit holders landing GAF on private property will be required 
to allow enforcement personnel access to the point of landing.
    Commercial IFQ holders will be responsible for all cost recovery 
fees on IFQ equivalent pounds harvested for their IFQ permit(s) and 
also for net pounds transferred and harvested as GAF that originated 
from their IFQ account(s). NMFS will levy IFQ cost recovery fees on all 
net pounds of halibut harvested as IFQ in the commercial fishery and as 
GAF in the charter fishery. Cost recovery fees for GAF were discussed 
in further detail in the proposed rule for this action and are not 
repeated here.

III. Other Regulatory Changes

    This action makes four additional regulatory changes that were 
explained in detail in the preamble to the proposed rule. These are 
minor changes that clarify existing regulations, but do not 
substantively change how the halibut fishery is managed. The first 
change clarifies the regulations to describe the current process by 
which the IPHC Area 4 catch sharing plan is promulgated in Sec.  
300.65(b). The second change updates instructions in regulations at 
Sec.  679.5(l)(7) for Registered Buyers to complete and submit the IFQ 
Registered Buyer Ex-vessel Value and Volume Report form. The third 
change clarifies regulations at Sec.  679.40 to describe the separate 
processes for allocating halibut IFQ and sablefish IFQ, and clarifies 
that commercial halibut fishery overage adjustments from the previous 
year will be subtracted from a person's IFQ, and commercial halibut 
fishery underage adjustments from the previous year will be added to a 
person's IFQ. The fourth change revises regulations at Sec.  
679.45(a)(4) to update instructions for IFQ permit holders for 
submitting cost recovery fee payments to NMFS and update the fee 
payment form and instructions to incorporate GAF in the calculation of 
an IFQ permit holder's cost recovery fee liability. NMFS received no 
comments on these changes.

IV. Changes From the Proposed Rule

    This action was proposed and public comments were solicited for 45 
days beginning on June 28, 2013 (78 FR 39122), and ending on August 12, 
2013. At public request, a 14-day extension of the comment period was 
granted prior to the end of the public comment period (78 FR 44920, 
July 25, 2013). The extended public comment period ended on August 26, 
2013. By the end of the public comment period, 4,740 submissions were 
received. Unique issues raised in those comments received by the end of 
the comment period are summarized and responded to below under the 
heading ``V. Comments and Responses.'' The following 21 changes are 
made from the proposed rule in this final rule. Changes 3, 8 through 
10, 12 through 14, 16, 18, 19, and 21 below were made in response to 
public comments. The remainder of the changes correct incorrect cross-
references to other paragraphs or make minor clarifications to the 
text.

Definitions Sec.  300.61

    1. In developing the final rule, NMFS noted that six definitions 
pertaining to the charter halibut fishery contained an incorrect cross-
reference. The proposed definitions for ``charter vessel angler,'' 
``charter vessel fishing trip,'' ``charter vessel guide,'' ``charter 
vessel operator,'' ``crew member,'' and ``sport fishing guide 
services'' all stated, ``for purposes of Sec. Sec.  300.65(d) . . .'' 
Regulatory text implementing the CSP replaces the GHL regulatory text 
at Sec.  300.65(c), so the definitions need to apply to paragraph (c) 
as well. NMFS changed these six definitions so they apply to all of 
Sec.  300.65.

Implementation Sec.  300.65(c)(2)

    2. In the proposed rule, paragraph Sec.  300.65(c)(2) stated that 
the ``CSP annual allocations and guided sport catch limits are adopted 
by the Commission as annual management measures and published by NMFS 
in the Federal Register as required in Sec.  300.62.'' The IPHC will 
adopt and NMFS will publish the annual CCL, the annual commercial catch 
limit, and the annual guided sport catch limit, but not necessarily the 
CSP allocation percentages that were applied to the CCL to obtain the 
sector catch limits. The text of this paragraph has been revised to 
reflect this change.

Transfer Between IFQ and GAF Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(ii)

    3. In the proposed rule at paragraph Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(ii)(B)(2), 
NMFS proposed October 15 as the last day that applications could be 
submitted to transfer IFQ to GAF. Two commenters noted that the GAF 
automatic return date is 15 days before the close of the commercial 
fishing season, which varies annually. In some years, the commercial 
fishery closes in early November. In those years, a GAF permit holder 
requesting a transfer of IFQ to GAF near the proposed deadline of 
October 15 may not have enough time to harvest that GAF before the 
automatic return date. NMFS agrees with the comment and has changed the 
deadline for transfer applications to one month prior to the closing 
date of the commercial fishery so the application deadline will adjust 
with the season dates. This change will ensure that GAF permit holders 
will have a minimum of two

[[Page 75851]]

weeks to harvest their GAF before the automatic return date.
    4. NMFS proposed regulations at Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(ii)(D(4)(iv) 
requiring a CQE to submit a complete annual report to NMFS as specified 
in Sec.  679.5(l)(8) to receive GAF by transfer. NMFS published a final 
rule on June 4, 2013 (78 FR 33243), to consolidate reporting 
regulations and specify additional requirements for a CQE to submit a 
complete annual report at Sec.  679.5(t). NMFS has revised this final 
rule at Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(ii)(D)(4)(iv) to cross-reference the revised 
CQE reporting requirements at Sec.  679.5(t).
    5. Paragraph Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(ii)(E)(2) of the proposed rule 
stated, ``If no GAF were harvested in a year, the conversion factor 
would be calculated using the same method as for the first calendar 
year after the effective date of this rule.'' NMFS changed the word 
``would'' to ``will'' in this sentence to read, ``If no GAF were 
harvested in a year, the conversion factor will be calculated . . .'' 
This change is to clarify that this process will occur and is not 
discretionary.

Guided Angler Fish Permit Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(iii)

    6. NMFS has changed the wording of paragraph Sec.  
300.65(c)(5)(iii)(A)(7) describing GAF permit retention requirements. 
The proposed requirement states, ``GAF permit holders must retain GAF 
permit(s) for two years after the end of the fishing year . . .'' The 
back of the GAF permit contains the ``GAF permit log'' where guides 
must record dates, lengths, and electronic reporting confirmation 
numbers for harvested GAF. GAF transfer limits allow up to 600 GAF to 
be transferred to a charter halibut permit (CHP) on a GAF permit. The 
GAF permit log on the back of the permit may not have sufficient room 
to record all of the GAF harvested under that GAF permit. Supplemental 
GAF permit log pages will be available to download from the NMFS Web 
site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/. NMFS changed the wording of 
this requirement to specify that all GAF permits and all associated GAF 
permit logs must be retained for two years after the end of the fishing 
year.

GAF Use Restrictions Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(iv)

    7. On page 39142 of the proposed rule, NMFS stated that in addition 
to clipping the tails of retained GAF, the charter vessel guide would 
be required to ``retain the carcass showing caudal fin clips until the 
halibut fillets were offloaded so that enforcement could verify the 
length and that the fish was retained as GAF.'' The requirement to mark 
GAF by clipping the tail fin was proposed at Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(iv)(G), 
but this paragraph did not specify the carcass retention requirement. 
Paragraph (G) has been revised to reflect this requirement.
    8. The Council did not specify, and NMFS did not propose, GAF 
transfer limits for military charter halibut permits. NMFS received a 
comment that, to avoid confusion, the regulatory text at Sec.  
300.65(c)(5)(iv)(H) should explicitly state that the GAF transfer 
limits do not apply to military charter halibut permits. NMFS agrees 
and has changed the text accordingly.

Retention and Inspection of Logbook Requirements Sec.  300.65(d)(2)

    9. The proposed logbook retention requirement at Sec.  300.65(d)(2) 
proposed a number of requirements that would have applied to ``the 
person to whom the Alaska Department of Fish and Game issues the 
Saltwater Sport Fishing Charter Trip Logbook and who retains halibut.'' 
Comments received from ADF&G noted that anyone can be issued a logbook 
that is assigned to a business for use on a particular vessel and ADF&G 
does not record the name of the person to which the logbook is issued. 
ADF&G assumed that NMFS was proposing to impose the requirements of 
Sec.  300.65(d) to owners of the business to which a logbook is 
assigned, and suggested the language should be clarified as such. NMFS 
agrees with this comment and has changed Sec.  300.65(d)(1) and (2) to 
impose the requirements to any ``person whose business was assigned an 
Alaska Department of Fish and Game Saltwater Sport Fishing Charter Trip 
Logbook.'' Second, ADF&G noted that charter vessel anglers are the 
persons who retain halibut. Businesses, guides, and deckhands are 
prohibited from retaining halibut under the CSP; therefore, the phrase 
``and who retains halibut'' in Sec.  300.65(d)(2) should actually refer 
to charter vessel anglers who retain halibut. NMFS agrees with this 
comment and has changed Sec.  300.65(d)(2) clarify that the 
requirements apply to any ``person who is required to provide 
information pursuant to paragraph (d)(4) of this section, or whose 
business was assigned an Alaska Department of Fish and Game Saltwater 
Sport Fishing Charter Trip Logbook and whose charter vessel anglers 
retain halibut.''
    10. Proposed paragraph Sec.  300.65(d)(2)(i) stated that a person 
whose business was assigned a saltwater charter logbook must ``retain 
the logbook for 2 years after the end of the fishing year for which the 
logbook was issued . . .'' A comment from ADF&G noted that because data 
pages may be removed from a logbook, the language should be clarified 
to ensure that halibut logbook data pages are retained during the 
specified period. NMFS agrees and has revised paragraph (i) as 
suggested to read, ``Retain all logbook data pages showing halibut 
harvest for 2 years after the end of the fishing year for which the 
logbook was issued . . .''

Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements Sec.  300.65(d)(4)

    11. NMFS proposed general recordkeeping and reporting requirements 
at Sec.  300.65(d)(4)(i). These instructions contained an incorrect 
cross-reference to paragraph (d)(4)(ii)(C) for an exception from the 
recordkeeping and reporting requirements. NMFS has corrected the cross-
reference to paragraph (d)(4)(iii)(C) in this final rule.
    12. NMFS' proposed instructions for completing the saltwater 
charter logbook at Sec.  300.65(d)(4)(ii)(B)(5) would have required 
that charter vessel guides record the six-digit statistical area code 
in which halibut were caught and retained. A comment from ADF&G noted 
that in the Kodiak management area, ADF&G requires charter guides to 
record five-digit salmon statistical areas when targeting salmon, even 
if halibut are caught incidentally and retained. ADF&G suggested 
removing the words ``six-digit'' so the instruction could apply to 
either type of statistical area, as necessary. NMFS agrees and has made 
the requested change. ADF&G will also update the instructions printed 
in the saltwater charter logbook to reflect this change.
    13. ADF&G noted a typographical error in proposed paragraph Sec.  
300.65(d)(4)(ii)(B)(6). The proposed first sentence of that paragraph 
read, ``Before a charter vessel fishing trip begins, record for the 
first and last name of each paying or non-paying charter vessel angler 
. . .'' NMFS has removed the word ``for'' from this sentence.
    14. In response to a comment from ADF&G, NMFS changed language 
under GAF reporting requirements at Sec.  300.65(d)(4)(iii)(A)(1) to 
specify where on the GAF permit the date and GAF length must be 
recorded. The proposed language stated only that the required 
information must be recorded on the GAF permit. The revised language 
clarifies that the required information must be recorded ``on the GAF 
permit log (on the back of the GAF permit) . . . NMFS noted the need 
for this change after the proposed rule was published as NMFS developed 
the GAF permit and

[[Page 75852]]

GAF permit log for implementation of this final rule.
    15. NMFS has made minor changes to the introductory text for GAF 
electronic reporting at Sec.  300.65(d)(4)(iii)(D). The proposed 
paragraph would have required the GAF permit holder to electronically 
report specific information ``for each GAF retained.'' Since the 
proposed rule was published, NMFS has further developed the GAF 
electronic reporting system such that most of the data elements in the 
following paragraphs (1) through (9) will need to be entered only once 
for each fishing trip, rather than for each GAF retained. This change 
reduces the reporting burden for charter vessel guides. The 
introductory text in paragraph (D) has been changed accordingly.
    16. In response to a comment, NMFS is adding a requirement to 
record the date GAF were caught and retained to the electronic 
reporting data elements for GAF at Sec.  300.65(d)(4)(iii)(D). When 
preparing the proposed rule, NMFS anticipated that because electronic 
reports are due by 11:59 p.m. on the day a charter vessel angler 
retains GAF, the date could be automatically filled by the online 
reporting system as the same date that the data were reported. NMFS 
received a comment noting that for multi-day trips, the GAF permit 
holder is not required to submit the electronic report until 11:59 p.m. 
on the last day of the charter vessel fishing trip. In the case of 
multi-day trips, GAF permit holders may report GAF harvested on more 
than one day and corresponding to multiple pages in the ADF&G saltwater 
charter logbook in a single electronic report. Therefore, for proper 
accounting and to facilitate enforcement, NMFS must require GAF permit 
holders to also enter the date. NMFS agrees with the comment, so the 
date requirement was added as paragraph (d)(4)(iii)(D)(5) and 
subsequent paragraphs were renumbered.
    17. The proposed rule at Sec.  300.65(d)(4)(iii)(D)(6) would have 
required that charter vessel guides report the ``length of GAF caught 
and retained'' in the electronic report. NMFS has reworded this 
requirement to clarify that guides must report the ``length of each GAF 
caught and retained.'' NMFS has also renumbered this paragraph as 
(d)(4)(iii)(D)(7).
    18. NMFS reworded paragraph Sec.  300.65(d)(4)(iii)(E)(1) under GAF 
reporting requirements in response to a public comment that it was not 
clear who was responsible for compliance with this requirement. The 
reworded paragraph specifies that the GAF permit holder is responsible 
for ensuring that all GAF harvested on board a vessel are debited from 
the GAF permit holder's account under which the GAF were retained.
    19. The paragraph at Sec.  300.65(d)(4)(iii)(E)(2) under proposed 
GAF reporting requirements was reworded in response to a public comment 
to specify where the GAF electronic reporting confirmation number 
should be recorded and by whom. The reworded paragraph specifies that 
the GAF electronic confirmation number shall be recorded on the GAF 
permit log by the GAF permit holder.
    20. Based on the public comment resulting in changes 17 and 18 
above, NMFS further clarified the instructions for a properly reported 
GAF landing by adding paragraph Sec.  300.65(d)(4)(iii)(E)(3). This 
paragraph provides a cross-reference to paragraph (d)(4)(iii)(A)(4), 
which describes how to correct a submitted GAF landing electronic 
report.

Prohibitions Sec.  300.66

    21. On page 39136 of the proposed rule, NMFS discussed the 
Council's intent to prohibit individuals who hold both a charter 
halibut permit and commercial halibut IFQ from fishing for commercial 
and charter halibut on the same vessel during the same day in Area 2C 
and 3A. Consistent with the recommendation, NMFS proposed prohibiting 
individuals who hold both a charter halibut permit and a Subsistence 
Halibut Registration Certificate from using both permits to harvest 
halibut on the same vessel during the same day in Area 2C and Area 3A. 
NMFS intended to include both of these prohibitions at Sec.  300.66(h). 
NMFS received a comment noting that the prohibition at paragraph (h) 
was incorrect and only prohibited subsistence and commercial fishing 
for halibut on the same vessel during the same day. NMFS agrees with 
the comment and has corrected paragraph (h) to prohibit, with some 
exceptions, individuals from conducting subsistence fishing for halibut 
while commercial fishing or sport fishing for halibut, as defined in 
Sec.  300.61, from the same vessel on the same calendar day.

V. Comments and Responses

    The proposed rule for this action was published on June 28, 2013 
(78 FR 39122), and public comments on it were accepted until August 26, 
2013. NMFS received approximately 4,740 comment submissions raising 153 
unique issues within the scope of this action. Comments that resulted 
in changes from the proposed rule were addressed in the previous 
section. The remaining comments were reviewed, organized into nine 
topical categories, and responded to as follows:

Allocation

    Comment 1: The CSP allocations to the charter sector would result 
in catch limits that are lower than the GHL at current halibut stock 
levels. This change to the allocation is unjustified.
    Response: NMFS disagrees that the change is unjustified. One of the 
objectives of the CSP is to establish Area 2C and Area 3A sector 
allocations that balance the differing needs of the charter and 
commercial sectors over a wide range of halibut abundance, and that 
increase or decrease (``float'') with varying levels of halibut 
abundance. To accomplish this objective, the Council and NMFS replaced 
the GHL with sector allocations that vary directly with halibut 
abundance. A fixed percentage of the annual CCL will be allocated to 
each sector across a wide range of potential CCLs. The allocation to 
each sector will vary with halibut abundance, with higher allocations 
inuring to the charter halibut fishery at lower levels of abundance. A 
detailed description of the allocations to the charter sector under the 
CSP is included in the proposed rule and in the Analysis. The Council 
determined that use of a fixed percentage allocation of the CCL to each 
fishery under the CSP will result in both the commercial and charter 
halibut fishery allocations adjusting directly up and down more 
directly proportionate to changes in halibut abundance.
    As described in section 1.1.1 of the Analysis and in the proposed 
rule for this action, the GHL is not as directly responsive as the CSP 
to changes in halibut abundance. Fixed GHLs for Areas 2C and 3A were 
established annually, in pounds, and did not fluctuate directly with 
halibut stock abundance, while commercial catch limits do fluctuate 
directly with stock abundance. The GHL has five poundage levels in 
relation to the allowable removals of halibut from all sources (Total 
CEY). The GHLs were reduced if the area-specific Total CEY declined by 
at least 15 percent below the average 1999 through 2000 Total CEY, as 
determined by the IPHC. For example, if the Total CEY in Area 2C fell 
by between 15 percent and 24 percent below its 1999 through 2000 
average, then the GHL would have been reduced from 1,432,000 lb to 
1,217,000 lb. If the Total CEY declined by between 25 percent and 34 
percent, then the GHL would have been reduced from 1,432,000 lb to 
1,074,000 lb. If the Total CEY continued to decline by at least 10 
percent, the GHL would have been

[[Page 75853]]

reduced from 1,074,000 lb by an additional 10 percent to 931,000 lb. If 
the Total CEY declined by an additional 10 percent or more, the GHL 
would have been reduced by an additional 10 percent from 931,000 lb to 
the baseline level of 788,000 lb. The Area 2C GHL would not be reduced 
below 788,000 lb. If the Area halibut biomass increased, the GHL could 
be increased only to its initial level of 1,432,000 lb, but no higher.
    The proposed rule describes the effects of the GHL in the Area 2C 
and Area 3A charter halibut fisheries in circumstances when Total CEY 
declines did not trigger a GHL reduction. During some years of 
declining Total CEY under the GHL, the commercial halibut fishery IFQ 
allocations were reduced, but there was no change in the charter 
halibut fishery GHLs. Conversely, in years when the Total CEY 
increased, the GHL did not allow the charter halibut fishery to fully 
benefit from this increase.
    Section 2.5.10 of the Analysis describes that under the GHL 
program, the proportion of total halibut harvested in the Area 2C and 
Area 3A commercial halibut fishery has declined and the proportion 
harvested in the charter halibut fishery has increased. From 2008 
through 2012, the Area 2C commercial halibut fishery harvest declined 
from 60.2 percent to 43.1 percent of the Total CEY, and charter halibut 
fishery harvest increased from 14.3 percent to 15.9 percent of the 
Total CEY over the same time period. In Area 3A, commercial halibut 
fishery harvest decreased from 76.8 percent to 60.3 percent of the 
Total CEY, and charter halibut fishery harvest increased from 12.6 
percent to 15.7 percent of the Total CEY from 2008 through 2012. Thus, 
while both the GHL and commercial halibut fishery catch limits have 
declined in recent years, the commercial halibut fisheries have borne 
larger poundage and proportional reductions under the current 
allocation system. This resulted in negative economic impacts on 
commercial halibut fishery participants from reduced catch limits, 
which contributed to the instability and conflict between user groups 
that the Council intended to address with the CSP.
    It is true that at moderate to low levels of halibut abundance, the 
CSP would provide the charter halibut fishery with a smaller poundage 
allocation than the guideline limits established under the GHL program. 
The Council and NMFS took this into consideration in its evaluation of 
the CSP and the GHL. Section 2.5 of the Analysis shows that at CCLs of 
less than 9.5 million lb in Area 2C and 26 million lb in Area 3A, the 
CSP poundage allocation to the charter sector would be lower than the 
GHL. Conversely, at CCLs of greater than 9.5 million lb in Area 2C and 
26 million lb in Area 3A, the CSP would provide the charter halibut 
fishery with a larger poundage allocation than the guideline limits 
established under the GHL program. The Council and NMFS considered the 
differences in the estimated CSP poundage allocations compared to the 
GHL for recent years. Section 2.8 of the Analysis estimates that if the 
CSP had been in place in recent years, the charter sector poundage 
allocation likely would have been less than the GHL from 2008 through 
2012 in Area 2C and from 2009 through 2012 in Area 3A.
    Moreover, the Council and NMFS have taken into account the 
capability of vessels used in the commercial and charter fisheries for 
halibut to engage in other fisheries and economic endeavors. The 
charter halibut industry provides marine transportation and sport 
fishing guide services to anglers wishing to catch halibut. Charter 
vessel businesses provide these services also to anglers wishing to 
catch salmon, rockfish, lingcod, and other bottomfish. In addition, 
charter vessel businesses in Areas 2C and 3A may provide marine 
transportation for bird watching, whale watching, and general 
sightseeing. Passengers using these services may be independent 
tourists, guests at lodges, or travelers on cruise ships. Charter 
vessel businesses may focus their business plan on sport anglers 
wishing to catch halibut, but other business plans are possible given 
the variety of reasons why an individual may want to engage the 
services of a charter vessel.
    Having conducted a comprehensive analysis of the GHL and the CSP, 
the Council and NMFS have determined that the CSP allocations 
implemented by this final rule provide a clear, transparent, and 
equitable allocation between the two sectors.
    Comment 2: In November 2009, a U.S. District Court determined that 
the GHL is a fair and equitable allocation (VanValin v. Locke (671 F. 
Supp 2d 1 D.D.C. 2009)). Because the CSP reduces the allocation to the 
charter sector from the status quo GHL, it cannot be fair and 
equitable. Therefore, the charter fishery should continue to be managed 
to its GHL allocations.
    Response: VanValin v. Locke involved a legal challenge to the GHL. 
That case does not preclude the subsequent consideration and 
implementation of alternative allocations between the commercial and 
charter sectors that differ from the GHL. Pursuant to section 773c(c) 
of the Halibut Act, where the Council develops regulations that 
allocate halibut fishing privileges among United States fishermen, such 
allocation ``must be fair and equitable to all fishermen.'' This 
language is adopted directly from National Standard 4 of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act (16 U.S.C. 1851(a)(4)). The terms ``fairness and equity'' 
have been interpreted in NOAA Fisheries' National Standard Guidelines 
(the Guidelines) (see 50 CFR 600.325(c)(3)(i)(A)). The Guidelines 
provide that there should be a rational relationship between an 
allocation of fishing privileges and the furtherance of a legitimate 
fishery management objective. The Guidelines further provide that 
``inherent in an allocation is the advantaging of one group to the 
detriment of another.'' The Council may develop, and the Secretary of 
Commerce may implement, regulations allocating fishing privileges that 
result in hardship to one group if such burdens are outweighed by the 
total benefits received by another group. ``An allocation need not 
preserve the status quo in the fishery to qualify as `fair and 
equitable,' if a restructuring of fishing privileges would maximize 
overall benefits'' (see 50 CFR 600.325(c)(3)(i)(B)).
    The CSP allocations are fair and equitable. As described in the 
Analysis and in the proposed rule for this action, the Council and NMFS 
decided to replace the GHL with sector allocations that balance the 
differing needs of the charter and commercial sectors, and that float 
with varying levels of halibut abundance. See also the response to 
Comment 1. The GHL is not as responsive or adaptable to changes in 
halibut abundance. While both the GHL and commercial fishery catch 
limits have declined in recent years, the commercial halibut fisheries 
have borne larger poundage and proportional reductions under the 
current allocation system. The Council noted that the absence of a hard 
allocation between the commercial and the charter halibut sectors has 
resulted in conflicts between sectors and tensions in coastal 
communities dependent on the halibut resource.
    The CSP allocations to the commercial and charter sectors will 
result in both fishery allocations adjusting directly with changes in 
halibut exploitable biomass. This will stabilize the proportions of 
harvestable halibut available to the commercial and charter fisheries 
at all levels of halibut abundance, allowing both the commercial and 
charter sectors to share in the benefits and costs of managing the 
halibut resource and providing a

[[Page 75854]]

more equitable management response to changes in halibut biomass 
compared to the GHL policy. Also see the response to Comment 6.
    Comment 3: The CSP allocations to the charter sector are 
demonstrably fair and equitable. The Area 2C charter allocation 
includes as baseline years for calculating the allocation percentage 
two years when charter harvest exceeded the GHL, 2004 and 2005, which 
rewards the charter sector for exceeding the GHL. The Council chose not 
to use more recent years in which charter harvests were even higher in 
consideration of the effects on commercial halibut fishery 
participants. The commenter notes that in Van Valin v. Locke the court 
ruled that charter operators should not be rewarded for exceeding the 
GHL. The court stated that where overfishing by one group in recent 
years is the precise concern that the regulation intends to address, it 
makes sense to disregard the most recent participation data (Id. at 
11). If the CSP errs at all relative to allocation equity, it errs in 
awarding too large a percentage of the halibut resource to the charter 
sector.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment and notes that the preamble 
to the proposed rule and section 1.6.7 of the Analysis describe the 
Council's rationale for recommending the CSP allocations to the 
commercial and charter sectors. Also see the response to Comment 26.
    Comment 4: A court found the GHL to be fair and equitable, but that 
is not the only allocation that could be fair and equitable. The 
Council has the authority to recommend a different allocation that 
could also be fair and equitable.
    Response: As described in the response to Comment 2, the Council 
and NMFS have articulated a legitimate objective for establishing the 
CSP in Area 2C and Area 3A. To accomplish this objective, the Council 
and NMFS properly determined to replace the GHL with sector allocations 
that vary directly with halibut abundance. The Secretary of Commerce 
has determined that this final rule is consistent with the Halibut Act 
requirement that allocation of fishing privileges be fair and equitable 
to halibut fishermen.
    Comment 5: The proposed rule states that the problem is 
uncompensated reallocation of the halibut from the commercial to the 
charter sector. The percentage of the CCL allocated to the charter 
sector decreases at high levels of abundance. How are guided anglers 
compensated for this reallocation of fish to the commercial sector at 
high levels of abundance?
    Response: NMFS disagrees with the commenter's characterization of 
the proposed rule. Page 39123 of the proposed rule noted that ``[t]he 
commercial IFQ halibut fishery therefore views charter harvests in 
excess of established policies or goals as uncompensated reallocations 
of fishing privileges.'' This statement follows a description of the 
IPHC process for determining commercial catch limits under the GHL 
program, and was included in the proposed rule preamble to express the 
view of commercial halibut fishery participants that consider charter 
harvests in excess of established harvest policies (the GHL from 2004 
through 2013), as uncompensated reallocation of halibut from the 
commercial to the charter sector. The purpose and need for the CSP is 
described in section 1.2 of the Analysis and the proposed rule (see the 
``III. Proposed Catch Sharing Plan (CSP) for Area 2C and Area 3A'' 
section beginning on page 39125). The CSP also would allow the charter 
sector to increase its allocation by leasing IFQ from the commercial 
sector. The proposed sector allocations are intended to fluctuate 
proportionately with halibut abundance. In recommending the CSP, the 
Council balanced its objective to establish an allocation to the Area 
2C and Area 3A commercial and charter sectors that varies 
proportionately with halibut abundance while maintaining this 
historical charter season length with no inseason changes to harvest 
restrictions. Also see the response to Comment 6.
    NMFS agrees that under the CSP, the proportion of the CCL allocated 
to the charter sector at relatively higher levels of abundance is less 
than the proportion allocated to the charter sector at relatively lower 
levels of abundance. The proposed rule for CSP describes the rationale 
for the allocations to the commercial and charter sectors in Area 2C 
and Area 3A.
    NMFS disagrees that the CSP allocation to the charter sector at 
higher levels of halibut abundance results in a reallocation of halibut 
to the commercial sector. As described in the proposed rule for the 
CSP, the Council balanced its objective to establish clear allocation 
to sectors that varies in proportion with halibut abundance with the 
needs of the charter and commercial fisheries at all levels of halibut 
abundance.
    Comment 6: The Problem Statement says that the absence of a hard 
allocation between the longline and the charter halibut sectors has 
resulted in conflicts between sectors and tensions in coastal 
communities dependent on the halibut resource. What is a hard 
allocation? Is the GHL a hard allocation? What makes the CSP allocation 
any more of a hard allocation than the GHL?
    Response: NMFS interprets the Council's reference to a hard 
allocation in its problem statement to mean an allocation between the 
directed commercial halibut fishery and the charter fishery that is 
clear, transparent, and varies in proportion to changes in halibut 
abundance. The Council intended for the CSP to be a comprehensive 
management program for the charter halibut fisheries in Areas 2C and 
3A, with sector allocations that balance the differing needs of the 
charter and commercial sectors over the range of halibut abundance, 
that float with varying levels of annual halibut abundance, and that 
include a public process for developing management measures intended to 
limit the charter sector to its allocation.
    As described in the response to Comment 1, management of the 
charter fishery under the GHL program resulted in the commercial 
fishery bearing a disproportionate amount of the declines in halibut 
exploitable biomass relative to the charter sector. This changing 
proportional allocation of a fully utilized halibut resource between 
the sectors under the GHL program created instability between user 
groups that the Council sought to address with the commercial and 
charter sector halibut allocations implemented by this final rule. This 
action is intended to maintain stability, economic viability, and 
diversity of halibut user groups by addressing allocation conflicts 
between participants in the commercial and charter halibut fisheries. 
The Secretary of Commerce has determined that the CSP allocations are 
consistent with the Council's objectives as described in its problem 
statement and the purpose and need for the CSP described in section 1.2 
of the Analysis.
    Comment 7: The Problem Statement says that unless a mechanism for 
transfer between sectors is established, the existing environment of 
instability and conflict will continue. The Council seeks to address 
this instability while balancing the needs of all who depend on the 
halibut resource for food, sport, or livelihood. Does NMFS believe that 
a plan that reallocates without compensation 30 percent or more of the 
current allocation to commercial fishermen while allowing guided 
anglers to rent those same fish back is going to address the existing 
environment of instability and conflict? How are guided anglers 
compensated for this reallocation from the GHL?

[[Page 75855]]

    Response: As discussed in the response to Comment 1, this final 
rule establishes an allocation in which both the commercial and charter 
halibut fisheries share in the benefits and costs of managing the 
resource for long-term sustainability. The Council anticipated, and 
NMFS agrees, that stabilizing the method of allocating halibut between 
the sectors will alleviate allocation conflicts between halibut user 
groups in Areas 2C and 3A. As described in the proposed rule for this 
action, the Council faced the challenge of balancing historical halibut 
harvests, economic impacts to the commercial and charter sectors, and 
the recent decline in halibut abundance in both areas as it developed 
its recommendation. As a result, it is not possible for any allocation 
consistent with the Council's objectives to make participants in both 
fisheries ``whole'' economically given current halibut abundance 
levels.
    In recognition that allocations under the CSP to the charter sector 
may be constraining at current low levels of halibut abundance, the 
Council recommended the GAF program to meet the needs of the charter 
halibut fisheries in Areas 2C and 3A and provide flexibility for 
participants in both sectors. The GAF program was not intended to 
provide a mechanism to replace reductions in the charter allocation 
relative to current or historical harvest levels. GAF will provide a 
voluntary, market-based mechanism for transferring halibut allocation 
from the commercial sector to the charter sector in order for the 
charter sector to access additional halibut under a potentially 
constraining allocation. It provides flexibility for operators in both 
the commercial and charter sectors. Individual charter and commercial 
operators will be able to consider current halibut catch limits in 
relation to their operational needs when determining whether to use the 
GAF program. The Council and NMFS anticipate that GAF may be used by 
charter anglers particularly in years of low halibut abundance, when 
charter catch limits under the CSP may be constraining.
    Comment 8: Optimum yield for the halibut fisheries has changed. The 
charter fishery harvest increased during the 1990s and early 2000s in 
response to shifting optimum utilization. The increased economic 
benefits from the charter sector and indirect support services are 
being ignored by the IPHC. The IPHC continues to consider the 
commercial fishery to be the optimal use of the resource.
    Response: NMFS agrees that charter fishery harvest increased during 
the 1990s and early 2000s. The resulting reallocation of harvest from 
the commercial sector has resulted in conflicts between sectors and 
tensions in coastal communities that are dependent on the halibut 
resource. The Council, not the IPHC, developed the CSP to address this 
instability while balancing the needs of all who depend on the halibut 
resource for food, sport, or livelihood. Specification of optimum yield 
for halibut fisheries is not required by the Halibut Act and has not 
been determined. See Charter Operators of Alaska v. Blank, 11-cv-00664 
(RCL) (D.D.C., February 24, 2012). As described in the response to 
Comment 120, the Council and NMFS considered the anticipated effects of 
the allocation to the charter sector at all levels of abundance as 
analyzed in section 2.5 of the Analysis, and the potential impacts on 
the charter sector in section 2.6 of the Analysis.
    Comment 9: The commercial IFQ halibut sector perceives that charter 
harvests in excess of established policies or goals as uncompensated 
reallocations of fishing privileges from the commercial sector to the 
charter sector. This is the problem the CSP is intended to remedy; 
however, this is an erroneous objective. Pursuant to Article III of the 
Halibut Convention, the IPHC must develop and maintain halibut stocks 
to levels that will permit the optimum yield for the halibut fisheries. 
The harvest of halibut in Alaska occurs in three fisheries: the 
commercial, sport, and subsistence fisheries. The optimum yield for the 
sport fishery will be adversely impacted by the proposed changes. The 
IPHC fails in its duty to protect the current allocation if it 
implements the proposed changes.
    Response: The commenter mischaracterizes the problem the Council 
intended to address with the CSP. The Council's problem statement 
provides that ``[t]he absence of a hard allocation between the 
commercial longline and charter halibut sectors has resulted in 
conflicts between sectors, and tensions in coastal communities that are 
dependent on the halibut resource. Unless a mechanism for transfer 
between sectors is established, the existing environment of instability 
and conflict will continue. The Council seeks to address this 
instability, while balancing the needs of all who depend on the halibut 
resource for food, sport, or livelihood.'' The CSP addresses this 
problem statement by establishing allocations for both sectors that 
fluctuate with halibut abundance, and by establishing a mechanism to 
transfer halibut between the sectors (GAF).
    Second, the commenter mischaracterizes Article III of the 
Convention. ``Developing the stocks of halibut of the Northern Pacific 
Ocean and Bering Sea to levels which will permit the optimum yield from 
that fishery and . . . maintaining the stocks at those levels'' does 
not require the IPHC to maintain a current allocation. Nothing in the 
Convention obligates the IPHC to maintain the GHL as the allocation 
between charter and commercial sectors to achieve the optimum yield 
from the sport sector or from any specific sector of the halibut 
fishery. The Council and NMFS have developed and implemented the CSP 
pursuant to the Halibut Act as the appropriate allocation between the 
commercial sector and charter sector.
    Comment 10: The CSP does not reflect current management practices 
nor present participation in the fishery. For example, present 
participation in the commercial halibut fishery has changed 
significantly through a reduction in the number of quota share holders. 
Additionally, the Council ignored 2011 data on commercial and charter 
catch to favor commercial IFQ holders.
    Response: The Council considered present and historical management 
and participation in the fishery when developing the CSP. The Analysis 
takes into account present participation in the commercial and charter 
halibut fisheries and considered alternative sector allocations under 
the CSP. Specifically, the Analysis includes information on harvests 
and participation in the commercial and charter halibut fisheries 
through 2011, the most recent year for which information was available 
regarding participation in the charter halibut fisheries in Areas 2C 
and 3A when the Council recommended its preferred alternative in 
October 2012. The 2011 charter fishery was the first full year in which 
the charter halibut limited access program was in effect in Areas 2C 
and 3A. As discussed in the proposed rule for this action, the charter 
halibut limited access program capped the number of charter businesses 
that could operate in Areas 2C and 3A to limit further expansion of the 
industry.
    The Council's consideration of each sector's recent participation 
and halibut harvest levels were particularly important in developing 
its recommendation of sector allocations under the Area 2C and Area 3A 
CSP because halibut abundance levels have declined in those areas in 
recent years. The Analysis described the effects of changing the method 
of allocating halibut between the commercial and charter sectors under 
the alternatives considered by the Council. The Analysis

[[Page 75856]]

estimated the CSP allocations to the commercial and charter sectors 
that would have been specified from 2008 through 2012 if the CSP had 
been in place. Section 2.8 of the Analysis, which shows that the catch 
sharing allocations could constrain charter harvests compared to the 
status quo when halibut abundance is low, as it has been in recent 
years. However, the Council and the Secretary of Commerce also 
considered the disproportionate impact of halibut abundance declines on 
the commercial sector catch limits under the GHL program, and 
determined that the CSP allocations implemented by this final rule meet 
the management objective of establishing sector allocations that vary 
directly with halibut abundance while balancing the halibut needs of 
the commercial and charter sectors with respect to recent 
participation.
    The Analysis also took into account historical fishing practices in 
and dependence on the charter halibut fisheries as it considered 
alternative allocations to the commercial and charter halibut fisheries 
for the CSP. The Analysis included information on harvests and 
participation in the commercial and charter halibut fisheries from 1995 
through 2011. The Council's preferred alternative for allocations to 
the commercial and charter fishery was based on each sector's harvest 
as percentage of the combined commercial and charter halibut harvest 
for several sets of years ranging from 1995 through 2005. In 
considering these data, the Council also considered estimates of 
revenues from participation in the commercial and charter halibut 
fisheries to evaluate historical fishing practices in and dependence on 
the charter halibut fisheries for both sectors.
    As described in the Analysis, fishery participation is often 
measured in pounds of the targeted fish species landed. Charter vessel 
businesses, however, primarily market a sport fishing experience rather 
than pounds of fish caught. Thus, while it is not possible to quantify 
or directly compare dependence on the halibut resource by participants 
in the commercial and charter halibut fisheries using available 
information, the Analysis presented the Council and the Secretary of 
Commerce with sufficient information to take into account dependence on 
the halibut fisheries by participants in both sectors when recommending 
sector allocations under the CSP. The evaluation of the potential 
effects of the alternatives in sections 2.5 and 2.6 of the Analysis 
informed the Council during its development of this action and the 
Secretary of Commerce's decision to approve it.
    Finally, the Council also took into account historical fishing 
practices in the charter halibut fisheries by continuing to avoid in-
season changes to charter harvest restrictions and maintain a 
traditional charter halibut season length. The charter halibut 
fisheries have traditionally been managed with pre-season 
specifications of harvest restrictions without in-season adjustments or 
closures during the charter fishing season. The CSP recommended by the 
Council and approved by the Secretary of Commerce maintains this 
approach to managing the charter halibut fisheries in Areas 2C and 3A.
    Comment 11: The CSP likely will promote strong industry desire for 
the charter sector to stay within its allocation because overages will 
roll over into the following season and reduce the successive season's 
charter catch limit.
    Response: Halibut harvest in the Area 2C or Area 3A charter fishery 
that exceeds the charter allocation in any one year, also called an 
overage, will not be deducted from the charter allocation in the 
following year. The CSP allocations to the Area 2C and Area 3A 
commercial and charter halibut fisheries will not change annually. See 
the response to Comment 1.
    Comment 12: The CSP allocations are generous to the charter sector, 
but it is time to settle the allocation debate and implement the CSP, 
even though it comes at a cost to the commercial sector and consumers.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment. As described in the 
response to Comment 1, one of the Council's primary objectives for the 
CSP is to establish a comprehensive management program for the charter 
halibut fisheries in Area 2C and Area 3A, with sector allocations that 
balance the differing needs of the charter and commercial sectors over 
the range of abundance and that float with varying levels of halibut 
abundance.
    Comment 13: I support the allocations proposed in the Council's 
2008 CSP recommendation. I am opposed to any increases to the charter 
sector from that allocation.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment. As described in the 
proposed rule, the Council adopted a motion in 2008 to recommend a CSP 
for the charter and commercial halibut fisheries in Areas 2C and 3A to 
NMFS. In July 2011, NMFS published a proposed rule for that CSP based 
on the Council's 2008 preferred alternative (76 FR 44156, July 22, 
2011) and received more than 4,000 public comments. The majority of the 
comments addressed the proposed allocation percentages and the matrix 
of charter halibut fishery harvest restrictions that would have been 
automatically triggered by changes in the Area 2C and Area 3A annual 
CCLs supported by halibut exploitable biomass. In October 2011, in part 
due to questions raised in the public comments on the proposed rule, 
NMFS and the Council decided that further analysis and clarification of 
provisions of the proposed 2011 CSP were required. In December 2011, 
the Council requested a supplemental analysis of new information since 
its 2008 preferred alternative. This included an evaluation of the 
management implications and economic impacts of the proposed CSP at 
varying levels of halibut abundance. Based on this new evaluation and 
additional public input, the Council recommended a revised preferred 
alternative for the CSP in October 2012, which included the 
recommendations for allocations to the commercial and charter sectors 
that float with changes in halibut abundance. See section 2.5.7 of the 
Analysis for a review of the CSP allocations based on the Council's 
2008 recommendation. Also see the response to Comment 7.
    Comment 14: The CSP allocations demonstrate the Council's careful 
consideration of the potential impacts to the charter sector while 
tasked with developing a functional management plan for a fully 
allocated resource.
    Response: NMFS agrees. Also see the response to Comment 7.
    Comment 15: Under the CSP, both the commercial sector and the 
charter sector are tied to the same IPHC metric of stock status with 
clear, defined allocations.
    Response: As described in the proposed rule for the CSP and in 
section 1.6.7 of the Analysis, the Council and NMFS recognize that one 
of the advantages of the CSP over the GHL program is that it uses the 
same method to establish commercial and charter halibut fishery 
allocations. The Council and the Secretary of Commerce have determined 
that the allocation to the commercial and charter halibut fisheries 
under the CSP provides a more transparent and equitable management 
response than the GHL program.
    Comment 16: We hope NMFS will avoid the use of words such as 
``benchmark'' to describe the CSP allocations. Such terms used for the 
GHL invited multiple lawsuits that were costly to the industry, the 
public, and the resource. The CSP sets clear allocations for the 
charter sector and a process to prevent allocation overages

[[Page 75857]]

before they occur. This must be reflected in the final rule.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment and notes that regulations 
implementing this final rule specify the determination of Area 2C and 
Area 3A annual charter halibut allocations from the annual CCL (see 
Tables 3 and 4 to subpart E of part 300).
    Comment 17: The CSP's allocations to the charter sector are reduced 
from those proposed in 2011. For example, the 2013 Area 2C CSP 
allocations are less than the 2008 proposed CSP allocations after the 
calculations are adjusted for changes in accounting methods and sector 
accountability are considered.
    Response: If the 2011 proposed rule for a CSP had been implemented, 
it would have allocated the charter sector 17.3 percent of the Area 2C 
combined catch limit (CCL) below 5 million lb, and 15.1 percent of the 
CCL above 5 million lb. The CSP implemented by this final rule 
establishes allocations to the charter sector in Area 2C of 18.3 
percent and 15.9 percent of the CCL at low and high abundance, 
respectively. In Area 3A, the 2011 proposed rule for a CSP would have 
allocated the charter sector 15.4 percent of the CCL at low abundance 
and 14.0 percent at high abundance. The CSP implemented by this final 
rule establishes allocations to the Area 3A charter sector of 18.9 
percent at low abundance, 17.5 percent at moderate abundance, and 14.0 
percent at high abundance. Additionally, for Areas 2C and 3A the CSP 
includes fixed poundage allocations between percentage tiers to remove 
the ``vertical drops'' in allocation that would have occurred under the 
2011 CSP (see Comment 20). Overall, the allocations provided to the 
charter sector in this rule are greater than the allocations 
contemplated in the 2011 proposed rule.
    Comment 18: Why was Alternative 3 chosen as the allocation option 
for Area 2C? It appears to be a punitive response to the 2C charter 
sector for exceeding the GHL due to inadequate and inappropriate 
management measures. Previous overharvests were a result of poor 
management, not as a result of illegal fishing practices.
    Response: NMFS agrees that charter harvests did not exceed the GHL 
due to illegal fishing practices. The GHL was exceeded in some years in 
part due to the rapid growth in the charter halibut industry in Area 
2C, combined with the delay in promulgating charter harvest 
restrictions. These factors made it difficult for managers to set 
harvest restrictions to avoid exceeding the GHL, while meeting the 
Council's objectives of avoiding in-season changes to harvest 
restrictions and maintaining a traditional season length. Until 2011, 
new charter halibut harvest restrictions were not implemented in time 
to prevent charter harvests from exceeding the GHL. As a result, the 
charter halibut fishery in Area 2C exceeded its GHL each year from 2004 
through 2010. The CSP is not a punitive response to charter overharvest 
in Area 2C. The Council's rationale for the allocations for Area 2C is 
described in the preamble to the proposed rule and in section 1.6.7 of 
the Analysis.
    Comment 19: Where in the analysis can we find graphical comparisons 
of the CSP and GHL allocations across their full range? Add a graphical 
comparison of the CSP and GHL, using the common measuring stick of 
logbook pounds, across the range of the CSP and GHL allocations, to 
show how much less the CSP allocation is than the GHL.
    Response: NMFS has added a graphical comparison of the estimated 
CSP allocations to the GHL to section 2.5 of the Analysis as suggested 
by the commenter. Table 2-71 in section 2.8 of the Analysis presents 
estimates of charter and commercial catch limits if the CSP had been in 
place from 2008 through 2012. Based on the information in this table, 
the Area 2C CSP allocation to the charter sector would have averaged 
662,000 lb and the GHL in these years averaged 845,000 lb. The Analysis 
estimates that the CSP allocation to the Area 2C charter sector would 
have averaged approximately 22 percent less than the GHL from 2008 
through 2012. For Area 3A, the estimated CSP allocation to the charter 
sector would have averaged 3.3 million lb from 2008 through 2012 and 
the GHL in these years averaged 3.5 million lb. The Analysis estimates 
that the CSP allocation to the Area 3A charter sector would have 
averaged approximately 6 percent less than the GHL from 2008 through 
2012. While this information was included in the Analysis that was 
available for public review before the proposed rule was published and 
was available for public comment during the comment period on the 
proposed rule, NMFS agrees with the commenter that a graphical 
representation of this information is useful to further illustrate the 
anticipated impacts of the CSP allocations. NMFS notes that section 2.5 
of the Analysis presents a thorough comparison of the GHL with all of 
the allocation alternatives considered by the Council as it developed 
the CSP.
    Comment 20: If the goal was allocations that float with abundance, 
how do you explain the flat spot in the Area 3A allocation between CCLs 
of 20 and 25 million lb?
    Response: The ``flat spots'' or fixed poundage allocations will 
remove the vertical drops that would have occurred between allocation 
percentage tiers. The rationale for these allocation tiers is described 
in section 2.5.11 of the Analysis and the section entitled ``C. Annual 
Commercial Fishery and Charter Fishery Allocations'' of the proposed 
rule. Without this adjustment, a 1 lb increase in CCL could trigger a 
significant drop in the poundage allocated to the charter halibut 
fishery. For example, without the fixed poundage allocation between 20 
and 25 million lb, if the Area 3A CCL were set at 19.9 million lb, the 
charter allocation would be 17.5 percent, or 3.5 million lb. If the CCL 
increased to 20 million lb, the charter allocation percentage would be 
14.0 percent, or 2.8 million lb. By adding the fixed poundage 
allocation to the CSP, the vertical drop in charter sector allocation 
is removed. The Area 3A charter allocation would be fixed at 3.5 
million lb until the CCL increases to the point where the charter 
allocation percentage at higher abundance levels would not result in a 
decrease in poundage allocated to the charter sector, in this example, 
at 25 million lb (see Figure 3 of this preamble).
    The fixed poundage allocations were added in response to public 
comment on the CSP proposed rule published in 2011 (76 FR 44156, July 
22, 2011), which noted the effects of the vertical drop resulting from 
the change in percentage allocations to the charter sector under the 
CSP. The Council also received testimony requesting revised CSP 
allocations that addressed the vertical drop in charter allocations. 
The fixed poundage allocations will benefit the charter sector by 
ensuring that the poundage allocation to the sector does not decrease 
over a specified range of CCLs.
    Comment 21: What happens if the charter halibut harvest exceeds the 
CSP allocation? Where and how are overages in charter harvest accounted 
for?
    Response: An overage by any sector in any given year does not 
affect other sectors in that same year. An overage by any sector 
affects all users in the subsequent year by increasing fishery removals 
that result in a lower estimated initial biomass. The IPHC assessment 
considers an overage as a removal higher than that fishery's catch 
limit. That higher removal in a fishing year means that biomass is 
incrementally lower at the end of that year than it would be otherwise. 
Underages have a similar effect on biomass but in the opposite 
direction,

[[Page 75858]]

i.e., biomass estimation for the subsequent year begins at a higher 
level than it would otherwise, and all sectors will benefit from this.
    Comment 22: The lower tiers of the new Area 3A CSP allocation are 
based on adding 3.5 percent of the CCLs to the 2011 CSP alternative. 
Why was 3.5 percent of the CCLs not added to the entire 2011 3A CSP 
alternative?
    Response: As described in the response to Comment 5, in Area 3A, 
the percentage allocation to the charter sector at higher levels of 
abundance is based on the same formula used to calculate the GHL. While 
the Council considered increasing this allocation percentage to provide 
the Area 3A charter sector with a larger poundage allocation, the 
Council ultimately determined that a larger allocation would give more 
halibut to the charter fishery than it could harvest based on 
historical catch estimates and information on charter business 
operations received during the development of the CSP. The Council felt 
it was inappropriate to recommend a higher charter sector allocation 
that would likely not be harvested in the charter fishery.
    Comment 23: As more fish are caught the CSP allocations for charter 
fisheries go down and the allocations for commercial fisheries go up. 
To shift the allocation away from the charter sector, which has only a 
small percentage of bycatch, to the commercial sector, which has higher 
rates of bycatch is not a sustainable solution. The allocation for both 
fisheries should go down as the amount of fish caught goes up.
    Response: The allocations to the commercial and charter halibut 
sectors are not based on the amount of halibut caught. They result from 
apportionment of the CCL determined by the IPHC, after estimating the 
exploitable biomass, multiplying by a target harvest rate, and 
deducting other removals (e.g., unguided sport harvest, subsistence 
harvest). Figure 1 depicts how the CCLs and allocations will be 
calculated under the CSP.
    As the CCL increases, the percentage allocated to the charter 
sector may decrease, but the pounds allocated to the charter sector 
will continue to increase. The Council determined that allocating a 
larger percentage to the charter halibut fishery at high abundances 
would allocate more pounds of halibut to the charter halibut fishery 
than they could harvest, based on available historic harvest data and 
information on charter business operations received during the 
development of the CSP (see section 1.6.7 of the Analysis for 
additional detail).
    Comment 24: The current recommendation to give the underages of the 
charter fishing industry to the commercial fishing industry is unfair.
    Response: The CSP does not allocate underages in the charter 
halibut fishery to the commercial halibut fishery. See Comment 21 for a 
description of how the IPHC accounts for underages and overages in the 
charter halibut fishery.
    Comment 25: Underages in charter sector harvests should be 
available to be caught and sold by the charter fleet the same as 
commercial IFQ fish or added back to the allowable harvest for the 
following year.
    Response: Commercial halibut fisheries are managed under the IFQ 
Program with individual allocations. IFQ management allows for 
underages of individual IFQ accounts to be carried forward to the QS 
holder's account in the following year, up to specified limits (see 
regulations at Sec.  679.41). The charter fishery is not managed with 
individual allocations, so there is no mechanism to carry forward 
underages in that fishery as there is in the commercial fishery. As 
described in the response to Comment 21, underages will result in the 
halibut biomass estimation for the subsequent year beginning at a 
higher level, and all sectors will benefit from this.
    Comment 26: The halibut resource should be split 50:50 between the 
commercial and sport sectors.
    Response: The proposed rule for this action and section 1.6.7 of 
the Analysis describe the rationale for the allocations to the charter 
and commercial sectors under the CSP. The Council reviewed historical 
harvests as a proportion of estimated commercial and charter CCLs as 
well as recent harvests by each sector to establish the allocations 
under the CSP. NMFS notes that allocations among fishery user groups 
are commonly based on historical and recent harvests by each sector. 
NMFS has determined that the Council's decision to use historical and 
recent harvests in the Area 2C and 3A commercial and charter halibut 
fisheries provides a reasonable and logical basis for the CSP 
allocations implemented by this final rule. The commenter could propose 
different allocations to the commercial and charter sectors to the 
Council for future consideration.
    Comment 27: The commercial halibut longliners were given more fish 
nearly every year than their initial allocation in 1995, while the GHL 
and daily bag limits were not increased for charter anglers.
    Response: NMFS agrees that commercial catch limits in Area 2C and 
Area 3A have fluctuated relative to the catch limits established for 
1995, the first year of the IFQ Program. However, since the 
implementation of the IFQ Program, the overall proportion of total 
halibut harvested in the Area 2C and Area 3A commercial halibut fishery 
has declined and the proportion harvested in the charter halibut 
fishery has increased. NMFS also agrees that the GHL was not responsive 
to changes in halibut abundance. As described in the response to 
Comment 1, one of the Council's primary objectives for the CSP is 
establish a comprehensive management program for the charter halibut 
fisheries in Area 2C and Area 3A, with sector allocations that balance 
the differing needs of the charter and commercial sectors over a wide 
range of halibut abundance and that also float with varying levels of 
halibut abundance. This final rule furthers that objective by 
establishing CSP allocations for the Area 2C and 3A commercial and 
charter halibut fisheries that vary with halibut abundance.
    Comment 28: The real reason that commercial catch limits have been 
reduced in Areas 2C and 3A is the IPHC's switch to using a coastwide 
model in the stock assessment, not harvest overages by the charter 
sector.
    Response: Overall, commercial catch limits have decreased with 
decreasing exploitable biomass. The Pacific halibut stock has been 
declining continuously over much of the last decade as a result of a 
number of factors, including decreasing size-at-age and poor 
recruitment strengths. This decline in abundance has been apparent 
coastwide in varying severity. Although the IPHC has shifted from area-
specific stock assessments to a coastwide assessment, the mere shift in 
stock modeling does not account for the decreasing size-at-age and poor 
recruitment strengths. Catch overages by the charter fishery sector can 
result in a lower estimated initial biomass for all users and are 
incorporated into stock assessments, but are not the sole reason for 
reduced exploitable biomass and reduced commercial catch limits in 
Areas 2C and 3A.
    Comment 29: The Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee in 
the analysis of the CSP said it believes that the magnitude and range 
of uncertainties concerning projections of charter harvests will 
prevent the charter harvest forecast accuracy from being within a range 
of 3.5 percent of the target allocation.
    Response: This comment refers to the 3.5 percent target range 
proposed around the allocations in the 2011 proposed CSP. This target 
range was not

[[Page 75859]]

included in the CSP implemented in this final rule and the comment is 
no longer applicable. The processes for projecting charter harvests and 
recommending any necessary management measures are described in the 
``Catch Sharing Plan for Area 2C and Area 3A'' section of this 
preamble.
    Comment 30: The proposed rule does not show a summary of the catch 
records for Charter Halibut Permits. Such data by area and how it 
compares to the commercial catch for each area would aid in setting the 
allocation for sport fishing.
    Response: The Council considered historical and recent halibut 
catch data for the commercial and charter sectors in Areas 2C and 3A in 
its recommendation for the CSP (see sections 1.7.1.2 and 2.3.2.2 of the 
Analysis; see also the response to Comment 10).

Separate Accountability

    Comment 31: Separate accountability is not needed for the charter 
halibut fishery because there is no halibut wastage in charter fishing.
    Response: NMFS disagrees with the commenter's assertion that there 
is no halibut wastage (discard mortality) associated with the charter 
halibut fishery. As discussed on page 39135 of the proposed rule, 
wastage occurs in the charter halibut fishery as a result of stress or 
injuries sustained from hooking, hook removal, and handling of released 
fish. Wastage is the product of the number of fish released, the 
discard mortality rate, and the average weight of the released fish. 
Management measures, such as size limits, can affect the number and 
average weight of released fish and the resulting number of pounds of 
discard mortality. Separate accountability, the process of deducting 
wastage from each fishery sector's allocation, is described in the ``D. 
Calculation of Annual Fishery Catch Limits'' section of the preamble to 
the proposed rule.
    Comment 32: The IFQ Program allows the commercial sector to 
highgrade (discard fish below a desired size) to deliver only most 
valuable fish to market. Legal size halibut caught early in the season 
are discarded to highgrade for larger fish that fetch a higher price. 
When the commercial fishery operated under the old derby system prior 
to the IFQ Program, all halibut caught went to market, resulting in 
less waste. The commercial sector should pay for all halibut it wastes.
    Response: Federal regulations at Sec.  679.7(f)(11) require that 
all legal-size halibut caught in the commercial fishery be retained 
until an individual's quota is reached. The extent to which highgrading 
may occur in the commercial fishery is unknown currently. Data from the 
recently implemented restructured observer program (77 FR 70062, 
November 21, 2012) may provide additional information in future years. 
Certain circumstances may encourage highgrading; however, the benefits 
of receiving a higher price by highgrading may not offset the added 
expense of fishing longer or taking additional trips to fully harvest 
one's halibut IFQ. The IPHC will use the best available information to 
estimate wastage by the commercial fishery and may incorporate data 
from the restructured observer program as they become available. Under 
the CSP, the commercial allocation will be reduced by an estimate of 
its wastage to obtain the annual commercial catch limit. Separate 
accountability for wastage promotes conservation by providing an 
incentive for commercial and charter sectors to reduce wastage, as 
wastage is deducted from each sector's allocations.
    Comment 33: NMFS should address bycatch and wastage of the 
commercial fleet instead of limiting the charter fleet.
    Response: As described in the proposed rule for the CSP and in 
section 2.5.5 of the Analysis, the commercial and charter halibut 
fisheries will be separately accountable for their discard mortality or 
``wastage'' under the CSP. See also the response to Comment 32.
    Comment 34: The CSP proposed rule provides for sector 
accountability of discard mortality (wastage) by deducting the 
projected wastage after each sector's allocation has been determined 
from the CCL. The IPHC endorses this approach and believes it is more 
equitable and appropriate than previous procedures. However, Figure 1 
omits any mention of wastage by the unguided sport fishery. While 
outside the CSP, the IPHC will be looking to include an estimate of 
discard mortality for this sector, in addition to its estimated 
harvest, as part of ``Other Removals'' deducted from the Total CEY. The 
IPHC also concurs with the expectation that ADF&G will provide 
estimates of charter fishery wastage for each area.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment and the IPHC's plan to, in 
the future, include an estimate of unguided sport wastage in ``Other 
Removals.''
    Comment 35: The Analysis on page 160, Table 2-32, uses proxy data 
for charter waste. Subsequent tables use the proxy data to estimate 
charter and commercial allocations under separate accountability. How 
can proxy data be used to incorporate separate accountability into the 
allocation decision? How did the Council factor separate accountability 
into the allocation decision without data on guided wastage and only 
partial data for commercial wastage?
    Response: Proxy data were used in a modeling exercise to examine 
the effects on the commercial and charter catch limits of incorporating 
separate accountability into the allocations. Proxy data were used for 
the charter estimates of wastage because an estimate of wastage for 
that sector was not yet available. The use of proxy data allowed the 
Analysis to show the direction and approximate magnitude of changes in 
charter and commercial catch limits under separate accountability 
(Tables 2-33 and 2-34 of the Analysis). NMFS determined that the 
Council's decision to include separate accountability in the CSP is 
consistent with its program objectives and promotes conservation 
because it would encourage better handling of discarded fish to reduce 
the discard mortality rates and thus increase fishery catch limits.
    Comment 36: Under separate accountability there will be a direct 
incentive to increase sector catches by decreasing sector discard 
mortality (wastage). Both sectors will want their reduced wastage to be 
assessed and incorporated into the calculations of catch limits. Are 
ongoing wastage surveys planned? We suggest managers consider options 
for achieving this goal.
    Response: NMFS agrees that separate accountability will provide an 
incentive to reduce sector wastage to increase catch limits. Wastage 
estimates for each sector will be based upon the best available 
information. The IPHC estimates wastage in the commercial fishery from 
data gathered during its fishery surveys. The IPHC may incorporate 
observer data to improve this estimate in future years. Estimates of 
charter sector wastage will, in part, depend on the management measures 
in place. As noted in section 2.5.5 of the Analysis, implementation of 
size limits may have an effect on discard mortality estimates for the 
charter sector because wastage in the charter fishery is a function of 
the number of fish released. Additional fishery surveys or research on 
wastage in the commercial and charter sector may be developed after 
reviewing current data, and forthcoming data from the restructured 
observer program.
    Comment 37: The final rule should broaden the responsibility for 
wastage estimates so that ADF&G, the IPHC, or NMFS could provide them.

[[Page 75860]]

    Response: The Council recommended that the IPHC deduct an estimate 
of wastage for each sector's allocation to calculate their annual catch 
limits. The CSP does not specify who will estimate wastage or how it 
will be estimated. The IPHC currently estimates wastage for the 
commercial fishery. NMFS anticipates that ADF&G will provide wastage 
estimates for the charter fishery because ADF&G has been collecting 
data on the numbers of halibut kept and released through their 
saltwater charter logbooks, statewide harvest survey, and creel 
surveys.
    Comment 38: The only study of released fish mortality of Pacific 
halibut was conducted in 1958-1960 and used only J-hooks. This study 
estimated the release mortality of halibut at 3.8 percent; however, 
guided and commercial wastage depend on a variety of factors such as 
hook type, abundance, harvest rules, and weather.
    Response: NMFS believes that the comment refers to a 1969 report to 
the IPHC by G. J. Peltonen on the viability of tagged Pacific halibut 
(www.iphc.int/publications/scirep/Report0052.pdf). This study 
demonstrates the difficulties in determining mortality in large species 
like Pacific halibut because the captured fish are usually held for 
long periods to determine survival, and the conditions in the unnatural 
environment in which the fish are held confound the results. The report 
concluded that there is a mortality rate of 2 to 5 percent for fish 
released in excellent condition. The midpoint of this range (3.5 
percent) is the basis of the discard mortality rate that the IPHC 
currently applies to commercially caught halibut released in excellent 
condition.
    NMFS agrees that discard mortality rates are influenced by a 
variety of factors and notes that the IPHC uses the best available 
information from studies on halibut and other species to develop 
discard mortality rates. The IPHC considers the findings of several 
studies, including mark-recapture studies, that examine mortality rates 
associated with a variety of factors such as hook type and size, 
handling, water temperature, and longline soak times, to develop 
discard mortality rates for halibut released with minor, moderate, or 
severe injuries. Similarly, estimates of discard mortality in the 
charter fishery will be based on the best available information. See 
Meyer (2007) for a discussion of some of the factors that may be 
incorporated into wastage estimates for the charter fishery (http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/npfmc/PDFdocuments/halibut/HalibutDiscards907.pdf).
    Comment 39: How is separate accountability for GAF calculated and 
from which sector's allocation will this wastage be deducted?
    Response: ADF&G requires that charter vessel guides record the 
number of halibut kept and the number released in the saltwater charter 
logbook. Under the CSP, guides will also be required to record in the 
logbook the number of GAF harvested. The number of halibut released in 
pursuit of GAF will not be differentiated from the number of halibut 
released in pursuit of non-GAF halibut kept by charter vessel anglers. 
Therefore, there will not be a wastage estimate specifically for GAF; 
only a single wastage estimate for all halibut kept and released in the 
charter halibut fishery. Charter halibut wastage will be deducted from 
the charter sector's allocation to obtain the charter catch limit.

Guided Angler Fish (GAF)

    Comment 40: GAF will not work with most charter fishing business 
models. Charter anglers will not want to purchase GAF and commercial QS 
holders will not lease IFQ as GAF at a reasonable price. There are too 
many problems with the proposed GAF program for implementation at this 
time.
    Response: The Council recommended GAF as part of the CSP to provide 
an opportunity for the charter halibut fisheries in Area 2C and Area 3A 
to increase fishing opportunities when the charter allocation may be 
constraining. The Council recommended GAF after considering a number of 
alternative mechanisms for transferring halibut allocation from the 
commercial sector to the charter sector. The Council also recognized 
that some charter operators may choose not to use the GAF provision as 
part of their business plans (see sections 1.6.7 and 1.6.8 of the 
Analysis).
    The Council's Charter Halibut Stakeholder Committee recommended GAF 
as its preferred method for providing the charter sector with access to 
additional halibut under a potentially constraining CSP allocation. 
During development of the CSP, the Council received public testimony in 
support of the GAF Program from stakeholders who participate in the 
commercial and charter halibut fisheries. The Council also received 
testimony from charter sector representatives expressing concern 
regarding the commercial sector's willingness to lease halibut IFQ to 
charter operators. They noted a variety of reasons for their concern, 
including tensions that exist between the participants in the 
commercial and charter sectors in Areas 2C and 3A, potentially 
insufficient halibut IFQ available for lease, potentially insufficient 
capital among smaller charter operations to lease IFQ, and uncertainty 
regarding the willingness of clients to pay for the opportunity to 
retain GAF. The Council also heard testimony from several commercial 
halibut QS holders indicating that they would be willing to lease 
halibut IFQ to the charter sector (see section 2.5.12 of the Analysis 
and the response to Comment 54). Finally, NMFS notes that charter 
businesses in Area 2C have expressed an interest in leasing GAF to 
augment the one-fish bag limit currently in place for guided anglers. 
Based on this information, the Council determined, and NMFS agrees, it 
is likely that some IFQ will be made available for lease to charter 
operators under the GAF program.
    NMFS anticipates the Council will review the GAF program in the 
future to assess its effectiveness at providing anglers with additional 
opportunities for retaining halibut in the charter fisheries. This 
review likely will be based on data NMFS collects on transfers of IFQ 
to GAF and on returns of unused GAF to halibut IFQ holders. NMFS also 
anticipates that the Council will receive feedback from commercial and 
charter halibut fishery participants who use GAF. The Council may 
consider revisions to the GAF program based on its review of GAF use 
and on input from stakeholders.
    Comment 41: I support GAF. It is a first step towards a fair 
compensated market-based reallocation between sectors.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment. See also response to 
Comment 7.
    Comment 42: The CSP is punitive as it forces recreational anglers 
to purchase additional halibut from quota already assigned to the 
commercial sector. It is not fair to require recreational anglers to 
buy the right to catch additional fish from the commercial sector.
    Response: Charter vessel anglers are not required to purchase GAF, 
nor is the GAF program punitive. Use of GAF is optional for charter 
vessel anglers who wish to retain more fish than allowed under the bag 
limit in effect for charter vessel anglers, up to the limit in place 
for unguided anglers. The GAF program is an authorized additional use 
of halibut IFQ that will provide IFQ holders, charter guides, and 
charter anglers more flexibility, while maintaining total harvests 
within the targets set by the IPHC. See also response to Comment 2, 
Comment 7, and Comment 40.

[[Page 75861]]

    Comment 43: Instead of GAF, why not just allocate more halibut to 
the charter sector?
    Response: The GAF provision was intended to provide charter vessel 
anglers additional harvest opportunities during years of low abundance 
when guided anglers are limited to fewer or smaller fish than unguided 
anglers under the CSP allocation of halibut to the charter sector (see 
response to Comment 7). The rationale for the specific allocation 
provided to the charter and commercial sectors is described in detail 
in the preamble to the proposed rule and summarized in the preamble for 
this final rule.
    Comment 44: Is GAF a fish or a fishing opportunity? A GAF will be 
sold if and only if a fish is landed; at that point it is a fish. Why 
would a charter operator sell a GAF if no fish was harvested? Why would 
a guided angler buy a GAF if no fish is landed?
    Response: A GAF is a fish. Regulations at Sec.  300.61 of this 
final rule define GAF as halibut transferred within a year from an Area 
2C or Area 3A IFQ permit holder to a GAF permit that is issued to a 
person holding a charter halibut permit for the corresponding IPHC 
regulatory area. A GAF permit authorizes a charter vessel angler to 
retain GAF in the IPHC regulatory area specified on a GAF permit during 
a charter vessel fishing trip authorized by the charter halibut permit. 
GAF are not debited from a GAF permit holder's account unless a halibut 
is caught, retained, marked, measured, recorded, and electronically 
reported as required by regulations at Sec.  300.65(c)(5) and Sec.  
300.65(d).
    NMFS agrees that the market-based nature of IFQ to GAF transfers 
makes it likely that some or all of the cost of obtaining GAF will be 
borne by the charter vessel anglers using GAF. The GAF permit holder 
decides how he or she would like to offer charter vessel anglers the 
opportunity to retain GAF. A charter fishing trip is an opportunity to 
catch fish, but not a guarantee that a certain number or size of fish 
will be caught, and anglers do not always catch their bag limit on 
every trip. The GAF permit holder and charter vessel anglers will be 
able to decide how to distribute the cost and opportunity for using 
GAF. Although some charter operators may offer GAF to an individual 
charter vessel angler at the time a halibut is caught, NMFS anticipates 
that some charter operators may choose to spread the cost of leasing 
GAF from IFQ holders across all charter vessel anglers who use their 
services. If this is the GAF permit holder's business model, then the 
cost of charter vessel fishing trip with that operator may increase for 
all anglers, including those who do not retain GAF. See also response 
to Comment 63.
    Comment 45: How much GAF will cost and will the cost vary among 
charter operators? What is the basis for GAF prices and will the price 
for GAF vary annually?
    Response: Section 2.5.12 of the Analysis notes that the number of 
GAF transactions and the prices for those transactions will be 
determined by the supply of and demand for GAF. Because the market 
price for GAF will be determined by the value of halibut in the 
directed commercial fishery and charter vessel anglers' willingness to 
pay higher prices for trips that allow greater harvest flexibility by 
using GAF, it is not possible to estimate the cost of GAF to charter 
vessel anglers in Area 2C or Area 3A. NMFS anticipates that because 
there are a number of different types of charter operations in Areas 2C 
and 3A, the demand for, and cost of, leasing IFQ as GAF will vary among 
charter operators. NMFS also anticipates that the cost of GAF to 
charter vessel anglers will vary annually because it will depend on a 
number of factors, including the supply of halibut IFQ for lease as 
GAF, the demand for GAF, the average weight of GAF used to convert 
pounds of IFQ to number of GAF, and the charter harvest management 
measures in place that year.
    In determining whether to lease IFQ as GAF, most individual charter 
operations will need to consider whether anglers using its services are 
willing to pay increased prices for using GAF. Charter operations 
attracting anglers willing to pay an increased cost for the experience 
of harvesting more or larger fish will be more likely to utilize GAF. 
Those charter operations that do not attract such anglers will be less 
likely to participate in the GAF program. In the same way, charter 
vessel anglers will need to determine if the opportunity to harvest 
more or larger halibut is worth the increased cost.
    Comment 46: How much will it cost to lease GAF? How will CHP 
holders find IFQ to lease as GAF? Is it possible that some charter 
businesses will be discriminated against and denied the opportunity to 
lease GAF?
    Response: Section 2.5.12 of the Analysis describes that the lack of 
cost data associated with the commercial and charter operations and the 
difficulty of projecting GAF supply and demand limits the Council and 
NMFS' ability to provide detailed estimates of the quantity and lease 
price for transfers between IFQ and GAF. The Analysis provides a 
discussion of the factors affecting the supply of GAF and a qualitative 
assessment of which types of IFQ holders may be more likely to lease 
IFQ as GAF. An IFQ holder's willingness to lease IFQ as GAF could be 
affected by factors such as quantity and distribution of IFQ holdings 
across regulatory areas, costs associated with harvesting their IFQ 
holdings in the commercial fishery, relationships with participants in 
the charter sector, agreements with processors, or enjoyment derived 
from fishing. NMFS anticipates that each IFQ holder will employ his or 
her own criteria when determining whether to lease some or all of 
available IFQ to the charter sector.
    NMFS expects that halibut IFQ will be available for lease as GAF to 
charter operators in a variety of ways. Some CHP holders hold or may be 
eligible to purchase their own halibut QS, which yields annual IFQ that 
they may transfer and use in the charter fishery. Transfers of IFQ to 
GAF may be agreed upon directly between halibut QS holders and CHP 
holders, or brokers who currently facilitate transfers of halibut IFQ 
and charter halibut permits may act as intermediaries in transactions. 
Brokers may also help willing QS holders find CHP holders, and vice-
versa.
    Given the market-based nature of the GAF program, the Council and 
NMFS cannot guarantee that a charter operator seeking to lease IFQ as 
GAF will be able to enter into an agreement with one or more IFQ 
holders to obtain the amount of GAF he or she would like to use. 
However, section 2.5.12 of the Analysis notes that a mutually 
beneficial agreement must be reached before a lease from IFQ to GAF 
will occur; therefore, the Council and NMFS believe that neither the 
charter operator nor the IFQ holder possesses sufficient market power 
to force the other into a lease agreement. As described in the response 
to Comment 7, the GAF program was not intended to provide a mechanism 
to replace reductions in the charter allocation relative to current or 
historical harvest levels. See also response to Comment 50.
    Comment 47: The uncertainty in how many GAF will be available each 
year will make it difficult for charter businesses to develop business 
and marketing plans.
    Response: NMFS agrees that there will be some uncertainty in how 
many GAF will be available for lease each year and how much demand 
there will be for GAF. Whether IFQ is leased to members of the charter 
sector depends on several factors. As discussed in the response to 
Comment 45 and Comment 46, these factors occur on both the demand side 
(CHP holders' ability to forecast angler

[[Page 75862]]

demand, the charter management measures in place for that year, and 
angler willingness to purchase GAF) and on the supply side (IFQ 
holders' willingness to lease their halibut IFQ holdings as GAF). Both 
the supply and demand sides are equally important, because a mutually 
beneficial agreement must be reached before a lease will occur. 
Additional factors affecting the supply of and demand for GAF are 
discussed in the Analysis in sections 2.5.12.2 and 2.5.12.3, 
respectively.
    While NMFS acknowledges that there will be some uncertainty from 
year to year regarding the supply of and demand for GAF, annual charter 
management measures under the CSP will be established the beginning of 
the year and are not changed for the remainder of that fishing year. 
Therefore, CHP holders and halibut IFQ holders will know early in the 
fishing season if there is a need for charter operators to lease GAF to 
provide anglers with additional opportunities to harvest halibut in the 
charter fishery.
    Comment 48: Just as commercial halibut fishermen have invested in 
quota shares, charter halibut permit holders may invest in commercial 
halibut QS to offer their clients as GAF.
    Response: NMFS agrees that one way in which some charter halibut 
permit holders may control the cost of using GAF for charter vessel 
anglers is to purchase commercial QS and transfer the IFQ resulting 
from that QS for use as GAF. Some charter halibut permit holders 
already hold commercial halibut QS and could use this method for 
obtaining GAF. However, NMFS notes that some charter operators in Area 
2C and Area 3A would still need to meet all requirements to be eligible 
to hold halibut QS. For example, regulations at Sec.  679.41(d) 
generally specify that only persons with 150 days or more of experience 
working as an IFQ crewmember are eligible to hold halibut QS.
    Comment 49: Commercial fishermen are allowed to carry over to the 
following season up to 10 percent of their annual allocation. One way 
that commercial and charter operators could structure GAF contractual 
agreements is to allow this 10 percent to be contractually held in 
reserve for a charter operator to use as needed over the course of the 
season. Any unused portion will be automatically returned to the IFQ 
holder by NMFS at the end of the season, and any used portion will be 
paid for at an agreed upon rate.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment and expects that commercial 
and charter operators will develop a variety of arrangements, possibly 
including the one described by this commenter, when negotiating 
contracts for the lease of IFQ as GAF. NMFS notes that there are 
commercial quota share holders who will likely be willing to lease IFQ 
as GAF. See also response to Comment 46.
    Comment 50: Current ``hired skipper'' and leasing arrangements in 
the IFQ fishery suggest that the likely GAF lease rate will be 
approximately 50 percent of the ex-vessel per pound value of the QS 
from which the IFQ is derived. Since the average size halibut in the 
charter fishery is 20 lb and the current average ex-vessel price is 
$4.50/lb, a charter operator could expect to pay approximately $45 per 
GAF.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment. NMFS received numerous 
comments on the CSP proposed rule estimating that GAF will cost between 
$100 and $200, and expressing concerns that GAF will be cost 
prohibitive for many charter businesses and anglers. Predicting the 
specific cost for GAF in Area 2C or 3A is not possible as described in 
response to Comment 46. NMFS notes that a price closer to $45 per GAF 
could make GAF use more affordable and desirable for charter operators 
and charter vessel anglers.
    Comment 51: The GAF program conflicts with the prohibition on 
leasing in IFQ regulations and works against the IFQ Program's goal of 
having an owner-onboard fishery. The option to lease IFQ as GAF will 
encourage absentee IFQ holders in the commercial fleet.
    Response: The response to Comment 7 describes the Council's 
rationale for recommending the GAF program to provide a mechanism for 
transfer between the commercial and charter halibut sectors in Areas 2C 
and 3A. As discussed in the ``D. GAF Transfer Restrictions'' section of 
the preamble to the proposed rule, the Council intended for the GAF 
program to provide IFQ holders some flexibility in how they use their 
IFQ, with limitations. In recommending the restrictions on the amount 
of IFQ that an IFQ holder may transfer as GAF, the Council considered 
IFQ Program objectives to promote an owner-onboard fishery for certain 
types of halibut QS holdings. NMFS believes that the GAF transfer 
restrictions implemented by this final rule appropriately balance the 
Council's objective to provide the charter sector with access to 
additional halibut under a potentially constraining CSP allocation with 
its objectives for the IFQ Program.
    Comment 52: The charter fishery representatives who initially 
proposed the GAF program insisted that GAF be for lease only.
    Response: Section 1.6.8 of the Analysis describes that in 
developing the CSP, the Council also considered and rejected an 
alternative that would have allowed CHP holders to transfer (i.e., 
purchase) commercial halibut QS, rather than leasing IFQ, because the 
proposal was not supported by the charter halibut sector. As described 
in the response to Comment 40, the Council's Charter Halibut 
Stakeholder Committee recommended GAF as its preferred method for 
providing the charter sector with access to additional halibut under a 
potentially constraining CSP allocation. The final proposal from the 
committee to the Council only contained an annual transfer of IFQ 
(lease) option, not an option for charter operators to purchase QS for 
permanent use in the charter fishery. However, as noted in the response 
to Comment 48, charter operators who are eligible to receive QS by 
transfer may purchase QS for Areas 2C and 3A and use the resulting IFQ 
for GAF.
    Comment 53: Any transfer of IFQ from the commercial sector to the 
charter sector should be accommodated through an arrangement that 
allows the charter fleet to purchase QS, not lease, IFQ for use in a 
common pool to permanently supplement the baseline charter allocation.
    Response: The option for the charter sector to purchase quota share 
to augment the charter allocation was not among the alternatives 
considered by the Council. See response to Comment 52 and Comment 152.
    Comment 54: Some commercial operators in support of the GAF program 
would prefer that sector allocations be allowed to be transferred both 
ways. They note that no charter operator or angler will be forced to 
use GAF, and that their association has members who are willing to work 
with local charter operators to use the GAF program.
    Response: NMFS notes the support for the GAF program and 
willingness to participate by some commercial IFQ holders. As discussed 
in the response to Comment 40, NMFS anticipates the Council will review 
the GAF program in the future and may consider revising the program 
based on its use and on input from stakeholders.
    Comment 55: What measures will determine the success or failure of 
the GAF provision?
    Response: The Council and NMFS will review a range of factors such 
as amount of use, cost, and input from commercial and charter operators 
when reviewing the use of GAF and any potential revisions. The 
responses to Comment 45 and Comment 46 describe

[[Page 75863]]

that the quantity and cost of GAF used will depend on a number of 
factors that affect the supply of and demand for GAF. While the Council 
and NMFS cannot estimate how much GAF will be used in the charter 
halibut fisheries with available information, input from fishery 
participants to the Council during development of the CSP and in 
comments received on the CSP proposed rule indicate that some IFQ will 
be leased as GAF and used in the charter halibut fisheries.
    Comment 56: Does NMFS expect anglers who harvest smaller than 
average GAF to pay for those who harvest larger than average GAF?
    Response: The proposed rule for the CSP describes that NMFS issues 
halibut IFQ in pounds and will issue GAF in numbers of fish. The 
conversion factor from IFQ pounds to number of fish for GAF will be 
based on the average weight of GAF from the previous year as estimated 
from GAF length data reported to NMFS through the electronic GAF 
reporting system (see ``F. GAF Reporting Requirements'' section of the 
proposed rule and regulations at Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(ii)(E)) implemented 
by this final rule. For example, if a charter permit holder requested, 
and NMFS approved, a transfer of 5 GAF and the conversion factor for 
that area was 20.7 lb (9.4 kg), then 104 lb (47.2 kg) of IFQ would be 
debited from the IFQ holder's account for that area as follows: 5 GAF x 
20.7 lb = 103.5 lb (46.9 kg) and rounded up to 104 lb (47.2 kg).
    NMFS acknowledges that the sizes of retained GAF will vary around 
the average weight estimate for GAF in each area. Section 2.5.12.1 of 
the analysis describes that charter vessel anglers who harvest GAF that 
are larger than the average GAF weight used to convert IFQ to GAF may 
benefit relative to anglers who harvest smaller than the average GAF 
weight. The Council and NMFS considered this information and determined 
that using the average weight of GAF from the previous year as reported 
to NMFS to convert IFQ pounds to number of GAF is consistent with the 
Council's objective to provide an effective mechanism for transferring 
halibut from the commercial to the charter sector. This approach 
minimizes changes to operating practices in each fishery and to the 
existing recordkeeping and reporting system for the IFQ Program.
    The Council considered issuing GAF in pounds rather than fish, but 
CHP holders would then be limited by GAF transfer restrictions to 
different numbers of GAF based on their area, fishing practices, and 
results. Section 2.5.12.1 of the Analysis describes the effects of 
issuing GAF in pounds rather than in numbers of fish. In 2010 ADF&G 
estimated the average weight of sport caught halibut landed at the 
Prince of Wales Island port to be 14.8 lb, while sport caught halibut 
landed at the Glacier Bay port averaged 47.4 lb. If GAF were issued in 
pounds, a CHP operator in the Prince of Wales Island area would be 
eligible under GAF transfer restrictions to lease GAF to harvest 3.2 
times as many fish as the person operating in Glacier Bay. 
Additionally, charter operators offer charter vessel anglers the 
opportunity to harvest a certain number of fish, not a certain poundage 
of fish. Issuing GAF in pounds would require charter operators wishing 
to lease IFQ as GAF to estimate the number of pounds of halibut to 
lease rather than the number of halibut, which could potentially be 
challenging to determine in advance. For these reasons, NMFS and the 
Council determined that numbers of fish was the more appropriate unit 
in which to issue GAF.
    NMFS will not participate in price negotiations for GAF, as NMFS 
considers those negotiations to be private, voluntary, market-based 
transactions between charter operators who hold GAF and charter vessel 
anglers using their services. NFMS anticipates that charter operators 
could use different pricing methods to accommodate different sizes of 
retained GAF. Some operators may choose to charge anglers per GAF, and 
could adjust the price depending on the size of the GAF. Some charter 
operators may choose to spread the cost of leasing GAF from IFQ holders 
across all charter vessel anglers, particularly those operators 
affiliated with lodges that offer charter vessel fishing trips as part 
of an overall package of services.
    Comment 57: The CSP uses the previous year's estimate of GAF 
average weight to convert IFQ pounds to numbers of GAF. GAF harvest (in 
pounds) is counted toward the individual quota of the IFQ holder that 
leased the fish. The weight of each GAF harvested by charter clients 
can be estimated from length data reported in the electronic reporting 
system as described on page 39150 of the proposed rule. If the 
estimated average weight of GAF harvest exceeds or is less than the 
previous year's average weight used to convert IFQ to GAF, the actual 
harvest will represent an overage or underage of IFQ. Since the actual 
weight can be estimated, we suggest NMFS provide estimates of the 
actual weights of GAF to the IPHC for stock assessment purposes (e.g., 
accounting for annual removals).
    Response: NMFS agrees and will provide these data to the IPHC to 
incorporate into its annual stock assessments.
    Comment 58: In any given year, if the actual GAF poundage harvested 
exceeds the IFQ poundage converted to GAF, who pays for the excess 
harvest? In other words, how is GAF overharvest accounted for?
    Response: The factor for converting IFQ pounds to number of GAF is 
the average weight of GAF from the previous year reported by charter 
operators in the GAF electronic reporting system. NMFS anticipates that 
the estimated weight in pounds of all GAF retained and reported in the 
electronic reporting system will not vary significantly from the number 
of pounds converted from IFQ to GAF for that year and deducted from IFQ 
account holders because some GAF will be larger and some will be 
smaller than the average GAF weight used as the conversion factor. 
Nevertheless, as described in the response to Comment 57, NMFS intends 
to annually provide the IPHC with estimates of GAF weights for Area 2C 
and Area 3A based on reported GAF length. NMFS anticipates the IPHC 
will use these data in its stock assessment for the following year to 
account for any differences between converted GAF weight deducted from 
IFQ accounts and estimated GAF weight reported to NMFS in the previous 
year. Such differences will affect the halibut biomass estimate for the 
next year, but will not be explicitly added or subtracted from the next 
year's catch limits for either sector. This is the same approach the 
IPHC will use to account for charter harvests that exceed or are less 
than the charter sector's catch limits under the CSP (see response to 
Comment 21).
    Comment 59: ``IFQ pounds'' for halibut is defined as net weight, 
i.e., without gills and entrails, head-off, washed, and without ice and 
slime. It would make the CSP more consistent with other halibut 
regulations if the definition of ``net weight'' was included. In the 
description for the transfer between IFQ and GAF (page 39138 of the 
proposed rule) the text is somewhat confusing, as it states ``the 
equivalent number of net pounds of halibut rounded up to the nearest 
whole net pound.''
    Response: No change was made from the proposed rule. ``Net weight'' 
is defined at Sec.  679.2 to mean the weight of a halibut that is 
gutted, head-off, and washed or ice and slime deducted. The method of 
rounding net weights to the nearest whole pound results in the fewest 
conversion errors when GAF are

[[Page 75864]]

converted back to IFQ, as explained in the proposed rule and section 
2.5.12.4 of the Analysis.
    Comment 60: What prevents someone who holds both commercial QS and 
a charter halibut permit (CHP) from transferring IFQ to GAF on his CHP 
and then selling GAF, which when harvested greatly exceed the average 
poundage used to create the GAF? The above example would amount to 
NMFS-sanctioned overharvest of the holder's IFQ. Where is the 
individual accountability in the above example?
    Response: NMFS expects that the average size of harvested GAF will 
be close to the average used for the conversion factor to convert from 
pounds of IFQ to number of GAF. The GAF conversion factor will be 
recalculated annually based on the average size of GAF retained and 
reported to NMFS during the previous season. Quota share holders who 
also hold CHPs will be subject to the same reporting requirements and 
transfer limits as other halibut QS and CHP holders. NMFS will report 
the lengths and estimated weights of GAF harvested to the IPHC so any 
differences between converted GAF weight deducted from IFQ accounts and 
estimated GAF weight reported to NMFS may be incorporated into the 
following year's stock assessment (see also response to Comment 57).
    Comment 61: The average weight of a charter-caught halibut in Area 
3A was 15.2 lb in 2011. The average size in the Glacier Bay subarea of 
Area 3A was 35.9 lb. If GAF are created using the average fish size, it 
is much more likely that they will be used in subareas with larger than 
average fish sizes like Glacier Bay and Yakutat to maximize GAF ``bang 
for the buck.''
    Response: According to the report cited by the commenter (http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/npfmc/pdfdocuments/halibut/2c3a_adfg2011estimates0912.pdf), of the 184,293 fish harvested by charter 
vessel anglers in Area 3A in 2011, only 601 of those fish (0.3 percent) 
were harvested in the Glacier Bay subarea. The Yakutat subarea is the 
subarea closest to Glacier Bay in Area 3A. Combining the Glacier Bay 
and Yakutat subareas only accounts for 2 percent of the total number of 
fish harvested in Area 3A. GAF may be used in these areas, but its use 
is likely limited given the relatively small amount of harvests in 
these areas. The Glacier Bay and Yakutat subareas are far removed from 
the main charter fishing communities of the Kenai Peninsula and Prince 
William Sound. It is unlikely that charter operators would travel 
hundreds of miles from the northern Gulf of Alaska to Glacier Bay or 
Yakutat to maximize the size of fish harvested for each GAF given the 
costs of fuel, time required for transit, and difficulty in obtaining 
clientele in those locations. Charter operators using GAF in Glacier 
Bay and Yakutat could benefit from the use of average weight in Area 3A 
when determining the amount of IFQ required for each GAF. The use of 
average weight by IPHC regulatory area for GAF could be reviewed by the 
Council and NMFS, and revisions could be incorporated in a future 
action, if warranted.
    Comment 62: A charter vessel angler should be able to buy as many 
GAF as he or she would like to catch if the angler is willing and able 
to pay for GAF.
    Response: See the response to Comment 64 for a description of the 
limits on GAF use for guided anglers. GAF is intended to allow CHP 
holders to provide charter vessel anglers with halibut harvest 
opportunities that are equivalent to, but not more than, those provided 
to unguided anglers (see section 2.5.12.7 of Analysis). In recommending 
GAF use limits, the Council balanced its objective to provide an 
opportunity for the charter halibut fisheries in Area 2C and Area 3A to 
increase fishing opportunities when the charter allocation may be 
constrained with its objective to stabilize the proportions of 
harvestable halibut available to the commercial and charter fisheries 
at all levels of halibut abundance.
    NMFS notes that the Council's recommendation of GAF use limits for 
charter vessel anglers is also consistent with the Halibut Act 
requirement that allocations of fishing privileges must be carried out 
in such a manner that no particular individual, corporation, or other 
entity acquires an excessive share of halibut fishing privileges 
(Halibut Act, at 16 U.S.C. 773c(c)). A charter vessel angler may 
purchase GAF for use over several days if he or she wishes to retain 
multiple daily bag limits.
    Comment 63: When does a GAF become a sport caught fish, before or 
after it has been landed? Selling or purchasing sport caught fish is 
illegal.
    Response: Halibut IFQ becomes GAF when NMFS approves a transfer 
between an IFQ permit holder and a charter halibut permit holder. As 
described in the response to Comment 44, regulations at Sec.  300.61 of 
this final rule define GAF as halibut transferred within a year from an 
Area 2C or Area 3A IFQ permit holder to a GAF permit that is issued to 
a person holding a charter halibut permit for the corresponding area. A 
GAF permit authorizes a charter vessel angler to retain GAF in the IPHC 
regulatory area specified on a GAF permit during a charter vessel 
fishing trip authorized by the charter halibut permit. When a GAF is 
retained by a charter vessel angler, it will be recorded in the 
saltwater charter logbook and on the GAF permit log as GAF harvested, 
but will not accrue toward charter harvest because GAF is a use of IFQ 
and has been deducted from the IFQ permit holder's account. However, 
because GAF is harvested in the charter halibut fishery, the charter 
vessel angler harvesting GAF must comply with all applicable sport 
fishing regulations. When a charter vessel angler retains GAF, the 
angler is not buying a sport-caught fish from the charter operator 
because it was never the charter operator's fish to sell. The charter 
vessel angler is allowed to retain GAF under authority of the charter 
halibut permit holder's GAF permit, as long as all applicable reporting 
and marking requirements are met (see regulations at Sec.  300.65(c)(5) 
and Sec.  300.65(d)). NMFS acknowledges that charter operators are 
likely to charge charter vessel anglers retaining GAF a fee in order to 
recover the costs of leasing GAF from halibut QS holders (see response 
to Comment 44). Any fee paid to the charter operator by the charter 
vessel angler represents purchase of a federally authorized privilege 
of retaining a sport-caught halibut in addition to that allowed under 
charter size or bag limit restrictions in place at the time. Current 
prohibitions on selling sport-caught fish are not modified by this 
final rule. Sale, trade, or barter of all sport-caught halibut by a 
charter vessel angler is prohibited under State of Alaska regulations 
and section 25(6) of the IPHC annual management measures.
    Comment 64: If I am fishing in an area that has a one-fish bag 
limit with a reverse slot limit (e.g., Area 2C), does the second fish 
have to meet the regulations of the one-fish bag limit, or can the 
second fish be of any size? If I am fishing in an area that has a limit 
for charter vessel anglers of two fish per day with a size limit on one 
of those fish, would GAF be required if the first fish caught was over 
the limit and the second fish was under the size limit? In this same 
scenario, what would prevent trading of fish on the deck of the charter 
vessel to circumvent restrictions on the second fish? And what is to 
stop anglers from swapping fish to make sure GAF provisions are not 
needed for any of the anglers on the boat?
    Response: As stated on page 39136 of the proposed rule, charter 
vessel anglers may use GAF to retain halibut up to the limit for 
unguided anglers when the

[[Page 75865]]

charter management measure in place would limit charter vessel anglers 
to a more restrictive harvest limit. In other words, a charter vessel 
angler may retain a halibut as GAF that exceeds the daily bag limit and 
length restrictions in place for charter anglers only to the extent 
that the angler's halibut retained under the charter halibut management 
measure plus halibut retained as GAF do not exceed daily bag limit and 
length restrictions imposed on unguided anglers. How GAF may be used 
depends on the charter management measures and the measures in place 
for unguided anglers.
    In the first scenario above and assuming an unguided daily bag 
limit of two fish of any size, a charter vessel angler could keep one 
halibut under the reverse slot limit and use one GAF to keep a second 
halibut of any size, or could use two GAF to keep two halibut of any 
size in a day. In the second scenario, the angler would not need to use 
GAF. If the charter vessel angler wanted to keep two fish over the size 
limit, one GAF could be used. Table 5 of the proposed rule gives 
additional examples of potential GAF uses.
    Trading fish among anglers on the deck of a charter vessel to 
circumvent bag limits and GAF use requirements would be a violation of 
IPHC annual management measures. Paragraph 25(3) states that ``any 
halibut brought aboard a vessel and not immediately returned to the sea 
with a minimum of injury will be included in the daily bag limit of the 
person catching the halibut'' (78 FR 16423, March 15, 2013). Plainly 
stated, a fish belongs to the person who caught it and applies toward 
that person's daily bag limit.
    Comment 65: Suppose a charter operator buys a large vessel, stacks 
multiple CHPs on it, and buys GAF for resale to customers. With GAF 
assigned to individual CHPs, he could easily find himself holding 
plenty of GAF but unable to sell it because the angler wanting to buy 
the GAF is fishing on a stacked CHP with no associated GAF. How is this 
situation handled under the CSP? It would make sense to assign GAF to a 
CHP holder that can be used on any CHP the holder may control.
    Response: The comment refers to Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(iii)(A)(4) of 
this final rule, which specifies that a GAF permit is assigned to only 
one CHP held by the GAF permit holder. Charter halibut permit holders 
requesting GAF will be required to specify the CHP to which the GAF 
permit would be assigned on the application for transfer between IFQ 
and GAF. The assignment between a GAF permit and a CHP could not be 
changed during the year. NMFS is implementing this requirement to 
facilitate enforcement and recordkeeping and reporting for GAF.
    As described in the proposed rule for the CSP, GAF permit holders 
will be required to hold a sufficient number of GAF for charter vessel 
anglers to retain halibut in excess of the charter angler limit and up 
to limits in place for the unguided sport halibut fishery for that 
area. In other words, charter operators will be required to already 
possess the GAF prior to the fish being caught. GAF could not be 
obtained after the angler retained a fish. GAF permit holders who do 
not hold sufficient GAF to cover retained halibut by charter vessel 
anglers in excess of the CSP restriction may not allow anglers to 
retain those GAF. The charter operator will be required to have the GAF 
permit and the CHP to which it is assigned on board the vessel on which 
a charter vessel angler retains GAF, and to present the permits if 
requested by an authorized enforcement officer (see regulations at 
Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(iv)(A) and (B) and Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(iii)(A)(5)). 
NMFS believes that these requirements are necessary to enable 
enforcement personnel to verify that all charter anglers on board 
catching and retaining halibut are authorized to do so by the CHP and 
GAF permits on board the vessel.
    Allowing CHP holders to use a GAF permit in conjunction with any 
CHP on board the vessel, as suggested by the commenter, could make it 
difficult for enforcement officers to verify that the CHP and GAF 
permits are valid and all anglers are authorized to retain the halibut 
included in their daily bag limit. This is particularly likely if 
multiple CHPs are used on the same vessel or if the vessel operator is 
not the CHP holder. NMFS also believes that requiring a GAF permit to 
be assigned to only one CHP held by the GAF permit holder will 
facilitate GAF recordkeeping and reporting for CHP and GAF permit 
holders. Because GAF permit holders must have sufficient GAF on their 
permit prior to the charter vessel fishing trip to cover GAF retained, 
assigning one GAF permit per CHP will assist the holder with GAF 
account tracking and reporting in the ADF&G saltwater charter logbook 
and in the GAF electronic reporting system (see regulations at Sec.  
300.65(d)(4)(ii)(B) and Sec.  300.65(d)(4)(iii)). It will be up to the 
CHP holder to decide how best to distribute GAF and charter vessel 
anglers among permits to ensure that GAF is available when necessary.
    Comment 66: Why are GAF assigned to an individual charter halibut 
permit and not to the person who holds the CHP? How can someone who 
rents a CHP use GAF on the rented CHP?
    Response: GAF are assigned to an individual CHP and not the CHP 
holder because the CHP holder is not necessarily the guide on board the 
charter vessel using the CHP. A person may hold multiple CHPs that are 
used on more than one vessel. Just as a CHP holder may allow someone 
else to use their CHP on a charter vessel fishing trip, he or she may 
receive a transfer of IFQ as GAF and also let the person using the CHP 
use the GAF permit assigned to that CHP. See also response to Comment 
65.
    Comment 67: GAF benefits larger charter operations who can amortize 
the expense of leased halibut over a large customer base to gain a 
competitive advantage over smaller operators whose small client base 
does not support such expenditure.
    Response: The Council recommended, and this final rule implements, 
GAF transfer limits (also called ``use caps'') on the number of GAF 
that a CHP holder may receive as well as the amount of IFQ that a 
halibut QS holder may transfer as GAF. The Council recommended 
different GAF limits for CHPs with different numbers of angler 
endorsements to balance the GAF needs of different types of charter 
operations with its objective to maximize the opportunity for all 
charter operators to acquire GAF. Because holders of CHPs endorsed for 
more than six anglers are likely to be larger charter operations, the 
Council was concerned that these larger charter operations would have 
more financial resources to acquire GAF than smaller operations unless 
limits were established. These transfer limits are intended to prevent 
an entity from obtaining an excessive share of the GAF fishing 
privileges.
    IFQ holders in Area 2C will be limited to transferring up to 1,500 
lb (680.4 kg) or 10 percent, whichever is greater, of their initially 
issued annual halibut IFQ for use as GAF. In Area 3A, IFQ holders can 
transfer up to 1,500 lb or 15 percent, whichever is greater, of their 
initially issued annual halibut IFQ for use as GAF. Because IFQ 
holdings are generally larger in Area 3A than in Area 2C, IFQ holders 
in Area 3A will be able to transfer up to 15 percent of the IFQ as GAF. 
Restricting Area 3A IFQ holders to leasing up to 10 percent of their 
IFQ holdings could limit the amount of IFQ available for lease as GAF 
(section 2.5.12.2 of the Analysis). Allowing Area 3A IFQ holders to 
lease 15 percent of their IFQ holdings as GAF would provide Area 3A IFQ 
holders more flexibility in determining whether to lease IFQ as GAF and 
could provide

[[Page 75866]]

more GAF to the Area 3A charter halibut fishery.
    Under the CSP no more than a total of 400 GAF will be assigned 
during one year to a GAF permit assigned to a charter halibut permit 
that is endorsed for six or fewer anglers. No more than a total of 600 
GAF will be assigned during one year to a GAF permit assigned to a 
charter halibut permit endorsed for more than six anglers. A person who 
holds both halibut IFQ and a charter halibut permit and would like to 
transfer that IFQ to GAF will be subject to the same transfer 
restrictions. The Council recommended different GAF limits for charter 
halibut permits to balance the GAF needs of different types of charter 
operations with its objective to maximize the opportunity for all 
charter operators to acquire GAF. Because holders of charter halibut 
permits endorsed for more than six anglers are likely to be larger 
charter operations, the Council was concerned these larger charter 
operations would have more financial resources to acquire GAF than 
smaller operations unless a limit was placed on the number of GAF that 
could be assigned to a charter halibut permit. NMFS agrees that the 
limit for assigning GAF to charter halibut permits accommodates the GAF 
needs of different charter operation types and promotes the Council's 
objective to offer all charter businesses the opportunity to lease IFQ 
as GAF.
    Finally, as noted in Comment 68, smaller charter operations with 
fewer angler endorsements are actually entitled to more GAF per angler 
endorsement than larger operations with more angler endorsements per 
CHP.
    Comment 68: The limits on GAF transfers discriminate against larger 
charter operations with more angler endorsements. Whereas a CHP 
endorsed for six anglers may lease up to 400 GAF in a season (67 GAF 
per angler endorsement), a CHP endorsed for 12 anglers is limited to 
only 600 GAF (50 GAF per angler endorsement). It would be fairer to 
limit CHP holders to a fixed number of GAF per angler endorsement.
    Response: See response to Comment 67. The Council chose GAF 
transfer limits to prevent any business from obtaining an excessive 
share of GAF fishing privileges and to maximize the opportunity for all 
charter operations to acquire GAF. Revisions to these GAF transfer 
limits would need to be approved by the Council after the GAF program 
has been implemented.
    Comment 69: How does a charter angler know that the charter guide 
is authorized to allow anglers to retain GAF? If the guide does not 
have GAF, and a charter angler retains a fish as GAF, who would be held 
responsible?
    Response: The charter vessel guide and the charter vessel angler 
are both responsible for ensuring that sufficient GAF are available on 
the GAF permit for harvest. Current regulations at Sec.  300.66(b) 
provide that it is unlawful for any person to fish for halibut except 
in accordance with the catch sharing plans and domestic management 
measures implemented under Sec. Sec.  300.63, 300.65, and 300.67. This 
applies to ``any'' person, including a charter vessel angler. The GAF 
use restrictions at Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(iv)(F) in the final rule state, 
``the charter vessel guide must ensure that each charter vessel angler 
complies with (c)(5)(iv)(A) through (E) of this section.'' Paragraph 
Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(iv)(B) specifies that the number of GAF retained on 
board a vessel cannot exceed the number of unharvested GAF in the GAF 
permit holder's GAF account at the time of harvest. The charter vessel 
guide is also responsible for ensuring that clients do not exceed the 
sport fishing daily bag limit in effect for unguided anglers or the 
daily possession limits, among other requirements. GAF use restrictions 
and GAF reporting requirements are described in detail in the preamble 
to the proposed rule under the section entitled ``IV. Guided Angler 
Fish (GAF).''
    Comment 70: How will NMFS track transfers of IFQ and GAF and what 
will happen to unused GAF?
    Response: NMFS described in detail in the preamble to the proposed 
rule under the section entitled ``IV. Guided Angler Fish (GAF)'' how 
transfers of IFQ and GAF will be tracked. In summary, the system 
currently in place for tracking halibut IFQ transfers will be modified 
to include GAF. Voluntary and automatic returns of GAF to IFQ were also 
explained in the proposed rule. Unused GAF may be voluntarily returned 
to the IFQ holder in August each year, or it will be automatically 
returned 15 days before the end of the commercial halibut fishing 
season (see regulations at Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(i)(C) and Sec.  
300.65(c)(5)(ii)(B)(5)(i)).
    Comment 71: How will GAF be monitored? What checks and balances 
will be in place to insure the rules are followed? Will auditors be 
hired to oversee the GAF program? Who is going to do the GAF 
enforcement? Where in the analysis can we find estimates of the cost of 
GAF enforcement? Are funds budgeted for GAF enforcement?
    Response: A detailed description of how GAF will be monitored and 
the checks and balances that will be put in place to allow adequate 
enforcement was given in the preamble to the proposed rule under the 
section entitled ``IV. Guided Angler Fish (GAF)'' and is not repeated 
here.
    As stated in section 2.5.12.2 of the Analysis, it is not possible 
to predict the number of GAF that will be made available for lease each 
year; therefore, it is difficult to predict how much GAF administration 
and enforcement will cost. NMFS does not anticipate needing to hire 
additional staff to administer and enforce the GAF program. NMFS 
Restricted Access Management Program will administer the GAF program; 
handling transfers of IFQ, issuing permits, and managing the electronic 
data submitted by GAF permit holders. The NOAA Office of Law 
Enforcement will be primarily responsible for enforcing the GAF 
program. Funds are not explicitly budgeted for GAF administration and 
enforcement, but costs incurred by NMFS related to the GAF program will 
be subject to cost recovery for the halibut and sablefish IFQ Program, 
as described on page 39143 of the proposed rule and in regulations at 
Sec.  679.45.
    Because GAF is a use of IFQ, the existing reporting system for the 
Halibut IFQ Program administered by NMFS Restricted Access Management 
Program will be modified to allow tracking of IFQ transfers and 
reporting of GAF. There are some costs associated with developing the 
regulations to implement and enforce GAF and the software needed to 
issue GAF permits and electronically report GAF. These costs will be 
recovered through IFQ cost recovery fees, i.e., fees assessed and 
collected on IFQ equivalent pounds harvested and paid by the IFQ 
holder. The fee percentage has rarely exceeded 2 percent and may not 
exceed 3 percent of the ex-vessel value of halibut landings. Additional 
information about cost recovery for GAF was given in the preamble to 
the proposed rule in the section entitled, ``G. Cost Recovery for 
GAF.''
    Comment 72: Areas 2C and 3A are adjacent to one another at the 
south end of Alaskan IPHC regulatory areas. Why should halibut and 
sablefish QS holders in areas west of 2C and 3A pay for GAF enforcement 
if they are never going to receive any benefit from it? Can NMFS 
separately track GAF enforcement costs?
    Response: Section 2.6.1.2 of the Analysis describes how NMFS will 
incorporate GAF into the existing cost recovery program for the halibut 
and sablefish IFQ fisheries. Under the current program, IFQ permit 
holders incur a cost recovery fee liability for every pound of IFQ 
halibut and sablefish that is landed under his or her

[[Page 75867]]

IFQ permit(s). This final rule implements regulations at Sec.  679.45 
specifying that an IFQ permit holder is responsible for cost recovery 
fees for landings of his or her IFQ halibut and sablefish, including 
any halibut landed as GAF that are derived from his or her IFQ 
accounts. The costs of administering and enforcing GAF that will be 
recoverable by NMFS were discussed in the response to Comment 71 and in 
the proposed rule for the CSP. For each IFQ permit, NMFS will determine 
the dollar amount of the fee due by multiplying the annual IFQ fee 
percentage (3 percent or less) by the value of all landed IFQ and GAF 
derived from the permit holder's IFQ permit(s). If the permit holder 
has more than one IFQ permit, the total amounts of each permit are 
summed to determine his or her total cost recovery fee.
    The cost recovery fee is paid by both halibut and sablefish IFQ 
permit holders. The structure of the IFQ cost recovery program does not 
facilitate applying different fee percentages to IFQ holders in 
different areas, nor does it allow halibut and sablefish IFQ permit 
holders to be charged different fee percentages. Any increase in the 
cost recovery fees from implementation of the GAF program will be borne 
by all halibut and sablefish IFQ permit holders.
    Halibut and sablefish IFQ permit holders pay the same IFQ fee 
percentage because typically halibut and sablefish are harvested by the 
same vessels and IFQ permit holders. NMFS does not divide costs of 
administering and enforcing the IFQ Program at a species or area level. 
For example, NMFS does not track the time spent answering questions 
about the IFQ Program from people holding Area 2C QS, versus people 
holding Area 3B QS. Establishing separate costs for halibut and 
sablefish IFQ holders for each area and species would result in higher 
overall costs for all IFQ holders because it would require more costly, 
inefficient, and administratively burdensome tracking and monitoring 
provisions. Following implementation of the GAF program, NMFS will 
calculate the overall enforcement and management costs of the IFQ and 
GAF programs combined, but will not differentiate costs by species or 
area.
    As discussed throughout the Analysis and in the response to Comment 
1, NMFS expects that the CSP will benefit halibut IFQ permit holders in 
Areas 2C and 3A by stabilizing the proportions of harvestable halibut 
available to the commercial and charter fisheries at all levels of 
halibut abundance and base both fishery allocations on the annual CCL. 
Halibut IFQ permit holders in Areas 2C and 3A will also have the 
opportunity to lease halibut IFQ as GAF to CHP holders. While the 
Council and NMFS cannot project how much IFQ will be leased by the 
charter sector, the ability to lease IFQ as GAF to CHP holders is 
expected to benefit IFQ holders in those areas, by allowing them 
additional flexibility when developing their annual harvest strategies.
    NMFS acknowledges that QS halibut holders in areas west of Areas 2C 
and 3A (Areas 3B and 4) and sablefish QS holders will realize an 
incremental increase in cost recovery fees following implementation of 
the GAF program, but will not benefit from leasing IFQ to the charter 
sector. NMFS anticipates that the cost recovery fee for these QS 
holders will increase by a relatively small amount because the 
additional costs of administering and enforcing GAF are expected to be 
a relatively small portion of the total costs to NMFS of administering 
and enforcing the IFQ and GAF programs. NMFS received no comments from 
halibut QS holders in Areas 3B and 4 or sablefish QS holders opposing 
NMFS' proposed method for recovering fees associated with administering 
and enforcing GAF.
    Comment 73: Why should any quota share holder who does not rent out 
GAF pay for GAF enforcement? At year's end NMFS will know exactly which 
QS holders leased GAF and how much it cost to enforce GAF. Why not 
require the QS holders who rent GAF pay for its enforcement?
    Response: As described in the response to Comment 72, NMFS does not 
expect a substantial increase in fees to QS holders as a result of the 
GAF program. The method of assessing cost recovery fees proposed by the 
commenter would require a substantial change to the NMFS' current 
method of tracking management and enforcement costs for the IFQ Program 
and would result in higher cost recovery fees for QS holders than the 
method implemented by this final rule. Additionally, NMFS did not 
receive comments from QS holders in opposition to NMFS' proposed method 
for incorporating GAF into the existing cost recovery program for the 
IFQ fisheries. See Comment 71 for a description of how fees are tracked 
and assessed for the IFQ Program.
    Comment 74: On page 39142 of the proposed rule, in the section 
describing GAF reporting requirements, NMFS notes that the Council 
recommended that GAF permit holders be required to allow ADF&G and IPHC 
sampling personnel access to landed halibut on private property for 
scientific sampling. The IPHC supports the intent of sampling GAF at 
all locations, because of the strong likelihood that GAF will have a 
different size distribution than the non-GAF harvest, and scientific 
sampling is the best method to collect those data. The proposed rule 
preamble notes that the impacts of requiring such access are unknown 
and that it is not currently being proposed. The IPHC staff encourages 
an expedient resolution of the issue and the inclusion of the necessary 
access provisions, so as to have an acceptable vehicle for collecting 
size distribution data on the exchange of halibut between the sectors.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment. NMFS is still considering 
how to best implement the scientific sampling aspect of the CSP while 
providing the public with predictability regarding the scope of 
inspections by sampling personnel. NMFS anticipates proposing this 
requirement in a separate rulemaking after completing its evaluation.
    Comment 75: We suggest that unused GAF be returned to IFQ permit 
holders one month prior to the end of the season rather than 15 days 
prior, as proposed. The Analysis shows that 96-98 percent of charter 
harvest takes place by August 31; therefore, there is little reason to 
retain GAF in the charter sector into October. Weather conditions in 
November can often prevent commercial harvest, and an IFQ holder may 
have difficulty harvesting unused GAF that is not returned until 15 
days prior to the end of the commercial fishing season.
    Response: No changes were made from the proposed rule. NMFS agrees 
that most GAF will likely be used by September each year and expects 
that some unused GAF will be voluntarily returned to the IFQ holder as 
provided for in regulations at Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(ii)(A)(3) and Sec.  
300.65(c)(5)(ii)(B)(5)(i). If an IFQ holder receives a return of GAF 
after the automatic return date and cannot harvest the IFQ before the 
close of the commercial fishery, that unused IFQ will be considered an 
underage in the next year, consistent with underage provisions at Sec.  
679.40(e). This underage would result in a greater allocation of IFQ in 
the following year.
    The Council recommended that NMFS automatically return GAF 15 days 
prior to the end of the commercial halibut fishing season in order to 
maximize the opportunity for charter operators to use GAF throughout 
the charter fishing season while providing halibut QS holders with an 
opportunity to harvest unused and returned GAF before the end of the 
commercial fishing season. NMFS agrees that it is possible that the 
change in automatic return date

[[Page 75868]]

from 15 days to one month prior to the end of the commercial fishing 
season suggested in the comment would not be likely to impact the 
ability of charter operators to use GAF based on historic harvest 
patterns. However, NMFS does not consider it is appropriate to make 
this change from the proposed to final rule because the Analysis and 
the record for Council development of the CSP supports an automatic 
return date of 15 days prior to the end of the commercial fishing 
season. The commenter could suggest the proposed change to the Council 
for its consideration of GAF program changes in the future.
    Comment 76: GAF provides the opportunity for anglers to take a 
trophy fish in areas with size restrictions in place. Trophy fish are 
expensive to mount; many anglers choose instead to mount just the tail. 
Whether they mount the whole fish or just the tail, snipping the tail 
fin ruins the mount. Why was this not considered when GAF 
identification was raised as an issue?
    Response: No changes were made from the proposed rule on the basis 
of this comment. This final rule implements a requirement for charter 
vessel guides to immediately remove the tips of the upper and lower 
lobes of the caudal (tail) fin to mark all halibut caught and retained 
as GAF (see Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(iv)(G)). Many saltwater fish, including 
halibut, that are professionally mounted are made from reproductions, 
rather than molded casts of the original or traditional skin mounts. 
NMFS suggests that if the guide or angler were to photograph the dorsal 
and ventral sides of the fish or tail before clipping it, the 
taxidermist would be able to recreate the detail in the reproduction.
    NMFS did not explicitly consider the issue of the effects on 
taxidermy when determining how to mark GAF to distinguish them from 
other halibut retained by a charter vessel angler, nor did anyone raise 
it as a significant concern during public testimony to the Council. 
Likewise, NMFS received more than 4,700 comments on the proposed rule 
(most of these were from anglers and charter businesses) and only one 
commenter raised this concern. The Council may consider changes to the 
GAF marking requirement in the future if it determines the impact is 
negatively impacting the ability of anglers to mount GAF halibut.
    Comment 77: What prevents a charter operator from clipping the fins 
of all the fish in his box? There is no rule against this, only a 
requirement to clip GAF. What happens if a fish is retained that has a 
deformed (pre-clipped) tail fin? Is it a GAF or a sport caught fish? 
Uniquely numbered GAF tags would more positively identify a GAF than 
clipping a fin.
    Response: NMFS agrees that the regulations do not contain a 
prohibition against clipping the tail fins of retained halibut; 
however, it is not clear why a charter vessel guide would do this. NMFS 
anticipates enforcement personnel inspecting halibut retained by 
charter vessel anglers with the tips of the upper and lower lobes of 
the caudal (tail) fin removed could be considered GAF. Enforcement 
personnel would have to consider the specific amount of clipped halibut 
on board and other information (e.g., GAF permit logs and saltwater 
charter logbooks) on a case-by-case basis.
    NMFS does not expect that enforcement personnel would have any 
difficulty distinguishing a marked GAF from a halibut with a deformed 
or pre-clipped tail because a freshly clipped tail fin lobe would be 
visibly different than a healed-over wound or deformity. In addition to 
removing the tips of the upper and lower lobes of the tail fin, this 
final rule implements regulations requiring charter vessel guides to 
immediately record the date and the length of the GAF retained on the 
GAF permit log, providing a second means for enforcement agents to 
verify which fish are GAF (see Sec.  300.65(d)(4)(iii)(A). The Council 
and NMFS considered issuing tags to identify GAF, but determined that 
they would be burdensome to charter operators, could easily be lost, 
would delay transfers of IFQ to GAF, and would likely end up as marine 
debris if the carcass is discarded at the dock. Removing the tips of 
the tail fin lobes was determined to be the least burdensome option for 
marking and identifying GAF.

Fishery Management Measures

    Comment 78: The IPHC's adoption of management measures to implement 
domestic catch allocations such as the sector allocations specified in 
the CSP rule violates the Halibut Act and the Administrative Procedure 
Act. The public lacks the opportunity to comment with the current 
approach to setting annual charter harvest restrictions for Areas 2C 
and 3A because the annual management measures are not first published 
in a proposed rule with a well-defined comment period. The exclusion of 
a public comment period violates the Administrative Procedure Act. The 
Area 2A CSP includes a public comment period. Additionally, at three 
points in the process for setting annual management measures, the 
recommended measures could be overruled and replaced with different 
measures.
    Response: NMFS provided an opportunity for the public to comment on 
the CSP proposed rule. This rule does not implement any annual 
management measures designed to limit charter harvest to an annual 
sector allocation. The CSP contemplates that the Council will continue 
the process by which it develops charter fishery management 
recommendations for IPHC consideration. The CSP also contemplates that 
the IPHC will continue its practice of adopting annual management 
measures necessary to maintain charter halibut harvest to its annual 
harvest allocation, and submit those measures to the United States for 
acceptance. IPHC annual management measures that are accepted by the 
Secretary of State with concurrence of the Secretary of Commerce are 
published in the Federal Register as specified by 50 CFR 300.62. NMFS 
notes that the Administrative Procedure Act's notice-and-comment 
requirements have been inapplicable to past publications of annual 
management measures under the foreign affairs functions exemption (5 
U.S.C. 553(a)(1)). Determinations regarding applicability of the 
exemption are made on a case-by-case basis.
    Comment 79: The guided harvest is currently managed within its GHL 
allocations in Area 2C and Area 3A using the same tools proposed under 
the CSP; therefore, the CSP is not necessary.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges that charter harvests have been managed 
within the GHL since 2011 in both areas. However, as noted in response 
to Comment 2, the GHL is not appropriately responsive or adaptable to 
changes in halibut abundance. The Council has determined that the 
allocations under the CSP will better meet the Council's objectives of 
establishing a comprehensive management program for the charter halibut 
fisheries in Area 2C and Area 3A, with sector allocations that float 
with varying levels of halibut abundance and that balance the differing 
needs of the charter and commercial sectors across a range of halibut 
abundance.
    Comment 80: The annual process for setting annual charter harvest 
restrictions is similar to the process undertaken for the sport halibut 
fisheries in Area 2A off of the Washington, Oregon, and California 
coasts.
    Response: NMFS believes that the commenter is referring to the 
cooperative management approach taken by NMFS and the IPHC in Area

[[Page 75869]]

2A and acknowledges the comment. See also response to Comment 78.
    Comment 81: The process outlined in the CSP to annually recommend 
charter management measures to the IPHC for implementation through IPHC 
regulations is preferable to the matrix proposed in 2011, which was 
inflexible and prescriptive. This is the most effective process and 
will minimize charter overages of its sector allocation, while 
maintaining the charter sector's and Council's objective to specify the 
management measures pre-season with no inseason changes or closures.
    Response: NMFS agrees. The Council determined that the process for 
setting annual harvest restrictions for the charter sector endorsed by 
the CSP will more effectively meet its management objectives than the 
method for determining charter halibut fishery harvest restrictions 
proposed by NMFS in 2011 (76 FR 44156, July 22, 2011). The Council's 
rationale for endorsing a process to annually recommend charter 
management measures to the IPHC for implementation through IPHC 
regulations is discussed in section 2.5.3 of the Analysis and in the 
response to Comment 78.
    Comment 82: Area 2C and Area 3A should have the same charter 
harvest restrictions so the charter operators and charter anglers in 
one area do not have an advantage over those in the other.
    Response: The Council considered that Area 2C and Area 3A are 
distinct from each other in terms of halibut abundance trends and 
charter fishing effort when it recommended the CSP (see the proposed 
rule for the CSP and section 1.6.7 of the Analysis). The Council and 
NMFS are committed to using area-specific harvest restrictions that are 
tailored to the circumstances of the particular area.
    Comment 83: The majority of the 4,740 comments received expressed 
opposition to a one-fish daily bag limit in Area 3A. If a one-fish bag 
limit were implemented, many people expressed that they would not come 
to Alaska to fish. Some commenters said they would go to Canada to fish 
for halibut instead. Some people were concerned that a one-fish bag 
limit would lead to high-grading and higher wastage mortality because 
more fish would be caught and released as anglers try to catch and 
retain the biggest fish possible.
    Response: The CSP implemented by this final rule does not implement 
a one-halibut per day bag limit for Area 3A charter vessel anglers. The 
CSP changes the allocation between the charter and commercial sectors, 
but does not implement specific harvest restrictions for charter vessel 
anglers (see response to Comment 1). In developing any future 
recommendations for charter management measures to the IPHC, the 
Council will consider the anticipated impacts of alternative management 
measures on angler demand. Additionally, the Council intends to develop 
and recommend management measures that limit charter harvest to its 
fishery allocation while ensuring that the charter industry can provide 
anglers with the ``best'' fishing experience (see section 1.6.7 of the 
Analysis).
    The CSP Analysis recognizes that allocations to the charter sector 
may be constraining at current low levels of halibut abundance. To 
address this possibility, the Council recommended the GAF program to 
meet the needs of the charter halibut fisheries in Areas 2C and 3A and 
provide flexibility for participants in the commercial and charter 
halibut fisheries. Under the GAF program, charter vessel anglers will 
have the opportunity to harvest additional halibut when the bag limit 
for charter anglers is more restrictive than for unguided anglers. 
Moreover, a one-halibut per day bag limit has been in place for charter 
vessel anglers in Area 2C since 2009. This reduced bag limit may have 
resulted in negative economic impacts for some Area 2C charter 
operations from reduced angler demand. However, the role of that bag 
limit in reduction in angler demand in comparison to other factors, 
such as large scale economic conditions, is not known (see section 
2.6.1.1 of the Analysis). NFMS does not have information to confirm 
whether the one-halibut per day bag limit in Area 2C has caused some 
charter anglers to choose to fish in Area 3A or in other areas in 
Alaska or Canada.
    Comment 84: Unguided and guided anglers should have the same bag 
and size limits. It is unfair that unguided anglers are not restricted 
by an allocation. The CSP discriminates against charter anglers. 
Charter anglers should not be managed differently than unguided anglers 
simply because they choose to hire someone else to drive the boat. 
Having stricter bag limits for guided anglers is unfair to those 
anglers who do not have their own boat, are coming from out-of-state 
and cannot bring their own boat, or are hiring a guide for other 
financial, health, safety, or other practical reason.
    Response: The Council and NMFS have determined that this rule is 
fair and equitable to halibut fishermen (see the response to Comment 
2). The Halibut Act does not require that different sectors of the 
halibut fisheries be managed using the same tools and restrictions. 
NMFS notes that while the Council has not specified a halibut 
allocation for the unguided recreational fisheries in Areas 2C and 3A, 
total harvest by unguided anglers is limited by the current bag limit 
under IPHC regulations, which is two fish of any size per day (78 FR 
16423, March 15, 2013).
    The charter halibut fishery is the second largest, in terms of 
volume of halibut harvested, after the commercial fishery in Areas 2C 
and 3A. The unguided sport fishery has the third largest harvest in 
both areas (see section 1.7.1.7 of the Analysis). Of these three 
harvesting sectors, the charter halibut fishery has demonstrated growth 
in participation over time while the commercial and unguided 
recreational sectors have declined or remained relatively steady. This 
information was in the Analysis considered by the Council and the 
Secretary of Commerce when taking this action. The Council's objective 
for the CSP is to address the ongoing allocation conflicts between the 
commercial and charter halibut fisheries, not to restrict unguided 
anglers.
    The commenters' concerns about safety are addressed in the response 
to Comment 86.
    Comment 85: Charter anglers should be managed differently than 
unguided anglers because the success rates for retained halibut are 
higher for a charter angler than an unguided angler. This difference in 
effort and impacts should be accounted for in management.
    Response: The Council and NMFS agree that different management 
programs for charter vessel anglers and unguided anglers in Area 2C and 
Area 3A meet the Council's management objectives for recreational 
halibut fisheries in those areas. NMFS does not have information to 
confirm the commenter's assertion that success rates for retained 
halibut are higher for a charter angler than an unguided angler. See 
also response to Comment 84.
    Comment 86: The differential bag limit for guided and unguided 
anglers compromises anglers' safety by encouraging more anglers to fish 
without the expertise of a guide. Anglers that would normally prefer to 
hire a guide for increased safety might choose to fish unguided 
instead, so that they may take advantage of the more liberal bag limit 
for unguided anglers. Differential bag limits will likely increase the 
number of illegal or unlicensed charter operations.
    Response: NMFS is aware of no information demonstrating that this 
rule will create new safety risks. While it is possible that 
differential bag limits may

[[Page 75870]]

create incentives for anglers to substitute unguided fishing for guided 
fishing, unguided fishing harvest estimates decreased from 2009 to 2011 
after a one-fish bag limit was implemented in Area 2C in 2009 (see 
section 1.7.1.7 of the Analysis). If the one-fish bag limit was causing 
anglers to shift to more unguided angling, NMFS would expect to see an 
increase in unguided harvest estimates. NMFS notes that changes in the 
national economy also affect demand for charter vessel fishing trips, 
and may have also affected unguided halibut harvest since 2009 (see 
section 2.6 of the Analysis).
    In its analysis of the potential effects of this rule the Council 
and NMFS found no safety concern. NMFS does not have the information to 
determine whether more restrictive halibut management measures for 
charter vessel anglers in Area 2C may have resulted in an increase in 
the number of anglers fishing for halibut without a guide. NMFS notes 
that the U.S. Coast Guard has not experienced an increase in search and 
rescue cases for recreational vessels in recent years, during which 
time the IPHC and NMFS implemented more restrictive bag limits for 
guided anglers than unguided anglers in Area 2C.
    If differential bag limits are implemented in Area 3A under the 
CSP, some charter vessel anglers may choose to substitute unguided 
fishing for guided fishing to maintain a more liberal bag limit. These 
anglers may make arrangements to go fishing with friends or relatives, 
to patronize lodges and rentals with associated skiffs, or to patronize 
businesses providing access to supported (lodging, meals, instructions, 
and gear) fishing from unguided small boats. This latter business model 
is already present in Southeast Alaska and could expand to Area 3A in 
the future. Firms with this business model are likely to see an 
increase in demand for their product, and some guided firms may shift 
to this business model. This possibility is discussed in section 8.6 of 
the Analysis.
    A potential shift from guided to unguided fishing within Area 2C 
and Area 3A focuses on one option available for guided anglers. While 
some may make this substitution, others may substitute activities in 
other regions, and those activities may be associated with their own 
risks which may be greater or less than those of guided charters. While 
the guided charter vessel fleet may have a good safety record on the 
water, travel to and from the fishing site is often done in small 
airplanes which, in Alaska, has inherent dangers. It is possible that 
some charter vessel anglers may substitute activities with less overall 
risk considering all the elements involved in a guided charter fishing 
trip. The net effect of this action on risk when all elements are 
considered cannot be determined with the available information. Some of 
these businesses will be firms that formerly provided guide services, 
or that begin to offer guided and unguided services. These firms are 
likely to provide monitoring of, and support to, anglers despite the 
absence of a guide on board a vessel. Large proportions of resident and 
non-resident sport anglers already are involved in unguided sport 
fishing in Alaska, and unguided business models already are used to 
provide resident and non-resident access to halibut fishing 
opportunities.
    Comment 87: Treat Alaska residents and non-residents differently in 
commercial and charter fishing regulations. Implement less restrictive 
limits for Alaska residents or prohibit out-of-state residents from 
owning charter businesses or fishing commercially for halibut in 
Alaska.
    Response: The Halibut Act at 16 U.S.C. 773c(c) states that 
regulations developed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council 
to govern the halibut fishery shall not discriminate between residents 
of different states. The regulations implemented by this action do not 
discriminate between residents of different states. Charter vessel 
anglers who receive sport fishing guide services from charter halibut 
permit holders affected by this rule also are not discriminated against 
on the basis of state of residence. Such anglers will have the same 
opportunity to participate in the Area 2C and Area 3A charter halibut 
fishery regardless of state residence. Regulations at Sec.  300.65 
implementing the CSP allocations to the commercial and charter halibut 
sectors and authorizing the transfer and use of halibut IFQ as GAF 
apply to all persons participating in the commercial and charter 
halibut fisheries in Areas 2C and 3A regardless of state of residence.
    Comment 88: Skipper and crew should not be restricted from 
harvesting halibut on charter vessels. Halibut harvested by skipper and 
crew have historically been calculated as unguided sport fishing 
poundage and have not counted toward the GHL; therefore, prohibiting 
skipper and crew harvest will not reduce total charter harvest. 
Additionally, this prohibition will create an economic hardship for 
skippers and crew who would be required to take a separate trip to 
harvest fish for their own personal use.
    Response: NMFS disagrees. Skipper and crew are required to record 
their harvest in the ADF&G saltwater charter logbook and it counts as 
charter halibut harvested; therefore, prohibiting skipper and crew 
harvest will reduce total charter harvest or allow more of the charter 
harvest to be caught by charter vessel anglers. As discussed on page 
39136 of the proposed rule, the Council recommended that NMFS implement 
this provision in the CSP to clarify that only halibut harvested by 
charter vessel anglers will be counted toward the CSP charter halibut 
fishery allocation. Charter operators, guides, and crew are not 
considered charter anglers under current Federal regulations, and NMFS 
does not consider it appropriate for halibut harvested by these persons 
to be counted toward the charter halibut fishery harvest. Additionally, 
halibut harvested by charter operators, guides, and crew are difficult 
for enforcement agents to distinguish from halibut caught by charter 
vessel anglers.
    Comment 89: In its December 2011 motion, the Council instructed 
staff to initiate a discussion paper to analyze the prohibition on 
skipper and crew harvest during charter vessel fishing trips. In 
Appendix 3 of the resulting discussion paper, staff noted that 
restricting skipper and crew harvest was already part of the CSP and no 
further action was needed. Please provide an explanation why 
alternatives to the skipper and crew prohibition were not considered. 
Was the December 2011 motion amended? And if so, why was this not 
documented? The analysis did not look at the economic impact on skipper 
and crew and did not consider anything less draconian than an outright 
ban, even though other options exist.
    Response: In its December 2011 motion, the Council recognized that 
there were management options available that were not included as part 
of the Halibut CSP preferred alternative (http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/npfmc/PDFdocuments/halibut/HalCSPmotion1211.pdf), and included restricting captain and crew 
retention of fish as one potential management measure to be considered 
in a discussion paper. The Council had overlooked that a prohibition on 
skipper and crew harvest was already part of the original motion for a 
CSP adopted in April 2008 (http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/npfmc/PDFdocuments/halibut/HalibutCharterMotion408.pdf). As chronicled in the 
resulting March 2012 discussion paper (http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/npfmc/PDFdocuments/halibut/CSPDiscussionPaper312.pdf), when it was 
brought to the Council's attention by Council staff that the 
prohibition on

[[Page 75871]]

skipper and crew harvest was already part of the CSP, the Council did 
not request further action or analysis of any other alternatives to an 
outright ban. These documents were all available on the Council Web 
site, so NMFS disagrees that this action was not documented.
    Charter guides, operators, and crew have been prohibited from 
retaining halibut in Area 2C since 2009 (74 FR 21194, May 6, 2009). 
This final rule extends the provision to skipper and crew in Area 3A at 
Sec.  300.65(d)(3). The economic impacts of prohibiting skipper and 
crew harvest during charter vessel fishing trips were discussed in 
section 2.5.12.12 of the Analysis and in the analysis for the rule that 
implemented the prohibition in Area 2C (http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/analyses/halibut/area2c_charterhalibut_earirfrfa0309.pdf). Additional reasons for prohibiting skipper and crew 
harvest were given in the response to Comment 88.
    Comment 90: I support prohibiting skipper and crew harvest during 
charter vessel fishing trips.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment.
    Comment 91: I support the requirement that charter operators be 
required to retain halibut carcasses when a size limit is in place and 
the prohibition on using both a charter halibut permit and a 
Subsistence Halibut Registration Certificate (SHARC) on the same day.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment. This final rule does not 
change the carcass retention requirement at section 28(2)(b) of the 
IPHC annual management measures and implements the prohibition on using 
both a charter halibut permit and a SHARC on the same day at Sec.  
300.66(h).
    Comment 92: The proposed rule includes a prohibition for 
individuals who hold both a charter halibut permit and commercial 
halibut IFQ from fishing for commercial and guided sport halibut on the 
same vessel and on the same day for enforcement purposes. We support 
this and previously had stated this practice should be prohibited by 
fishing trip, as different regulations apply. IPHC regulations 
currently prohibit possession of sport-caught halibut and commercial 
halibut on the same vessel at the same time, as they prohibit halibut 
caught in the sport fishery to be possessed on board a vessel with fish 
destined for commercial use or sale (IPHC annual management measures 
section 25(6)).
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment. Under this final rule, a 
person is prohibited to fish for charter and commercial halibut on the 
same vessel on the same day (see Sec.  300.66(i)). This final rule will 
not prevent a person who holds both a charter halibut permit and 
commercial halibut IFQ from conducting charter operations and 
commercial operations on separate vessels on the same day. IPHC 
regulations prohibit possession of sport-caught halibut when ``other 
fish or shellfish aboard said vessel are destined for commercial use . 
. .'' These two regulations will keep sport-caught and commercial 
halibut separate to facilitate enforcement.
    Comment 93: The final rule should clarify that charter clients 
cannot retain halibut in the same trip from Area 2C and 3A and clarify 
whether it is prohibited to fish in both areas or just to retain 
halibut.
    Response: Regulations at Sec.  300.66(v) (as redesignated by this 
rule) prohibit being an operator of a vessel in Area 2C and in 3A 
during one charter vessel fishing trip. Additionally, to fish in both 
areas on separate trips, an operator would need to possess a separate 
charter halibut limited access permit for each area. Only a few charter 
businesses hold CHPs in both areas. The Council did not recommend 
changes to this regulation under the CSP and the Analysis did not 
discuss the impacts of changing the regulations as suggested. NMFS is 
not making the requested change in this final rule.
    Comment 94: The Charter Halibut Management Implementation Committee 
was formed too late to give adequate input on the CSP.
    Response: The commenter misunderstands the purpose of the Charter 
Halibut Management Implementation Committee, which was formed to 
provide recommendations to the Council for annual management measures 
intended to limit charter harvest to the sector allocation while 
minimizing negative economic impacts to the charter fishery 
participants in times of low halibut abundance. The Charter Halibut 
Stakeholder Committee provided input on the CSP (see response to 
Comment 107).

Recordkeeping and Reporting

    Comment 95: NMFS proposes to use ADF&G saltwater charter logbooks 
to account for charter harvest under the CSP. Previously, the statewide 
harvest survey (SWHS) was used to estimate charter halibut harvest. A 
conversion factor must be applied to accurately compare logbook and 
SWHS estimates. The purpose of a logbook conversion factor is to make 
meaningful comparisons of the GHL (status quo) to the CSP allocation 
alternatives using a common metric.
    NMFS compared logbook and SWHS harvest estimates from 2006 to 2010 
to obtain this conversion factor. Explain why 2011 data were not used 
in calculating the conversion factor, even though the analysis contains 
graphical comparisons that included 2011 data.
    Additionally, for Area 3A, NMFS inappropriately subtracted skipper 
and crew harvest from the CSP allocation alternatives. The status quo 
includes harvest by skipper and crew. The CSP charter allocations 
should not be reduced by skipper and crew harvest because those fish 
were available for harvest by charter vessel anglers under the GHL in 
years when skipper and crew were prohibited from retaining halibut.
    Response: In April 2012, the Council amended its previous action on 
the CSP (http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/npfmc/PDFdocuments/halibut/CSPmotion412.pdf). In that motion, the Council adopted the unanimous 
recommendation of the Halibut Charter Management Implementation 
Committee and the Advisory Panel to use ADF&G saltwater charter 
logbooks as the primary data collection method. The Council recommended 
using an adjustment factor based on the five-year average (2006-2010) 
of the difference between the harvest estimates provided by the 
logbooks and the SWHS, with the adjustment factor reduced by the amount 
of harvest attributed to skipper and crew, to create new alternatives 
with adjusted allocation percentages. The adjustment factors were used 
to increase the allocations to the charter sector in Alternatives 3 and 
5.
    As discussed in Section 2.3.2.1 of the Analysis, one of the 
drawbacks of the SWHS is that harvest estimates are not available until 
September of the year following harvest; i.e., a SWHS estimate of 2011 
charter halibut harvest was not available until September 2012. In 
April 2012, when the Council took action, the SWHS estimate for 2011 
was not yet available, and so they made their decision based on the 
best available information at that time. Table 2-1 (p. 125) of the 
initial draft of the Analysis (http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/analyses/halibut/drafthalibut_csp0912.pdf) does not include 2011 data 
in comparisons of logbook and SWHS harvest estimates. This was the 
version of the Analysis that was available at the time of Council 
action. The draft of the Analysis published with the proposed rule was 
updated to include the 2011 data after passage of the final motion 
(Table 2-2, http://

[[Page 75872]]

alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/analyses/halibut/drafea--halibutcsp0613.pdf).
    NMFS notes that the allocation alternative selected by the Council 
for Area 3A did not include a logbook adjustment.
    Comment 96: Charter vessel guides are required by State of Alaska 
regulations to document the number of halibut caught and released by 
charter vessel anglers in the ADF&G saltwater charter logbook. This 
information will facilitate wastage estimation for separate 
accountability. The CSP should mandate in Federal regulations that 
charter vessel guides record the number of halibut released.
    Response: No changes were made from the proposed rule. ADF&G has 
required that charter vessel guides record the number of halibut kept 
and released by charter vessel anglers since the saltwater charter 
logbook program began in 1998. NMFS anticipates that ADF&G will 
continue to require charter vessel guides to record the number of 
halibut released by charter vessel anglers. See also response to 
Comment 36 and Comment 37.
    Comment 97: The final rule should clarify that regulations require 
the guide to enter the name and license number of each angler on board 
in the charter logbook before the charter trip begins. Those charter 
vessel anglers on board that have no plans to fish for halibut should 
be required to sign the logbook before the beginning of the trip. This 
would help enforcement agents clearly identify the number of anglers 
fishing for halibut compared to the angler endorsement on the charter 
halibut permit.
    Response: No changes were made from the proposed rule. NMFS has 
determined that the recordkeeping and reporting regulations implemented 
by this final rule provide for effective monitoring and enforcement of 
halibut harvested by charter vessel anglers in Area 2C and Area 3A. 
Regulations at Sec.  300.65(d)(4)(ii)(B)(6) require charter vessel 
guides to record in the ADF&G saltwater charter logbook the name and 
license number (if applicable) for each paying or non-paying charter 
vessel angler on board that will fish for halibut. Regulations at Sec.  
300.65(d)(4)(ii)(A) require only charter vessel anglers retaining 
halibut caught to sign the logbook data sheet on the line that 
corresponds to the angler's information. This signature requirement 
promotes accurate reporting of halibut retained by charter vessel 
anglers and facilitates enforcement of charter halibut harvest 
restrictions such as daily bag and size limits. This regulation has 
been in effect in Area 2C since 2009 (74 FR 21194, May 6, 2009), and 
this final rule extends the signature requirement to include charter 
anglers in Area 3A as part of the CSP in the event that additional 
harvest restrictions are implemented in that area.
    Comment 98: Charter guides are currently required to provide a 
single statistical area location in logbooks where the majority of 
their catch occurs each day. Since charter guides often fish more than 
a single statistical area each day, the current requirement obscures 
the true spatial and temporal pattern of associated fishery mortality. 
This potentially limits fishery managers' ability to detect these 
underlying patterns. This inability to accurately attribute fishery 
mortality spatially is problematic for attributing halibut harvest 
within the waters of Glacier Bay National Park. We recommend that NOAA 
fishery managers consider the relative costs and benefits of more 
detailed, spatially explicit halibut harvest reporting that would 
require reporting fishing activity within the appropriate ADF&G six 
digit charter logbook areas, rather than a single statistical area for 
the entire day.
    Response: No changes were made from the proposed rule on the basis 
of this comment. NMFS has determined that the data collected in the 
ADF&G saltwater charter logbook, aggregated at the level of IPHC 
regulatory area, provide the Council and the IPHC with information 
necessary to promote their stated conservation and management 
objectives for the Area 2C and Area 3A halibut fisheries.
    It is NMFS' understanding that the National Park Service requires a 
special permit for charter vessels to operate within Glacier Bay 
National Park. If the National Park Service would like to obtain 
spatial and temporal halibut harvest data for charter vessels within 
Glacier Bay National Park, it could consider developing a logbook for 
charter operators in that area.
    Comment 99: We support the GAF electronic reporting requirements 
and request that a ``charter trip'' be clearly defined to ensure 
reports are timely.
    Response: No changes were made from the proposed rule. NMFS has 
determined that the GAF electronic reporting requirements implemented 
by this final rule promote timely reporting of GAF harvests in Area 2C 
and Area 3A. Regulations at Sec.  300.61 define ``charter vessel 
fishing trip'' as the time period between the first deployment of 
fishing gear into the water from a vessel after any charter vessel 
angler is on board and the offloading of one or more charter vessel 
anglers or any halibut from that vessel. This rule implements 
regulations at Sec.  300.65(d)(4)(iii)(D) requiring a GAF permit holder 
to submit a GAF electronic report to NMFS by 11:59 p.m. (Alaska local 
time) on the last day of a charter vessel fishing trip in which a 
charter vessel angler retained GAF.
    Comment 100: The requirement for charter vessel guides to 
immediately record total halibut length in inches on the GAF permit for 
retained GAF is unrealistic. Given existing constraints on charter 
vessel guides' time and attention, guides may not be able to accurately 
and reliably measure every GAF. There could be high variability in 
accuracy of lengths due to non-standardization in scales used by 
charter guides or measurement error. Consider evaluating the accuracy 
of charter guide halibut length measurement. Perhaps ADF&G creel clerks 
could assist with length measurement accuracy assessments, although 
assessment of length estimation accuracy in non-survey areas may be 
problematic.
    Response: No changes were made from the proposed rule. NMFS 
believes that charter vessel guides will comply with the requirement at 
Sec.  300.65(d)(4)(iii)(A)(1) to record on the GAF permit the date that 
the fish was caught and retained and the total length of that fish. 
Charter vessel anglers Area 2C have been limited to retaining halibut 
of a specified size during most years from 2007 through 2013, and these 
limits have required charter vessel guides to measure halibut at the 
time it is retained by anglers. This final rule also promotes accurate 
GAF reporting and facilitates enforcement of GAF regulations by 
implementing a GAF electronic reporting requirement at Sec.  
300.65(d)(4)(iii)(A)(2) in addition to a requirement at Sec.  
300.65(c)(5)(iv)(G) for charter vessel guides to retain the carcasses 
of GAF that are filleted on board the vessel for the duration of the 
charter vessel fishing trip.
    Comment 101: The GAF reporting requirements at Sec.  
300.65(d)(4)(iii)(D) should include a requirement to electronically 
report the date on which the GAF was caught. The date is required to be 
reported on the GAF permit, and would be important to collect for 
validation, especially from vessels doing multi-day trips that are not 
required to file an electronic report until the end of the last day of 
the trip. Additionally, assuming accurate reporting, requiring 
reporting of the vessel identification number, guide license number, or 
community or port where the charter trip ended is not necessary. The 
vessel identification is currently linked to the logbook when

[[Page 75873]]

the logbook is assigned, and the other items are reported in the 
logbook data and would be available by linking to the logbook number 
and date.
    Response: NMFS agrees that the date on which a GAF was caught 
should be electronically reported for validation and has made the 
suggested change (see ``Changes from the Proposed Rule'' section). NMFS 
disagrees that the vessel identification number, guide license number, 
and community or port where the charter vessel fishing trip ended (for 
community CHPs) are not needed, and no changes are made from the 
proposed rule in response to this comment. By requesting that GAF 
permit holders submit these data elements in the GAF electronic report, 
enforcement agents will have all of the information needed to initiate 
an investigation without having to request the data from ADF&G. This 
collection-of-information was reviewed under the Paperwork Reduction 
Act and approved by the Office of Management and Budget.
    Comment 102: While NMFS sets fishing limits it appears there is no 
real means to count fish caught by guided anglers and charter 
operators. In the interest of good scientific data, a means of having 
realistic catch numbers recorded would support proposed rules and 
justify limits set forth.
    Response: NMFS disagrees. The IPHC, not NMFS, determines the annual 
catch limits using estimates of all sources of halibut removals, 
including halibut caught by unguided anglers and charter operators (see 
``Catch Sharing Plan for Area 2C and Area 3A'' section of this final 
rule and the response to Comment 1). Catch limits and management 
measures are implemented by the IPHC using the best data available, 
including estimates of halibut harvested by charter vessel anglers and 
recorded in ADF&G saltwater charter logbooks (see section 2.3.2 of the 
Analysis).

Other Specific Issues

    Comment 103: The CSP violates the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the 
Halibut Act because the allocations are disproportionate between the 
charter and commercial industry and adverse economic impacts on 
affected communities have not been minimized.
    Response: The CSP was developed and approved pursuant to the 
Halibut Act, not the Magnuson-Stevens Act. As explained in the response 
to Comment 2, the Halibut Act at 16 U.S.C. 773c(c) requires that 
allocations must be fair and equitable to affected halibut fishermen. 
The response to Comment 2 summarizes NMFS' consideration of fairness 
and equity. As discussed in the response to Comment 121, NMFS has 
considered economic impacts on small communities. However, NMFS notes 
that the Halibut Act does not impose a requirement that adverse 
economic impacts on affected communities be minimized.
    Comment 104: The CSP is fair and equitable.
    Response: See the response to Comment 2 for a description of how 
the CSP complies with the fairness and equity requirements of the 
Halibut Act.
    Comment 105: The CSP is contrary to the plain meaning of the 
statutory term ``fair'' in the Halibut Act.
    Response: The Secretary of Commerce has determined that the CSP 
meets the requirements of the Halibut Act including the requirements 
for fair and equitable distribution of access privileges as summarized 
in the response to Comment 2.
    Comment 106: The CSP sets allocations that can never be removed, 
changed, or modified without the concurrence of the IPHC, and it 
forecloses any public comment by U.S. citizens under the Administrative 
Procedure Act about future catch levels.
    Response: The Halibut Act at section 773c authorizes the Council to 
develop, and the Secretary of Commerce to approve, regulations that are 
in addition to, and not in conflict with, regulations adopted by the 
IPHC. The sector allocations established in this CSP were developed and 
approved consistent with section 773c. The public was afforded the 
opportunity to participate during the Council's development of the 
formula for the sector allocations and NMFS published the proposed 
sector allocation formula for public comment consistent with section 
553(c) of the Administrative Procedure Act. The sector allocation 
formula will apply in a predictable and standardized process to the 
IPHC's combined catch limit (CCL) each year, resulting in the catch 
limits for the charter sector and to the commercial sector in Areas 2C 
and 3A. The Council may develop modifications to the CSP in the future 
through the same public Council process and submit those modifications 
to NMFS for approval and implementation.
    Comment 107: There is a commercial bias on the Council. Fisheries 
management has unfairly supported commercial interests at the expense 
of the charter fleet. The Council has violated the Magnuson-Stevens Act 
requirement for fair representation because it has only one 
representative from the charter fishing sector. The charter halibut 
fishery and recreational interests are not adequately represented on 
this decision-making body.
    Response: The consideration of balance and fairness between 
commercial and recreational fishing sectors is an important element in 
the Secretary's appointments to the regional fishery management 
councils. Because of the limited number of Council seats and the 
diversity of fisheries managed by the Council, not all sectors can be 
represented through membership on the Council. For example, Pacific 
halibut is just one of 112 finfish species under active management by 
the Council, and is the only federally managed sport fish in its 
jurisdiction. Nevertheless, the commenter notes that Council membership 
includes one charter sector representative. NMFS also notes that the 
Council has formed a Charter Halibut Stakeholder Committee to advise 
the Council on industry proposals for CSP allocation options and the 
GAF program, and the Charter Halibut Limited Access Program. In 2011, 
the Council formed the Charter Halibut Management Implementation 
Committee to propose and recommend alternative management measures 
governing the charter halibut sector in times of low abundance to 
reduce uncertainty and mitigate negative economic impacts for fishery 
participants. To the extent that the comment implies that the CSP is 
unfair to the charter sector, NMFS has determined that the CSP is fair 
and equitable to halibut fishermen, including those participating in 
the charter sector. See the response to Comment 2.
    Comment 108: The CSP will incorporate recreational anglers on 
charter boats into a commercial fishery management scheme. Will the 
next logical step be to allow recreational anglers on charter boats to 
use as many hooks as they want, similar to longliners? Or will 
longliners be restricted to one hook as recreational anglers are?
    Response: NMFS disagrees with the commenter's assertion that the 
CSP is incorporating management of charter anglers into a commercial 
fishery management scheme, and assumes that the comment is referring to 
the GAF provision of the CSP. As described above in the ``Catch Sharing 
Plan for Area 2C and Area 3A'' section, the CSP authorizes commercial 
halibut QS holders to transfer IFQ as GAF to charter halibut permit 
holders, but the fisheries will continue to be managed separately. The 
CSP does not change the gear types and limits currently established in 
regulation for the Area 2C and Area 3A for the commercial or charter 
halibut fisheries (see sections 19 and 25 of the IPHC annual management 
measures (78

[[Page 75874]]

FR 16423, March 15, 2013) and Table 15 to 50 CFR part 679).
    Comment 109: Charter operators who hold IFQ have an unfair 
advantage. GAF will discourage healthy competition between charter 
operations.
    Response: NMFS disagrees that allowing persons who hold halibut QS 
and one or more CHPs to lease IFQ as GAF will provide them with an 
unfair advantage and discourage competition. CHP holders who also hold 
halibut QS comprise approximately 6 percent of all CHP holders and 2 
percent of all halibut QS holders in Area 2C and Area 3A (see section 
2.5.12 of the Analysis). The amount of IFQ that is held by this small 
portion of CHP and IFQ permit holders and could be leased as GAF is 
unlikely to impact the overall supply of and demand for GAF in Area 2C 
and Area 3A. As described in the Analysis and in the response to 
Comment 45, the supply of and demand for GAF will be determined by the 
value of halibut in the directed commercial fishery and charter vessel 
anglers' willingness to pay higher prices for trips that allow greater 
harvest flexibility by using GAF, in addition to other factors. NMFS 
also notes that the regulations at Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(iv)(H) 
implemented by this final rule restrict a person holding halibut QS and 
one or more CHPs to the same GAF transfer limits that apply to all 
other CHP and IFQ holders.
    Comment 110: The CSP was developed with Area 2C in mind because 
charter harvests in that area had been exceeding the Area 2C GHL. Area 
3A charter harvests have consistently been below the Area 3A GHL. The 
economic analysis was biased toward the type of business operations 
that exist in Area 2C. The CSP is not necessary for Area 3A.
    Response: NMFS agrees that harvest of halibut in the Area 3A 
charter fishery has not exceeded the GHL since 2007 (see Table 2 in the 
proposed rule for the CSP). However, NMFS disagrees that the CSP should 
not be implemented for Area 3A. The proposed rule for the CSP describes 
that the objectives of the program are to define an annual process for 
allocating halibut between the charter and commercial halibut fisheries 
in Area 2C and Area 3A, establish allocations that vary with changing 
levels of annual halibut abundance and that balance the differing needs 
of the charter and commercial halibut fisheries over a wide range of 
abundance, and specify a process for determining harvest restrictions 
for charter anglers that are intended to limit harvest to the annual 
charter halibut fishery catch limit. Thus, while limiting harvest in 
the charter fishery to the annual charter catch limit is an important 
component of the CSP, it is not the only purpose for implementing the 
program. Also see the response to Comment 1.
    Comment 111: The GAF program is unfair to the charter sector. To be 
fair, a leasing option needs to be two-way, not just from the 
commercial to the charter sector.
    Response: As described in the response to Comment 107, the Council 
considered recommendations from its Charter Halibut Stakeholder 
Committee during development of the CSP. The Charter Halibut 
Stakeholder Committee individually proposed or reviewed industry 
proposals for CSP allocation options, the GAF program, and the Charter 
Halibut Limited Access Program. In recommending the CSP to NMFS for 
approval and implementation, the Council adopted the Charter Halibut 
Stakeholder Committee's recommendation to include GAF in the CSP as a 
voluntary, market-based mechanism for transferring halibut allocation 
from the commercial sector to the charter sector in order for the 
charter sector to access additional halibut under a potentially 
constraining allocation. NMFS notes that modifications to the GAF 
program, such as the two-way leasing option as suggested in the 
comment, could be recommended to the Council for its consideration in 
the future.
    Comment 112: Why are military charter vessels (vessels operated by 
U.S. Military Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs for 
recreational use by service members) included in this rule?
    Response: Military charter vessels are managed in the same manner 
as all other charter vessels. The final rule for the charter halibut 
limited access program describes that military Charter Halibut Permits 
(CHP) are special permits issued to charter vessels operated by MWR 
programs (75 FR 554, January 5, 2010). NMFS issues these military CHPs 
to authorize MWR programs to continue to afford U.S. military personnel 
charter halibut recreational opportunities (see regulations at Sec.  
300.67(l)). Although MWR programs have been issued special CHPs, the 
MWR programs are subject to the same regulatory requirements as any 
other guided charter operation, with one exception--the GAF transfer 
limits that apply to all other CHPs do not apply to military CHPs (see 
this final rule text at Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(iv)(H)).
    Comment 113: The Council unlawfully changed the April 2012 CSP 
motion at the June 2012 Council meeting in Kodiak, AK, because the CSP 
was not on the published agenda for the June Council meeting. According 
to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1852(i)(C), the published agenda 
of the meeting may not be modified to include additional matters for 
Council action without public notice or within 14 days prior to the 
meeting date, unless such modification is to address an emergency 
action.
    Response: In April 2012, the Council amended its 2008 CSP preferred 
alternative and identified new alternatives for analysis and 
consideration. Final action to select a new CSP preferred alternative 
was scheduled for October 2012. The April 2012 motion included the 
unanimous recommendation of the Charter Halibut Management 
Implementation Committee to use ADF&G saltwater charter logbooks as the 
primary data collection method and to adjust (increase) the charter 
sector allocations by the five-year average percentage difference 
between the charter harvest estimates provided by the logbooks and the 
statewide harvest survey. The April 2012 motion stated that the 
adjustment factor for Area 3A should be reduced by the amount of 
harvest attributed to skipper and crew (see also the response to 
Comment 89). The adjustment factors in the April 2012 motion were 15.4 
percent for Area 3A and 5.6 percent for Area 2C, but erroneously did 
not include the reduction for skipper and crew harvest in Area 3A.
    In June 2012, Council and ADF&G staff provided notice that an error 
was found in the adjustment factor in Area 3A in that it did not 
contain the additional adjustment for skipper and crew harvest, and 
provided the corrected adjustment factor. The Council affirmed that 
this correction is consistent with Council intent and that the revised 
CSP analysis scheduled for review in October should use the corrected 
adjustment factor. The revised adjustment factor for Area 3A was 11.6 
percent and resulted in a decrease in allocations under Alternatives 3 
and 5 of 0.6 percent at abundances less than 25 million lb. No other 
changes to the motion or analysis were adopted.
    The Council did not adopt a new motion in June. The Council 
received notice of an error in the calculation of the adjustment factor 
it recommended in its April motion; therefore, the item was not 
included on the published agenda. Based on the June 2012 clarification 
on the Area 3A adjustment factor, Council staff incorporated the 
corrected logbook adjustment factor into the CSP Analysis presented to 
the Council in October 2012. The Council recommended a CSP preferred 
alternative in October 2012, and the

[[Page 75875]]

agenda item was posted for the public according to the requirements in 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act. NMFS notes that the Council did not select a 
preferred alternative for Area 3A that included the logbook adjustment 
factor.
    Comment 114: Postpone implementing the CSP until a Final 
Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is complete and all 
requirements under the Regulatory Flexibility Act and E.O. 12866 are 
met.
    Response: NMFS has complied with the requirements of the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act, Executive Order 12866, and the National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA) with respect to this action. NMFS prepared Initial 
and Final Regulatory Flexibility Analyses to comply with the 
requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act. NMFS prepared a 
Regulatory Impact Review (RIR) and the Office of Management and Budget 
has determined that this rule is not significant for purposes of E.O. 
12866. NMFS prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) to comply with 
the NEPA requirements for this action. The EA evaluated the 
environmental impacts of the action and its alternatives and found that 
it would not have a significant environmental impact on the human 
environment; therefore, an Environmental Impact Statement is not 
required. The EA, RIR, and IRFA were part of the Analysis prepared for 
this action and are available on the Internet (see ADDRESSES section). 
The FRFA and E.O. 12866 statement are presented in the Classification 
section of this final rule.
    Comment 115: Did NMFS notify federally recognized Indian tribes in 
small communities, such as Ninilchik and Seldovia, about the proposed 
rule? If so, what was the position of these tribes on the proposed 
rule? If not, why were they not notified? Did NMFS determine whether 
the proposed rule would have a significant impact on the tribes?
    Response: Executive Order 13175 requires NMFS to have an 
accountable process to ensure meaningful and timely input by tribal 
officials in the development of regulatory policies that may have 
tribal implications. Tribal implications are defined as those actions 
that may have a ``substantial direct effect on one or more Indian 
tribes.'' The Alaska Regional Office's tribal consultation process is 
described on our Web site (http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/tc/).
    As described in the response to Comment 1, this rule implements 
allocations between two sectors and links the charter sector's 
allocations more directly to halibut abundance. The CSP has been on the 
agenda at numerous Council meetings since 2008, and has been the 
subject of two proposed rules seeking public comment. The first of 
these proposed rules, published on July 22, 2011 (76 FR 44156), 
elicited over 4,000 public comments. The second proposed rule was 
published on June 28, 2013 (78 FR 39122), with comments invited through 
August 12, 2013. The comment period on this proposed rule was extended 
to August 26, 2013 (78 FR 44920, July 25, 2013). NMFS received 
approximately 4,470 comments on this proposed rule. Public comment 
received throughout the Council's development of the CSP and during the 
rulemaking process did not indicate that the CSP would have a 
substantial direct effect on any tribe, and NMFS did not receive any 
requests for consultation by any tribe. Therefore, NMFS did not 
specifically notify the tribes of the proposed action.
    While the impacts of the CSP on the communities of Ninilchik and 
Seldovia were not specifically analyzed, the impacts of the CSP on 
communities were analyzed in section 2.7 of the Analysis, which NMFS 
made available on its Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/analyses/halibut/drafea_halibutcsp0613.pdf.
    Comment 116: The CSP violates the rights of U.S. citizens by 
limiting their access to halibut, a public resource. Recreational 
anglers are entitled to more than one halibut.
    Response: NMFS disagrees with the commenter's assertion that U.S. 
citizens and charter anglers are entitled to harvest more than one 
halibut per person per day. Although this action may constrain the 
amount of halibut available for harvest in the charter sector compared 
to historical harvests, no sport angler will be prevented from having 
access to the halibut resource for sport fishing.
    Comment 117: The CSP may violate the Americans with Disabilities 
Act (ADA) by creating an additional barrier to disabled Americans to 
access the halibut resource.
    Response: While it is not clear why the commenter believes the ADA 
applies in this situation, NMFS disagrees that the CSP creates 
additional barriers for disabled people to access the halibut resource. 
Disabled Americans may still access the resource as guided or unguided 
anglers, subsistence anglers, or by purchasing commercially caught 
halibut in the marketplace.
    Comment 118: The CSP may violate United States antitrust laws by 
discouraging fair competition between the charter and commercial 
halibut sectors. The CSP also limits benefits of consumers of charter 
halibut services by encouraging anglers to fish without a guide.
    Response: NMFS has no information indicating that the CSP might 
violate any provision of antitrust laws. The CSP implements sector 
allocations and a GAF program. The Council and NMFS have determined 
that the CSP is fair and equitable to halibut fishermen (see response 
to Comment 2) and have evaluated its economic impacts (see response to 
Comment 120). Moreover, as noted in the response to Comment 86, NMFS 
does not have the information to determine whether more restrictive 
halibut management measures for charter vessel anglers in Area 2C may 
have resulted in an increase in the number of anglers fishing for 
halibut without a guide. Similarly, NMFS lacks information to determine 
whether future restrictions for charter vessel anglers in Area 3A would 
lead some charter vessel anglers to substitute unguided fishing for 
guided fishing to maintain a more liberal bag limit. NMFS notes that 
limits on the amount of IFQ that can be transferred and received as GAF 
were included in the CSP to prevent large charter operations from 
receiving an excessive share (see regulations at Sec.  
300.65(c)(5)(iv)(H) and the responses to Comments 62 and 67). Limits 
are already in place under the IFQ Program and Charter Halibut Limited 
Access Program to prevent excessive consolidation (see regulations at 
Sec.  679.42 and Sec.  300.67(j)).
    Comment 119: Under the Alaska Constitution, no one user group 
should have an unequal share of Alaska's resources and Alaskan 
residents should have priority access to the halibut resource.
    Response: Pacific halibut are subject to federal management under 
regulations published under authority of the Halibut Act. The Halibut 
Act does not allow management measures to discriminate between 
residents of different states. The CSP fairly and equitably allocates 
halibut fishing privileges between the commercial and charter sectors 
(see response to Comment 2).

Economic Impacts

    Comment 120: Delay implementation of the CSP until an adequate 
economic study is conducted. The economic analysis is inadequate. NMFS 
did not try hard enough to find the best available information about 
the economic impacts of the CSP on the charter halibut fishery.
    Response: The Council and Secretary of Commerce have determined 
that the Analysis adequately displays the

[[Page 75876]]

economic impacts of this action, including the impacts on the 
commercial and charter halibut sectors in Areas 2C and 3A.
    The Analysis used the best available economic information for the 
charter sector to examine the costs and benefits of the alternatives 
considered for the CSP. Because cost and revenue information is not 
available for individual charter operations in Area 2C and Area 3A, the 
Council developed estimates of costs and gross revenues for 
representative charter operations using reports from sector 
participants and assumptions based on available data. The Analysis 
describes that the primary costs associated with charter operations are 
the vessel and charter halibut limited entry permits. The Council and 
NMFS have information on the cost of acquiring charter halibut limited 
access permits from a limited number of transactions, but the 
information does not indicate how these vessel costs apply to 
individual operators in Areas 2C and 3A. Charter operators also bear 
advertising, promotional, and support costs, which cannot be quantified 
with available information. The estimates of gross revenues for 
representative charter operations in Area 2C and Area 3A were based on 
the number of charter trips and charter anglers reported in ADF&G 
saltwater charter logbooks from 2005 through 2010 and on average rates 
charged for charter trips determined from a sample of individual 
charter operations in both areas.
    As described in the response to Comment 5, the Council and 
Secretary of Commerce recognize that changing the formula for of 
allocating halibut to the charter sectors in Areas 2C and 3A under the 
CSP could result in a smaller allocation to the charter sector at 
relatively low levels of halibut abundance relative to the status quo 
GHL program. The Analysis demonstrates that such harvest constraints 
could result in reduced gross revenues for charter operators. For 
example, section 2.6 of the Analysis shows that in Area 2C, declines in 
estimates of gross revenue coincided with a reduction in the daily bag 
limit for charter anglers in 2009 that was implemented to reduce 
charter harvest from levels that exceeded the GHL. However, the 
Analysis also notes that the connection between halibut available to 
the charter sector and resulting vessel revenues is less direct in the 
charter sector than in the commercial sector. While management measures 
governing charter harvest are intended to constrain total catch through 
their effects on individual anglers' harvests as well as on the demand 
for charter fishing trips, there are also other factors that affect 
supply and demand of charter trips, such as the state of the economy in 
general.
    The Council considered the anticipated effects of the CSP on the 
allocation to the charter sector at all levels of abundance (section 
2.5 of the Analysis), and the potential impacts on the charter sector 
(section 2.6 of the Analysis). The Analysis shows that estimated gross 
revenues exceeded the average charter halibut permit price in both 
areas from 2005 through 2010. This was also the case for Area 2C 
following implementation of the one-fish daily bag limit in 2009.
    The Council recommended that the CSP include other measures to 
mitigate the potential negative economic impacts to the charter sector 
of a constraining allocation under the CSP. First, the Council 
identified a responsive process for annually determining management 
measures for the charter sector. This process will use the most recent 
halibut stock assessment information, data from the recently completed 
charter fishing season, and input from charter fishery stakeholders to 
facilitate a recommendation for a management measure to restrict 
charter harvest that is intended to limit the sector to its allocation 
while minimizing negative impacts on charter angler demand by 
maintaining desirable fishing opportunities. Second, the Council 
recommended that NMFS authorize the use of halibut IFQ as GAF in the 
Area 2C and 3A charter halibut fishery to mitigate the negative impacts 
of halibut harvest constraints in the charter sector by providing a 
mechanism for charter anglers to increase halibut harvest when their 
daily bag limit is reduced.
    Section 2.6 of the Analysis describes why it is not possible to 
provide quantitative estimates of the national or regional economic 
impacts of the alternatives considered with available information. A 
quantitative economic impact analysis would require information on the 
contributions to national or regional benefits associated with all 
sources of commercial removals (commercial, charter, and bycatch in 
non-directed fisheries), as well as the effects these removals may have 
on all users of the halibut resource, including unguided sport and 
subsistence users. This information is not available for the halibut 
fisheries off Alaska. Additionally, the analysis would require detailed 
information on costs and expenditures for operators in the commercial 
and charter fisheries as well as demand for charter trips and angler 
willingness-to-pay for trips. This information is not available for the 
halibut fisheries off Alaska.
    Comment 121: The CSP will do irreparable harm to tourism-dependent 
businesses and communities. A variety of charter fishing businesses and 
tourism support businesses (e.g., airlines, hotels, fish processors, 
taxis, restaurants) are patronized by charter vessel anglers that will 
suffer severe economic harm if anglers choose not to return to Alaska 
to fish for halibut under the CSP. Many charter businesses will be 
forced to close, which would also result in the closure of supporting 
businesses in Alaskan communities. The charter halibut fishery benefits 
Alaskan communities more than the commercial halibut fishery. The CSP 
will hurt small charter businesses in favor of large commercial halibut 
fishing businesses.
    Response: As described in the response to Comment 136 and in 
sections 2.6 and 2.7 of the Analysis, both the commercial halibut 
fishery and the charter halibut fishery contribute to the economic base 
of coastal communities in Alaska. While it is not possible to quantify 
or directly compare the economic contributions provided by each sector 
to regional or local economies with available information, the Council 
and NMFS have considered the contribution of each fishery to Alaskan 
communities and the likely impacts of the CSP on affected fishery 
participants and communities. While CSP allocations to the charter 
sector may constrain charter harvest at lower levels of abundance, 
lower catch limits for the commercial halibut fishery at lower halibut 
abundance levels will also have negative economic impacts on commercial 
participants (see section 2.6.1.2 of the Analysis). As described in the 
response to Comment 1, the CSP allocations implemented by this final 
rule will allow the charter halibut fishery to fully benefit from 
increases in halibut abundance by receiving larger poundage 
allocations. NMFS notes that like most charter halibut operations in 
Areas 2C and 3A, many commercial halibut fishing operations are small 
businesses as described below in the FRFA in the Classification section 
in this final rule.
    Comment 122: The economic benefit of the commercial sector in 
Alaska far outweighs the total economic benefit of the charter 
industry.
    Response: Section 2.6 of the Analysis describes why it is not 
possible to provide quantitative estimates of the national or regional 
economic impacts of the alternatives considered with available 
information, including a comparison of the economic impacts of

[[Page 75877]]

the charter and commercial sectors. As described in the response to 
Comment 120, the Analysis uses the best available information to 
describe the costs and benefits of the CSP accruing to the commercial 
and charter halibut sectors in Areas 2C and 3A. Also see the response 
to Comment 121.
    Comment 123: Charter fishing will be cost-prohibitive under the 
CSP, especially if charter vessel anglers are forced to buy GAF to 
augment the bag limit for guided anglers.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges that charter vessel anglers may be 
negatively impacted by charter management measures implemented under 
the CSP at low levels of halibut abundance. However, as described in 
the response to Comment 1, the CSP allocations implemented by this 
final rule are intended to provide charter harvest opportunities that 
considers historic and present harvest rates. The CSP will allow the 
charter halibut fishery to fully benefit from increases in halibut 
abundance by receiving larger poundage allocations. Charter anglers 
would be negatively impacted at lower levels of halibut abundance if 
they derive less satisfaction from charter vessel fishing trips on 
which they can retain fewer halibut or halibut of a smaller size, but 
the opportunity to harvest halibut is not the only factor affecting the 
demand for guided saltwater sport charters. Other factors such as 
overall economic conditions or fuel prices also affect demand for 
charter vessel fishing trips (see section 1.7.5 of the Analysis). Thus, 
the demand for charter trips could decline even without additional 
charter harvest restrictions under the CSP. Section 8.1 of the Analysis 
describes that charter businesses provide the necessary guiding 
services, fishing equipment, and knowledge to give charter anglers the 
opportunity to harvest halibut and other species. Anglers have a number 
of different reasons for purchasing charter vessel fishing trips and 
would be impacted differently by reduced or increased catch limits for 
the charter sector, depending on the allocation and management measures 
that are in place. Some charter anglers are less interested in taking 
home a large amount of halibut, because of storage and shipping 
expenses, for example, and are more interested in the Alaska fishing 
experience.
    NMFS notes that GAF is a voluntary program for anglers who wish to 
retain additional halibut when the daily bag limit in effect for 
charter anglers is less than two halibut of any size. As described in 
the response to Comment 7, the Council did not intend for GAF to 
provide a mechanism to replace reductions in the charter allocation 
relative to historical or current harvest levels.
    Comment 124: The Council's purpose and need statement for the CSP 
states that in some areas, community stability may be affected as 
traditional sport, subsistence, and commercial IFQ fishermen are 
displaced by CHP holders. It goes on to state that the uncertainty 
associated with the present situation and the conflicts that are 
occurring between the various user groups may also be impacting 
community welfare. How will community stability be affected if the 
charter halibut fishery, particularly in specific ports, is 
dramatically reduced or completely eliminated? Does empirical evidence 
suggest that traditional sport, subsistence, and commercial IFQ 
fisherman have been displaced by CHP holders since 2011, when the most 
conservative management measures were adopted?
    Response: The anticipated impacts of the alternatives on 
communities are analyzed in sections 1.7.5, 2.7, 7, and 8.5 of the 
Analysis. The Council and NMFS recognize that at low levels of halibut 
abundance, the CSP allocation to the charter sector may constrain 
harvest relative to historical levels. However, as described in the 
response to Comment 1, the CSP allocations implemented by this final 
rule will allow the charter halibut fishery to fully benefit from 
increases in halibut abundance by receiving larger poundage 
allocations. The Council considered recent charter harvest levels in 
both areas when recommending the CSP allocations, including 2011 and 
2012, years in which charter anglers in Area 2C were restricted by a 
daily bag limit of one halibut that was subject to a size limit. Based 
on the available information for halibut stock levels, recent charter 
harvests, and the estimated impacts of the CSP on the charter sector in 
section 2.6 of the Analysis, the Council and NMFS do not anticipate 
that the charter fishery will be dramatically reduced or eliminated 
under the CSP. Also see the response to Comment 7.
    Comment 125: The king salmon fishery has declined in recent years, 
hurting charter businesses. The CSP will further hurt charter 
businesses by restricting halibut harvest.
    Response: The Council and NMFS recognize that anglers in Area 2C 
and Area 3A harvest a number of other species in addition to halibut on 
charter vessel fishing trips, as described in section 1.7 of the 
Analysis. At low levels of abundance, the CSP allocation to the charter 
sector may constrain harvest relative to historic levels. However, as 
described in the response to Comment 1, the CSP allocations implemented 
by this final rule will allow the charter halibut fishery to fully 
benefit from increases in halibut abundance by receiving larger 
poundage allocations.
    Comment 126: The CSP fails to allow anglers the opportunity to 
access a public resource at an affordable price. The CSP would 
implement a plan that lessens the freedom of the public to harvest fish 
for their own dinner tables. Many people choose to hire charter vessel 
guides to take them fishing for the primary purpose of stocking their 
freezers to feed themselves and their families. Some choose to hire 
charters because owning their own boat is too expensive or transporting 
a boat to Alaska is impractical. Under the CSP, anglers will no longer 
be able to catch enough fish to justify the expense of a charter trip. 
They will be forced to either purchase an additional charter trip, or 
buy commercially caught fish and both of these options are cost 
prohibitive.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges that at low levels of abundance, the 
CSP allocation to the charter sector may constrain charter harvest 
relative to historic levels. However, as described in the response to 
Comment 1, management of the charter fishery under the GHL program 
resulted in the commercial fishery bearing a disproportionate amount of 
the declines in halibut exploitable biomass relative to the charter 
sector. This changing proportional allocation of a fully utilized 
halibut resource between the sectors under the GHL program created 
instability between user groups that the Council sought to address with 
the commercial and charter sector halibut allocations implemented by 
this final rule. This action is intended to maintain stability, 
economic viability, and diversity of halibut user groups by addressing 
allocation conflicts between participants in the commercial and charter 
halibut fisheries. The Secretary of Commerce has determined that the 
CSP allocations are consistent with the Council's objectives as 
described in its problem statement and the purpose and need for the CSP 
described in section 1.2 of the Analysis.
    NMFS notes that charter vessels are not the only way that the 
public can access the halibut resource. The commercial fishery provides 
access to halibut to those who prefer to purchase it in grocery stores 
or restaurants. The subsistence fishery provides access to harvest 
halibut by those who qualify to

[[Page 75878]]

conduct subsistence halibut fishing. Unguided recreational fishing also 
is a means of public access to the halibut resource. This rule does not 
constrain or limit any of these other means of public access to the 
halibut resource.
    As described in the response to Comment 129, the opportunity to 
harvest halibut is not the only factor affecting the demand for guided 
saltwater sport charters and therefore, the cost to anglers of taking a 
charter vessel fishing trip. Other than acknowledging the potential for 
reduced demand for charter vessel fishing trips under constraining 
charter sector catch limits, as was done in the Analysis, NMFS cannot 
predict the number of charter vessel anglers that will choose to not 
take a charter vessel fishing trip as a direct result of this final 
rule.
    Comment 127: There is no annual consideration or reciprocity from 
the commercial sector to the charter sector for loss of business. 
Should the CSP be implemented, it should be conditional upon annual 
reimbursement of the losses shown by the charter and affiliated 
interests.
    Response: As described in the response to Comment 7, the Council 
faced the challenge of balancing historical halibut harvests, economic 
impacts to the commercial and charter sectors, and the declining 
halibut biomass in Area 2C and in Area 3A as it developed the CSP. As a 
result, it is not possible for any allocation consistent with the 
Council's CSP objectives to make participants in both fisheries whole 
economically given current halibut abundance levels. Given the lack of 
information on gross revenues and operating costs for individual 
charter businesses in Areas 2C and 3A (see section 2.6 of the 
Analysis), it is not clear how the annual reimbursement mechanism 
suggested by the commenter would function. However, suggestions for 
revisions to the CSP could be made to the Council for future 
consideration.
    Comment 128: The CSP benefits non-US companies that pay no taxes at 
expense of local residents and businesses.
    Response: The IFQ Program regulations at Sec.  679.4 governing the 
commercial halibut fisheries in Area 2C and Area 3A require all halibut 
and sablefish quota share holders to be U.S. citizens. Although a 
limited number of charter halibut permits were initially issued to non-
US charter businesses based on their history of participation in the 
Area 2C and Area 3A charter halibut fisheries, regulations at Sec.  
300.67(i)(2)(i) specify that only U.S. citizens or a U.S. business with 
a minimum of 75 percent U.S. ownership are eligible to receive a 
charter halibut permit by transfer.
    NMFS does not have information available to determine the location 
where taxes are paid. However, most of the commercial and charter 
operations regulated by the CSP are active in Alaska and Washington 
(see section 7.1 of the Analysis). Most, if not all, of these 
businesses are defined as small businesses under the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act (see FRFA in the Classification section of this rule). 
This definition has the same meaning as ``small business concern'' 
which is defined under section 3 of the Small Business Act. The Small 
Business Act has further defined a ``small business concern'' as one 
``organized for profit, with a place of business located in the United 
States, and which operates primarily within the United States or which 
makes a significant contribution to the U.S. economy through payment of 
taxes or use of American products, materials, or labor.''
    Comment 129: Continue to manage the Area 2C and Area 3A charter 
halibut fishery with the GHL program, even though it has resulted in a 
reduction in the long-term historic proportion of the halibut fishery 
available to the commercial sector in those areas. Participants in the 
commercial halibut fishery and consumers are less negatively impacted 
by reductions in catch limits than participants in the charter halibut 
fishery. The market price for halibut usually goes up when the supply 
goes down, providing for a somewhat stable bottom line for commercial 
halibut harvesters. Declines in commercial halibut catch limits do not 
impact consumers because halibut make up only a very small proportion 
of the fish that Americans eat, and consumers may substitute other 
white fish from farmed or wild sources. In contrast, the charter sector 
cannot charge more when charter sector catch limits are reduced.
    Response: As described in the response to Comment 1, the Council 
and NMFS replaced the GHL in Areas 2C and 3A with commercial and 
charter sector allocations that vary directly with halibut abundance 
and that balance the differing needs of the charter and commercial 
halibut fisheries over a wide range of abundance.
    Section 8.1 of the Analysis notes that research conducted on the 
price flexibility of Alaska halibut suggests that changes in ex-vessel 
price that result from increasing or decreasing the amount of 
commercial harvest in Areas 2C and 3A under the CSP are expected to be 
very small. Halibut caught in Area 2C and Area 3A directed commercial 
fisheries compete with halibut harvested from California to the Bering 
Sea in a regional and international market. Prices in this market are 
determined by overall supply, the prices of substitute goods, income, 
exchange rates, inventories, and other factors. Area 2C and Area 3A 
commercial fishermen only contribute a part of the overall market 
supply, and thus a change in their production is unlikely to have an 
impact on the prices that consumers pay for commercially caught 
halibut.
    Comment 130: Commercially caught halibut is cost prohibitive and of 
lesser quality than sport-caught fish. The CSP will make commercial 
halibut less affordable in the marketplace because there will be less 
competition from charter anglers.
    Response: NMFS has no information suggesting that the CSP will make 
commercial halibut less affordable in the marketplace because there 
will be less competition from charter anglers, or that the quality of 
commercial halibut is inferior to that of sport-caught halibut. As 
described in the response to Comment 129, commercial halibut prices are 
determined by overall supply, the prices of substitute goods, income, 
exchange rates, inventories, and other factors. Area 2C and Area 3A 
commercial fishermen only contribute a part of the overall market 
supply of halibut, and thus a change in their production is unlikely to 
have an impact on the prices that consumers pay for commercially caught 
halibut.
    Comment 131: The CSP provides stability for the public's access to 
sustainable seafood (via markets). The commercial fishery annually 
provides 44 times more Americans access to the halibut resource than 
the charter fishery and the global demand for commercial halibut 
continues to grow.
    Response: As described in the response to Comment 129, halibut 
caught in the Area 2C and Area 3A directed commercial fisheries 
contribute only a part of the overall market supply in the United 
States and an even smaller part globally. The Council and the Secretary 
of Commerce considered the expected impacts of the CSP on consumers of 
halibut (see section 8.4 of the Analysis).
    Comment 132: When commercial fishermen invested in quota shares, 
they did not buy a guaranteed number of pounds, but rather a share of 
the allowable catch limit. Charter operators have also made a 
substantial investment in their businesses and that investment should 
also be protected.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment and agrees that 
participants in

[[Page 75879]]

the charter halibut fisheries in Area 2C and Area 3A have made 
substantial investments in their business operations. NMFS also notes 
that participants in the commercial halibut fisheries in Areas 2C and 
3A have also made substantial investments in their business operations. 
Section 1.7.1.6 of the Analysis describes the commercial halibut 
fisheries and explains that the IFQ Program assigns the privilege of 
harvesting a percentage of the halibut total allowable catches to QS 
holders, and that these percentages vary annually with changes in 
allowable harvest levels. As described in the response to Comment 120, 
the Council and Secretary of Commerce considered the analysis of the 
costs and benefits of this action accruing to the commercial and 
charter halibut sectors in Areas 2C and 3A (section 2.6 of the 
Analysis), and have determined that the CSP is necessary to achieve the 
halibut fishery management goals of the Council.
    Comment 133: The number of sport fishing licenses sold by ADF&G has 
been declining. The CSP will result in further declines in the number 
of sport fishing licenses purchased and have negative impacts on the 
ADF&G budget.
    Response: Because factors other than harvest restrictions affect 
demand for charter vessel fishing trips, NMFS cannot quantify the 
extent to which constraining charter halibut harvests at low levels of 
halibut abundance will reduce demand for sport fishing licenses issued 
for use on charter vessel fishing trips. Declines in demand could occur 
even without additional charter harvest restrictions when halibut 
abundance is low. Conversely, NMFS cannot quantify the extent to which 
increasing charter halibut harvests at high levels of halibut abundance 
will increase demand for sport fishing licenses and charter trips. NMFS 
agrees that reductions in the sale of sport fishing licenses may result 
in reduced revenue to the ADF&G and may have a negative impact on the 
agency's revenue and budget.
    Comment 134: Many IFQ holders have purchased their quota share, 
which has lost value, while charter operators have no investment in QS. 
The Area 2C commercial sector has lost 6-7 percent of its allocation to 
the charter sector under the GHL program. The commenter also provided 
estimates of the income loss to a commercial QS holder and to the Area 
2C commercial fishery as a whole. Participants in both sectors derive 
income from a public resource, and NMFS must consider the costs to 
participate in each fishery.
    Response: Although NMFS agrees that Area 2C and Area 3A charter 
halibut operators are not required to invest in QS to maintain their 
charter halibut operations, NMFS acknowledges that charter halibut 
operators have made substantial investments in their business 
operations. Section 2.6.1.1 of the Analysis describes the primary costs 
associated with charter operations, including the costs of obtaining 
charter halibut limited access permits. Section 2.6.1.2 of the analysis 
discusses the economic impacts that catch limit reductions have had on 
commercial halibut fishery participants in Area 2C and Area 3A. As 
described in the response to Comment 120, the Council and Secretary of 
Commerce considered the analysis of the costs and benefits of this 
action accruing to the commercial and charter halibut sectors in Areas 
2C and 3A, and have determined that the CSP is necessary to achieve the 
halibut fishery management goals of the Council. Also see the response 
to Comment 138.
    Comment 135: The number of bottomfish charter trips has declined 
significantly between 2006 and 2012 in both Area 2C (19 percent) and 
Area 3A (20 percent). While Area 2C charter operators blame this 
decline on more restrictive management measures, the Area 3A management 
measures have not changed in those years, but the decline in number of 
trips is similar. This suggests that changing national economic 
conditions are the driving force behind reduced demand for charter 
services, not regulatory change.
    Response: NMFS agrees that a number of factors, including the 
harvest restrictions in place for charter vessel anglers, affect demand 
for charter halibut fishing trips. Also see the response to Comment 120 
and section 1.7.5 of the Analysis.
    Comment 136: Commercial halibut fishing does not benefit the State 
of Alaska because the majority of IFQ holders are from out of state.
    Response: Based on owners' self-reported business mailing 
addresses, as of August 1, 2013, more than 77 percent of IFQ holders 
were designated as Alaskan; however, NMFS makes no effort to 
independently verify residency. Regardless of the state of residency, 
charter and commercial fishery operations in Alaska economically 
benefit their local communities. Like the charter industry, the 
commercial halibut fishery provides jobs, tax revenue, revenue to local 
businesses (e.g., marinas, restaurants, stores), and other economic 
benefits to local Alaskan communities (see section 2.7 of the 
Analysis). The commercial fishery also benefits the nation with a 
consistent and reliable supply of halibut.
    Comment 137: Since 2004, the Area 2C commercial quotas were cut by 
75 percent while the Area 3A commercial quotas have been reduced by 56 
percent. These cuts have resulted in substantial economic losses to 
commercial harvesters, processors, and marketers, as well as reduced 
access to the halibut resource for consumers. The comparable GHL cuts 
were 44 percent in Area 2C and 25 percent in Area 3A.
    Response: Sections 1.7.1.2 and 2.6.1.2 of the Analysis discuss the 
impacts of declining halibut exploitable biomass on commercial catch 
limits and the economic impacts these catch limit reductions have had 
on commercial halibut fishery participants in Area 2C and Area 3A. As 
described in the proposed rule and in the response to Comment 1, the 
Council and NMFS recognize that management of the charter fishery under 
the GHL program resulted in the commercial fishery bearing a 
disproportionate amount of the declines in halibut exploitable biomass 
relative to the charter sector. The Council sought to address this 
changing proportional allocation of a fully utilized halibut resource 
between the sectors under the GHL by recommending the CSP allocations 
implemented by this final rule.
    Comment 138: The GHL has resulted in a reallocation of halibut to 
the charter sector. This reallocation has had a negative economic 
impact on my family's income as well as on the local economy. When I 
purchased quota share, I did not anticipate this reallocation to 
another sector.
    Response: The Council and NMFS recognize that management of the 
charter fishery under the GHL program resulted in the commercial 
fishery bearing a disproportionate amount of the recent declines in 
halibut exploitable biomass relative to the charter sector (see 
response to Comment 1). Section 2.6.1.2 of the analysis discusses the 
economic impacts these catch limit reductions have had on commercial 
halibut fishery participants in Area 2C and Area 3A. Section 2.6.1.2 of 
the analysis presents six gross revenue and QS cost scenarios (three 
for Area 2C and three for Area 3A), each from 2003 to 2011. The 
scenarios provide information concerning the changes in revenue streams 
and QS value that arise from recent changes in halibut prices and 
declines in commercial catch limits resulting from reduced halibut 
exploitable biomass.
    The analysis shows that in recent years QS holders in Area 2C were 
estimated to have experienced losses in gross revenues from their 
holdings. A portion of this decline likely has been

[[Page 75880]]

offset by increased halibut prices. Despite these price increases, 
revenues from halibut QS holdings were estimated to have declined in 
2011 to substantially less than 2003 levels. Persons who purchased 
halibut QS, particularly at peak values in the mid-2000s, have seen the 
value of their holdings decline substantially. The Area 3A scenarios 
follow a slightly different pattern than the Area 2C scenarios because 
the magnitude of the decline in the Area 3A exploitable biomass and 
commercial catch limits is substantially less than the changes in Area 
2C. Although increased halibut prices likely have also offset losses in 
gross revenues for commercial halibut QS holders in Area 3A, the 
scenarios estimate that QS holders have experienced losses in QS value 
since 2008. The Council and NMFS considered this information in 
developing the CSP implemented by this final rule.

Conservation

    Comment 139: The CSP does not promote conservation. The proposed 
rule and Analysis both concede that the CSP will not affect 
conservation of the halibut stock; rather, the purpose of the rule is 
allocation of the halibut resource among competing user groups. The 
Halibut Act requires that any allocation must be reasonably calculated 
to promote conservation.
    Response: Although resolving allocation disputes is an objective of 
the CSP, NMFS disagrees that the CSP will not promote conservation. The 
CSP promotes conservation by establishing a more stable allocation 
between the sectors and fostering a more easily managed charter halibut 
fishery. Separate accountability for wastage also promotes conservation 
by encouraging better handling of discarded fish by both the commercial 
and charter sectors (see responses to Comment 32 and Comment 35).
    Comment 140: It seems there is more interest in making sure the 
charter and commercial sectors are made whole from an economic 
perspective than preserving the halibut stock.
    Response: The CSP establishes Area 2C and Area 3A sector 
allocations from a combined catch limit (CCL). The CCL is derived by 
applying a conservative target harvest rate to the best estimate of 
exploitable biomass (see Figure 1, above), resulting in an 
appropriately conservative annual catch from the fisheries. See the 
responses to Comment 139 and Comment 7.
    Comment 141: The CSP results in all sectors sharing in the 
conservation of the halibut at all levels of abundance.
    Response: NMFS agrees that under the CSP both the charter and 
commercial sectors will share in conservation of the halibut resource.
    Comment 142: The IPHC's treatment of charter harvest overages of 
the GHL confirms that halibut conservation is not the issue. Since 
2007, the IPHC has deducted the GHL, not actual charter halibut 
harvest, from the Total CEY to obtain the Fishery CEY.
    Response: The IPHC deducted the GHL from the Total CEY in 
accordance with the Council's domestic allocation policy implemented in 
the GHL regulations (see the response to Comment 1). The IPHC 
incorporated charter harvest overages and underages of the GHL into the 
stock assessment for sustainable management and conservation of the 
resource as described in the response to Comment 21).
    Comment 143: Commercial catch limits have been decreasing not 
because of increased guided recreational catch, but because the 
exploitable biomass has been decreasing: This is largely because the 
IPHC has been setting commercial catch limits that IPHC's scientific 
staff admits have been too high to be sustainable.
    Response: Commercial catch limits have declined in recent years as 
a result of declining halibut exploitable biomass. The Pacific halibut 
stock has been declining continuously over much of the last decade as a 
result of factors including decreasing size-at-age and poor recruitment 
strengths (see response to Comment 28). The factors resulting in the 
decreasing size-at-age and poor recruitment strengths are not 
understood. The IPHC takes a conservative model-based approach in 
setting the commercial fishery catch limits for the areas in and off 
Alaska. As described in the ``Catch Sharing Plan for Area 2C and Area 
3A'' section above, the IPHC accounts for all removals, including 
removals in other fisheries, when setting catch limits for the directed 
commercial IFQ longline fishery. Section 1.7.1 of the Analysis 
describes the IPHC's stock assessment and harvest policy processes.
    Comment 144: The halibut biomass is healthy; therefore, further 
reductions to the charter fishery are unnecessary.
    Response: The Pacific halibut stock has been declining continuously 
over much of the last decade as a result of factors including 
decreasing size-at-age and poor recruitment strengths (see response to 
Comment 28). As described in the response to Comment 1, one of the 
objectives for the CSP is to establish a comprehensive management 
program for the charter halibut fisheries in Area 2C and Area 3A with 
sector allocations that balance the differing needs of the charter and 
commercial sectors over the wide range of abundance, and that increase 
or decrease (``float'') with varying levels of halibut abundance.
    Comment 145: Both sectors' allocations should be cut in half until 
the halibut stock recovers.
    Response: The Council's rationale for its CSP allocation formula is 
summarized in the response to Comment 1. The Council recommended CSP 
allocations to balance historical harvest levels and economic impacts 
to the charter and commercial fisheries at all halibut stock abundance 
levels.
    Comment 146: The charter halibut fleets in Area 2C and 3A have 
conserved more than one million pounds of halibut in the last three 
years through GHL underages.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges that charter harvests have been below 
the GHLs in Area 2C and 3A in recent years and that those underages 
benefited the stock and all sectors because the biomass estimation for 
the subsequent year began at a higher level (see response to Comment 
21).
    Comment 147: The CSP will do long-term harm to society by limiting 
the public's opportunity to experience the wonders of Alaska, learn 
about the marine environment, and become advocates for sound fisheries 
policies.
    Response: NMFS disagrees. One of the objectives for the CSP is 
establishment of sector allocations that balance the differing needs of 
the charter and commercial sectors over a wide range of halibut 
abundance, and that float with varying levels of halibut abundance. To 
accomplish this objective, the Council and NMFS replaced the GHL with 
sector allocations that vary directly with fluctuations in halibut 
abundance. The charter sector's allocation will be reduced in years of 
low abundance, while it will be increased in years of high abundance. 
Even in years of low abundance, charter anglers will continue to have 
opportunities to enjoy the outdoor experience from charter vessels in 
Areas 2C and 3A.
    Comment 148: Further restrictions on halibut bag limits for charter 
vessel anglers will shift fishing pressure to other species like king 
salmon, lingcod, and rockfish.
    Response: NMFS notes that this final rule does not implement any 
changes to the bag limits that currently apply to charter vessel 
anglers. The Council and NMFS have taken into account the capability of 
halibut charter vessels to be used in other fisheries and recognize 
that anglers aboard charter vessels in Area 2C and Area 3A harvest a 
number

[[Page 75881]]

of other species in addition to halibut on charter vessel fishing 
trips, as described in section 1.7 of the Analysis. ADF&G manages and 
monitors the sport fisheries for salmon, lingcod, and rockfish, and 
restrict harvest to meet biological management goals. NMFS does not 
anticipate the CSP will significantly increase the harvest of these 
other species (see section 1.7.2.2 of the Analysis).

General

    Comment 149: NMFS received several requests to extend the public 
comment period on the proposed rule. A 45-day comment period was 
considered inadequate because of the length and complexity of the rule 
and supporting analysis, and because the comment period coincides with 
the busy summer fishing season. Commenters requested extensions of 
various lengths, up to an additional 60 days.
    Response: NMFS considered the requests to extend the proposed rule 
comment period, recognizing the concern of those fishermen who might be 
out on the water during the comment period. To allow for greater 
opportunity for public input, NMFS granted an extension for 14 days 
until August 26, 2013 (78 FR 44920, July 25, 2013). A longer extension 
would have jeopardized NMFS' ability to prepare and publish the final 
rule in time to implement the CSP for the 2014 fishing season. In 
recommending the CSP, the Council urged NMFS to implement the CSP for 
the 2014 fishing season to provide stability for affected halibut 
fishery participants.
    Comment 150: Anglers and small communities were not given adequate 
notice or opportunity to comment on the CSP. What steps has NOAA taken 
to inform the guided angler of the comment period on this regulation?
    Response: NMFS believes that the public has been given sufficient 
notice and ample opportunity to comment on the CSP. The Council first 
began considering options to manage the charter fishery in the late 
1990s, in response to the rapid and steady growth of the charter 
halibut industry in Areas 2C and 3A. A complete history of charter 
halibut management was detailed in the preamble of the proposed rule 
for the Charter Halibut Limited Access Program (74 FR 18178, April 21, 
2009) and is not repeated here.
    The Council began deliberating allocation options for a CSP for the 
commercial and charter halibut fisheries in 2006 (http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/npfmc/halibut/charter-management.html). Since 
2006, elements of the CSP have been on the agenda for discussion and 
Council action at no fewer than 12 Council meetings, where the public 
was given the opportunity to attend, testify, or submit written 
comments. Council meeting agenda items are available on the Council's 
Web site up to nine months in advance. As described in the response to 
Comment 107, the Council has also formed a number of committees since 
1998 to provide management recommendations for the Area 2C and Area 3A 
charter halibut fisheries.
    A proposed rule for a CSP was first published in July 2011, 
garnering several thousand public comments. NMFS modified this version 
of the CSP in response to some of those comments. The proposed rule for 
this revised CSP was published on June 28, 2013 (78 FR 39122). Prior to 
publication in the Federal Register, NMFS issued a press release and 
posted a notice on its Web page. This press release was distributed by 
several state and regional news outlets. Both rulemakings garnered wide 
media coverage. NMFS received a large number of public comments sent 
from of anglers, commercial harvesters, charter operators, and 
community interests across a broad geographic range.
    Comment 151: Federal regulations do not give the price or value of 
fish which NMFS requires in the IFQ cost recovery assessment. 
Publishing such data would help the consumer understand the cost of 
halibut in the market place.
    Response: The proposed rule for the CSP describes how NMFS collects 
fees directly related to the management, data collection, and 
enforcement of the IFQ Program, consistent with regulations at Sec.  
679.45. Page 39143 of the proposed rule describes that NMFS uses data 
reported by Registered Buyers to compute annual standard ex-vessel IFQ 
prices by month and port (or, if confidential, by port group). These 
standard prices are published in the Federal Register each year. The 
standard prices for the 2012 IFQ fisheries were published on December 
4, 2012 (77 FR 71783).
    Comment 152: Continue to manage the charter sector to the GHL until 
the ``pool plan'' can be implemented.
    Response: The comment refers to public testimony that the Council 
received at its October 2012 meeting. The testimony from charter sector 
representatives indicated that they were developing a proposal intended 
to supplement the annual CSP allocation of halibut to the Area 2C and 
3A charter sectors (pool plan). The representatives indicated that the 
pool plan proposal would be provided to the Council at a future 
meeting. Based on the description provided in October 2012, the pool 
plan would authorize an entity acting on behalf of the charter sector 
to purchase halibut quota share from commercial halibut fishery 
participants and hold the QS in a ``common pool'' for harvest in the 
charter halibut fishery by all anglers. The Council heard testimony 
that the developers intended for this plan to be an alternative to the 
GAF program in the future. See the ``Guided Angler Fish (GAF)'' section 
above for a description of the GAF program and the response to Comment 
7 for the Council's rationale for recommending the GAF program. The 
Council recommended the CSP in October 2012 prior to presentation or 
analysis of the pool plan proposal; therefore, the pool program was not 
included among the alternatives considered for the CSP.
    As described in the response to Comment 1, the GHL does not meet 
the Council's allocation objectives for managing the charter halibut 
fisheries in Areas 2C and 3A. At any point in the future, charter 
sector representatives can request the Council to consider a pool plan 
or any proposal to modify the CSP.
    Comment 153: The Charter Halibut Limited Access Program has been 
effective at limiting the charter industry and further constraints are 
unwarranted at this time. There has not yet been enough time to 
evaluate the effectiveness of the CHLAP in limiting harvest.
    Response: The Council had different halibut management objectives 
for the CHLAP and the CSP as described in section 1.2 of the Analysis. 
The Council determined, and NMFS agrees, that both programs are 
necessary to meet its management objectives for the charter halibut 
fishery.
    NMFS received a number of public comments raising issues outside 
the scope of this action. These comments included proposals relating to 
the following issues: Additional regulations governing commercial 
harvest, subsistence harvest, and unguided recreational harvest; 
specific management measures to maintain charter harvest within the CSP 
charter halibut allocations in Areas 2C and 3A; development of a 
charter halibut IFQ management program; additional regulations limiting 
the number of guides eligible to provide charter halibut guiding 
services; additional regulations addressing possible localized 
depletion of halibut in specific areas; additional regulatory 
restrictions on halibut bycatch in other directed fisheries; 
prohibition of sport halibut derbies (fishing contests); regulations 
limiting ownership and operation of commercial fish processors in 
Alaska to

[[Page 75882]]

Alaskan residents; and delegation of halibut management authority to 
the State of Alaska. NMFS invites the commenters to raise these issues 
to the Council for its consideration.
    NMFS also received numerous comments recommending approval and 
implementation of the CSP.

VI. OMB Revisions to Paperwork Reduction Act References in 15 CFR 
902.1(b)

    Section 3507(c)(B)(i) of the PRA requires that agencies inventory 
and display a current control number assigned by the Director, OMB, for 
each agency information collection. 15 CFR 902.1(b) identifies the 
location of NOAA regulations for which OMB approval numbers have been 
issued. Because this final rule revises and adds data elements within 
collections-of-information for recordkeeping and reporting 
requirements, 15 CFR 902.1(b) is revised to reference correctly the 
sections resulting from this final rule.

VII. Classification

    Section 5(c) of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 (Halibut 
Act, 16 U.S.C. 773c(c)) authorizes the regional fishery management 
council having authority for a particular geographical area to develop 
regulations governing fishing for halibut in U.S. Convention waters as 
long as those regulations are in addition to, and do not conflict with, 
IPHC regulations. This action is consistent with the Council's 
authority to develop, and the Secretary of Commerce to approve, such 
regulations. The Secretary has consulted with the U.S. Coast Guard on 
this action.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    An RIR/IRFA was prepared to assess costs and benefits of available 
regulatory alternatives. A copy of the Analysis is available from NMFS 
(see ADDRESSES).

Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA)

    A final regulatory flexibility analysis (FRFA) is required by the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act. This FRFA incorporates the initial 
regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) prepared for the proposed rule 
and addresses the applicable requirements of section 604(a) of the RFA. 
A statement of the need for, and objectives of, this final rule has 
already been provided earlier in the preamble to this final rule and is 
not repeated here.

Comments on the IRFA

    The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on June 28, 
2013 (78 FR 39122). An initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) 
was prepared and described in the Classification section of the 
proposed rule. The public comment period ended on August 26, 2013. NMFS 
received 4,740 communications raising 198 unique issues, 153 of which 
were within the scope of this action. Comments 126 through 144 address 
the economic impact of the rule on small entities. These comments and 
NMFS' responses are in the sections entitled, ``IV. Changes From the 
Proposed Rule'' and ``V. Comments and Responses'' of this preamble.
    No comments on the proposed rule were filed with NMFS by the Chief 
Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration.

Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities Regulated by 
the Action

    The universe of directly regulated entities for this action 
includes (a) holders of one or more charter halibut permits in Area 2C 
and Area 3A; (b) community quota entities that hold charter halibut 
permits and are authorized to use GAF; and (c) all commercial halibut 
quota share holders.
    The Small Business Administration (SBA) specifies that for marinas 
and charter or party vessels, a small business is one with annual 
receipts less than $7.0 million. The largest of these charter vessel 
operations, which are lodges, may be considered large entities under 
SBA standards, but that cannot be confirmed because NMFS does not have 
or collect economic data on lodges necessary to definitively determine 
total annual receipts. Thus, all charter vessel operations regulated by 
the proposed CSP would likely be considered small entities, based on 
SBA criteria, because they would be expected to have gross revenues of 
less than $7.0 million on an annual basis.
    In October 2012, NMFS published an implementation report for the 
charter halibut limited access program after all interim permits had 
been adjudicated and resolved. This report is available at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/ram/charter/chp_review1012.pdf. At the time 
of publication, a total of 972 charter halibut permits had been issued 
to 356 businesses in Area 2C and 439 businesses in Area 3A. Of these, 
372 charter halibut permits in Area 2C and 339 permits in Area 3A are 
transferable. A charter halibut permit holder may transfer a 
transferable permit, subject to NMFS approval, to a qualified person at 
any time. The exact number of charter businesses that would be 
regulated by the CSP therefore cannot be determined because some 
businesses hold CHPs in each regulatory area and may be counted twice, 
and because permits are continually being transferred, sold, or 
retired, or additional community charter halibut permits are being 
issued. As of October 2012, 107 community CHPs had been issued to 20 
CQEs, and 7 U.S. Military Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Program 
permits had been issued to 3 permit holders.
    Regulations that directly regulate entities representing small, 
remote communities in Areas 2C and 3A are included in this action. 
These regulations will authorize communities holding community charter 
halibut permits or regular charter halibut permits to use GAF as 
proposed under the CSP. GAF will offer charter vessel anglers in Area 
2C or Area 3A an opportunity to harvest halibut in addition to the 
halibut harvested under the charter halibut management measure, up to 
the harvest limits in place for unguided sport anglers in that area. 
Eligibility for community charter halibut permits required that the 
community be represented by a non-profit community quota entity 
approved by NMFS. Of the 22 CQEs that formed, 11 Area 2C communities 
were eligible and each received 4 halibut community CHPs and 9 Area 3A 
communities were eligible and each received 7 halibut community CHPs. A 
maximum of 18 communities in Area 2C and 14 communities in Area 3A are 
eligible to form CQEs and apply for charter halibut permits at any 
time. Therefore, there is a maximum of 32 eligible community entities 
that could be authorized by the action to use GAF. All of these 
eligible communities would be considered small entities under the SBA 
definitions.
    All halibut QS holders are directly regulated entities because cost 
recovery fees for the GAF program are levied to all QS holders, not 
just those with quota for Areas 2C and 3A. Commercial halibut QS 
holders are considered part of the Finfish Fishing industry for SBA 
purposes. On June 20, 2013, the SBA issued a final rule revising the 
small business size standards for several industries effective July 22, 
2013 (78 FR 37398, June 20, 2013). The rule increased the size standard 
for Finfish Fishing from $4.0 to 19.0 million.
    The IRFA for this action was prepared before these new size 
standards went into effect. NMFS has reviewed the IRFA prepared for 
this action in light of the new size standards. Under the old size 
standard, an estimated 2,737 QS holders were considered small entities, 
and 65 were classified as large entities. Because there are no data to 
directly link QS holders with all other fishery revenue they may 
generate, it is not possible to determine the number of

[[Page 75883]]

small entities with certainty. However, it is likely that many of the 
65 businesses formerly considered large entities may now be considered 
small entities under the new $19 million standard. If all 65 entities 
were reclassified as small entities, the maximum number of commercial 
halibut harvesters classified as small entities and directly regulated 
by this rule would be 2,802. Therefore, for purposes of this FRFA, all 
directly regulated entities are considered small entities. With this 
assumption, the new size standards could increase the number of small 
entities affected by this final rule. NMFS has identified no additional 
significant alternatives that accomplish statutory objectives and 
minimize any significant economic impacts of the proposed rule on small 
entities.

Description of the Alternatives Considered

    A FRFA must describe the steps the agency has taken to minimize the 
significant economic impact on small entities consistent with the 
stated objectives of the Halibut Act and other applicable statues, 
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 
that affect the impact on small entities was rejected.
    The status quo alternative (Alternative 1) specifies the GHL as a 
target amount of halibut that anglers in the charter fishery can 
harvest in Area 2C and Area 3A. However, charter halibut harvests that 
exceed the GHL may have a de facto allocation effect of reducing the 
amount of halibut that may be harvested by the commercial fishery in 
the following year. Additionally, charter halibut fishery harvests 
beyond the GHL also can undermine overall harvest strategy goals 
established by the IPHC for the halibut resource, which affects all 
users. The primary objectives of the CSP are to define an annual 
process for allocating halibut between the charter and commercial 
fisheries in Area 2C and Area 3A, establish allocations that balance 
the differing needs of the charter and commercial fisheries that vary 
with changing levels of annual halibut abundance, and specify a process 
for determining harvest restrictions for charter anglers that are 
intended to limit harvest to the annual charter fishery catch limit. 
The status quo does not meet the objectives of the CSP.
    The Council considered four alternatives to the status quo for the 
proposed CSP. Alternatives 2 through 5 all recommend the implementation 
of a CSP for Areas 2C and 3A with separate accountability by fishery 
for mortality of discarded fish, and a program to allow charter 
operators to lease IFQ from participants in the commercial halibut 
fishery, called the GAF program. Alternatives 2 through 5 all include 
fixed allocation percentages of a combined commercial and charter catch 
limit to the charter and commercial halibut fisheries. The Council 
determined that a fixed percentage allocation best met its objectives 
with the least impact to affected entities. Additionally, a fixed 
percentage allocation would be equitable because both the commercial 
and charter halibut fisheries would have allocations that vary with the 
abundance of the halibut resource. Thus, both the charter and 
commercial halibut fisheries would share in the benefits and costs of 
managing the resource for long-term sustainability under a CCL.
    The main differences among Alternatives 2 through 5 are in how the 
allocation percentages are set. Allocation percentages to the charter 
halibut fishery are the lowest under Alternative 2 and highest under 
Alternative 5. Alternatives 2 through 5 also differ in how annual 
charter halibut harvest restrictions would be implemented.
    Alternative 2 included allocation percentages that did not include 
upward adjustments for the switch from the Statewide Harvest Survey to 
ADF&G saltwater charter logbooks as the primary data source. 
Alternative 2 contained a pre-determined and fixed set of harvest 
restrictions that would have been triggered automatically under the CSP 
depending on the CCL determined each year by the IPHC. Alternative 2 
was not selected because the allocations to the charter halibut fishery 
were not deemed adequate to support charter fishing operations and the 
fixed harvest restrictions were determined to be too rigid and did not 
give managers enough discretion to modify those measures as needed to 
best achieve harvest objectives and minimize potential adverse economic 
impact.
    The CSP is concerned with the allocation of halibut among user 
groups composed almost entirely of small entities. Alternatives 3, 4, 
and 5 vary the allocation between charter operators and commercial 
fishermen in the halibut fisheries. These alternatives reflect 
different policy choices that would affect different groups of small 
entities, but would not differentially impact small entities compared 
to large entities.
    Alternatives 3, 4, and 5 did not prescribe annual charter harvest 
restrictions as part of the CSP. Instead, under these alternatives, 
charter harvest restrictions would continue to be set through a 
separate annual process of Council recommendations to the IPHC. This 
approach is detailed in the ``Annual Process for Setting Charter 
Management Measures'' section of the preamble to the proposed rule (78 
FR 39122, June 28, 2013). This approach was considered more flexible, 
responsive to the most recent information available on halibut 
removals, and allowed greater stakeholder input in the selection of 
annual harvest restrictions than the pre-determined and fixed set of 
harvest restrictions included in Alternative 2.
    Alternative 3 recommended a CSP with allocations to the charter 
halibut fishery that were increased from the Alternative 2 allocations 
to account for catch reporting using the saltwater charter logbook 
instead of the statewide harvest survey (SWHS). The Council selected 
Alternative 3 as its preferred alternative for Area 2C. The rationale 
for selecting Alternative 3 as the preferred alternative for Area 2C is 
provided in sections 1.6.6 and 1.6.7 of the Analysis and page 39130 of 
the proposed rule, and is not repeated here.
    Alternative 4 would establish allocations for the charter halibut 
fishery based on Alternative 2, plus an additional 3.5 percent of the 
CCL at lower CCL levels. Allocations under Alternative 4 were higher 
than Alternatives 2 and 3, but lower than Alternative 5. The Council 
selected Alternative 4 as its preferred alternative for Area 3A. The 
rationale for selecting Alternative 4 as the preferred alternative for 
Area 3A is provided in sections 1.6.6 and 1.6.7 of the Analysis and 
page 39130 of the proposed rule, and is not repeated here.
    Alternative 5 contained the largest allocations to the charter 
halibut fishery based on the allocations in Alternative 3, plus an 
additional 3.5 percent of the CCL. Alternative 5 was not chosen as the 
Council's preferred alternative because it did not meet the Council's 
objective to select an allocation that balanced historical and recent 
harvests by the charter sector.

Reporting and Recordkeeping Requirements

    This action imposes new recordkeeping requirements. Applications to 
transfer between IFQ and GAF will be required to be submitted to, and 
approved by, NMFS for each transfer from IFQ to GAF. The application 
will require information

[[Page 75884]]

about the IFQ permit holder and the charter halibut permit holder, 
including each permit holder's contact information, the IFQ permit 
holder's account from which halibut pounds are to be transferred, and 
the GAF account to which GAF are to be transferred. NMFS will rely on 
data already collected through the ADF&G saltwater charter logbooks for 
additional management and enforcement needs. In addition, CQEs eligible 
to receive community charter halibut permits will be required to submit 
information to NMFS (1) on the application for a transfer between IFQ 
and GAF, and (2) regarding the CQE's activity in an annual report by 
January 31 of the following year. NMFS will require charter vessel 
guides to record on the GAF permit log the date and length of any GAF 
halibut caught and kept, immediately upon harvest. NMFS will also 
require GAF permit holders to report via an online system information 
about each GAF halibut caught and retained at the end of each fishing 
trip, and to record the GAF electronic reporting confirmation number on 
the GAF permit log. The professional skills necessary to comply with 
the reporting and recordkeeping requirements for small entities 
impacted by this rule include the ability to read, write, and 
understand English, and the ability to use a computer and the internet. 
The recordkeeping and reporting requirements will not likely represent 
a ``significant'' economic burden on the small entities operating in 
this fishery.

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 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 explain the actions a small entity is 
required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. As part of 
this rulemaking process, NMFS will post a small entity compliance guide 
on the NMFS Alaska Region Web site: http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/sustainablefisheries/halibut/sport.htm. Contact NMFS to request a hard 
copy of the guide.

Paperwork Reduction Act Collection of Information Requirements

    This final rule contains collection-of-information requirements 
subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) and which have been 
approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The collections 
are described and their public reporting burdens are estimated by OMB 
control number below.

OMB Control No. 0648-0398

    Public reporting burden per response is estimated to average 2 
hours for the IFQ Permit Holder Fee Submission Form, and 2 hours for 
the IFQ Registered Buyer Ex-Vessel Value and Volume Report.

OMB Control No. 0648-0575

    Public reporting burden per response is estimated to average 4 
minutes for ADF&G Saltwater Sport Fishing Charter Trip Logbook entry 
for vessel guide and submittal; 1 minute per angler for angler 
signatures of ADF&G Saltwater Sport Fishing Charter Trip Logbook; 1 
minute to measure each GAF; 1 minute to record GAF lengths on the GAF 
permit log; 4 minutes to enter data into the GAF electronic reporting 
system; and 1 minute to record the GAF electronic reporting 
confirmation number on the GAF permit log.

OMB Control No. 0648-0592

    Public reporting burden per response is estimated to average 1 hour 
for an Application for Transfer Between IFQ and GAF; and 1 hour for an 
Application for Transfer Between IFQ and GAF by a Community Quota 
Entity.

OMB Control No. 0648-0272

    The IFQ permit is mentioned in this rule; however, the public 
reporting burden for the IFQ permit in this collection-of-information 
is not directly affected by this rule.
    Public reporting burden estimates include the time for reviewing 
instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and 
maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the 
collection of information. Send comments regarding these burden 
estimates or any other aspect of this data collection, including 
suggestions for reducing the burden, to NMFS (see ADDRESSES) and by 
email to OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov, or fax to 202-395-7285.
    Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is 
required to respond to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty 
for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the 
requirements of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays 
a currently valid OMB control number.
    This final rule is consistent with Executive Order 12962 as amended 
September 26, 2008, which required Federal agencies to ensure that 
recreational fishing is managed as a sustainable activity and is 
consistent with existing law.

List of Subjects

15 CFR Part 902

    Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

50 CFR Part 300

    Administrative practice and procedure, Antarctica, Canada, Exports, 
Fish, Fisheries, Fishing, Imports, Indians, Labeling, Marine resources, 
Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Russian Federation, 
Transportation, Treaties, Wildlife.

50 CFR Part 679

    Alaska, Fisheries, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: December 6, 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, NMFS amends 15 CFR part 
902 and 50 CFR parts 300 and 679 as follows:

15 CFR Chapter IX

PART 902--NOAA INFORMATION COLLECTION REQUIREMENTS UNDER THE 
PAPERWORK REDUCTION ACT: OMB CONTROL NUMBERS

0
1. The authority citation for part 902 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.


0
2. In Sec.  902.1, the table in paragraph (b), under the entry 50 CFR 
is amended by:
0
a. Removing entries for Sec. Sec.  679.41(a), (b), (c)(1) through (9), 
(d) through (f), (g)(1) through (4), (h) through (k), and (m); and 
679.42(a)(1)(i) through (ii), (b) through (g), (h)(1), (h)(1)(i), 
(h)(2), and (h)(2)(i);
0
b. Revising the entries for Sec. Sec.  300.65(d) and 679.45; and
0
c. Adding in alphanumeric order new entries for Sec. Sec.  
300.65(c)(5); 679.41(a); 679.41(b), (c)(1) through (9), (d) through 
(f), (g)(1) through (4), (h) through (k), and (m); 679.42(a)(1)(i) 
through (ii), (b) through (e), (g), (h)(1), (h)(1)(i), (h)(2), and 
(h)(2)(i); 679.42(f)(1); and 679.42(f)(6).
    The additions and revisions read as follows:


Sec.  902.1  OMB control numbers assigned pursuant to the Paperwork 
Reduction Act.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *

[[Page 75885]]



----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   CFR part or section where the information
       collection requirement is located            Current OMB control number (all numbers begin with 0648-)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                                                  * * * * * * *
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
50 CFR
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                                                  * * * * * * *
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
300.65(c)(5)..................................  -0272, -0592, -0665
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                                                  * * * * * * *
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
300.65(d).....................................  -0575, -0592
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                                                  * * * * * * *
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
679.41(a).....................................  -0272, -0592
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
679.41(b), (c)(1) through (9), (d) through      -0272
 (f), (g)(1) through (4), (h) through (k), and
 (m).
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                                                  * * * * * * *
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
679.42(a)(1)(i) through (ii), (b) through (e),  -0272
 (g), (h)(1), (h)(1)(i), (h)(2), and (h)(2)(i).
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
679.42(f)(1)..................................  -0272, -0592
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
679.42(f)(6)..................................  -0272, -0592, -0665
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                                                  * * * * * * *
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
679.45........................................  -0272, -0398, -0592
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                                                  * * * * * * *
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

50 CFR Chapter III

PART 300--INTERNATIONAL FISHERIES REGULATIONS

Subpart E--Pacific Halibut Fisheries

0
3. The authority citation for part 300, subpart E, continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773-773k.


0
4. In Sec.  300.61:
0
a. Remove the definition for ``Guideline harvest level (GHL)'';
0
b. Revise the definitions for ``Charter vessel angler'', ``Charter 
vessel fishing trip'', ``Charter vessel guide'', ``Charter vessel 
operator'', ``Crew member'', ``Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ)'', and 
``Sport fishing guide services''; and
0
c. Add definitions for ``Annual combined catch limit'', ``Annual 
commercial catch limit'', ``Annual guided sport catch limit'', ``Guided 
Angler Fish (GAF)'', ``Guided Angler Fish (GAF) permit'', and ``Guided 
Angler Fish (GAF) permit holder'' in alphabetical order to read as 
follows:


Sec.  300.61  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Annual combined catch limit, for purposes of commercial and sport 
fishing in Commission regulatory areas 2C and 3A, means the annual 
total allowable halibut removals (halibut harvest plus wastage) by 
persons fishing IFQ and by charter vessel anglers.
    Annual commercial catch limit, for purposes of commercial fishing 
in Commission regulatory areas 2C and 3A, means the annual commercial 
allocation minus an area-specific estimate of commercial halibut 
wastage.
    Annual guided sport catch limit, for purposes of sport fishing in 
Commission regulatory areas 2C and 3A, means the annual guided sport 
allocation minus an area-specific estimate of guided sport halibut 
wastage.
* * * * *
    Charter vessel angler, for purposes of Sec. Sec.  300.65, 300.66, 
and 300.67, means a person, paying or non-paying, using the services of 
a charter vessel guide.
    Charter vessel fishing trip, for purposes of Sec. Sec.  300.65, 
300.66, and 300.67, means the time period between the first deployment 
of fishing gear into the water from a vessel after any charter vessel 
angler is on board and the offloading of one or more charter vessel 
anglers or any halibut from that vessel.
    Charter vessel guide, for purposes of Sec. Sec.  300.65, 300.66 and 
300.67, means a person who holds an annual sport guide license issued 
by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, or a person who provides 
sport fishing guide services.
    Charter vessel operator, for purposes of Sec.  300.65, means the 
person in control of the vessel during a charter vessel fishing trip.
* * * * *
    Crew member, for purposes of Sec. Sec.  300.65 and 300.67, means an 
assistant, deckhand, or similar person who works directly under the 
supervision of, and on the same vessel as, a charter vessel guide or 
operator of a vessel with one or more charter vessel anglers on board.
* * * * *
    Guided Angler Fish (GAF) means halibut transferred within a year 
from a Commission regulatory area 2C or 3A IFQ permit holder to a GAF 
permit that is issued to a person holding a charter halibut permit, 
community charter halibut permit, or military charter

[[Page 75886]]

halibut permit for the corresponding area.
    Guided Angler Fish (GAF) permit means an annual permit issued by 
the National Marine Fisheries Service pursuant to Sec.  
300.65(c)(5)(iii).
    Guided Angler Fish (GAF) permit holder means the person identified 
on a GAF permit.
* * * * *
    Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ), for purposes of this subpart, means 
the annual catch limit of halibut that may be harvested by a person who 
is lawfully allocated a harvest privilege for a specific portion of the 
annual commercial catch limit of halibut.
* * * * *
    Sport fishing guide services, for purposes of Sec. Sec.  300.65 and 
300.67, means assistance, for compensation, to a person who is sport 
fishing, to take or attempt to take fish by being on board a vessel 
with such person during any part of a charter vessel fishing trip. 
Sport fishing guide services do not include services provided by a crew 
member.
* * * * *

0
5. In Sec.  300.65, revise paragraphs (b), (c), and (d) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  300.65  Catch sharing plan and domestic management measures in 
waters in and off Alaska.

* * * * *
    (b) The catch sharing plan for Commission regulatory area 4 
allocates the annual commercial catch limit among Areas 4C, 4D, and 4E 
and will be adopted by the Commission as annual management measures and 
published in the Federal Register as required in Sec.  300.62.
    (c) Catch sharing plan (CSP) for Commission Regulatory Areas 2C and 
3A--(1) General. The catch sharing plan for Commission regulatory areas 
2C and 3A:
    (i) Allocates the annual combined catch limit for Commission 
regulatory areas 2C and 3A in order to establish the annual commercial 
catch limit and the annual guided sport catch limit for the halibut 
commercial fishing and sport fishing seasons, pursuant to paragraphs 
(c)(3) and (4) of this section; and
    (ii) Authorizes the use of Commission regulatory areas 2C and 3A 
halibut IFQ as guided angler fish (GAF) for harvest by charter vessel 
anglers in the corresponding area, pursuant to paragraph (c)(5) of this 
section.
    (2) Implementation. The Commission regulatory areas 2C and 3A CSP 
annual combined catch limits, annual commercial catch limits, and 
annual guided sport catch limits are adopted by the Commission as 
annual management measures and published by NMFS in the Federal 
Register as required in Sec.  300.62.
    (3) Annual commercial catch limits. (i) The Commission regulatory 
areas 2C and 3A annual commercial catch limits are determined by 
subtracting wastage from the allocations in Tables 1 and 2 of this 
subpart E, adopted by the Commission as annual management measures, and 
published in the Federal Register as required in Sec.  300.62.
    (ii) Commercial fishing in Commission regulatory areas 2C and 3A is 
governed by the Commission's annual management measures and by 
regulations at 50 CFR part 679, subparts A, B, D, and E.
    (4) Annual guided sport catch limits. (i) The Commission regulatory 
areas 2C and 3A annual guided sport catch limits are determined by 
subtracting wastage from the allocations in Tables 3 and 4 of this 
subpart E, adopted by the Commission as annual management measures, and 
published in the Federal Register as required in Sec.  300.62.
    (ii) Sport fishing by charter vessel anglers in Commission 
regulatory areas 2C and 3A is governed by the Commission's annual 
management measures and by regulations at 50 CFR part 300, subparts A 
and E.
    (5) Guided Angler Fish (GAF). This paragraph (Sec.  300.65(c)(5)) 
governs the transfer of Commission regulatory areas 2C and 3A halibut 
between individual fishing quota (IFQ) and guided angler fish (GAF), 
the issuance of GAF permits, and GAF use.
    (i) General. (A) GAF is derived from halibut IFQ that is 
transferred from a Commission regulatory area 2C or 3A IFQ permit 
holder's account held by a person who also holds quota share (QS), as 
defined in Sec.  679.2 of this title, to a GAF permit holder's account 
for the same regulatory area.
    (B) A GAF permit authorizes a charter vessel angler to retain GAF 
that are caught in the Commission regulatory area specified on a GAF 
permit:
    (1) During the sport halibut fishing season adopted by the 
Commission as annual management measures and published in the Federal 
Register as required in Sec.  300.62, and
    (2) Subject to the GAF use restrictions at paragraphs (c)(5)(iv)(A) 
through (K) of this section.
    (C) NMFS will return unharvested GAF to the IFQ permit holder's 
account from which the GAF were derived on or after fifteen calendar 
days prior to the closing of the commercial halibut fishing season each 
year, subject to paragraph (c)(5)(ii) of this section and underage 
provisions at Sec.  679.40(e) of this title.
    (ii) Transfer Between IFQ and GAF--(A) General. A transfer between 
IFQ and GAF means any transaction in which halibut IFQ passes between 
an IFQ permit holder and a GAF permit holder as:
    (1) A transfer of IFQ to GAF, in which halibut IFQ equivalent 
pounds, as defined in Sec.  679.2 of this title, are transferred from a 
Commission regulatory area 2C or 3A IFQ permit account, converted to 
number(s) of GAF as specified in paragraph (c)(5)(ii)(E) of this 
section, and assigned to a GAF permit holder's account in the same 
management area;
    (2) A transfer of GAF to IFQ, in which GAF in number(s) of fish are 
transferred from a GAF permit holder's account in Commission regulatory 
area 2C or 3A, converted to IFQ equivalent pounds as specified in 
paragraph (c)(5)(ii)(E) of this section, and assigned to the same IFQ 
permit holder's account from which the GAF were derived; or
    (3) The return of unharvested GAF by NMFS to the IFQ permit 
holder's account from which it was derived, on or after 15 calendar 
days prior to the closing of the commercial halibut fishing season.
    (B) Transfer procedure--(1) Application for Transfer Between IFQ 
and GAF. A transfer between IFQ and GAF requires Regional Administrator 
review and approval of a complete Application for Transfer Between IFQ 
and GAF. Both the transferor and the transferee are required to 
complete and sign the application. Transfers will be conducted via 
methods approved by NMFS. The Regional Administrator shall provide an 
Application for Transfer Between IFQ and GAF on the NMFS Alaska Region 
Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/ram/default.htm. An 
Application for Transfer Between IFQ and GAF is not required for the 
return of unharvested GAF by NMFS to the IFQ permit holder's account 
from which it was derived, 15 calendar days prior to the closing of the 
commercial halibut fishing season for that year.
    (2) Application timing. The Regional Administrator will not approve 
any Application for Transfer Between IFQ and GAF before annual IFQ is 
issued for each year or after one month prior to the closing of the 
commercial fishing season for that year. Applications to transfer GAF 
to IFQ will be accepted from August 1 through August 31 only.
    (3) Transfer due to court order, operation of law, or as part of a 
security agreement. NMFS may approve an Application for Transfer 
Between IFQ

[[Page 75887]]

and GAF to return GAF to the IFQ permit holder's account from which it 
derived pursuant to a court order, operation of law, or a security 
agreement.
    (4) Notification of decision on application. (i) Persons who submit 
an Application for Transfer Between IFQ and GAF to the Regional 
Administrator will receive notification of the Regional Administrator's 
decision to approve or disapprove the application for transfer.
    (ii) If an Application for Transfer Between IFQ and GAF is 
disapproved, NMFS will provide the reason(s) in writing by mail, posted 
on the date of that decision.
    (iii) Disapproval of an Application for Transfer Between IFQ and 
GAF may be appealed pursuant to Sec.  679.43 of this title.
    (iv) The Regional Administrator will not approve a transfer between 
IFQ and GAF on an interim basis if an applicant appeals a disapproval 
of an Application for Transfer Between IFQ and GAF pursuant to Sec.  
679.43 of this title.
    (5) IFQ and GAF accounts. (i) Accounts affected by either a 
Regional Administrator-approved Application for Transfer Between IFQ 
and GAF or the return of unharvested GAF to IFQ on or after 15 calendar 
days prior to the closing of the commercial halibut fishing season for 
that year will be adjusted on the date of approval or return. 
Applications for Transfer Between IFQ and GAF that are transfers of GAF 
to IFQ that have been approved by the Regional Administrator will be 
completed not earlier than September 1. Any necessary permits will be 
sent with the notification of the Regional Administrator's decision on 
the Application for Transfer Between IFQ and GAF.
    (ii) Upon approval of an Application for Transfer Between IFQ and 
GAF for an initial transfer from IFQ to GAF, NMFS will establish a new 
GAF account for the GAF applicant's account and issue the resulting new 
GAF and IFQ permits. If a GAF account already exists from a previous 
transfer from the same IFQ account in the corresponding management area 
in that year, NMFS will modify the GAF recipient's GAF account and the 
IFQ transferor's permit account and issue modified GAF and IFQ permits 
upon approval of an Application for Transfer Between IFQ and GAF.
    (iii) On or after 15 calendar days prior to the closing of the 
commercial halibut fishing season, NMFS will convert unharvested GAF 
from a GAF permit holder's account back into IFQ equivalent pounds as 
specified in paragraph (c)(5)(ii)(E)(2) of this section, and return the 
resulting IFQ equivalent pounds to the IFQ permit holder's account from 
which the GAF were derived, unless prevented by regulations at 15 CFR 
part 904.
    (C) Complete application. Applicants must submit a completed 
Application for Transfer Between IFQ and GAF to the Regional 
Administrator as instructed on the application. NMFS will notify 
applicants with incomplete applications of the specific information 
necessary to complete the application.
    (D) Application for Transfer Between IFQ and GAF approval criteria. 
An Application for Transfer Between IFQ and GAF will not be approved 
until the Regional Administrator has determined that:
    (1) The person applying to transfer IFQ to GAF or receive IFQ from 
a transfer of GAF to IFQ:
    (i) Possesses at least one unit of halibut quota share (QS), as 
defined in Sec.  679.2 of this title, in the applicable Commission 
regulatory area, either Area 2C or Area 3A, for which the transfer of 
IFQ to GAF is requested;
    (ii) Has been issued an annual IFQ Permit, as defined in Sec.  
679.4(d)(1) of this title, for the Commission regulatory area 
corresponding to the person's QS holding, either Area 2C or Area 3A, 
resulting from that halibut QS; and
    (iii) Has an IFQ permit holder's account with an IFQ amount equal 
to or greater than amount of IFQ to be transferred in the Commission 
regulatory area, either Area 2C or Area 3A, for which the transfer of 
IFQ to GAF is requested.
    (2) The person applying to receive or transfer GAF possesses a 
valid charter halibut permit, community charter halibut permit, or 
military charter halibut permit in the Commission regulatory area (Area 
2C or Area 3A) that corresponds to the IFQ permit area from or to which 
the IFQ will be transferred.
    (3) For a transfer of IFQ to GAF:
    (i) The transfer between IFQ and GAF must not cause the GAF permit 
issued to exceed the GAF use limits in paragraphs (c)(5)(iv)(H)(1) and 
(2) of this section;
    (ii) The transfer must not cause the person applying to transfer 
IFQ to exceed the GAF use limit in paragraph (c)(5)(iv)(H)(3) of this 
section; and
    (iii) There must be no fines, civil penalties, sanctions, or other 
payments due and owing, or outstanding permit sanctions, resulting from 
Federal fishery violations involving either person or permit.
    (4) If a Community Quota Entity (CQE), as defined in Sec.  679.2 of 
this title, submits a ``Community Quota Entity Application for Transfer 
Between Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) and Guided Angler Fish (GAF),'' 
the application will not be approved until the Regional Administrator 
has determined that:
    (i) The CQE applying to transfer IFQ to GAF is eligible to hold IFQ 
on behalf of the eligible community in Commission regulatory area 2C or 
3A designated in Table 21 to 50 CFR part 679;
    (ii) The CQE applying to transfer IFQ to GAF has received 
notification of approval of eligibility to receive IFQ for that 
community as described in Sec.  679.41(d)(1) of this title;
    (iii) The CQE applying to receive GAF from a Commission regulatory 
area 2C or 3A IFQ permit holder holds one or more charter halibut 
permits or community charter halibut permits for the corresponding 
area; and
    (iv) The CQE applying to transfer between IFQ and GAF has submitted 
a complete annual report(s) as required by Sec.  679.5(t) of this 
title.
    (E) Conversion between IFQ and GAF--(1) General. An annual 
conversion factor will be calculated to convert between net pounds 
(whole number, no decimal points) of halibut IFQ and number(s) of GAF 
(whole number, no decimal points) for Area 2C and Area 3A. This 
conversion factor will be posted on the NMFS Alaska Region Web site 
before the beginning of each commercial halibut fishing season.
    (2) Conversion calculation. The net pounds of IFQ transferred to or 
from an IFQ permit holder in Commission regulatory area 2C or 3A will 
be equal to the number(s) of GAF transferred to or from the GAF account 
of a GAF permit holder in the corresponding area, multiplied by the 
estimated average net weight determined as follows. For the first 
calendar year after the effective date of this rule, the average net 
weight will be estimated for all halibut harvested by charter vessel 
anglers during the most recent year without a size limit in effect. 
After the first calendar year after the effective date of this rule, 
the average net weight will be estimated from the average length of GAF 
retained in that area during the previous year as reported to RAM via 
the GAF electronic reporting system. If no GAF were harvested in a 
year, the conversion factor will be calculated using the same method as 
for the first calendar year after the effective date of this rule. NMFS 
will round up to the nearest whole number (no decimals) when 
transferring IFQ to GAF and when transferring GAF to IFQ. Expressed 
algebraically, the conversion formula is:

[[Page 75888]]

    IFQ net pounds = (number of GAF x average net weight).
    (3) The total number of net pounds converted from unharvested GAF 
and transferred to the IFQ permit holder's account from which it 
derived cannot exceed the total number of net pounds NMFS transferred 
from the IFQ permit holder's account to the GAF permit holder's account 
for that area in the current year.
    (iii) Guided Angler Fish (GAF) permit--(A) General. (1) A GAF 
permit authorizes a charter vessel angler to catch and retain GAF in 
the specified Commission regulatory area, subject to the limits in 
paragraphs (c)(5)(iv)(A) through (K) of this section, during a charter 
vessel fishing trip authorized by the charter halibut permit, community 
charter halibut permit, or military charter halibut permit that is 
designated on the GAF permit.
    (2) A GAF permit authorizes a charter vessel angler to catch and 
retain GAF in the specified Commission regulatory area from the time of 
permit issuance until any of the following occurs:
    (i) The amount of GAF in the GAF permit holder's account is zero;
    (ii) The permit expires at 11:59 p.m. (Alaska local time) on the 
day prior to 15 days prior to the end of the commercial halibut fishing 
season for that year;
    (iii) NMFS replaces the GAF permit with a modified GAF permit 
following NMFS approval of an Application for Transfer Between IFQ and 
GAF; or
    (iv) The GAF permit is revoked or suspended under 15 CFR part 904.
    (3) A GAF permit is issued for use in a Commission regulatory area 
(2C or 3A) to the person who holds a valid charter halibut permit, 
community charter halibut permit, or military charter halibut permit in 
the corresponding Commission regulatory area. Regulations governing 
issuance, transfer, and use of charter halibut permits are located in 
Sec.  300.67.
    (4) A GAF permit is assigned to only one charter halibut permit, 
community charter halibut permit, or military charter halibut permit 
held by the GAF permit holder in the corresponding Commission 
regulatory area (2C or 3A).
    (5) A legible copy of a GAF permit and the assigned charter halibut 
permit, community charter halibut permit, or military charter halibut 
permit appropriate for the Commission regulatory area (2C or 3A) must 
be carried on board the vessel used to harvest GAF at all times that 
such fish are retained on board and must be presented for inspection on 
request of any authorized officer.
    (6) No person may alter, erase, mutilate, or forge a GAF permit or 
document issued under this section (Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(iii)). Any such 
permit or document that has been intentionally altered, erased, 
mutilated, or forged is invalid.
    (7) GAF permit holders must retain GAF permit(s) and associated GAF 
permit logs for two years after the end of the fishing year for which 
the GAF permit(s) was issued and make the GAF permit available for 
inspection upon the request of an authorized officer (as defined in 
Commission regulations).
    (B) Issuance. The Regional Administrator will issue a GAF permit 
upon approval of an Application to Transfer Between IFQ and GAF.
    (C) Transfer. GAF authorized by a GAF permit under this paragraph 
(Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(iii)) are not transferable to another GAF permit, 
except as provided under paragraph (c)(5)(ii) of this section.
    (iv) GAF use restrictions. (A) A charter vessel angler may harvest 
GAF only on board a vessel on which the operator has on board a valid 
GAF permit and the valid charter halibut permit, community charter 
halibut permit, or military charter halibut permit assigned to the GAF 
permit for the area of harvest.
    (B) The total number of GAF on board a vessel cannot exceed the 
number of unharvested GAF in the GAF permit holder's GAF account at the 
time of harvest.
    (C) The total number of halibut retained by a charter vessel angler 
harvesting GAF cannot exceed the sport fishing daily bag limit in 
effect for unguided sport anglers at the time of harvest adopted by the 
Commission as annual management measures and published in the Federal 
Register as required in Sec.  300.62.
    (D) Retained GAF are not subject to any length limit implemented by 
the Commission's annual management measures and published in the 
Federal Register as required in Sec.  300.62, if applicable.
    (E) Each charter vessel angler retaining GAF must comply with the 
halibut possession requirements adopted by the Commission as annual 
management measures and published in the Federal Register as required 
in Sec.  300.62.
    (F) The charter vessel guide must ensure that each charter vessel 
angler complies with paragraphs (c)(5)(iv)(A) through (E) of this 
section.
    (G) The charter vessel guide must immediately remove the tips of 
the upper and lower lobes of the caudal (tail) fin to mark all halibut 
caught and retained as GAF, and if the halibut is filleted, the entire 
carcass, with head and tail connected as a single piece, must be 
retained on board the vessel until all fillets are offloaded.
    (H) Except as provided in paragraph (c)(5)(iv)(I) of this section, 
during the halibut sport fishing season adopted by the Commission as 
annual management measures and published in the Federal Register as 
required in Sec.  300.62, the following GAF use and IFQ transfer limits 
shall apply. GAF use limits do not apply to military charter halibut 
permits.
    (1) No more than 400 GAF may be assigned to a GAF permit that is 
assigned to a charter halibut permit or community charter halibut 
permit endorsed for six (6) or fewer charter vessel anglers in a year,
    (2) No more than 600 GAF may be assigned to a GAF permit that is 
assigned to a charter halibut permit endorsed for more than six (6) 
charter vessel anglers in a year; and
    (3) In Commission regulatory area 2C, a maximum of 1,500 pounds or 
ten (10) percent, whichever is greater, of the start year fishable IFQ 
pounds for an IFQ permit, may be transferred from IFQ to GAF. In 
Commission regulatory area 3A, a maximum of 1,500 pounds or fifteen 
(15) percent, whichever is greater, of the start year fishable IFQ 
pounds for an IFQ permit, may be transferred from IFQ to GAF. Start 
year fishable pounds is the sum of IFQ equivalent pounds, as defined in 
Sec.  679.2 of this title, for an area, derived from QS held, plus or 
minus adjustments made to that amount pursuant to Sec.  679.40(d) and 
(e) of this title.
    (I) The halibut QS equivalent of net pounds of halibut IFQ that is 
transferred to GAF is included in the computation of halibut QS use 
caps in Sec.  679.42(f)(1)(i) and (ii) of this title.
    (J) A CHP holder receiving GAF from a CQE is subject to Sec.  
679.42(f)(6) of this title. For a CHP holder who receives GAF from a 
CQE, the net poundage equivalent of all halibut IFQ received as GAF is 
included in the computation of that person's IFQ halibut holdings in 
Sec.  679.42(f)(6) of this title.
    (K) Applicability of GAF use restrictions to CQEs. The GAF use 
restrictions in paragraph (c)(5)(iv)(H) of this section do not apply 
if:
    (1) A CQE transfers IFQ as GAF to a GAF permit that is assigned to 
one or more charter halibut permits held by that CQE or community 
charter halibut permits held by that CQE;
    (2) A CQE transfers IFQ as GAF to another CQE holding one or more 
charter halibut permits or community charter halibut permits; or

[[Page 75889]]

    (3) A CQE transfers IFQ as GAF to a GAF permit that is assigned to 
a charter halibut permit held by an eligible community resident (as 
defined at Sec.  679.2) of that CQE community, as defined for purposes 
of the Catch Sharing Plan for Commission regulatory areas 2C and 3A in 
Sec.  679.2 of this title, holding one or more charter halibut permits.
    (d) Charter vessels in Commission regulatory area 2C and 3A--(1) 
General requirements--(i) Logbook submission. For a charter vessel 
fishing trip during which halibut were caught and retained on or after 
the first Monday in April and on or before December 31, Alaska 
Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) Saltwater Sport Fishing Charter 
Trip Logbook data sheets must be submitted to the ADF&G and postmarked 
or received no later than 14 calendar days after the Monday of the 
fishing week (as defined in 50 CFR 300.61) in which the halibut were 
caught and retained. Logbook sheets for a charter vessel fishing trip 
during which halibut were caught and retained on January 1 through the 
first Sunday in April, must be submitted to the ADF&G and postmarked or 
received no later than the second Monday in April.
    (ii) The charter vessel guide is responsible for complying with the 
reporting requirements of this paragraph (d). The person whose business 
was assigned an Alaska Department of Fish and Game Saltwater Sport 
Fishing Charter Trip Logbook is responsible for ensuring that the 
charter vessel guide complies with the reporting requirements of this 
paragraph (d).
    (2) Retention and inspection of logbook. A person who is required 
to provide information pursuant to paragraph (d)(4) of this section, or 
whose business was assigned an Alaska Department of Fish and Game 
Saltwater Sport Fishing Charter Trip Logbook and whose charter vessel 
anglers retain halibut is required to:
    (i) Retain all logbook data pages showing halibut harvest for 2 
years after the end of the fishing year for which the logbook was 
issued, and
    (ii) Make the logbook available for inspection upon the request of 
an authorized officer (as defined in Commission regulations).
    (3) Charter vessel guide and crew restriction in Commission 
regulatory areas 2C and 3A. A charter vessel guide, charter vessel 
operator, or crew member may not catch and retain halibut during a 
charter vessel fishing trip in Commission regulatory area 2C or 3A 
while on a vessel with charter vessel anglers on board.
    (4) Recordkeeping and reporting requirements in Commission 
regulatory area 2C and 3A--(i) General requirements. Each charter 
vessel angler and charter vessel guide on board a vessel in Commission 
regulatory area 2C or 3A must comply with the following recordkeeping 
and reporting requirements, except as specified in paragraph 
(d)(4)(iii)(C) of this section, by the end of the calendar day or by 
the end of the charter vessel fishing trip, whichever comes first, 
unless otherwise specified:
    (ii) Logbook reporting requirements--(A) Charter vessel angler 
signature requirement. Each charter vessel angler who retains halibut 
caught in Commission regulatory area 2C or 3A must acknowledge that his 
or her name, license number (if required), and number of halibut 
retained (kept) are recorded correctly by signing the Alaska Department 
of Fish and Game Saltwater Charter Logbook data sheet on the line that 
corresponds to the angler's information.
    (B) Charter vessel guide requirements. If halibut were caught and 
retained in Commission regulatory area 2C or 3A, the charter vessel 
guide must record the following information (see paragraphs 
(d)(4)(ii)(B)(1) through (10) of this section) in the Alaska Department 
of Fish and Game Saltwater Charter Logbook:
    (1) Guide license number. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game 
sport fishing guide license number held by the charter vessel guide who 
certified the logbook data sheet.
    (2) Date. Month and day for each charter vessel fishing trip taken. 
A separate logbook data sheet is required for each charter vessel 
fishing trip if two or more trips were taken on the same day. A 
separate logbook data sheet is required for each calendar day that 
halibut are caught and retained during a multi-day trip. A separate 
logbook sheet is also required if more than one charter halibut permit 
is used on a trip.
    (3) Charter halibut permit (CHP) number. The NMFS CHP number(s) 
authorizing charter vessel anglers on board the vessel to catch and 
retain halibut.
    (4) Guided Angler Fish (GAF) permit number. The NMFS GAF permit 
number(s) authorizing charter vessel anglers on board the vessel to 
harvest GAF.
    (5) Statistical area. The primary Alaska Department of Fish and 
Game statistical area code in which halibut were caught and retained.
    (6) Angler sport fishing license number and printed name. Before a 
charter vessel fishing trip begins, record the first and last name of 
each paying or non-paying charter vessel angler on board that will fish 
for halibut. For each angler required to be licensed, record the Alaska 
Sport Fishing License number for the current year, resident permanent 
license number, or disabled veteran license number. For youth anglers 
not required to be licensed, record the word ``youth'' in place of the 
license number.
    (7) Number of halibut retained. For each charter vessel angler, 
record the total number of non-GAF halibut caught and kept.
    (8) Number of GAF retained. For each charter vessel angler, record 
the total number of GAF kept.
    (9) Guide signature. The charter vessel guide acknowledges that the 
recorded information is correct by signing the logbook data sheet.
    (10) Angler signature. The charter vessel guide is responsible for 
ensuring that charter vessel anglers that retain halibut comply with 
the signature requirements at paragraph (d)(4)(ii)(A) of this section.
    (iii) GAF reporting requirements--(A) General. (1) Upon retention 
of a GAF halibut, the charter vessel guide must immediately record on 
the GAF permit log (on the back of the GAF permit) the date that the 
fish was caught and retained and the total length of that fish as 
described in paragraphs (d)(4)(iii)(D)(5) and (d)(4)(iii)(D)(7) of this 
section.
    (2) In addition to the recordkeeping and reporting requirements in 
paragraphs (d)(4)(i) and (ii) of this section, a GAF permit holder must 
use the NMFS-approved electronic reporting system on the Alaska Region 
Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/ to submit a GAF landings 
report.
    (3) A GAF permit holder must submit a GAF landings report by 11:59 
p.m. (Alaska local time) on the last calendar day of a fishing trip for 
each day on which a charter vessel angler retained GAF authorized by 
the GAF permit held by that permit holder.
    (4) If a GAF permit holder is unable to submit a GAF landings 
report due to hardware, software, or Internet failure for a period 
longer than the required reporting time, or a correction must be made 
to information already submitted, the GAF permit holder must contact 
NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, Juneau, AK, at 800-304-4846 (Select 
Option 1).
    (B) Electronic Reporting of GAF. A GAF permit holder must obtain, 
at his or her own expense, the technology to submit GAF landing reports 
to the NMFS-approved reporting system for GAF landings.

[[Page 75890]]

    (C) NMFS-Approved Electronic Reporting System. The GAF permit 
holder agrees to the following terms (see paragraphs (d)(4)(iii)(C)(1) 
through (3) of this section):
    (1) To use any NMFS online service or reporting system only for 
authorized purposes;
    (2) To safeguard the NMFS Person Identification Number and password 
to prevent their use by unauthorized persons; and
    (3) To accept the responsibility of and acknowledge compliance with 
Sec.  300.4(a) and (b), Sec.  300.65(d), and Sec.  300.66(p) and (q).
    (D) Information entered for each GAF caught and retained. The GAF 
permit holder must enter the following information for each charter 
vessel fishing trip in which GAF were retained under the authorization 
of the permit holder's GAF permit into the NMFS-approved electronic 
reporting system (see paragraphs (d)(4)(iii)(D)(1) through (9) of this 
section) by 11:59 p.m. (Alaska local time) on the last day of a charter 
fishing trip in which a charter vessel angler retained GAF:
    (1) Logbook number from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game 
Saltwater Sport Fishing Charter Trip Logbook.
    (2) Vessel identification number for vessel on which GAF were 
caught and retained:
    (i) State of Alaska issued boat registration (AK number), or
    (ii) U.S. Coast Guard documentation number.
    (3) GAF permit number under which GAF were caught and retained.
    (4) Alaska Department of Fish and Game sport fishing guide license 
number held by the charter vessel guide who certified the logbook data 
sheet.
    (5) Date that GAF was caught and retained.
    (6) Number of GAF caught and retained.
    (7) Length of each GAF caught and retained. Halibut lengths are 
measured in inches in a straight line from the anterior-most tip of the 
lower jaw with the mouth closed to the extreme end of the middle of the 
tail.
    (8) Community charter halibut permit only: Community or Port where 
the charter vessel fishing trip began (i.e., where charter vessel 
anglers boarded the vessel).
    (9) Community charter halibut permit only: Community or Port where 
the charter vessel fishing trip ended (i.e., where charter vessel 
anglers or fish were offloaded from the vessel).
    (E) Properly reported landing. (1) The GAF permit holder is 
responsible for ensuring that all GAF harvested on board a vessel are 
debited from the GAF permit holder's account under which the GAF were 
retained.
    (2) A GAF landing confirmation number issued by the NMFS-approved 
electronic reporting system and recorded by the GAF permit holder on 
the GAF permit log used to record the dates and lengths of retained 
GAF, as required in paragraph (d)(4)(iii)(A)(1) of this section, 
constitutes confirmation that the GAF permit holder's GAF landing is 
properly reported and the GAF permit holder's account is properly 
debited.
    (3) Instructions for correcting a submitted GAF landing electronic 
report are at (d)(4)(iii)(A)(4) of this section.
* * * * *

0
6. In Sec.  300.66:
0
a. Redesignate paragraphs (i) through (v) as paragraphs (j) through 
(w), respectively;
0
b. Revise paragraph (h) introductory text and newly redesignated 
paragraphs (n), and (s) through (w); and
0
c. Add paragraph (i) to read as follows:


Sec.  300.66  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (h) Conduct subsistence fishing for halibut while commercial 
fishing or sport fishing, as defined in Sec.  300.61, from the same 
vessel on the same calendar day, or possess on board a vessel, halibut 
harvested while subsistence fishing with halibut harvested while 
commercial fishing or sport fishing, except that persons authorized to 
conduct subsistence fishing under Sec.  300.65(g), and who land their 
total annual harvest of halibut:
* * * * *
    (i) Conduct commercial and sport fishing for halibut, as defined in 
Sec.  300.61, from the same vessel on the same calendar day.
* * * * *
    (n) Exceed any of the harvest or gear limitations specified at 
Sec.  300.65(c)(5) or adopted by the Commission as annual management 
measures and published in the Federal Register as required in Sec.  
300.62.
* * * * *
    (s) Be an operator of a vessel in Commission regulatory area 2C or 
3A without an original valid charter halibut permit for the regulatory 
area in which the vessel is operating when one or more charter vessel 
anglers are on board that are catching and retaining halibut.
    (t) Be an operator of a vessel in Commission regulatory area 2C or 
3A with more charter vessel anglers on board catching and retaining 
halibut than the total angler endorsement number specified on the 
charter halibut permit or permits on board the vessel.
    (u) Be an operator of a vessel in Commission regulatory area 2C or 
3A with more charter vessel anglers on board catching and retaining 
halibut than the angler endorsement number specified on the community 
charter halibut permit or permits on board the vessel.
    (v) Be an operator of a vessel on which one or more charter vessel 
anglers on board are catching and retaining halibut in Commission 
regulatory areas 2C and 3A during one charter vessel fishing trip.
    (w) Be an operator of a vessel in Commission regulatory area 2C or 
3A with one or more charter vessel anglers on board that are catching 
and retaining halibut without having on board the vessel a State of 
Alaska Department of Fish and Game Saltwater Charter Logbook that 
specifies the following:
    (1) The person named on the charter halibut permit or permits being 
used on board the vessel;
    (2) The charter halibut permit or permits number(s) being used on 
board the vessel; and
    (3) The name and State issued boat registration (AK number) or U.S. 
Coast Guard documentation number of the vessel.

0
7. In Sec.  300.67:
0
a. Redesignate paragraphs (i)(2)(v) and (i)(2)(vi) as (i)(2)(vi) and 
(i)(2)(vii), respectively; and
0
b. Add paragraph (i)(2)(v) to read as follows:


Sec.  300.67  Charter halibut limited access program.

* * * * *
    (i) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (v) The GAF permit is not assigned to a charter halibut permit for 
which the GAF account contains unharvested GAF, pursuant to Sec.  
300.65 (c)(5)(iii)(A)(3) and (4);
* * * * *

0
8. Add Tables 1 through 4 to subpart E of part 300 to read as follows:

[[Page 75891]]



Table 1 to Subpart E of Part 300--Determination of Commission Regulatory
   Area 2C Annual Commercial Allocation From the Annual Combined Catch
                            Limit for Halibut
------------------------------------------------------------------------
  If the area 2C annual combined catch       then the area 2C annual
     limit (CCL) in net pounds is:          commercial allocation is:
------------------------------------------------------------------------
<5,000,000 lb..........................  81.7% of the Area 2C CCL.
>=5,000,000 and <=5,755,000 lb.........  the Area 2C CCL minus a fixed
                                          915,000-lb allocation to the
                                          charter halibut fishery.
>5,755,000 lb..........................  84.1% of the Area 2C CCL.
------------------------------------------------------------------------


Table 2 to Subpart E of Part 300--Determination of Commission Regulatory
   Area 3A Annual Commercial Allocation From the Annual Combined Catch
                            Limit for Halibut
------------------------------------------------------------------------
  If the area 3A annual combined catch       then the area 3A annual
     limit (CCL) in net pounds is:          commercial allocation is:
------------------------------------------------------------------------
<10,000,000 lb.........................  81.1% of the Area 3A CCL.
>=10,000,000 and <=10,800,000 lb.......  the Area 3A CCL minus a fixed
                                          1,890,000-lb allocation to the
                                          charter halibut fishery.
>10,800,000 and <=20,000,000 lb........  82.5% of the Area 3A CCL.
>20,000,000 and <=25,000,000 lb........  the Area 3A CCL minus a fixed
                                          3,500,000-lb allocation to the
                                          charter halibut fishery.
>25,000,000 lb.........................  86.0% of the Area 3A CCL.
------------------------------------------------------------------------


Table 3 to Subpart E of Part 300--Determination of Commission Regulatory
Area 2C Annual Charter Halibut Allocation From the Annual Combined Catch
                                  Limit
------------------------------------------------------------------------
  If the area 2C annual combined catch   then the area 2C annual charter
  limit for halibut in net pounds is:             allocation is:
------------------------------------------------------------------------
<5,000,000 lb..........................  18.3% of the Area 2C CCL.
>=5,000,000 and <=5,755,000 lb.........  915,000 lb.
>5,755,000 lb..........................  15.9% of the Area 2C CCL.
------------------------------------------------------------------------


Table 4 to Subpart E of Part 300--Determination of Commission Regulatory
Area 3A Annual Charter Halibut Allocation From the Annual Combined Catch
                                  Limit
------------------------------------------------------------------------
  If the area 3A annual combined catch
 limit (CCL) for halibut in net pounds   then the area 3A annual charter
                  is:                             allocation is:
------------------------------------------------------------------------
<10,000,000 lb.........................  18.9% of the Area 3A annual
                                          combined catch limit.
>=10,000,000 and <=10,800,000 lb.......  1,890,000 lb.
>10,800,000 and <=20,000,000 lb........  17.5% of the Area 3A annual
                                          combined catch limit.
>20,000,000 and <=25,000,000 lb........  3,500,000 lb.
>25,000,000 lb.........................  14.0% of the Area 3A annual
                                          combined catch limit.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

50 CFR Chapter VI

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

0
9. 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
10. In Sec.  679.2, revise the definitions of ``Eligible community 
resident'', ``IFQ equivalent pound(s)'', ``IFQ fee liability'', and 
``IFQ standard ex-vessel value'' to read as follows:


Sec.  679.2  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Eligible community resident means:
    (1) For purposes of the IFQ Program, any individual who:
    (i) Is a citizen of the United States;
    (ii) Has maintained a domicile in a rural community listed in Table 
21 to this part for the 12 consecutive months immediately preceding the 
time when the assertion of residence is made, and who is not claiming 
residency in another community, state, territory, or country, except 
that residents of the Village of Seldovia shall be considered to be 
eligible community residents of the City of Seldovia for the purposes 
of eligibility to lease IFQ from a CQE; and
    (iii) Is an IFQ crew member.
    (2) For purposes of the Area 2C and Area 3A catch sharing plan 
(CSP) in Sec.  300.65(c) of this title, means any individual or non-
individual entity who:
    (i) Holds a charter halibut permit as defined in Sec.  300.61 of 
this title;
    (ii) Has been approved by the Regional Administrator to receive 
GAF, as defined in Sec.  300.61 of this title, from a CQE in a transfer 
between IFQ and GAF pursuant to Sec.  300.65(c)(5)(ii) of this title; 
and
    (iii) Begins or ends every charter vessel fishing trip, as defined 
in Sec.  300.61 of this title, authorized by the charter halibut permit 
issued to that person, and on which halibut are retained, at a 
location(s) within the boundaries of the community represented by the 
CQE from which the GAF were received. The geographic boundaries of the 
eligible community will be those defined by the United States Census 
Bureau.
* * * * *
    IFQ equivalent pound(s) means the weight amount, recorded in pounds 
and calculated as round weight for sablefish and headed and gutted 
weight for halibut for an IFQ landing or for estimation of the fee 
liability of halibut landed as guided angler fish (GAF), as defined in 
Sec.  300.61 of this title. Landed GAF are converted to IFQ equivalent

[[Page 75892]]

pounds as specified in Sec.  300.65(c) of this title.
    IFQ fee liability means that amount of money for IFQ cost recovery, 
in U.S. dollars, owed to NMFS by an IFQ permit holder as determined by 
multiplying the appropriate standard ex-vessel value or, for non-GAF 
landings, the actual ex-vessel value of his or her IFQ halibut or IFQ 
sablefish landing(s), by the appropriate IFQ fee percentage and the 
appropriate standard ex-vessel value of landed GAF derived from his or 
her IFQ by the appropriate IFQ fee percentage.
* * * * *
    IFQ standard ex-vessel value means the total U.S. dollar amount of 
IFQ halibut or IFQ sablefish landings as calculated by multiplying the 
number of landed IFQ equivalent pounds plus landed GAF in IFQ 
equivalent pounds by the appropriate IFQ standard price determined by 
the Regional Administrator.
* * * * *

0
11. In Sec.  679.4:
0
a. Add paragraph (a)(1)(xv); and
0
b. Revise paragraph (a)(2) to read as follows:


Sec.  679.4  Permits.

    (a) * * *
    (1) * * *

------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                     Permit is in
                                   effect from issue       For more
   If program permit type is:      date through the   information, see .
                                        end of:               . .
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                              * * * * * * *
               (xv) Guided sport halibut fishery permits:
------------------------------------------------------------------------
(A) Charter halibut permit......  Indefinite........  Sec.   300.67 of
                                                       this title.
(B) Community charter halibut     Indefinite........  Sec.   300.67 of
 permit.                                               this title.
(C) Military charter halibut      Indefinite........  Sec.   300.67 of
 permit.                                               this title.
(D) Guided Angler Fish (GAF)      Until expiration    Sec.   300.65 of
 permit.                           date shown on       this title.
                                   permit.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (2) Permit and logbook required by participant and fishery. For the 
various types of permits issued, refer to Sec.  679.5 for recordkeeping 
and reporting requirements. For subsistence and GAF permits, refer to 
Sec.  300.65 of this title for recordkeeping and reporting 
requirements.
* * * * *

0
12. In Sec.  679.5, revise paragraphs (l)(7)(i) and (ii) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  679.5  Recordkeeping and reporting (R&R).

* * * * *
    (l) * * *
    (7) * * *
    (i) IFQ Registered Buyer Ex-vessel Value and Volume Report--(A) 
Requirement. An IFQ Registered Buyer that also operates as a shoreside 
processor and receives and purchases IFQ landings of sablefish or 
halibut must submit annually to NMFS a complete IFQ Registered Buyer 
Ex-vessel Value and Volume Report as described in this paragraph (l) 
and as provided by NMFS for each reporting period, as described at 
paragraph (1)(7)(i)(E), in which the Registered Buyer receives IFQ 
fish.
    (B) Due date. A complete IFQ Registered Buyer Ex-vessel Value and 
Volume Report must be postmarked or received by the Regional 
Administrator by October 15 following the reporting period in which the 
IFQ Registered Buyer receives the IFQ fish.
    (C) Completed application. NMFS will process an IFQ Registered 
Buyer Ex-vessel Value and Volume Report provided that a paper or 
electronic report is completed by the Registered Buyer, with all 
applicable fields accurately filled in, and all required additional 
documentation is attached.
    (1) Certification, Electronic submittal. NMFS ID and password of 
the IFQ Registered Buyer; or
    (2) Certification, Non-electronic submittal. Printed name and 
signature of the individual submitting the IFQ Registered Buyer Ex-
vessel Value and Volume Report on behalf of the IFQ Registered Buyer, 
and date of signature.
    (D) Submission address. The IFQ Registered Buyer must complete an 
IFQ Registered Buyer Ex-vessel Value and Volume Report and submit by 
mail to: Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, Attn: RAM Program, P.O. 
Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668; by fax to: (907) 586-7354; or 
electronically at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. Report forms are 
available on the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov, or by contacting NMFS at (800) 304-4846, 
Option 2.
    (E) Reporting period. The reporting period of the IFQ Registered 
Buyer Ex-vessel Value and Volume Report shall extend from October 1 
through September 30 of the following year, inclusive.
    (ii) IFQ Permit Holder Fee Submission Form--(A) Applicability. An 
IFQ permit holder who holds an IFQ permit against which a landing was 
made must submit to NMFS a complete IFQ Permit Holder Fee Submission 
Form provided by NMFS.
    (B) Due date and submittal. A complete IFQ Permit Holder Fee 
Submission Form must be postmarked or received by the Regional 
Administrator not later than January 31 following the calendar year in 
which any IFQ landing was made.
    (C) Completed application. NMFS will process an IFQ Permit Holder 
Fee Submission Form provided that a paper or electronic form is 
completed by the permit holder, with all applicable fields accurately 
filled in, and all required additional documentation is attached.
    (D) IFQ landing summary and estimated fee liability. NMFS will 
provide to an IFQ permit holder an IFQ Landing and Estimated Fee 
Liability page as required by Sec.  679.45(a)(2). The IFQ permit holder 
must either accept the accuracy of the NMFS estimated fee liability 
associated with his or her IFQ landings for each IFQ permit, or 
calculate a revised IFQ fee liability in accordance with paragraph 
(l)(7)(ii)(E) of this section. The IFQ permit holder may calculate a 
revised fee liability for all or part of his or her IFQ landings.
    (E) Revised fee liability calculation. To calculate a revised fee 
liability, an IFQ permit holder must multiply the IFQ percentage in 
effect by either the IFQ actual ex-vessel value or the IFQ standard ex-
vessel of the IFQ landing. If parts of the landing have different 
values, the permit holder must apply the appropriate values to the 
different parts of the landings.
    (F) Documentation. If NMFS requests in writing that a permit holder 
submit documentation establishing the factual basis for a revised IFQ 
fee liability, the permit holder must submit adequate documentation by 
the 30th day after the date of such request. Examples of such 
documentation regarding initial sales transactions of IFQ landings 
include

[[Page 75893]]

valid fish tickets, sales receipts, or check stubs that clearly 
identify the IFQ landing amount, species, date, time, and ex-vessel 
value or price.
    (G) Reporting period. The reporting period of the IFQ Permit Holder 
Fee Submission Form shall extend from January 1 to December 31 of the 
year prior to the January 31 due date.
* * * * *

0
13. In Sec.  679.40, revise the introductory text and paragraph (c)(1) 
to read as follows:


Sec.  679.40  Sablefish and halibut QS.

    The Regional Administrator shall annually divide the annual 
commercial fishing catch limit of halibut as defined in Sec.  300.61 of 
this title and published in the Federal Register pursuant to Sec.  
300.62 of this title, among qualified halibut quota share holders. The 
Regional Administrator shall annually divide the TAC of sablefish that 
is apportioned to the fixed gear fishery pursuant to Sec.  679.20, 
minus the CDQ reserve, among qualified sablefish quota share holders.
* * * * *
    (c) Calculation of annual IFQ allocation--(1) General. (i) The 
annual allocation of halibut IFQ to any person (person p) in any IFQ 
regulatory area (area a) will be equal to the product of the annual 
commercial catch limit as defined in Sec.  300.61 of this title, after 
adjustment for purposes of the Western Alaska CDQ Program, and that 
person's QS divided by the QS pool for that area. Overage adjustments 
will be subtracted from a person's IFQ pursuant to paragraph (d) of 
this section; underage adjustments will be added to a person's IFQ 
pursuant to paragraph (e) of this section. Expressed algebraically, the 
annual halibut IFQ allocation formula is as follows:

IFQpa = [(fixed gear TACa- CDQ 
reservea) x (QSpa/QS poola)] - 
overage adjustment of IFQpa + underage adjustment of 
IFQpa.

    (ii) The annual allocation of sablefish IFQ to any person (person 
p) in any IFQ regulatory area (area a) will be equal to the product of 
the TAC of sablefish by fixed gear for that area (after adjustment for 
purposes of the Western Alaska CDQ Program) and that person's QS 
divided by the QS pool for that area. Overage adjustments will be 
subtracted from a person's IFQ pursuant to paragraph (d) of this 
section; underage adjustments will be added to a person's IFQ pursuant 
to paragraph (e) of this section. Expressed algebraically, the annual 
IFQ allocation formula is as follows:

IFQpa = [(fixed gear TACa - CDQ 
reservea) x (QSpa/QS poola)] - 
overage adjustment of IFQpa + underage adjustment of 
IFQpa.
* * * * *

0
14. In Sec.  679.41, add paragraph (a)(3) to read as follows:


Sec.  679.41  Transfer of quota shares and IFQ.

    (a) * * *
    (3) Any transaction involving a transfer between IFQ and guided 
angler fish (GAF), as defined in Sec.  300.61 of this title, is 
governed by regulations in Sec.  300.65(c) of this title.
* * * * *

0
15. In Sec.  679.42 revise paragraphs (f)(1)(i), (f)(1)(ii), and (f)(6) 
to read as follows:


Sec.  679.42  Limitations on use of QS and IFQ.

* * * * *
    (f) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) IFQ regulatory Area 2C. 599,799 units of halibut QS, including 
halibut QS issued as IFQ and transferred to GAF, as defined in Sec.  
300.61 of this title.
    (ii) IFQ regulatory area 2C, 3A, and 3B. 1,502,823 units of halibut 
QS, including halibut QS issued as IFQ and transferred to GAF, as 
defined in Sec.  300.61 of this title.
* * * * *
    (6) No individual that receives IFQ derived from halibut QS held by 
a CQE, including GAF as defined in Sec.  300.61 of this title, may 
hold, individually or collectively, more than 50,000 pounds (22.7 mt) 
of IFQ halibut, including IFQ halibut received as GAF, derived from any 
halibut QS source.
* * * * *

0
16. In Sec.  679.45:
0
a. Remove and reserve paragraph (c); and
0
b. Revise paragraphs (a)(1), (a)(2), (a)(3), (a)(4)(i) through (iii), 
(b), (d)(2) heading, (d)(2)(i)(A) through (C), (d)(2)(ii), (d)(3)(i), 
(d)(4), (e), and (f) to read as follows:


Sec.  679.45  IFQ cost recovery program.

    (a) * * *
    (1) Responsibility. An IFQ permit holder is responsible for cost 
recovery fees for landings of his or her IFQ halibut and sablefish, 
including any halibut landed as guided angler fish (GAF), as defined in 
Sec.  300.61 of this title, derived from his or her IFQ accounts. An 
IFQ permit holder must comply with the requirements of this section.
    (2) IFQ Fee Liability Determination--(i) General. IFQ fee liability 
means a cost recovery liability based on the value of all landed IFQ 
and GAF derived from the permit holder's IFQ permit(s).
    (A) Each year, the Regional Administrator will issue each IFQ 
permit holder a summary of his or her IFQ equivalent pounds landed as 
IFQ and GAF as part of the IFQ Landing and Estimated Fee Liability page 
described at Sec.  679.5(l)(7)(ii)(D).
    (B) The summary will include information on IFQ and GAF landings 
and an estimated IFQ fee liability using the IFQ standard ex-vessel 
value for IFQ and GAF landings. For fee purposes:
    (1) Landings of GAF in IFQ regulatory area 2C or 3A are converted 
to IFQ equivalent pounds and assessed at the IFQ regulatory area 2C or 
3A IFQ standard ex-vessel value.
    (2) GAF that is returned to the IFQ permit holder's account 
pursuant to Sec.  300.65(c) of this title, and subsequently landed as 
IFQ during the IFQ fishing year, is included in the IFQ fee liability 
and subject to fee assessment as IFQ equivalent pounds.
    (C) The IFQ permit holder must either accept NMFS' estimate of the 
IFQ fee liability or revise NMFS' estimate of the IFQ fee liability 
using the IFQ Permit Holder Fee Submission Form described at Sec.  
679.5(l)(7)(ii), except that the standard ex-vessel value used to 
determine the fee liability for GAF is not subject to challenge. If the 
IFQ permit holder revises NMFS' estimate of his or her IFQ fee 
liability, NMFS may request in writing that the permit holder submit 
documentation establishing the factual basis for the revised 
calculation. If the IFQ permit holder fails to provide adequate 
documentation on or by the 30th day after the date of such request, 
NMFS will determine the IFQ permit holder's IFQ fee liability based on 
standard ex-vessel values.
    (ii) Value assigned to GAF. The IFQ fee liability is computed from 
all net pounds allocated to the IFQ permit holder that are landed, 
including IFQ landed as GAF.
    (A) NMFS will determine the IFQ equivalent pounds of GAF landed in 
IFQ regulatory area 2C or 3A that are derived from the IFQ permit 
holder's account.
    (B) The IFQ equivalent pounds of GAF landed in IFQ regulatory area 
2C or 3A are multiplied by the standard ex-vessel value computed for 
that area to determine the value of IFQ landed as GAF.
    (iii) The value of IFQ landed as GAF is added to the value of the 
IFQ permit holder's landed IFQ, and the sum is multiplied by the annual 
IFQ fee percentage to estimate the IFQ permit holder's IFQ fee 
liability.
    (3) Fee collection. An IFQ permit holder with IFQ and/or GAF 
landings is responsible for collecting his or her own

[[Page 75894]]

fee during the calendar year in which the IFQ fish and/or GAF are 
landed.
    (4) * * *
    (i) Payment due date. An IFQ permit holder must submit his or her 
IFQ fee liability payment(s) to NMFS at the address provided at 
paragraph (a)(4)(iii) of this section not later than January 31 of the 
year following the calendar year in which the IFQ and/or GAF landings 
were made.
    (ii) Payment recipient. Make payment payable to IFQ Fee 
Coordinator, OMI.
    (iii) Payment address. Mail payment and related documents to: 
Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, Attn: IFQ Fee Coordinator, Office 
of Operations, Management, and Information, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 
99802-1668; submit by fax to (907) 586-7354; or submit electronically 
through the NMFS Alaska Region Home Page at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. If paying by credit card, ensure that all 
requested card information is provided.
* * * * *
    (b) IFQ ex-vessel value determination and use--(1) General. An IFQ 
permit holder must use either the IFQ actual ex-vessel value or the IFQ 
standard ex-vessel value when determining the IFQ fee liability based 
on ex-vessel value, except that landed GAF are assessed at the standard 
values derived by NMFS. An IFQ permit holder must base all IFQ fee 
liability calculations on the ex-vessel value that correlates to the 
landed IFQ in IFQ equivalent pounds.
    (2) IFQ actual ex-vessel value. An IFQ permit holder that uses 
actual ex-vessel value, as defined in Sec.  679.2, to determine IFQ fee 
liability for landed IFQ must document actual ex-vessel value for each 
IFQ permit. The actual ex-vessel value cannot be used to assign value 
to halibut landed as GAF.
    (3) IFQ standard ex-vessel value--(i) Use of standard price. An IFQ 
permit holder that uses standard ex-vessel value to determine the IFQ 
fee liability, as part of a revised IFQ fee liability submission, must 
use the corresponding standard price(s) as published in the Federal 
Register.
    (ii) All landed GAF must be valued using the standard ex-vessel 
value for the year and for the IFQ regulatory area of harvest--Area 2C 
or Area 3A.
    (iii) Duty to publish list. Each year the Regional Administrator 
will publish a list of IFQ standard prices in the Federal Register 
during the last quarter of the calendar year. The IFQ standard prices 
will be described in U.S. dollars per IFQ equivalent pound, for IFQ 
halibut and sablefish landings made during the current calendar year.
    (iv) Effective duration. The IFQ standard prices will remain in 
effect until revised by the Regional Administrator by notification in 
the Federal Register based upon new information of the type set forth 
in this section. IFQ standard prices published in the Federal Register 
by NMFS shall apply to all landings made in the same calendar year as 
the IFQ standard price publication and shall replace any IFQ standard 
prices previously provided by NMFS that may have been in effect for 
that same calendar year.
    (v) Determination. NMFS will apply the standard price, aggregated 
IFQ regulatory area 2C or 3A, to GAF landings. NMFS will calculate the 
IFQ standard prices to reflect, as closely as possible by month and 
port or port-group, the variations in the actual ex-vessel values of 
IFQ halibut and IFQ sablefish landings based on information provided in 
the IFQ Registered Buyer Ex-Vessel Value and Volume Report as described 
in Sec.  679.5(l)(7)(i). The Regional Administrator will base IFQ 
standard prices on the following types of information:
    (A) Landed net pounds by IFQ species, port-group, and month;
    (B) Total ex-vessel value by IFQ species, port-group, and month; 
and
    (C) Price adjustments, including IFQ retro-payments.
* * * * *
    (d) * * *
    (2) Calculating the fee percentage. * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) The IFQ and GAF landings to which the IFQ fee will apply;
    (B) The ex-vessel value of that landed IFQ and GAF; and
    (C) The costs directly related to the management and enforcement of 
the IFQ Program, which include GAF costs.
    (ii) Methodology. NMFS must use the following equation to determine 
the fee percentage:

100 x (DPC/V)

Where:

``DPC'' is the direct program costs for the IFQ fishery for the 
previous fiscal year, and
``V'' is the ex-vessel value determined for IFQ landed as commercial 
catch or as GAF subject to the IFQ fee liability for the current 
year.

    (3) * * *
    (i) General. During or before the last quarter of each calendar 
year, NMFS shall publish the IFQ fee percentage in the Federal 
Register. NMFS shall base any IFQ fee liability calculations on the 
factors and methodology in paragraph (d)(2) of this section.
* * * * *
    (4) Applicable percentage. The IFQ permit holder must use the IFQ 
fee percentage in effect for the year in which the IFQ and GAF landings 
are made to calculate his or her fee liability for such landed IFQ and 
GAF. The IFQ permit holder must use the IFQ fee percentage in effect at 
the time an IFQ retro-payment is received by the IFQ permit holder to 
calculate his or her IFQ fee liability for the IFQ retro-payment.
    (e) Non-payment of fee. (1) If an IFQ permit holder does not submit 
a complete IFQ Permit Holder Fee Submission Form and corresponding 
payment by the due date described in Sec.  679.45(a)(4), the Regional 
Administrator will:
    (i) Send Initial Administrative Determination (IAD). Send an IAD to 
the IFQ permit holder stating that the IFQ permit holder's estimated 
fee liability, as calculated by the Regional Administrator and sent to 
the IFQ permit holder pursuant to Sec.  679.45(a)(2), is the amount of 
IFQ fee liability due from the IFQ permit holder. An IFQ permit holder 
who receives an IAD may appeal the IAD, as described in paragraph (h) 
of this section.
    (ii) Disapprove transfer. Disapprove any transfer of GAF, IFQ, or 
QS to or from the IFQ permit holder in accordance with Sec.  300.65(c) 
of this title and Sec.  679.41(c), until the IFQ fee liability is 
reconciled, except that NMFS may return unused GAF to the IFQ permit 
holder's account from which it was derived on or after the automatic 
GAF return date.
    (2) Upon final agency action determining that an IFQ permit holder 
has not paid his or her IFQ fee liability, as described in paragraph 
(f) of this section, any IFQ fishing permit held by the IFQ permit 
holder is not valid until all IFQ fee liabilities are paid.
    (3) If payment is not received on or before the 30th day after the 
final agency action, the matter will be referred to the appropriate 
authorities for purposes of collection.
    (f) Underpayment of IFQ fee. (1) When an IFQ permit holder has 
incurred a fee liability and made a timely payment to NMFS of an amount 
less than the NMFS estimated IFQ fee liability, the Regional 
Administrator will review the IFQ Permit Holder Fee Submission Form and 
related documentation submitted by the IFQ permit holder. If the 
Regional Administrator determines that the IFQ permit holder has not 
paid a sufficient amount, the Regional Administrator will:
    (i) Disapprove transfer. Disapprove any transfer of GAF, IFQ, or QS 
to or from the IFQ permit holder in accordance with Sec.  300.65(c) of 
this title and Sec.  679.41(c), until the IFQ fee liability is 
reconciled, except that NMFS

[[Page 75895]]

may return unused GAF to the IFQ permit holder's account from which it 
was derived 15 days prior to the closing of the commercial halibut 
fishing season each year.
    (ii) Notify permit holder. Notify the IFQ permit holder by letter 
that an insufficient amount has been paid and that the IFQ permit 
holder has 30 days from the date of the letter to either pay the amount 
determined to be due or provide additional documentation to prove that 
the amount paid was the correct amount.
    (2) After the expiration of the 30-day period, the Regional 
Administrator will evaluate any additional documentation submitted by 
an IFQ permit holder in support of his or her payment. If the Regional 
Administrator determines that the additional documentation does not 
meet the IFQ permit holder's burden of proving his or her payment is 
correct, the Regional Administrator will send the permit holder an IAD 
indicating that the permit holder did not meet the burden of proof to 
change the IFQ fee liability as calculated by the Regional 
Administrator based upon the IFQ standard ex-vessel value. The IAD will 
set out the facts and indicate the deficiencies in the documentation 
submitted by the permit holder. An IFQ permit holder who receives an 
IAD may appeal the IAD, as described in paragraph (h) of this section.
    (3) If the permit holder fails to file an appeal of the IAD 
pursuant to Sec.  679.43, the IAD will become the final agency action.
    (4) If the IAD is appealed and the final agency action is a 
determination that additional sums are due from the IFQ permit holder, 
the IFQ permit holder must pay any IFQ fee amount determined to be due 
not later than 30 days from the issuance of the final agency action.
    (5) Upon final agency action determining that an IFQ permit holder 
has not paid his or her IFQ fee liability, any IFQ fishing permit held 
by the IFQ permit holder is not valid until all IFQ fee liabilities are 
paid.
    (6) If payment is not received on or before the 30th day after the 
final agency action, the matter will be referred to the appropriate 
authorities for purposes of collection.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2013-29598 Filed 12-9-13; 4:15 pm]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P