[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 236 (Friday, December 7, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 73005-73007]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-29621]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 660

[Docket No. 120924487-2487-01]
RIN 0648-XC263

Fisheries Off West Coast States; Coastal Pelagic Species 
Fisheries; Annual Specifications

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

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: NMFS proposes to implement the annual catch limit (ACL), 
harvest guideline (HG), annual catch target (ACT) and associated annual 
reference points for Pacific mackerel in the U.S. exclusive economic 
zone (EEZ) off the Pacific coast for the fishing season of July 1, 
2012, through June 30, 2013. This rule is proposed according to the 
Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The 
proposed 2012-2013 ACL or maximum HG for Pacific mackerel is 40,514 
metric tons (mt). The proposed ACT, which will be the directed fishing 
harvest target, is 30,386 mt. If the fishery attains the ACT, the 
directed fishery will close, reserving the difference between the ACL 
and ACT (10,128 mt) as a set aside for incidental landings in other CPS 
fisheries and other sources of mortality. This rule is intended to 
conserve and manage the Pacific mackerel stock off the U.S. West Coast.

DATES: Comments must be received by January 7, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document identified by NOAA-
NMFS-2012-0215 by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov. 
To submit comments via the e-Rulemaking Portal, first click the 
``submit a comment'' icon, then enter NOAA-NMFS-2012-0215 in the 
keyword search. Locate the document you wish to comment on

[[Page 73006]]

from the resulting list and click on the ``Submit a Comment'' icon on 
the right of that line.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Rodney R. McInnis, 
Regional Administrator, Southwest Region, NMFS, 501 West Ocean Blvd., 
Suite 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802.
     Fax: (562) 980-4047.
    Instructions: Comments must be submitted by one of the above 
methods to ensure that the comments are received, documented, and 
considered by NMFS. 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. 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.) submitted voluntarily by the 
sender will be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive or protected information. 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 or Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file 
formats only.
    Copies of the report ``Pacific Mackerel (Scomber japonicus) Stock 
Assessment for USA Management in the 2011-12 Fishing Year'' and the 
Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review for this action may 
be obtained from the Southwest Regional Office (see ADDRESSES).

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: During public meetings each year, the 
estimated biomass for Pacific mackerel is presented to the Pacific 
Fishery Management Council's (Council) Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) 
Management Team (Team), the Council's CPS Advisory Subpanel (Subpanel) 
and the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), where the 
biomass and the status of the fisheries are reviewed and discussed. The 
biomass estimate is then presented to the Council along with the 
calculated overfishing limit (OFL) and available biological catch 
(ABC), annual catch limit (ACL) and harvest guideline (HG) and/or 
annual catch target (ACT) recommendations and comments from the Team, 
Subpanel and SSC. Following review by the Council and after hearing 
public comment, the Council adopts a biomass estimate and makes its 
catch level recommendations to NMFS.
    The purpose of this proposed rule is to implement the 2012-2013 
ACL, HG, ACT and other annual catch reference points, including OFL and 
an ABC that takes into consideration uncertainty surrounding the 
current estimate of biomass, for Pacific mackerel in the U.S. EEZ off 
the Pacific coast. (The EEZ off the Pacific Coast encompasses ocean 
waters seaward of the outer boundary of state waters, which is 3 
nautical miles off the coast, out to a line 200 nautical miles from the 
coast.) The CPS FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS to 
set these annual catch levels for the Pacific mackerel fishery based on 
the annual specification framework in the FMP. This framework includes 
a harvest control rule that determines the maximum HG, the primary 
management target for the fishery, for the current fishing season. The 
HG is based, in large part, on the current estimate of stock biomass. 
The harvest control rule in the CPS FMP is HG = [(Biomass-Cutoff) * 
Fraction * Distribution] with the parameters described as follows:
    1. Biomass. The estimated stock biomass of Pacific mackerel for the 
2012-2013 management season is 211,126 mt.
    2. Cutoff. This is the biomass level below which no commercial 
fishery is allowed. The FMP established this level at 18,200 mt.
    3. Fraction. The harvest fraction is the percentage of the biomass 
above 18,200 mt that may be harvested.
    4. Distribution. The average portion (currently 70%) of the total 
Pacific mackerel biomass that is estimated to be in the U.S. EEZ off 
the Pacific coast, based on the average historical larval distribution 
obtained from scientific cruises and the distribution of the resource 
according to the logbooks of aerial fish-spotters.
    At the June 2012 Council meeting, the Council recommended 
management measures for the Pacific mackerel fishery. These management 
measures were based on the 2011 full stock assessment, which estimated 
the biomass of Pacific mackerel to be 211,126 mt. The 2011 full stock 
assessment of Pacific mackerel was reviewed by a Stock Assessment 
Review Panel in May 2011, and was approved in June 2011 by the SSC as 
the best available science for use in management. Based on 
recommendations from the Council's SSC and other advisory bodies, the 
Council recommended and NOAA Fisheries (NMFS) is proposing, an OFL of 
44,336 mt, an ABC of 42,375 mt, an ACL and maximum harvest guideline 
(HG) of 40,514 mt, and an ACT of 30,386 mt for the 2012-2013 Pacific 
mackerel fishing year. These catch specifications are based on the 
biomass estimate for Pacific mackerel and the control rules established 
in the CPS FMP.
    If the ACT is attained, the directed fishery will close, and the 
difference between the ACL and ACT (10,128 mt) will be reserved as a 
set aside for incidental landings in other CPS fisheries and other 
sources of mortality. In that event, incidental harvest measures will 
be in place for the remainder of the fishing year, including a 45 
percent incidental catch allowance when Pacific mackerel are landed 
with other CPS. In other words, no more than 45 percent by weight of 
the CPS landed per trip may be Pacific mackerel, except that up to 1 mt 
of Pacific mackerel could be landed without landing any other CPS. Upon 
the fishery attaining the ACL/HG (40,514 mt), no vessels in CPS 
fisheries may retain Pacific mackerel. The purpose of the incidental 
set-aside and allowance of an incidental fishery is to allow for the 
restricted incidental landings of Pacific mackerel in other fisheries, 
particularly other CPS fisheries, when the directed fishery is closed 
to reduce potential discard of Pacific mackerel and allow for continued 
prosecution of other important CPS fisheries.
    The NMFS Southwest Regional Administrator will publish a notice in 
the Federal Register announcing the date of any closure to either 
directed or incidental fishing. Additionally, to ensure the regulated 
community is informed of any closure NMFS will also make announcements 
through other means available, including fax, email, and mail to 
fishermen, processors, and state fishery management agencies.
    Detailed information on the fishery and the stock assessment are 
found in the report ``Pacific Mackerel (Scomber japonicus) Stock 
Assessment for USA Management in the 2011-12 Fishing Year'' (see 


    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has 
determined that this proposed rule is consistent with the CPS FMP, 
other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act, and other applicable law, subject to further 
consideration after public comment.
    These proposed specifications are exempt from review under 
Executive Order 12866.

[[Page 73007]]

    Pursuant to the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), 5 U.S.C. 605(b), 
the Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, 
for the reasons as follows:
    The purpose of this proposed rule is to implement the 2012-2013 
annual specifications for Pacific mackerel in the U.S. EEZ off the 
Pacific coast. The CPS FMP and its implementing regulations require 
NMFS to set an OFL, ABC, ACL and HG or ACT for the Pacific mackerel 
fishery based on the harvest control rules in the FMP. The specific 
harvest control rule is applied to the current stock biomass estimate 
to derive the annual HG, which is used to manage the commercial take of 
Pacific mackerel.
    The U.S. Small Business Administration defines small businesses 
engaged in fishing as those vessels with annual revenues of or below $4 
million. The small entities that would be affected by the proposed 
action are the vessels that compose the West Coast CPS finfish fleet. 
Pacific mackerel harvest is one component of CPS fisheries off the U.S. 
West Coast, which primarily includes the fisheries for Pacific sardine, 
northern anchovy and market squid. Pacific mackerel are principally 
caught off southern California within the limited entry portion (south 
of 39 degrees N. latitude; Point Arena, California) of the fishery. 
Fifty-eight vessels are currently permitted in the Federal CPS limited 
entry fishery off California. The average annual per vessel revenue in 
2011 for the West Coast CPS finfish fleet was well below $4 million; 
therefore, all of these vessels therefore are considered small 
businesses under the RFA. Because each affected vessel is a small 
business, this proposed rule has an equal effect on all of these small 
entities, and therefore will impact a substantial number of these small 
entities in the same manner.
    The profitability of these vessels as a result of this proposed 
rule is based on the average Pacific mackerel ex-vessel price per mt. 
NMFS used average Pacific mackerel ex-vessel price per mt to conduct a 
profitability analysis because cost data for the harvesting operations 
of CPS finfish vessels was limited or unavailable. For the 2011-2012 
fishing year the HG was 40,514 mt and was divided into a directed 
fishery (or ACT) of 30,386 mt and an incidental fishery of 10,128 mt. 
Approximately 1,900 mt of this HG was harvested in 2011-2012 fishing 
season with an estimated ex-vessel value of $456,000 mt. Using these 
figures, the average 2011/2012 ex-vessel price per mt of Pacific 
mackerel was approximately $240.
    The proposed ACL/HG for the 2012/2013 Pacific mackerel fishing 
season is 40,514 mt, with a directed fishing harvest target or ACT of 
30,386 mt. This season's directed fishing target is the same as the 
previous year. If the fleet were to take the entire 2012-2013 ACT, and 
assuming a coastwide average ex-vessel price per mt of $220 (average of 
2010 and 2011 ex-vessel), the potential revenue to the fleet would be 
approximately $6.6 million. However, this result will depend greatly on 
market forces within the fishery, and on the regional availability of 
the resource to the fleet and the fleets' ability to find schools of 
Pacific mackerel. The annual average U.S. Pacific mackerel harvest from 
2001 to 2010 is approximately 4,500 mt, and over the last 10 years 
landings have averaged approximately 6,000 mt without exceeding 10,000 
mt. As a result, it is unlikely that the ACT proposed in this rule will 
limit the potential profitability of the fleet from Pacific mackerel. 
Accordingly, vessels' profits are not expected to be altered as a 
result of this rule as it relates to recent catches in the fishery and 
the previous season's regulation.
    Based on the disproportionality and profitability analysis above, 
this rule, if adopted, will not have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of these small entities. As a result, an Initial 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis is not required, and none has been 
    There are no reporting, record-keeping, or other compliance 
requirements required by this proposed rule. Additionally, no other 
Federal rules duplicate, overlap or conflict with this proposed rule.
    This action does not contain a collection-of-information 
requirement for purposes of the Paper Reduction Act.

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

    Dated: December 3, 2012.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, performing the functions and 
duties of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-29621 Filed 12-6-12; 8:45 am]