[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 25 (Thursday, February 6, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 7156-7163]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-02633]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 300

[Docket No. 131213999-4083-01]
RIN 0648-BD82


Pacific Halibut Fisheries; Catch Sharing Plan

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

ACTION: Proposed rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes to approve changes to the Pacific Halibut Catch 
Sharing Plan (Plan) for the International Pacific Halibut Commission's 
(IPHC or Commission) regulatory Area 2A off Washington, Oregon, and 
California

[[Page 7157]]

(Area 2A). In addition, NMFS proposes to implement the portions of the 
Plan and management measures that are not implemented through the IPHC. 
These measures include the sport fishery allocations and management 
measures for Area 2A. These actions are intended to enhance the 
conservation of Pacific halibut, provide greater angler opportunity 
where available, and avoid bycatch of overfished groundfish species.

DATES: Comments on the proposed changes to the Plan and on the proposed 
domestic Area 2A halibut management measures must be received by 
February 21, 2014.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2014-0009, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2014-0009, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to William Stelle, Regional 
Administrator, West Coast Region, NMFS, 7600 Sand Point Way NE., 
Seattle, WA 98115-0070.
    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: Sarah Williams, phone: 206-526-4646, 
fax: 206-526-6736, or email: sarah.williams@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Electronic Access

    This rule is accessible via the Internet at the Office of the 
Federal Register Web site at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/aces/aces140.html. Background information and documents are available at the 
NMFS West Coast Region Web site at http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/management/pacific_halibut_management.html and at the Council's Web site at http://www.pcouncil.org.

Background

    The Northern Pacific Halibut Act (Halibut Act) of 1982, 16 U.S.C. 
773-773K, gives the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) general 
responsibility for implementing the provisions of the Halibut 
Convention between the United States and Canada (Halibut Convention) 
(16 U.S.C. 773c). It requires the Secretary to adopt regulations as may 
be necessary to carry out the purposes and objectives of the Halibut 
Convention and the Halibut Act. Section 773c of the Halibut Act also 
authorizes the regional fishery management councils to develop 
regulations in addition to, but not in conflict with, regulations of 
the IPHC to govern the Pacific halibut catch in their corresponding 
U.S. Convention waters.
    Each year between 1988 and 1995, the Pacific Fishery Management 
Council (Council) developed and NMFS implemented a catch sharing plan 
in accordance with the Halibut Act to allocate the total allowable 
catch (TAC) of Pacific halibut between treaty Indian and non-treaty 
harvesters and among non-treaty commercial and sport fisheries in Area 
2A. In 1995, NMFS implemented the Pacific Council-recommended long-term 
Plan (60 FR 14651, March 20, 1995). In each of the intervening years 
between 1995 and the present, minor revisions to the Plan have been 
made to adjust for the changing needs of the fisheries.
    The Plan allocates 35 percent of the Area 2A Pacific halibut TAC to 
Washington treaty Indian tribes in Subarea 2A-1, and 65 percent of the 
Area 2A TAC to non-tribal fisheries. The TAC allocation to non-tribal 
fisheries is divided into four shares. Three shares, totalling 99%, are 
as follows: The Washington sport fishery (north of the Columbia River) 
receives 36.6 percent, the Oregon sport fishery receives 30.7 percent, 
and the commercial fishery receives 31.7 percent. For 2014, the Council 
recommended and NMFS proposes as the fourth share, a new allocation for 
the California sport fishery of 1% of the non-tribal allocation. The 
commercial fishery is further divided into a directed commercial 
fishery that is allocated 85 percent of the commercial allocation of 
Pacific halibut TAC, and an incidental catch in the salmon troll 
fishery that is allocated 15 percent of the commercial allocation. The 
directed commercial fishery in Area 2A is confined to southern 
Washington (south of 46[deg]53.30' N. lat.), Oregon, and California. 
North of 46[deg]53.30' N. lat. (Pt. Chehalis), the Plan allows for 
incidental halibut retention in the sablefish primary fishery when the 
overall Area 2A TAC is above 900,000 lb (408.2 mt). The Plan also 
divides the sport fisheries into seven geographic subareas, each with 
separate allocations, seasons, and bag limits.
    The IPHC's annual meeting occurred January 13-17, 2014, in Seattle, 
WA. At that meeting, the IPHC set the 2014 Area 2A TAC at 960,000 lb 
(435.45 mt).

Incidental Halibut Retention in the Sablefish Primary Fishery North of 
Pt. Chehalis, Washington

    The Plan provides that incidental halibut retention in the 
sablefish primary fishery north of Pt. Chehalis, Washington, will be 
allowed when the Area 2A TAC is greater than 900,000 lb (408.2 mt), 
provided that a minimum of 10,000 lb (4.5 mt) is available above a 
Washington recreational TAC of 214,100 lb (97.1 mt). In 2014, the TAC 
is 960,000 lb (435.45 mt) and the Washington recreational TAC exceeds 
224,100 lb; therefore incidental halibut retention will be allowed in 
this fishery. The Council will recommend landing restrictions for 
public review at its spring meetings after which NMFS will publish the 
restrictions in the Federal Register.

Opportunity for Public Comment

    Through this proposed rule, NMFS requests public comments on the 
Pacific Council's recommended modifications to the Plan and the 
resulting proposed domestic fishing regulations by February 21, 2014. 
The States of Washington and Oregon will conduct public workshops 
shortly to obtain input on the sport season dates. Following the 
proposed rule comment period, NMFS will review public comments and 
comments from the states, and issue a final rule for Areas 2A, 2C, 3A, 
3B, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, and 4E. The final rule will also contain the IPHC 
regulations for the 2014 Pacific halibut fisheries. This proposed rule 
provides for a 15-day public comment period, which will allow NMFS time 
to incorporate the final U.S. domestic regulations into the IPHC 
regulations in order to have the combined regulations in place as close 
to March 1 as possible. The regulations need to be in effect in early 
March because the fishing season begins in mid-March. The 2014 
commercial season starting date(s) need to be published soon after the 
IPHC meeting in January 2014 to notify the public of that date so the 
industry can plan for the season.

[[Page 7158]]

Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7 Biological Opinion (BiOp) and 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Environmental Assessment (EA)

    In response to the listing of yelloweye, canary, and bocaccio 
rockfish in Puget Sound under the ESA (75 FR 22276, April 28, 2010), 
NMFS commenced a consultation under Section 7 of the Endangered Species 
Act on the implementation of the 2014 and 2015 Pacific Halibut Catch 
Sharing Plan for Area 2A. Because the Plan covers fisheries in all of 
Area 2A (Washington, Oregon, and California), the consultation covers 
all fisheries (commercial, recreational, treaty Indian) that are 
allocated halibut through the Plan with respect to their impacts on all 
ESA-listed species that occur in Area 2A. Specifically, these include 
listed marine mammals, salmon, eulachon, and the Southern DPS of green 
sturgeon. NMFS is also drafting an EA to examine the effects of the 
ongoing implementation of the Catch Sharing Plan for Area 2A, and to 
update the biological environment, particularly with respect to the ESA 
listing of species occurring in Area 2A. Both documents are anticipated 
to be completed prior to issuance of the final rule. The draft EA will 
be posted at http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/management/pacific_halibut_management.html during the comment period 
on this proposed rule to allow the public the opportunity to review the 
draft document when submitting comments on the proposed rule. NMFS 
welcomes public comment on the environmental effects of this fishery 
generally, and specifically the effects of the fishery on ESA listed 
species.

Proposed Changes to the Plan

    Each year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), 
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), California Department of 
Fish and Game (CDFG), and the tribes with treaty fishing rights for 
halibut consider whether to pursue changes to the Plan to meet the 
needs of the fishery. In determining whether changes are needed, the 
state agencies hold public meetings prior to the Council's September 
meeting. Subsequently, they recommend changes to the Council at its 
September meeting. In 2013, fishery managers from all three state 
agencies held public meetings on the Plan prior to the Council's 
September meeting. At the September 2013 Pacific Council meeting, WDFW, 
ODFW, and CDFW recommended changes to the Plan, while NMFS and the 
tribes did not recommend any changes to the Plan. The Council voted to 
solicit public input on all of the changes recommended by the state 
agencies, several of which were presented in the form of alternatives. 
WDFW and ODFW subsequently held public workshops on the proposed 
changes.
    At its October 30-November 6, 2013, meeting the Council considered 
the results of state-sponsored workshops on the proposed changes to the 
Plan and public input provided at the September and November Council 
meetings, and made its final recommendations for modifications to the 
Plan. NMFS proposes to adopt all of the Council's proposed changes to 
the Plan, as follows:
    1. In section (b), Allocations, this rule proposes several changes 
to allocations. The non-Indian allocation is divided into four shares, 
rather than the previous three, to provide a dedicated allocation for 
the new California sport fishery subarea that would be created through 
proposed changes described in items 6 and 7, below. The proposed 
California allocation is one percent of the non-tribal allocation. 
Because the Oregon/California sport fishery allocation was previously 
shared, the proposed Oregon sport fishery allocation is lower than the 
previous combined allocation.
    2. In section (e)(4), Commercial license restrictions/declarations, 
this rule proposes several changes related to the starting date. In 
2012 the Council recommended changing the starting date for allowing 
halibut retention in the salmon troll fishery from May to April and 
discussed the same date change for halibut retention in the sablefish 
primary fishery. At the time NMFS informed the Council that the date 
change for the sablefish primary fishery did not require changes to the 
Plan section addressing this fishery. However, it does require the 
proposed changes to the license section of the Plan. The current Plan 
states that IPHC licenses are due by March 31; this does not allow the 
IPHC enough time to process applications prior to the start of the 
fisheries on April 1. Therefore, a change is proposed in the license 
application due date for halibut retention in both fisheries from March 
31 to March 15.
    3. In section (f)(1)(ii), Washington north coast subarea, this rule 
proposes several changes to the text for clarity. The goal of these 
changes is to more clearly describe the quota management closure and to 
discontinue the nearshore fishery. The nearshore fishery is open only 
when there is not enough quota for another all depth fishing day in 
this subarea. Due to high fishing effort in this area the nearshore 
provision has not been used for several years, therefore this rule 
proposes its discontinuation.
    4. In section (f)(1)(iv), Columbia River subarea, this rule 
proposes several changes to the text to implement several measures. 
First, there is a change to clarify that the allocation to this area is 
derived from the Washington and Oregon sport fishery allocations only, 
not the new California allocation. As explained above, the existing 
Plan includes a combined Oregon/California allocation. Second, a new 
nearshore fishery is created. Third, season dates are modified. 
Finally, the changes clarify how the quota will be managed between the 
early and late season. The quota in this area has been underutilized 
for the past several years, therefore the goal of the creation of a 
nearshore fishery and modification of season dates is intended to 
increase angler opportunity. Further, in the new nearshore area 
retention of halibut on groundfish trips will be allowed, which may 
help turn incidental halibut discards into retained fish improving the 
recreational experience in this area.
    5. In section (f)(1)(v), Oregon central coast subarea, this rule 
proposes several changes as follows: Modify the language stating that 
ODFW will sponsor public ``workshops'' to public ``input processes,'' 
modify the nearshore fishery season open date and number of days per 
week, and modify the spring all depth season allocation so that two 
percent is now allocated to the new Southern Oregon subarea. ODFW has 
experienced decreasing attendance at their state sponsored meetings and 
therefore has begun to use online surveys to successfully solicit 
public input on changes to the Plan each year. The change to the public 
input language in the Plan reflects that change. The modification to 
the nearshore fishery open date and number of days per week is in 
response to public comments stating a preference for a shorter fishery 
open more days per week versus a longer fishery with closed days per 
week. The changes to the spring fishery allocation are to provide an 
allocation to the new Southern Oregon subarea described below.
    6. In section (f)(1)(vi), South of Humbug Mountain subarea, this 
rule proposes several changes. These changes include splitting the 
existing South of Humbug Mountain subarea, which includes southern 
Oregon and the entire California coast, into a Southern Oregon subarea 
and a California subarea. This change will

[[Page 7159]]

allow for more effective management by each state with the goal of 
limiting catch to the respective allocations. Inseason halibut 
management is different in California than in Oregon. Oregon monitors 
the halibut catch in this area during the season while California does 
not. In addition to inseason monitoring, Oregon has established a 
management system that allows for inseason management of this area, 
such as closure upon quota attainment. Due to these differences, 
separation of the previous South of Humbug area into separate Oregon 
and California areas is the best way to avoid inconsistent management 
within one subarea, and to allow each state to use its most effective 
available management techniques to keep the fishery within its quota. 
This rule proposes modifications to section (f)(1)(vi) to describe the 
newly created Southern Oregon subarea. The subarea is allocated 2.0 
percent of the Oregon Central Coast subarea spring all-depth allocation 
and is open seven days per week, May 1 through October 31.
    7. This rule proposes to add section (f)(1)(vii) describing the 
newly created California subarea. As described under item 1 above, this 
new subarea would receive a 1.0 percent allocation from the overall 
non-Tribal allocation. The subarea will be open May 1-July 31 and 
September 1-October 31, 7 days per week. Closing the month of August is 
necessary because analysis completed by a Council-appointed workgroup 
showed it would result in a projected catch reduction of 39 percent. 
This reduction combined with closed areas in California state waters is 
projected to result in a 42 percent reduction in projected catch. The 
Council-appointed policy group recommended adopting measures with the 
goal of reducing recreational catch for 2014 in California to 40-60 
percent of the 5 year average to bring catch closer to its annual 
allocation. It is not anticipated that these management strategies will 
keep the catch in this area under the annual allocation, however, they 
are a first step towards achieving that purpose.

NMFS proposes to approve the Council's recommendations and to implement 
the changes described above. A version of the Plan including these 
changes can be found at http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/management/pacific_halibut_management.html.

Proposed 2014 Sport Fishery Management Measures

    NMFS also proposes sport fishery management measures that are 
necessary to implement the Plan in 2014. The annual domestic management 
measures are published each year through a final rule. For the 2013 
fishing season, the final rule was published on March 15, 2013 (78 FR 
16423), and the following section numbers refer to sections within that 
final rule. The final 2014 TAC for Area 2A is 960,000 lb (435.45 mt). 
Where season dates are not indicated, those dates will be provided in 
the final rule, following consideration of the 2014 TAC and 
consultation with the states and the public.
    In Section 8 of the annual domestic management measures, ``Fishing 
Periods,'' paragraph (2)-(3) is proposed to read as follows and 
paragraph (6) is modified to read as follows:
    (1) * * *
    (2) Each fishing period in the Area 2A directed fishery shall begin 
at 0800 hours and terminate at 1800 hours local time on June 25, July 
9, July 23, August 6, August 20, September 3, September 17, 2014, 
unless the Commission specifies otherwise.
    (3) Notwithstanding paragraph (2), and paragraph (7) of section 11, 
an incidental catch fishery is authorized during salmon troll seasons 
in Area 2A in accordance with regulations promulgated by NMFS. This 
fishery will occur between 1200 hours local time on (season dates will 
be inserted when final rule is published) March 8 and 1200 hours local 
time on (season dates will be inserted when final rule is published).
    (4) * * *
    (5) * * *
    (6) In Area 2A incidental catch of halibut in the primary sablefish 
fishery has not been determined at this time for the 2014 fishery.
    In section 26 of the annual domestic management measures, ``Sport 
Fishing for Halibut,'' paragraph 1(a)-(b) will be updated with 2014 
total allowable catch limits in the final rule. In section 26 of the 
annual domestic management measures, ``Sport Fishing for Halibut'' 
paragraph (8) is proposed to read as follows:
    (8) * * *
    (a) The area in Puget Sound and the U.S. waters in the Strait of 
Juan de Fuca, east of a line extending from 48[deg]17.30' N. lat., 
124[deg]23.70' W. long. north to 48[deg]24.10' N. lat., 124[deg]23.70' 
W. long., is not managed in-season relative to its quota. This area is 
managed by setting a season that is projected to result in a catch of 
57,393 lbs (26 mt).
    (i) The fishing season in eastern Puget Sound (east of 
123[deg]49.50' W. long., Low Point) is open (season dates will be 
inserted when final rule is published). The fishing season in western 
Puget Sound (west of 123[deg]49.50' W. long., Low Point) is open 
(season dates will be inserted when final rule is published).
    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person.
    (b) The quota for landings into ports in the area off the north 
Washington coast, west of the line described in paragraph (2)(a) of 
section 26 and north of the Queets River (47[deg]31.70' N. lat.), is 
108,030 (49 mt).
    (i) The fishing seasons are:
    (A) Commencing on May 15 and continuing 2 days a week (Thursday and 
Saturday) until 108,030 (49 mt) are estimated to have been taken and 
the season is closed by the Commission, or until May 24.
    (B) If sufficient quota remains the fishery will reopen on May 29 
and/or May 31, continuing 2 days per week (Thursday and Saturday) until 
there is not sufficient quota for another full day of fishing and the 
area is closed by the Commission. After May 24, any fishery opening 
will be announced on the NMFS hotline at 800-662-9825. No halibut 
fishing will be allowed after May 24 unless the date is announced on 
the NMFS hotline.
    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person.
    (iii) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is prohibited 
within the North Coast Recreational Yelloweye Rockfish Conservation 
Area (YRCA). It is unlawful for recreational fishing vessels to take 
and retain, possess, or land halibut taken with recreational gear 
within the North Coast Recreational YRCA. A vessel fishing in the North 
Coast Recreational YRCA may not be in possession of any halibut. 
Recreational vessels may transit through the North Coast Recreational 
YRCA with or without halibut on board. The North Coast Recreational 
YRCA is a C-shaped area off the northern Washington coast intended to 
protect yelloweye rockfish. The North Coast Recreational YRCA is 
defined in groundfish regulations at Sec.  660.70(a).
    (c) The quota for landings into ports in the area between the 
Queets River, WA (47[deg]31.70' N. lat.), and Leadbetter Point, WA 
(46[deg]38.17' N. lat.), is 42,739 lb (19.39 mt).
    (i) This subarea is divided between the all-waters fishery (the 
Washington South coast primary fishery), and the incidental nearshore 
fishery in the area from 47[deg]31.70' N. lat. south to 46[deg]58.00' 
N. lat. and east of a boundary line approximating the 30 fm depth 
contour. This area is defined by straight lines connecting all of the 
following points in the order stated as described by the following 
coordinates (the Washington South coast, northern nearshore area):

[[Page 7160]]

    (1) 47[deg]31.70' N. lat, 124[deg]37.03' W. long;
    (2) 47[deg]25.67' N. lat, 124[deg]34.79' W. long;
    (3) 47[deg]12.82' N. lat, 124[deg]29.12' W. long;
    (4) 46[deg]58.00' N. lat, 124[deg]24.24' W. long.
    The south coast subarea quota will be allocated as follows: 40,739 
lb (18.48 mt) for the primary fishery and 2,000 lb (0.9 mt) for the 
nearshore fishery. The primary fishery commences on May 4, and 
continues 2 days a week (Sunday and Tuesday) until May 20. If the 
primary quota is projected to be obtained sooner than expected, the 
management closure may occur earlier. Beginning on June 1 the primary 
fishery will be open at most 2 days per week (Sunday and/or Tuesday) 
until the quota for the south coast subarea primary fishery is taken 
and the season is closed by the Commission, or until September 30, 
whichever is earlier. The fishing season in the nearshore area 
commences on May 4, and continues 7 days per week. Subsequent to 
closure of the primary fishery the nearshore fishery is open 7 days per 
week, until 42,739 lb (19.39 mt) is projected to be taken by the two 
fisheries combined and the fishery is closed by the Commission or 
September 30, whichever is earlier. If the fishery is closed prior to 
September 30, and there is insufficient quota remaining to reopen the 
northern nearshore area for another fishing day, then any remaining 
quota may be transferred in-season to another Washington coastal 
subarea by NMFS via an update to the recreational halibut hotline.
    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person.
    (iii) Seaward of the boundary line approximating the 30-fm depth 
contour and during days open to the primary fishery, lingcod may be 
taken, retained and possessed when allowed by groundfish regulations at 
50 CFR 660.360, subpart G.
    (iv) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is prohibited 
within the South Coast Recreational YRCA and Westport Offshore YRCA. It 
is unlawful for recreational fishing vessels to take and retain, 
possess, or land halibut taken with recreational gear within the South 
Coast Recreational YRCA and Westport Offshore YRCA. A vessel fishing in 
the South Coast Recreational YRCA and/or Westport Offshore YRCA may not 
be in possession of any halibut. Recreational vessels may transit 
through the South Coast Recreational YRCA and Westport Offshore YRCA 
with or without halibut on board. The South Coast Recreational YRCA and 
Westport Offshore YRCA are areas off the southern Washington coast 
established to protect yelloweye rockfish. The South Coast Recreational 
YRCA is defined at 50 CFR 660.70(d). The Westport Offshore YRCA is 
defined at 50 CFR 660.70(e).
    (d) The quota for landings into ports in the area between 
Leadbetter Point, WA (46[deg]38.17' N. lat.), and Cape Falcon, OR 
(45[deg]46.00' N. lat.), is 11,895 lb (5.4 mt).
    (i) This subarea is divided into an all-depth fishery and a 
nearshore fishery. The nearshore fishery is allocated 10 percent or 
1,500 pounds of the subarea allocation, whichever is less. The 
nearshore fishery is restricted to the area shoreward of the boundary 
line approximating the 30 fm (55 m) depth contour from Leadbetter Point 
to the Washington/Oregon border and the boundary line approximating the 
40 fm (73 m) depth contour in Oregon. The nearshore fishery opens May 
5, and continues 3 days per week (Monday-Wednesday) until the nearshore 
allocation is taken, or September 30, whichever is earlier. The all 
depth fishing season commences on May 1, and continues 4 days a week 
(Thursday-Sunday) until 8,564 lb (3.8 mt) are estimated to have been 
taken and the season is closed by the Commission, whichever is earlier. 
The fishery will reopen on August 7 and continue 4 days a week 
(Thursday-Sunday) until 2,141 lb (0.97 mt) has been taken and the 
season is closed by the Commission, or until September 30, whichever is 
earlier. Subsequent to this closure, if there is insufficient quota 
remaining in the Columbia River subarea for another fishing day, then 
any remaining quota may be transferred inseason to another Washington 
and/or Oregon subarea by NMFS via an update to the recreational halibut 
hotline. Any remaining quota would be transferred to each state in 
proportion to its contribution.
    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person.
    (iii) Pacific Coast groundfish may not be taken and retained, 
possessed or landed, except sablefish and Pacific cod when allowed by 
Pacific Coast groundfish regulations, when halibut are on board the 
vessel, during days open to the all depth fishery only.
    (iv) Taking, retaining, possessing or landing halibut on groundfish 
trips is only allowed in the nearshore area on days not open to all-
depth Pacific halibut fisheries.
    (e) The quota for landings into ports in the area off Oregon 
between Cape Falcon (45[deg]46.00' N. lat.) and Humbug Mountain 
(42[deg]40.50' N. lat.), is 185,621 lb (84.2 mt).
    (i) The fishing seasons are:
    (A) The first season (the ``inside 40-fm'' fishery) commences July 
1, and continues 7 days a week, in the area shoreward of a boundary 
line approximating the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour, or until the sub-
quota for the central Oregon ``inside 40-fm'' fishery of 22,274 lb 
(10.1 mt), or any in-season revised subquota, is estimated to have been 
taken and the season is closed by the Commission, whichever is earlier. 
The boundary line approximating the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour between 
45[deg]46.00' N. lat. and 42[deg]40.50' N. lat. is defined at Sec.  
660.71(k).
    (B) The second season (spring season), which is for the ``all-
depth'' fishery, is open from (season dates will be inserted when final 
rule is published). The projected catch for this season is 114,602 lb 
(51.9 mt). If sufficient unharvested catch remains for additional 
fishing days, the season will re-open. Depending on the amount of 
unharvested catch available, the potential season re-opening dates will 
be: (season dates will be inserted when final rule is published). If 
NMFS decides inseason to allow fishing on any of these re-opening 
dates, notice of the re-opening will be announced on the NMFS hotline 
(206) 526-6667 or (800) 662-9825. No halibut fishing will be allowed on 
the re-opening dates unless the date is announced on the NMFS hotline.
    (C) If sufficient unharvested catch remains, the third season 
(summer season), which is for the ``all-depth'' fishery, will be open 
from 46,405 lb (21 mt), or until the combined spring season and summer 
season quotas in the area between Cape Falcon and Humbug Mountain, OR, 
are estimated to have been taken and the area is closed by the 
Commission, or October 31, whichever is earlier. NMFS will announce on 
the NMFS hotline in July whether the fishery will re-open for the 
summer season in August. No halibut fishing will be allowed in the 
summer season fishery unless the dates are announced on the NMFS 
hotline. Additional fishing days may be opened if sufficient quota 
remains after the last day of the first scheduled open period on 
(season dates will be inserted when final rule is published). If, after 
this date, an amount greater than or equal to 60,000 lb (27.2 mt) 
remains in the combined all-depth and inside 40-fm (73-m) quota, the 
fishery may re-open every Friday and Saturday, beginning (season dates 
will be inserted when final rule is published) and ending October 31. 
If after September 1, an amount greater than or

[[Page 7161]]

equal to 30,000 lb (13.6 mt) remains in the combined all-depth and 
inside 40-fm (73-m) quota, and the fishery is not already open every 
Friday and Saturday, the fishery may re-open every Friday and Saturday, 
beginning September 5 and 6, and ending October 31. After September 1, 
the bag limit may be increased to two fish of any size per person, per 
day. NMFS will announce on the NMFS hotline whether the summer all-
depth fishery will be open on such additional fishing days, what days 
the fishery will be open and what the bag limit is.
    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person, unless otherwise specified. NMFS will announce on the NMFS 
hotline any bag limit changes.
    (iii) During days open to all-depth halibut fishing, no Pacific 
Coast groundfish may be taken and retained, possessed or landed, except 
sablefish and Pacific cod, when allowed by Pacific Coast groundfish 
regulations, if halibut are on board the vessel.
    (iv) When the all-depth halibut fishery is closed and halibut 
fishing is permitted only shoreward of a boundary line approximating 
the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour, halibut possession and retention by 
vessels operating seaward of a boundary line approximating the 40-fm 
(73-m) depth contour is prohibited.
    (v) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is prohibited 
within the Stonewall Bank YRCA. It is unlawful for recreational fishing 
vessels to take and retain, possess, or land halibut taken with 
recreational gear within the Stonewall Bank YRCA. A vessel fishing in 
the Stonewall Bank YRCA may not possess any halibut. Recreational 
vessels may transit through the Stonewall Bank YRCA with or without 
halibut on board. The Stonewall Bank YRCA is an area off central 
Oregon, near Stonewall Bank, intended to protect yelloweye rockfish. 
The Stonewall Bank YRCA is defined at Sec.  660.70(f).
    (f) The quota for landings into ports in the area south of Humbug 
Mountain, OR (42[deg]40.50' N. lat.) to the Oregon/California Border 
(42[deg]00.00' N. lat.) is 2,339 lb (1 mt).
    (i) The fishing season commences on May 1, and continues 7 days per 
week until the subquota is taken, or October 31, whichever is earlier.
    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut per person with no size 
limit.
    (g) The quota for landings into ports south of the Oregon/
California Border (42[deg]00.00' N. lat.) and along the California 
coast is 6,240 lb (2.8 mt).
    (i) The fishing season will be open May 1 through July 31, 7 days a 
week and September 1 through October 31, 7 days per week.
    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person.

Classification

    Regulations governing the U.S. fisheries for Pacific halibut are 
developed by the IPHC, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the 
North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), and the Secretary 
of Commerce. Section 5 of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 
(Halibut Act, 16 U.S.C. 773c) provides the Secretary of Commerce with 
the general responsibility to carry out the Convention between Canada 
and the United States for the management of Pacific halibut, including 
the authority to adopt regulations as may be necessary to carry out the 
purposes and objectives of the Convention and Halibut Act. This 
proposed rule is consistent with the Secretary of Commerce's authority 
under the Halibut Act.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    NMFS has prepared an RIR/IRFA on the proposed changes to the Plan 
and the annual domestic Area 2A halibut management measures. Copies of 
these documents are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). NMFS prepared 
an IRFA that describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if 
adopted, would have on small entities. A description of the action, why 
it is being considered, and the legal basis for this action are 
contained at the beginning of this section in the preamble and in the 
SUMMARY section of the preamble. The IRFA is available from NMFS (see 
ADDRESSES). A summary of the IRFA follows:
    These regulations directly affect fin-fish harvesting and 
charterboat businesses. A fin-fish harvesting business is considered a 
``small'' business by the Small Business Administration (SBA) if it has 
annual receipts not in excess of $19.0 million. A charterboat business 
is considered small if it has annual receipts not in excess of $7.0 
million.
    In 2013 (the most recent data available), 608 vessels were issued 
IPHC licenses to retain halibut. IPHC issues licenses for: The directed 
commercial fishery in Area 2A (149 licenses in 2013); incidental 
halibut caught in the salmon troll fishery (332 licenses in 2013); and 
the charterboat fleet (127 licenses in 2013). No vessel may participate 
in more than one of these three fisheries per year. A similar situation 
may occur for charterboat vessels. The number of charterboats in 
Northern California, Oregon, and Washington that were involved in 
groundfish trips including halibut during 2010 was 161 (FEIS Table 3-
31). Of the 161 charterboat vessels, 89 vessels fished in either the 
Columbia River or Central Oregon fisheries. This suggests that 60 
percent of the IPHC charterboat license holders may be affected by 
these regulations.
    The IRFA analyzed the impacts of changes to the Plan and 
regulations. The following changes are proposed in this rule. For 2014, 
the Council has recommended and NMFS proposes to approve and implement 
several changes to the recreational fishery in the South of Humbug 
Mountain subarea in order to address a pattern of quota exceedances in 
this subarea. These changes include splitting the existing subarea into 
two state-specific subareas: A Southern Oregon subarea and a California 
subarea. This change will allow each state to use the most effective 
available management tools to keep the catch within their respective 
quotas. The existing Oregon/California sport fishery allocation of 31.7 
percent of the non-tribal allocation would be split into a 1 percent 
California sport fishery allocation and a 30.7 percent Oregon sport 
fishery allocation. The new California subarea would be open to fishing 
from May-July and September-October. The month of August would be 
closed as a quota management measure. The Southern Oregon subarea would 
be managed in season to avoid exceeding the quota, as the State of 
Oregon has the capacity to monitor and respond to catch information 
during the season. Most of these changes did not generate controversy 
at the relevant Council meetings. Some members of the public testified 
against the August closure in the California subarea on the basis that 
this would reduce income in the affected ports. However, the Council 
determined based on analysis presented at the September meeting that 
this was the best available measure for avoiding a quota exceedance in 
2014. These changes are not expected to result in more than very minor 
environmental impacts, as they should reduce the catch in the area 
south of Humbug Mountain compared to the last several years.
    In addition, the Council recommended and NMFS is proposing to adopt 
the following minor adjustments to the Catch Sharing Plan: (1) Change 
the deadline for applying for IPHC licenses for incidental halibut 
retention in the salmon troll and sablefish fisheries to accommodate 
earlier start dates for such retention, (2) eliminate the nearshore 
fishery in the

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Washington North Coast subarea, as the quota in this subarea is 
generally used entirely by the all depth fishery, (3) modify the season 
dates and create a nearshore fishery in the Columbia River subarea to 
create additional opportunity in this underutilized area, and (4) 
modify the public input provisions for the Oregon central coast subarea 
to allow the State to use methods other than workshops to obtain public 
input. None of these changes are controversial and none are expected to 
result in more than very minor environmental or economic impacts. These 
actions are intended to enhance the conservation of Pacific halibut, to 
provide angler opportunity where available, and to protect overfished 
groundfish species from incidental catch in the halibut fisheries.
    The TAC is being reduced by 3% from 990,000 lbs (2013) to 960,000 
lbs (2014). Within this 3% decline, different subgroups are being 
affected differently because of the CSP allocation formula. While the 
overall tribal allocation decline is by 3%, the tribal ceremonial and 
subsistence allocation declines by 11% and the tribal commercial 
allocation by 2%. The non-tribal allocation also declines by 3%, but 
the commercial allocation declines by 3% compared to a recreational 
allocation decline of 1%. The commercial allocation decrease includes 
decreases in directed commercial (3%) and incidental salmon troll (3%). 
There is also a decrease in the incidental sablefish (-49%) allocation 
which does not come from the commercial allocation but comes from the 
portion of the Washington sport allocation that is above 214,110 lbs. 
According to Pacific Marine Fisheries Commission PacFIN data, 
commercial vessels including tribal vessels landed halibut with a value 
of $7.1 million. Preliminary 2013 data, essentially complete through 
November, shows commercial landings, worth $5.9 million.
    The total commercial allocation (tribal and non-tribal) for 2014 is 
505,308 lb--a 6% decrease from the total 2013 commercial allocation of 
539,700 lbs. A 6% allocation decline leads to a projected 6% decline in 
revenues of just under $500,000.
    The total recreational allocation for 2014 is 412,000 lb--a 1% 
decrease from the total 2013 recreational allocation of 418,000 lbs. A 
decrease in 6,000 lbs may lead to a decrease in about 100 recreational 
trips. If 80 of these trips are from private boats and 20% from charter 
boats, the expenditures associated with these trips are about $17,000. 
Therefore based on changes in allocations, the economic effect of 2014 
allocations compared to the 2013 allocations is under $600,000 in 
exvessel revenues and recreational expenditures.
    The South of Humbug (SOH) Allocation (southern Oregon-northern 
California) has averaged 6,000 lbs over the period 2008-2012. However 
recreational catches in this area have greatly exceeded the 
allocations, average 25,000 lbs during the period. To address this 
overage, the SOH allocation is now formally split between the two 
states (Oregon-2,339 lbs and California-6,240 lbs) and management 
measures to close the California fishery in August (the fishing season 
will be open May 1 through July 31, 7 days a week, and September 1 
through October 31, 7 days per week. The daily bag limit is one halibut 
of any size per day per person. This closure is to help reduce the 
California recreational catch by 40 to 60%. This decrease translates 
into $30,000 to $50,000 in lost recreational trip expenditures.
    However, these estimates of lost expenditures do not show the 
overall effects on communities. In summary the public comments received 
by the Council at its November meeting were in support of the 
separation of the southern Oregon area from California and closing the 
month of August. Further, the comments described the impact a block 
closure will have on those ports that rely heavily on tourism and have 
launch facilities. The comments stated that while a one month closure 
may be the preferred position by the CDFW and the Council, this option 
will be devastating to some of the small ports in northern California. 
In making its decision, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife 
(CDFW) provided this analysis: There was a wide range in public 
comments received at the CDFW sponsored meeting concerning which, if 
any, of the proposed management measures to reduce catches should be 
adopted for 2014. This lack of consensus was likely a result of the 
apparently disproportionate impacts the various measures would have on 
particular ports or fishery sectors. Some commenters supporting closing 
the month of August because this alternative maximizes time on the 
water, while also providing for some opportunity during the critical 
summer months.
    While there is evidence that the proposed changes will reduce 
income in the affected ports, NMFS proposes to implement the changes 
based on analysis presented at the September 2013 Council meeting. This 
was the best available measure for reducing the magnitude of catch over 
and above the quota in 2014. The reduction in income is necessary to 
bring the fishery closer to the quota which has been exceeded every 
year since 2008. In 2013, the quota for the South of Humbug area was 
6,063 lbs and the projected catch was 50,229 lbs. These changes are 
expected to result in minimal environmental impacts, and should reduce 
the catch in the area south of Humbug Mountain compared to the last 
several years.
    The major effect of halibut management on small entities will be 
from the internationally set TAC decisions made by IPHC. Based on the 
recommendations of the states, the Council and NMFS are proposing minor 
changes to the Plan to provide increased recreational and commercial 
opportunities under the allocations that result from the TAC. There are 
no large entities involved in the halibut fisheries; therefore, none of 
these changes will have a disproportionate negative effect on small 
entities versus large entities. Based on the economic dimensions of the 
fishery, these minor proposed changes to the Plan are not expected to 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. In terms of ex-vessel revenues and recreational expenditures, 
decreased TAC and associated management measures lead to declines of 
under $700,000.
    The proposed changes to the Plan are authorized under the Pacific 
Halibut Act, implementing regulations at 50 CFR 300.60-300.65, and the 
Pacific Council process of annually evaluating the utility and 
effectiveness of Area 2A Pacific halibut management under the Plan. The 
proposed sport and commercial management measures implement the Plan by 
managing the fisheries to meet the differing fishery needs of the 
various areas along the coast according to the Plans objectives. The 
proposed changes to the Plan and domestic management measures do not 
include any reporting or recordkeeping requirements. These changes will 
also not duplicate, overlap or conflict with other laws or regulations.
    Because the goal of the proposed action is to maximize angler 
participation, and thus to maximize the economic benefits of the 
fishery, NMFS did not analyze alternatives other than the proposed 
changes and the status quo for purposes of the IRFA. Status quo would 
be the 2013 Plan applied to the 2014 TAC. Effects of the status quo and 
the proposed changes are similar because the changes to the Plan for 
2014 are not substantially different from the 2013 Plan. The proposed 
changes to the Plan are not expected to have a significant impact on a 
substantial number of small entities. Nonetheless,

[[Page 7163]]

NMFS has prepared this IRFA. Through the rulemaking process associated 
with this action, we are requesting comments on this conclusion.
    Pursuant to Executive Order 13175, the Secretary recognizes the 
sovereign status and co-manager role of Indian tribes over shared 
Federal and tribal fishery resources. Section 302(b)(5) of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act establishes a 
seat on the Pacific Council for a representative of an Indian tribe 
with federally recognized fishing rights from California, Oregon, 
Washington, or Idaho.
    The U.S. Government formally recognizes that the 13 Washington 
Tribes have treaty rights to fish for Pacific halibut. In general 
terms, the quantification of those rights is 50 percent of the 
harvestable surplus of Pacific halibut available in the tribes' usual 
and accustomed (U and A) fishing areas (described at 50 CFR 300.64). 
Each of the treaty tribes has the discretion to administer their 
fisheries and to establish their own policies to achieve program 
objectives. Accordingly, tribal allocations and regulations, including 
the proposed changes to the Plan, have been developed in consultation 
with the affected tribe(s) and, insofar as possible, with tribal 
consensus.
    In 2011, NMFS initiated consultation on the halibut fishery under 
Section 7 of the ESA because of the listing of yelloweye, canary, and 
bocaccio rockfish of the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin. This consultation 
covers the 2014 and 2015 Catch Sharing Plans and implementing 
regulations for Area 2A. In addition to the listed rockfish species 
NMFS is also consulting on the effects of the fishery on green 
sturgeon, marine mammals, eulachon and salmon. At this time the 
consultation is not completed. It is anticipated that the consultation 
will be completed before the final rule is issued. Preliminary analysis 
indicates that the effects of the fishery on marine mammals, eulachon, 
green sturgeon, and salmon are minor. Further analysis is needed to 
determine the effects of the fishery on listed Puget Sound rockfish.

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

    Dated: February 3, 2014.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-02633 Filed 2-5-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P