[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 65 (Friday, April 4, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 18827-18834]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-07536]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 300

[Docket No. 131213999-4281-02]
RIN 0648-BD82


Pacific Halibut Fisheries; Catch Sharing Plan

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: The Assistant Administrator (AA) for Fisheries, National 
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), announces approval of 
the Area 2A (waters off the U.S. West Coast) Catch Sharing Plan (Plan), 
with modifications recommended by the Pacific Fishery Management 
Council (Council), and implementing regulations for 2014. These actions 
are intended to enhance the conservation of Pacific halibut and further 
the goals and objectives of the Council. The regulations of the 
International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) were published on March 
12, 2014 and the sport fishing management measures in this rule are an 
additional subsection of those regulations.

DATES: This rule is effective April 1, 2014. The 2014 management 
measures are effective until superseded.

ADDRESSES: Additional requests for information regarding this action 
may be obtained by contacting the Sustainable Fisheries Division, NMFS 
West Coast Region, 7600 Sand Point Way NE., Seattle, WA 98115. For 
information regarding all halibut fisheries and general regulations not 
contained in this rule contact the International Pacific Halibut 
Commission, 2320 W. Commodore Way, Suite 300, Seattle, WA 98199-1287. 
This final rule also is accessible via the Internet at the Federal 
eRulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov, identified by NOAA-
NMFS-2014-0009, or 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://

[[Page 18828]]

www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/management/pacific_
halibut_management.html and at the Council's Web site at http://www.pcouncil.org. Electronic copies of the Final Regulatory Flexibility 
Analysis (FRFA) prepared for this action may be obtained from http://www.regulations.gov or from the West Coast Region Web site at http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/management/pacific_halibut_management.html.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah Williams, 206-526-4646, email at 
sarah.williams@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The IPHC has promulgated regulations governing the Pacific halibut 
fishery in 2014, pursuant to the Convention between Canada and the 
United States 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). Pursuant to the Northern 
Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 (Halibut Act) at 16 U.S.C. 773b, the 
Secretary of State accepted the 2014 IPHC regulations as provided by 
the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 (Halibut Act) at 16 U.S.C. 
773-773k. NMFS published these regulations on March 12, 2014 (79 FR 
13906).
    The Halibut Act provides that the Regional Fishery Management 
Councils may develop, and the Secretary may implement, regulations 
governing harvesting privileges among U.S. fishermen in U.S. waters 
that are in addition to, and not in conflict with, approved IPHC 
regulations. To that end, the Council has adopted a Catch Sharing Plan 
(Plan) allocating halibut among groups of fishermen in Area 2A, which 
is off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. The Plan 
allocates the Area 2A catch limit among treaty Indian and non-Indian 
commercial and sport harvesters. The treaty Indian group includes 
tribal commercial, tribal ceremonial, and subsistence fisheries. From 
1988 through 1994, the Council recommended and NMFS implemented annual 
Catch Sharing Plans. In 1995, the Council recommended and NMFS approved 
and implemented a long-term Catch Sharing Plan (60 FR 14651; March 20, 
1995, as amended by 61 FR 35548). In each of the intervening years 
between 1995 and the present, the Council has recommended and NMFS has 
approved minor revisions to the Plan to adjust for the changing needs 
of the fisheries, in accordance with 50 CFR 300.62. NMFS implements the 
allocation scheme in the Plan through annual regulations for Area 2A. 
The proposed rule describing the changes the Council recommended to the 
Plan and resulting proposed Area 2A regulations for 2014 was published 
on February 6, 2014 (79 FR 7156).
    In previous years, NMFS has published a final rule that includes 
both the annual management measures for Area 2A and the IPHC 
regulations. For 2014, NMFS determined that analyses necessary to 
support the Area 2A regulations could not be completed in time for 
publication of a final rule including both Area 2A and IPHC regulations 
prior to the start of halibut fisheries in Alaska and the treaty Indian 
fisheries in Area 2A. Therefore, NMFS published the IPHC regulations on 
March 12, 2014 (79 FR 13906). Consequently, this final rule contains 
only regulations implementing the Plan in Area 2A. The IPHC regulations 
apply to commercial and treaty Indian fisheries in Area 2A; therefore 
anyone wishing to fish for halibut in Area 2A should read both this 
final rule and the March 12, 2014 rule on the Federal Register that 
includes the IPHC regulations.

Changes to the Pacific Fishery Management Council's Area 2A Catch 
Sharing Plan

    This final rule approves several Council-recommended changes to the 
Pacific Fishery Management Council's Area 2A Plan, and implements the 
Plan through annual management measures. For 2014, the Council has 
recommended, and NMFS has included in this final rule, 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. The 
Council recommendation splits the existing subarea, which includes 
portions of both southern Oregon and northern California, into two 
state-specific subareas. 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 is split into a 
1 percent California sport fishery allocation and a 30.7 percent Oregon 
sport fishery allocation. The Council's South of Humbug Policy 
committee recommended lowering the projected catch in the South of 
Humbug area by 40 to 60 percent to begin a stepwise process to bring 
the catches within the quota. Therefore, the new California subarea 
would be open to fishing from May-July and September-October, with the 
month of August closed as a quota management measure. The State of 
Oregon would monitor and manage the Southern Oregon subarea in season 
to avoid exceeding the quota.
    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. The Council formed the South of 
Humbug Mountain workgroup to examine the effect of various management 
measures on catches in the South of Humbug Mountain area. The Council 
also formed the South of Humbug Policy committee to consider the 
workgroup analysis and make recommendations for management measure 
changes to reduce catch in this area. The Policy committee ultimately 
recommended reducing catch in this area by 40 to 60 percent. Based on 
analysis presented by the workgroup at the September 2013 meeting, the 
Council determined that this was the best available measure to begin a 
stepwise process for lowering the projected catch in this area by 40 to 
60 percent as recommended by the policy committee. 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.
    Additionally for 2014, the Council has recommended several minor 
changes to the Plan that would: (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 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; (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; and (5) modify 
the Oregon central coast subarea nearshore fishery dates. This rule 
also adopts the annual domestic management measures for Area 2A. 
Changes to these management measures from 2013 are necessary to 
implement the IPHC's decision regarding the Area 2A Total Allowable 
Catch (TAC) and the above-described changes to the Catch Sharing Plan.

[[Page 18829]]

Incidental Halibut Retention in the Sablefish Primary Fishery North of 
Pt. Chehalis, Washington and the Salmon Troll Fishery Along the West 
Coast

    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 (435.4 mt); therefore, the allocation for incidental 
halibut retention in the sablefish fishery is 14,274 lb (6.47 mt). 
Landing restrictions were recommended by the Council at its March 8-13, 
2014, meeting. NMFS will publish the restrictions in a future final 
rule in the Federal Register.
    The Plan allocates 15 percent of the non-Indian commercial TAC to 
the salmon troll fishery in Area 2A. For 2014 that allocation is 29,671 
lb (13.46 mt).

Comments and Responses

    NMFS accepted comments through February 21, 2014, on the proposed 
rule for the Area 2A Plan and annual management measures and received 
29 public comment letters: One comment letter each from Washington 
Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Oregon Department of Fish 
and Wildlife (ODFW) recommending season dates for halibut sport 
fisheries in each state, one letter from the Council correcting the 
Plan language and resulting allocations for the Oregon subareas and 
correcting a season opening date in the Washington North Coast subarea, 
one letter from an individual commenting on treaty rights, and 25 
letters regarding halibut fishing off California.
    Comment 1: The WDFW held a public meeting following the IPHC's 
final 2014 TAC decisions to review the results of the 2013 Puget Sound 
halibut fishery, and to develop season dates for the 2014 sport halibut 
fishery. Based on the 2014 Area 2A TAC of 960,000 lb (435.4 mt), the 
halibut quota for the Puget Sound sport fishery is 57,393 lb (26 mt). 
Because the catch in this area has exceeded the quota in recent years, 
WDFW has recommended a shorter season for 2014, even though the 
allocation to the Puget Sound subarea is the same as 2013. Within the 
Puget Sound sport halibut fishery, WDFW recommends the following dates: 
In the Eastern Region open May 9, 10, and 17; May 22-25 (Thu-Sun); May 
29-31 (Thu-Sun); and Saturday, June 7. In the Western Region open May 
22-25 (Thu-Sun); May 29-31 (Thu-Sun); and Saturday, June 7.
    Response: NMFS agrees with WDFW's recommended Puget Sound season 
dates. These dates will help keep this area within its quota, while 
providing for angler enjoyment and participation. Therefore, NMFS 
implements the dates for this subarea as stated above, in this final 
rule.
    Comment 2: ODFW received public comments on Oregon halibut 
fisheries through a public meeting and an online survey following the 
final TAC decision by the IPHC. In the Central Coast subarea, ODFW 
recommends the following days for the spring fishery, within this 
subarea's parameters, for a Thursday-Saturday season and with weeks of 
adverse tidal conditions skipped: Regular open days May 8-10, May 22-
24, June 5-7, and June 19-21. Back-up dates will be July 3-5, July 17-
19, and July 31. For the summer fishery in this subarea, ODFW 
recommends following the Plan's parameters of opening the first Friday 
in August, with open days to occur every other Friday-Saturday, unless 
modified in-season within the parameters of the Plan. Under the Plan, 
the 2014 summer all-depth fishery in Oregon's Central Coast Subarea 
occurs: August 1, 2; 15, 16; 29, 30; September 12, 13; 26, 27; October 
10, 11; and 24, 25.
    Additionally, ODFW pointed out that the Catch Sharing Plan 
language, as transmitted to NMFS by the Council, incorrectly described 
the intended source of the allocation to the new Southern Oregon 
subarea as the Spring all-depth allocation rather than the Central 
Coast allocation. Therefore, the proposed rule incorrectly listed the 
allocation amounts to the Central coast subarea spring fishery and the 
Southern Oregon subarea. The Council submitted corrected Plan language 
in their comment letter, as described below. ODFW supports the 
Council's letter correctly describing the allocations.
    Response: NMFS agrees with ODFW's recommended Central Coast season 
dates. These dates will help keep this area within its quota, while 
providing for angler enjoyment and participation. Therefore, NMFS 
implements the dates in this final rule. NMFS also agrees with ODFWs 
clarification for the Central coast subarea and Southern Oregon subarea 
allocations and implements the corrected allocations in this final 
rule.
    Comment 3: The Pacific Fishery Management Council submitted a 
letter describing the incorrect Plan language for the Southern Oregon 
allocation and an incorrect date in the proposed rule for the 
Washington North Coast subarea. While the intended source of the 
allocation for the Southern Oregon subarea was correctly described the 
ODFW report before the Council, it was incorrectly described in Plan 
language included in that report and transmitted to NMFS after the 
Council made its final recommendation. The Southern Oregon subarea 
should be allocated 2 percent of the Central Coast subarea allocation, 
as was stated in the ODFW report and in the final motion as approved by 
the Council, and not allocated an amount from the Central Coast spring 
fishery as described in the proposed rule.
    Response: NMFS supports the Council's corrected Plan language as 
submitted because this language accurately reflects the Council's final 
motion. NMFS also makes the correction to the Washington North Coast 
subarea date as described in this final rule.
    Comment 4: Several commenters requested NMFS delay the 
implementation of the Council's recommended August closure in the newly 
created California subarea. Several commenters stated that fishing has 
improved each year and there is no evidence that halibut is overfished 
in Northern California. Several commenters stated that the decision to 
close the month of August is no longer necessary because the IPHC 
survey results for 2013 showed there was 100,000 lbs of exploitable 
biomass off Northern California that was previously undetected, and 
that this closure will cause unnecessary economic hardship to 
recreational anglers.
    Response: NMFS agrees that catches in northern California have 
increased over the last several years and that halibut are being 
managed at a sustainable level, but NMFS does not agree that this makes 
the August closure in the California subarea unnecessary. We believe 
the increase in catches means more information is needed about the 
relative abundance of halibut, not that the allocation should be 
increased at this time or that the August closure should be delayed. 
While more information is being gathered through repeated stock 
assessment surveys it is necessary to manage the California subarea to 
its allocation, similar to all other areas. A Council workgroup 
analyzed Plan changes that would reduce projected catch in California 
by 40 to 60 percent, relative to the most recent 5 year average, in 
order to manage this fishery in a manner more consistent with the 
allocation framework. The analysis showed that even with a reduction of 
this magnitude, catch in this area is projected to exceed the 
allocation. However, NMFS believes this management action to close the

[[Page 18830]]

recreational halibut fishery during the month of August is a good first 
step in attempting to manage this area in a manner more consistent with 
the allocation, while additional stock assessment surveys are conducted 
to help determine relative abundance of the halibut resource in 
California. Following the Council's South of Humbug workgroup's 
analysis, CDFW recommended closing the recreational halibut fishery 
during August as the best way to achieve the targeted reduction. Other 
alternatives were analyzed and considered, but they did not result in a 
season structure that reduced projected catch to the target level while 
still providing some fishing opportunity.
    By way of comparison, subareas in Washington and Oregon have also 
seen recreational fisheries attain their subarea quotas at faster rates 
than anticipated. In those cases, inseason management action was taken 
to control catch and manage in a manner consistent with the 
allocations. Not implementing the August closure in California for 2014 
would result in a harvest much greater than the allocation. NMFS 
believes it is important to manage the halibut resource in a manner 
consistent with the Area 2A Catch Sharing Plan. The Council did not 
recommend a change in the allocations for Area 2A, and until 
allocations are changed, there is a need to manage this fishery to stay 
within the overall allocation and subarea allocations.
    Regarding the results of the IPHC survey, NMFS believes the 
commenters misunderstand the implications of the IPHC apportionment and 
survey results. NMFS acknowledges that in an IPHC presentation from the 
Interim Meeting, there is a 100,000 lbs difference between the Fishery 
Constant Exploitation Yield values listed for Area 2A when the expanded 
survey in 2013 is included and when it is not. However, NMFS does not 
agree that this means there is simply 100,000 lbs of halibut now 
available for harvest in California; rather, the survey results show 
that Area 2A represented a larger portion of the total coastwide 
halibut biomass. NMFS also disagrees that this makes the August closure 
unnecessary. 2013 was the first year the IPHC survey operated in 
Northern California, which is not enough time to show trends in 
abundance in this area or to delay management changes necessary to 
address several years of quota exceedences. The IPHC is planning to 
repeat the northern California survey areas in 2014 and in additional 
stations at shallow and deeper depths. NMFS believes information 
gathered from the continuing survey will guide any further discussions 
relative to halibut abundance.
    NMFS understands that closure of the directed recreational halibut 
fishery in August may have economic impacts on businesses that rely on 
halibut. However, this fishery restriction is necessary to 
significantly reduce catch and manage the fishery in a manner more 
consistent with the current allocation.
    Comment 5: The allocation to the California recreational fishery 
should be increased to a more appropriate level to reflect the 
abundance of Pacific halibut off the California coast.
    Response: As discussed above, the IPHC conducts an annual stock 
assessment survey in Area 2A. In 2013, the survey was expanded into 
Northern California, providing some initial information on halibut 
abundance in the area. The IPHC has recently announced the expansion of 
the survey into new areas including areas south of the southern extent 
of the 2013 survey and shallower and deeper depths for 2014. Survey 
results will help inform any discussions the Council may have on Plan 
changes. The Council annually addresses changes to the Plan. NMFS 
believes the current allocations are appropriate, given the information 
available. Implementing the Plan, as recommended by the Council, is the 
best strategy for sustainable management of the halibut resource in 
Area 2A.
    Comment 6: Several comments stated National Standards 2 and 4 are 
designed to require the Council and NMFS to use the best available 
science and to allocate fish equitably among different state residents.
    Response: While the regulations in this rule are not subject to the 
National Standards of the Magnuson Stevens Act, the halibut TAC 
decision is made after the IPHC Commissioners have considered the best 
available science as presented by the IPHC through stock assessment 
models, which are informed by the annual survey. As for National 
Standard 4, the Plan and any changes are discussed through the Council, 
which has representatives from Washington, Oregon, California, and 
Idaho. Further, the Council hears advice from advisory bodies composed 
of industry representatives from all three states and Plan changes go 
through a two meeting process with time for the public to comment on 
any concerns regarding those changes. Plan changes are implemented for 
the benefit of all citizens.
    Comment 7: Treaty rights should be ended, they are divisive and 
serve no purpose.
    Response: This comment is beyond the scope of this final rule and 
NMFS' authority. The Plan allocates 35% of the Area 2A TAC to the 
Tribes with treaty rights to fish for halibut. This allocation is 
consistent with the treaties and caselaw interpreting those treaties, 
which are federal law that govern the actions of NOAA.

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    On February 6, 2014, NMFS published a proposed rule to modify the 
Plan and recreational management measures for Area 2A (79 FR 7156). The 
provisions in the proposed rule were based on the final 2A TAC of 
960,000 lb. The main changes in this final rule are to add dates for 
sport fisheries that were not listed in the proposed rule and update 
the allocations to the Southern Oregon and Central Coast subareas. The 
proposed rule did not contain final season dates because the states do 
not submit their final season date recommendations until the final TAC 
decision is made by the IPHC and the states have held their public 
meetings. Additionally, this rule increases the Southern Oregon subarea 
allocation and decreases the Central Coast allocation to match the 
appropriate Plan allocations, as described in the Comments and 
Responses section above; neither change affects any other subareas. 
Finally, one minor change is made to the Washington North Coast subarea 
dates to correct the error in the proposed rule identified in the 
Council's comment letter. There are no other substantive changes from 
the proposed rule.

Annual Halibut Management Measures

    The sport fishing regulations for Area 2A, included in paragraph 26 
below, are consistent with the measures adopted by the IPHC and 
approved by the Secretary of State, but were developed by the Pacific 
Fishery Management Council and promulgated by the United States under 
the Halibut Act. Section 26 refers to a section that is in addition to 
and corresponds to the numbering in the IPHC regulations published on 
March 12, 2014 (79 FR 13906).
26. Sport Fishing for Halibut--Area 2A
    (1) The total allowable catch of halibut shall be limited to:
    (a) 214,110 pounds (97.1 metric tons) net weight in waters off 
Washington; and
    (b) 197,808 pounds (89.7 metric tons) net weight in waters off 
California and Oregon.

[[Page 18831]]

    (2) The Commission shall determine and announce closing dates to 
the public for any area in which the catch limits promulgated by NMFS 
are estimated to have been taken.
    (3) When the Commission has determined that a subquota under 
paragraph (8) of this section is estimated to have been taken, and has 
announced a date on which the season will close, no person shall sport 
fish for halibut in that area after that date for the rest of the year, 
unless a reopening of that area for sport halibut fishing is scheduled 
in accordance with the Catch Sharing Plan for Area 2A, or announced by 
the Commission.
    (4) In California, Oregon, or Washington, no person shall fillet, 
mutilate, or otherwise disfigure a halibut in any manner that prevents 
the determination of minimum size or the number of fish caught, 
possessed, or landed.
    (5) The possession limit on a vessel for halibut in the waters off 
the coast of Washington is the same as the daily bag limit. The 
possession limit on land in Washington for halibut caught in U.S. 
waters off the coast of Washington is two halibut.
    (6) The possession limit on a vessel for halibut caught in the 
waters off the coast of Oregon is the same as the daily bag limit. The 
possession limit for halibut on land in Oregon is three daily bag 
limits.
    (7) The possession limit on a vessel for halibut caught in the 
waters off the coast of California is one halibut. The possession limit 
for halibut on land in California is one halibut.
    (8) The sport fishing subareas, subquotas, fishing dates, and daily 
bag limits are as follows, except as modified under the in-season 
actions in 50 CFR 300.63(c). All sport fishing in Area 2A is managed on 
a ``port of landing'' basis, whereby any halibut landed into a port 
counts toward the quota for the area in which that port is located, and 
the regulations governing the area of landing apply, regardless of the 
specific area of catch.
    (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 May 9, 10, and 17; May 22-25 
(Thu-Sun); May 29-31; and Saturday, June 7. The fishing season in 
western Puget Sound (west of 123[deg]49.50' W. long., Low Point) is 
open May 22-25 (Thu-Sun); May 29-31; and Saturday, June 7.
    (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 June 5 
and/or June 7, 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):

(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 (55 m) 
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

[[Page 18832]]

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 quota remaining in the 
Columbia River subarea, but it is insufficient 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 May 8-10, May 22-24, June 5-7, and June 19-21. 
The projected catch for this season is 113,229 lb (51.3 mt). If 
sufficient unharvested quota remains for additional fishing days, the 
season will re-open. Depending on the amount of unharvested quota 
available, the potential season re-opening dates will be: July 3-5, 
July 17-19, and July 31. 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 quota remains, the third season 
(summer season), which is for the ``all-depth'' fishery, will be open 
August 1, 2; 15, 16; 29, 30; September 12, 13; 26, 27; October 10, 11; 
and 24, 25; 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 August 1, 2014. 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 August 8 and 
ending October 31. If after September 1, an amount greater than or 
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 3,712 lb (1.68 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.

[[Page 18833]]

Classification

    Section 5 of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 (Halibut Act, 
16 U.S.C. 773c) allows the Regional Council having authority for a 
particular geographical area to develop regulations governing the 
allocation and catch of halibut in U.S. Convention waters as long as 
those regulations do not conflict with IPHC regulations. This action is 
consistent with the Pacific Council's authority to allocate halibut 
catches among fishery participants in the waters in and off the U.S. 
West Coast.
    This action has been determined to be not significant for purposes 
of Executive Order 12866.
    NMFS prepared an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) in 
association with the proposed rule for the 2014 Area 2A Catch Sharing 
Plan. The final regulatory flexibility analysis (FRFA) incorporates the 
IRFA, a summary of the significant issues raised by the public comments 
in response to the IRFA, if any, and NMFS' responses to those comments, 
and a summary of the analyses completed to support the action. NMFS 
received no comments on the IRFA. A copy of the FRFA is available from 
the NMFS West Coast Region (see ADDRESSES) and a summary of the FRFA 
follows.
    The main management objective for the Pacific halibut fishery in 
Area 2A is to manage fisheries to remain within the TAC for Area 2A, 
while also allowing each commercial, recreational (sport), and tribal 
fishery to target halibut in the manner that is appropriate to meet 
both the conservation requirements for species that co-occur with 
Pacific halibut and the needs of fishery participants in particular 
fisheries and fishing areas. The changes to the Plan are described 
above.
    Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), NMFS must identify the 
small entities impacted by this rule, describe the impact, and describe 
any alternative actions considered. This action will affect fishing 
entities, including commercial and charter or party boats, and towns or 
communities in the fishing areas. Under the Small Business 
Administration's (SBA) regulations implementing the RFA, a fishing 
entity is considered ``small'' if it has gross annual receipts of less 
than $19.0 million. A governmental jurisdiction (i.e., town or 
community) is considered a small entity if it has fewer than 50,000 
people. For marinas and charter or party boats, a small business is one 
with annual receipts not in excess of $7.0 million. Although many small 
and large nonprofit enterprises track fisheries management issues on 
the West Coast, the changes to the Plan and annual management measures 
will not directly affect those enterprises. Similarly, although many 
fishing communities are small governmental jurisdictions, no direct 
regulations for those governmental jurisdictions will result from this 
rule. However, charter boat operations and participants in the non-
treaty directed commercial fishery off the coast of Washington, Oregon, 
and California, are small businesses that are directly regulated by 
this rule. These businesses are vessels that are issued IPHC licenses. 
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.
    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, and as conveyed through the Council, 
NMFS is implementing minor changes to the Plan that maximize 
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. The 
decreased TAC and associated management measures lead to combined 
fleetwide declines of under $700,000 n terms of ex-vessel revenues and 
recreational expenditures relative to 2013.
    As described above, NMFS received 25 letters opposed to closing the 
new California subarea in August because of the economic impacts of 
this closure, many of these letters cited the results of a recent IPHC 
biological survey off California. These issues are addressed in the 
responses to Comment 4 above.
    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 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 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 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 changes 
to the Plan, have been developed in consultation with the affected 
tribe(s) and, insofar as possible, with tribal consensus.
    NMFS prepared an environmental assessment (EA) for the continued 
implementation of the Plan for 2014-2016 and the AA concluded that 
there will be no significant impact on the human environment as a 
result of this rule. A copy of the EA is available from NMFS (see 
ADDRESSES).
    NMFS conducted a formal section 7 consultation under the Endangered 
Species Act for the Area 2A Catch Sharing Plan for 2014-2016 addressing 
the effects of implementing the Plan on ESA-listed yelloweye rockfish, 
canary rockfish, and bocaccio in Puget Sound, the Southern Distinct 
Population Segment (DPS) of green sturgeon, salmon, marine mammals, and 
sea turtles. In the biological opinion the Regional Administrator 
determined that the implementation of the Catch Sharing Plan for 2014-
2016 is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of Puget Sound 
yelloweye rockfish, Puget Sound canary rockfish, Puget Sound bocaccio, 
Puget Sound Chinook, Lower Columbia River Chinook, and green sturgeon. 
It is not expected to result in the destruction or adverse modification 
of critical habitat for green sturgeon or result in the destruction or 
adverse modification of proposed critical habitat for Puget Sound 
yelloweye rockfish, canary rockfish, bocaccio. In addition, the opinion 
concluded that the implementation of the Plan is not likely to 
adversely affect marine mammals, the remaining listed salmon species 
and sea turtles, and is not likely to adversely affect critical habitat 
for Southern resident killer whales, stellar sea lions, leatherback sea 
turtles, any listed salmonids, and humpback whales. Further, the 
Regional Administrator determined that implementation of the Catch 
Sharing Plan will have no effect on southern eulachon; this 
determination was made in a letter dated March 12, 2014.

[[Page 18834]]

    NMFS finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness 
and make this rule effective on filing with the Office of the Federal 
Register, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), so that this final rule may 
become effective on April 1, 2014. Leaving the 2013 annual management 
measures in place could harm to the halibut stock, because those 
measures are not based on the most current scientific information. 
Also, because the 2014 TAC is lower than the 2013 TAC, allowing the 
2013 measures to remain in place could cause drastic management changes 
later in the year to prevent exceeding the lower 2014 subarea 
allocations once the 2014 measures are implemented and the 2014 Plan is 
approved. Those measures might significantly impact the fishery members 
by causing them to curtail effort or possibly lose revenue. Finally, 
this final rule approves the Council's 2014 Plan that responds to the 
needs of the fisheries in each state and approves the portions of the 
Plan allocating incidentally caught halibut in the salmon troll and 
sablefish primary fisheries, which start April 1. Therefore, allowing 
the 2013 subarea allocations and Plan to remain in place would not 
respond to the needs of the fishery and would be in conflict with the 
Council's final recommendation for 2014. Finally, this rule could not 
be published earlier due to a delay in completing the accompanying 
biological opinion and environmental assessment. For all of these 
reasons, a delay in effectiveness could ultimately cause economic harm 
to the fishing industry and associated fishing communities by reducing 
fishing opportunity later in the year to keep catch in the subareas 
within the lower 2014 allocations or result in harvest levels 
inconsistent with the best available scientific information. As a 
result of the potential harm to the halibut stock and fishing 
communities that could be caused by delaying the effectiveness of this 
final rule, NMFS finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in 
effectiveness and make this rule effective upon filing with the Office 
of the Federal Register.

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.

    Dated: April 1, 2014.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-07536 Filed 4-1-14; 4:15 pm]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P