[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 68 (Wednesday, April 9, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 19498-19500]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-07982]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 660

[Docket No. 120814338-2711-02]
RIN 0648-BE10


Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries Off West Coast States; 
Biennial Specifications and Management Measures; Inseason Adjustments

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

ACTION: Final rule; inseason adjustments to biennial groundfish 
management measures.

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SUMMARY: This final rule announces an inseason change to management 
measures in the Pacific Coast groundfish fishery. This action, which is 
authorized by the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan 
(PCFMP) and the Northern Pacific Halibut Act, implements changes to the 
incidental retention allowance for halibut in the limited entry fixed 
gear sablefish primary fishery.

DATES: Effective 1200 hours (local time) April 8, 2014.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gretchen Hanshew (West Coast Region, 
NMFS), phone: 206-526-6147, gretchen.hanshew@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Electronic Access

    This final rule is accessible via the Internet at the Office of the 
Federal Register's Web site at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/search/home.action. Background information and documents are available at the 
Pacific Fishery Management Council's Web site at http://www.pcouncil.org/.

Background

    The PCGFMP and its implementing regulations at title 50 in the Code 
of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 660, subparts C through G, regulate 
fishing for over 90 species of groundfish off the coasts of Washington, 
Oregon, and California. Groundfish specifications and management 
measures are developed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council 
(Council), and are implemented by NMFS.
    The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) establishes 
total allowable catch (TAC) amounts for Pacific halibut each year in 
January. Under the authority of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act, and 
implementing regulations at 50 CFR 300.63, a catch sharing plan, 
developed by the Council and implemented by the Secretary, allocates 
portions of the annual TAC among fisheries off Washington, Oregon, and 
California.
    Pacific halibut is generally a prohibited species for vessels 
fishing in Pacific coast groundfish fisheries, unless explicitly 
allowed in groundfish regulations and authorized by the Pacific halibut 
catch sharing plan.
    In years where the Pacific halibut TAC is above 900,000 lb (408.2 
mt), the catch sharing plan for Pacific halibut fisheries in Area 2A 
(waters off the U.S. West coast) allows the limited entry fixed gear 
sablefish primary fishery an incidental total catch allowance for 
Pacific halibut north of Pt. Chehalis, WA (46[deg]53.30' N. lat.). The 
2014 Pacific halibut Area 2A TAC is 960,000 lb (435.45 mt). Therefore, 
consistent with the provisions of the catch sharing plan, the limited 
entry fixed gear sablefish primary fishery is allowed an incidental 
total catch limit of 14,274 lb (6,474 kg) for 2014.
    Historically, incidental halibut retention in the primary sablefish 
fishery has started in May. In the fall of 2012, the Council expressed 
interest in changing the starting date for halibut retention to the 
beginning of April, to reduce the amount of incidentally

[[Page 19499]]

caught halibut that would be discarded prior to May. This change could 
not be implemented in 2013 because it required a change to the IPHC's 
regulations regarding the application date for submitting license 
applications. At its annual meeting in January 2014, the IPHC changed 
its license application deadlines so that individuals wishing to retain 
halibut in the sablefish primary fishery could receive their IPHC 
licenses prior to the commencement of the fishery (March 12, 2014, 79 
FR 13906). Therefore, NMFS is now issuing this inseason change to the 
groundfish regulations to allow for incidental halibut retention 
starting in April.
    Changing the starting date of halibut retention is expected to 
result in improved access to the halibut quota for this fishery. Total 
catches in 2012 and 2013 were well below the allocations for those 
years. The 2014 total catch limit is lower than what has been available 
to the sablefish primary fishery in recent years (2012-13). However, 
total catches in 2012 and 2013 were well below the new, lower, 2014 
allocation. In 2012 total catch of Pacific halibut in the sablefish 
primary fishery was only 4,400 lb (1,996 kg) and the 2013 total catch 
was 12,000 lb (5,443 kg). NMFS notes that, given the recent total catch 
levels, liberalizing the incidental catch restrictions is anticipated 
to allow total catch of Pacific halibut to approach, but not exceed, 
the 2014 allocation for the sablefish primary fishery.
    The Council considered the dates and catch ratio established in the 
groundfish regulations at 50 CFR 660.231 at its first opportunity 
following the IPHC's decision to change its license application 
deadline and its decision on the 2014 TAC, the March 2014 meeting. The 
Council considered options to: Increase the amount of time the 
incidental catch ratio in the sablefish primary fishery is in effect; 
and whether or not to revise the catch ratio. These options were 
developed to allow incidentally caught halibut to be retained, while 
keeping total catch below the 2014 Pacific halibut allocation. Because 
catches in 2012 (4,400 lbs) and 2013 (12,000 lbs) were below the 
allocation for 2014 (14,274 lbs), the Council recommended maintaining 
the 2013 catch ratio in 2014 with a one month earlier start date, 
(April 1 rather than May 1).
    In order to allow incidental halibut catch in the sablefish primary 
fishery to begin on April 1, rather than May 1, the Council recommended 
and NMFS is implementing incidental halibut retention regulations at 50 
CFR 660.231 (b)(3)(iv) to allow the catch ratio of ``75 lb (34 kg) 
dressed weight of halibut for every 1,000 pounds (454 kg) dressed 
weight of sablefish landed and up to 2 additional halibut in excess of 
the 75-pounds-per-1,000-pound ratio per landing'' to be in effect 
``From April 1 through October 31.''
    The retention limits for halibut were not revised as part of the 
2013-2014 harvest specifications and management measures because the 
Pacific halibut TAC is developed each year based on the most current 
scientific information, and the TAC for 2014 was not determined until 
the IPHC meeting in January, 2014.

Classification

    This final rule makes routine inseason adjustments to groundfish 
fishery management measures, based on the best available information, 
consistent with the PCGFMP and its implementing regulations. The 
adjustment to the halibut incidental catch restrictions in the limited 
entry fixed gear sablefish primary fishery is taken under the authority 
of the Magnuson Stevens Act, based on actions taken under the Northern 
Pacific Halibut Act and implementing regulations, and is consistent 
with the approved catch sharing plan.
    This action is taken under the authority of 50 CFR 660.60(c) and is 
exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.
    The aggregate data upon which these actions are based are available 
for public inspection at the Office of the Administrator, West Coast 
Region, NMFS, during business hours.
    For the following reasons, NMFS finds good cause to waive prior 
public notice and comment on the revisions to groundfish management 
measures under 5 U.S.C. 553(b) because notice and comment would be 
impracticable and contrary to the public interest. Also, for the same 
reasons, NMFS finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in 
effectiveness pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), so that this final rule 
may become effective April 8, 2014.
    As described above, this inseason action is based on information 
that became available very recently. The changes to the incidental 
halibut retention in the sablefish primary fishery north of Pt. 
Chehalis, WA (46[deg]53.30' N. lat.), and the subsequent proposed 
management measure changes are based in part on decisions made by the 
IPHC at its January 2014 meeting. At that meeting, the IPHC determined 
the 2014 halibut TAC based on the most current scientific information 
regarding the status of the halibut stock, and changed its licensing 
deadline to accommodate an earlier start date for retention of 
incidentally caught halibut in the sablefish primary fishery. Based on 
those actions, the Council made its final recommendations at its March 
8-13, 2014 meeting. The Council considered the public comments on this 
matter and recommended that these changes be implemented by April 1, 
2014. There was not sufficient time after that meeting to complete 
notice and comment rulemaking before these changes need to be in 
effect. For the actions to be implemented in this final rule, affording 
the time necessary for prior notice and opportunity for public comment 
would prevent NMFS from managing fisheries using the best available 
science to approach, without exceeding, allocations accordance with the 
PCGFMP, the Northern Pacific Halibut Act, and other applicable laws. 
The adjustments to management measures in this document affect 
commercial fisheries off Washington State. These adjustments to 
management measures must be implemented in a timely manner, by April 1, 
2014 or as quickly as possible thereafter, to allow incidental catch of 
halibut in the sablefish primary fishery, reducing regulatory discards, 
while keeping total catch below the 2014 halibut Area 2A allocation.
    No aspect of this action is controversial, and changes of this 
nature were anticipated in the biennial harvest specifications and 
management measures established for 2013-2014.
    Accordingly, for the reasons stated above, NMFS finds good cause to 
waive prior notice and comment and to waive the delay in effectiveness.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 660

    Fisheries, Fishing, Indian fisheries.

    Dated: April 4, 2014.
James P. Burgess,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 660 is amended 
as follows:

PART 660--FISHERIES OFF WEST COAST STATES

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

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq., and 16 
U.S.C. 7001 et seq.


0
2. In Sec.  660.231, paragraph (b)(3)(iv) is revised to read as 
follows:


Sec.  660.231  Limited entry fixed gear sablefish primary fishery.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (3) * * *

[[Page 19500]]

    (iv) Incidental halibut retention north of Pt. Chehalis, WA 
(46[deg]53.30' N. lat.). From April 1 through October 31, vessels 
authorized to participate in the sablefish primary fishery, licensed by 
the International Pacific Halibut Commission for commercial fishing in 
Area 2A (waters off Washington, Oregon, California), and fishing with 
longline gear north of Pt. Chehalis, WA (46[deg]53.30' N. lat.) may 
possess and land up to the following cumulative limits: 75 lb (34 kg) 
dressed weight of halibut for every 1,000 pounds (454 kg) dressed 
weight of sablefish landed and up to 2 additional halibut in excess of 
the 75-pounds-per-1,000-pound ratio per landing. ``Dressed'' halibut in 
this area means halibut landed eviscerated with their heads on. Halibut 
taken and retained in the sablefish primary fishery north of Pt. 
Chehalis may only be landed north of Pt. Chehalis and may not be 
possessed or landed south of Pt. Chehalis.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2014-07982 Filed 4-8-14; 8:45 am]
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