[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 246 (Monday, December 23, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 77413-77416]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-30512]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 660

[Docket No. 130822744-3744-01]
RIN 0648-BD63


Fisheries Off West Coast States; Coastal Pelagic Species 
Fisheries; Change to Start of Pacific Sardine Fishing Year

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

ACTION: Proposed rule.

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SUMMARY: Each year, NMFS implements regulations that set the annual 
quota and management measures for the Pacific sardine fishing year. 
NMFS proposes to change the starting date of the annual Pacific sardine 
fishery from January 1 to July 1. This would change the fishing season 
from one based on the calendar year to one based on a July 1 through 
the following June 30th schedule. No other changes to the annual 
allocation structure are being made and the existing seasonal 
allocation percentages will remain as specified in the FMP; as would 
the current quota roll-over provisions. The purpose of this change is 
to better align the timing of the research and science that is used in 
the annual stock assessments with the annual management schedule. To 
enable this transition in fishing years, this action also would 
establish a one-time interim harvest period for the 6 months from 
January 1, 2014, through June 30, 2014.

DATES: Comments must be received by January 22, 2014.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2013-0167'' by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0167, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to William W. Stelle, Jr., 
Regional Administrator, West Coast Region, NMFS, 7600 Sand Point Way 
NE., Seattle, WA 98115-0070; Attn: Joshua Lindsay.
     Fax: (562) 980-4047; Attn: Joshua Lindsay
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in 
Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Joshua Lindsay, Southwest Region, 
NMFS, (562) 980-4034.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This proposed rule would change the start 
date of the 12-month Pacific sardine fishery from January 1 to July 1, 
thus changing the fishing season for Pacific sardine from one based on 
the calendar year to one beginning on July 1 and continuing through 
June 30th of the following year. The purpose of this change is to 
better align the timing of the research and science used in the annual 
stock assessments with the annual management schedule, as the present 
schedule imposes substantial

[[Page 77414]]

challenges in terms of survey data availability relative to the timing 
of stock assessments.
    The process for setting the annual Pacific sardine quotas begins 
with the Pacific Fishery Management Council's (Council) annual November 
public meeting, where scientists present the estimated biomass of 
Pacific sardine to the Council and its various advisory bodies. At this 
meeting the biomass estimate and the status of the fishery is reviewed 
and discussed. Following this review by the Council and after hearing 
public comment, the Council adopts a biomass estimate which, based on 
the management framework in the Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) Fishery 
Management Plan (FMP), is used in the calculation and development of 
the annual Pacific sardine catch levels that are recommended to the 
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) by the Council. NMFS then 
implements regulations that set the annual quota for the Pacific 
sardine fishing year that currently begins January 1 and ends December 
31.
    These annual Pacific sardine quotas are based in large part on the 
results of annually conducted stock assessments that provide the 
biomass estimates used in the calculation of quotas. The stock 
assessments go through a scientific review process in late September or 
early October in preparation for action at the November Council 
meeting.
    At present, the current research and management schedule imposes 
substantial challenges in terms of survey data availability relative to 
the timing of the completion of the stock assessments. In recent years, 
the data used in the stock assessments has come from new and expanded 
surveys that occur throughout the summer and into September. This has 
caused conflicts in the stock assessment process as both the survey 
teams and the stock assessment scientists have become rushed both to 
finish the research and analyze the data in time for the stock 
assessment to be completed and reviewed prior to the November Council 
meeting. This timing is necessary to accommodate the current management 
cycle that is tied to the January 1 fishery season start date. For 
example, some of the data currently used in the stock assessment comes 
from a survey conducted off of Oregon and Washington that occurs until 
September 15. With the formal review of the stock assessment normally 
held the first week of October, data from this survey must also be 
provided to the stock assessment team by mid to late September. This 
provides little time for a thorough review of survey data and results 
prior to delivery to the stock assessment team.
    To address the assessment scheduling constraints described above, 
with the management process for implementing annual quotas, the Council 
recommended, and NMFS is proposing, to change the start of the fishing 
season from January 1 to July 1. By moving the timing of the start of 
the fishery to July 1 and therefore the timing of when the stock 
assessment must be completed (late winter/early spring) this will allow 
the management process, for which the timing will also change, to then 
better align with the research and data being collected for the 
assessment.
    The harvest guideline (HG) for the Pacific sardine fishery is 
apportioned based on the allocation scheme established through 
Amendment 11 to the CPS FMP. Under the allocation scheme, the Pacific 
sardine fishing year is divided into three seasonal periods with fixed 
allocation percentages of quota attached to each time period: January 
1-June 30 (35 percent), July 1-September 14 (40 percent) and September 
15-December 31 (25 percent). Any quota not harvested in a period is 
rolled over into the subsequent period; any amount not harvested by the 
end of the fishing year is not rolled over into the next fishing year. 
If the total HG or these apportionment levels for Pacific sardine are 
reached at any time, the Pacific sardine fishery will close until 
either it re-opens per the allocation scheme or the beginning of the 
next fishing season.
    Through this proposed action, what is currently known as the second 
allocation period (July 1-September 14) would become the first period, 
the third allocation period (September 15-December 31) would become the 
second period, and the first allocation period (January 1-June 30) 
would become the third period. No changes to the seasonal allocation 
structure are being made through this action and the existing seasonal 
allocation percentages will remain as specified in the FMP; as would 
the current quota roll-over provisions. The Council will be addressing 
complete year sardine management (July 1 to June 30) at their April 
2014 public meeting.
    If this proposed rule is implemented, the start of the next 
complete fishing season would begin on July 1, 2014. Because the 
current 2013 fishing season ends on December 31, 2013, NMFS is also 
proposing in this rule the establishment of a one-time interim harvest 
allocation period from January 1, 2014 through June 30, 2014 to allow 
for continued fishing during the transition from a January to July 
start of the fishing season. The harvest specifications for this 
interim allocation period will be implemented through a separate 
rulemaking action. At the November 2013 Council meeting, the Council 
took action on setting the quota for the January 2014 through June 2014 
period. Although the interim harvest specifications will include an 
Overfishing Limit (OFL), Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) and Annual 
Catch Limit (ACL) for calendar year 2014, those specifications are 
expected to be replaced based on the new stock assessment and Council 
action in April 2014.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act, the Assistant Administrator, NMFS, has 
determined that this proposed rule is consistent with the CPS FMP, 
other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act, and other applicable law, subject to further 
consideration after public comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. 
As a result, a regulatory flexibility analysis is not required, and 
none has been prepared. The analysis of the Chief Counsel was as 
follows:
    The purpose of the proposed action is to change the date of the 
start of the yearly Pacific sardine fishery from January 1 to July 1, 
thus changing the fishing season for Pacific sardine from one based on 
the calendar year to a fishing year that will begin on July 1 and 
continuing through June 30th of the following year. As described in the 
preamble of this rule, the purpose of this change is to better align 
the timing of the research and science that is used in the annual stock 
assessments with the annual management schedule.
    The proposed action is not expected to have significant direct or 
indirect socioeconomic impacts because harvest limits and management 
measures influencing ex-vessel revenue and personal income, such as how 
harvest limits are determined, are not established under the range of 
alternatives considered. Instead, the proposed action only changes the 
annual fishing season from one based on the calendar year to one 
beginning on

[[Page 77415]]

July 1 and proceeding to the following June 30th. The CPS FMP and its 
implementing regulations require NMFS to set an OFL, ABC, ACL and 
harvest guideline (HG) or annual catch target (ACT) for the Pacific 
sardine fishery based on the specified harvest control rules in the 
FMP. A specific harvest control rule is applied to the current stock 
biomass estimate to derive the annual HG that is used to manage the 
directed commercial take of Pacific sardine. This annual HG is the 
primary determinate in the overall revenue derived from fishing for 
Pacific sardine, and this action does not change the framework.
    On June 20, 2013, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) 
issued a final rule revising the small business size standards for 
several industries effective July 22, 2013 (78 FR 37398). The rule 
increased the size standard for Finfish Fishing from $4.0 million to 
$19.0 million, Shellfish Fishing from $4.0 million to $5.0 million, and 
Other Marine Fishing from $4.0 million to $7.0 million. NMFS conducted 
its analysis for this action using the new size standards
    As stated above, the U.S. Small Business Administration now defines 
small businesses engaged in finfish fishing as those vessels with 
annual revenues of or below $19 million. Under the former, lower size 
standards, all entities subject to this action in previous years were 
considered small entities, and under the new standards they continue to 
be considered small. The small entities that would be affected by the 
proposed action are the vessels that fish for Pacific sardine as part 
of the West Coast CPS finfish fleet. In 2012 there were approximately 
96 vessels permitted to operate in the directed sardine fishery 
component of the CPS fishery off the U.S. West Coast, 55 vessels in the 
Federal CPS limited entry fishery off California (south of 39 N. lat.), 
and a combined 23 vessels in Oregon and Washington's state Pacific 
sardine fisheries. The average annual per vessel revenue in 2012 for 
the West Coast CPS finfish fleet was well below $19 million; therefore, 
all of these vessels are considered small businesses under the RFA. 
Because each affected vessel is a small business, this proposed rule 
has an equal effect on all of these small entities, and therefore will 
impact a substantial number of these small entities in the same manner. 
Therefore this rule will not create disproportionate costs between 
small and large vessels/businesses.
    Currently the fishery begins on January 1 and ends on December 31 
of each year and the HG is apportioned based on the following 
allocation scheme established through Amendment 11 to the CPS FMP. 
Under this allocation scheme, 35 percent of the HG is allocated 
coastwide on January 1; 40 percent of the HG, plus any portion not 
harvested from the initial allocation is then reallocated coastwide on 
July 1; and on September 15 the remaining 25 percent, plus any portion 
not harvested from earlier allocations will be released. If the total 
HG or these apportionment levels for Pacific sardine are reached at any 
time, the Pacific sardine fishery will close until either it re-opens 
per the allocation scheme or the beginning of the next fishing season; 
any amount not harvested by the end of the fishing year is not rolled 
over into the next fishing year. There is no limit on the amount of 
catch that any single vessel can take during an allocation period or 
the year; the HG and seasonal allocations are available until fully 
utilized by the entire CPS fleet. The purpose of Amendment 11 and the 
framework described above was to achieve optimal utilization of the 
available harvest of Pacific sardine by all entities through an 
equitable coastwide allocation, providing vessels in all regions an 
equal opportunity to the resource.
    Under this proposed rule, the allocation period currently known as 
the second allocation period (July 1-September 14) would become the 
first period, the third allocation period (September 15-December 31) 
would become the second period, and the first allocation period 
(January 1-June 30) would become the third period. No changes to the 
seasonal allocation structure are being made and the existing 
allocation percentages will remain as specified in the FMP, as would 
the current quota roll-over provisions. Because no changes to the 
allocation structure or seasonal percentages would be made, the 
proposed action does not appear to be inconsistent with objectives and 
analyses conducted in Amendment 11 creating the current allocation 
framework. Therefore, the proposed action is likely to result in 
negligible or at this point unknown economic impacts.
    Additionally, the establishment of a one-time interim harvest 
allocation period from January 1, 2014 through June 30, 2014 will allow 
for a transition from the current start of the fishing season to the 
proposed new start on July 1. The intent of this action is to allow 
fishing opportunities to continue during the transition period. The 
alternative to this proposed provision is to prohibit fishing during 
the transition period. Compared to the alternative, the proposed 
interim harvest allocation period is expected to have positive economic 
impacts on the affected small entities as it will allow them to 
continue fishing. However, this action only establishes the framework 
by which harvest allocations will be set for this 6-month period; the 
specific economic impacts of any quota allocated for this interim 
harvest period will be analyzed separately when those quota are 
established.
    For the reasons above, the Chief Counsel for Regulation certified 
that this rule will not have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities.
    This action does not contain a collection-of-information 
requirement for purposes of the Paperwork Reduction Act.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 660

    Fisheries, Fishing, Indians.

    Dated: December 17, 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 proposes to amend 50 
CFR part 660 as follows:

PART 660--FISHERIES OFF WEST COAST STATES

0
1. The authority citation for part 660 continues to read as follows:

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

0
2. In Sec.  660.510, paragraph (a) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  660.510  Fishing seasons.

* * * * *
    (a) Pacific sardine. July 1 to June 30, or until closed under Sec.  
660.509.
* * * * *
0
3. In Sec.  660.511, paragraphs (f) through (h) are revised to read as 
follows:

[[Page 77416]]

Sec.  660.511  Catch restrictions.

* * * * *
    (f) On July 1, 40 percent of the initial harvest guideline for 
Pacific sardine is allocated coastwide within the fishery management 
area.
    (g) On September 15, 25 percent of the initial harvest guideline 
for Pacific sardine plus the remaining unharvested portion of the July 
1 allocation in (f) is allocated coastwide within the fishery 
management area.
    (h) On January 1, 35 percent of the initial harvest guideline for 
Pacific sardine plus the remaining unharvested portion of the September 
15 allocation is allocated coastwide within the fishery management 
area.
[FR Doc. 2013-30512 Filed 12-20-13; 8:45 am]
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