[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 102 (Tuesday, May 30, 2017)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 24656-24658]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-11031]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 660

[Docket No. 170320292-7292-01]
RIN 0648-XF311

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 annual management measures and 
harvest specifications to establish the allowable catch levels (i.e., 
annual catch limit (ACL)/harvest guideline (HG)) for the northern 
subpopulation of Pacific sardine (hereafter, Pacific sardine), in the 
U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off the Pacific coast for the 
fishing season of July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018. This rule is 
proposed according to the Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) Fishery 
Management Plan (FMP). The proposed action would prohibit directed non-
tribal Pacific sardine commercial fishing for Pacific sardine off the 
coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California, which is required because 
the estimated 2017 biomass of Pacific sardine has dropped below the 
biomass threshold specified in the HG control rule. Under the proposed 
action, Pacific sardine may still be harvested as part of either the 
live bait or tribal fishery, or as incidental catch in other fisheries; 
the incidental harvest of Pacific sardine would initially be limited to 
40-percent by weight of all fish per trip when caught with other CPS or 
up to 2 metric tons (mt) when caught with non-CPS. The proposed annual 
catch limit (ACL) for the 2017-2018 Pacific sardine fishing year is 
8,000 mt. This proposed rule is intended to conserve and manage the 
Pacific sardine stock off the U.S. West Coast.

DATES: Comments must be received by June 14, 2017.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2017-0045, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D= NOAA-NMFS-2017-0045, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Barry A. Thom, Regional 
Administrator, West Coast Region, NMFS, 7600 Sand Point Way NE., 
Seattle, WA 98115-0070; Attn: Joshua Lindsay.
     Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any 
other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment 
period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part 
of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
    Copies of the report ``Assessment of Pacific Sardine Resource in 
2017 for U.S.A. Management in 2017-2018'' may be obtained from the West 
Coast Region (see ADDRESSES).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Joshua Lindsay, West Coast Region, 
NMFS, (562) 980-4034, [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: During public meetings each year, the 
estimated biomass for Pacific sardine is presented to the Pacific 
Fishery Management Council's (Council) CPS Management Team (Team), the 
Council's CPS Advisory Subpanel (Subpanel) and the Council's Scientific 
and Statistical Committee (SSC), and the biomass and the status of the 
fishery are reviewed and discussed. The biomass estimate is then 
presented to the Council along with the calculated overfishing limit 
(OFL), available biological catch (ABC), and HG, along with 
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. NMFS manages the Pacific sardine fishery in 
the U.S. EEZ off the Pacific coast (California, Oregon, and Washington) 
in accordance with the FMP. Annual specifications published in the 
Federal Register establish the allowable harvest levels (i.e., OFL/ACL/
HG) for each Pacific sardine fishing year. The purpose of this proposed 
rule is to implement these annual catch reference points for 2017-2018, 
including the OFL and an ABC that takes into consideration uncertainty 
surrounding the current estimate of biomass for Pacific sardine. The 
FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS to set these annual 
catch levels for the Pacific sardine fishery based on the annual 
specification framework and control rules in the FMP. These control 
rules include the HG control rule, which, in conjunction with the OFL 
and ABC rules in the FMP, are used to manage harvest levels for Pacific 
sardine, in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. According to the FMP, the 
quota for the principal commercial fishery is determined using the FMP-
specified HG formula. The HG formula in the CPS FMP is HG = [(Biomass-
CUTOFF) * FRACTION * DISTRIBUTION] with the parameters described as 
    1. Biomass. The estimated stock biomass of Pacific sardine age one 
and above. For the 2017-2018 management season, this is 86,586 mt.
    2. CUTOFF. This is the biomass level below which no HG is set. The 
FMP established this level at 150,000 mt.
    3. DISTRIBUTION. The average portion of the Pacific sardine biomass 
estimated in the EEZ off the Pacific coast is 87 percent.
    4. FRACTION. The temperature-varying harvest fraction is the 
percentage of the biomass above 150,000 mt that may be harvested.
    As described above, the Pacific sardine HG control rule, the 
primary mechanism for setting the annual directed commercial fishery 
quota, includes a CUTOFF parameter, which has been set as a biomass 
level of 150,000 mt. This amount is subtracted from the annual biomass 
estimate before calculating the applicable HG for the fishing year. 
Since this year's biomass estimate is below that value, the formula 
results in an HG of zero, and no Pacific sardine are available for the 
primary commercial directed fishery during the 2017-2018 fishing 
    At the April 2017 Council meeting, the Council's SSC approved, and 
the Council adopted, the ``Assessment of the Pacific Sardine Resource 
in 2017 for U.S. Management in 2017-2018,'' which was completed by NMFS 

[[Page 24657]]

Fisheries Science Center. The resulting Pacific sardine biomass 
estimate of 86,586 mt was adopted as the best available science for 
setting harvest specifications. Based on recommendations from its SSC 
and other advisory bodies, the Council recommended, and NMFS is 
proposing, an OFL of 16,957 mt, an ABC of 15,497 mt, and a prohibition 
on Pacific sardine catch, unless it is harvested as part of either the 
live bait or tribal fishery or incidental to other fisheries for the 
2017-2018 Pacific sardine fishing year. As additional management 
measures, the Council also recommended, and NMFS is proposing, an ACL 
of 8,000 mt and that the incidental catch of Pacific sardine in other 
CPS fisheries be managed with the following automatic inseason actions 
to reduce the potential for both targeting and discard of Pacific 
     An incidental per landing by weight allowance of 40 
percent Pacific sardine in non-treaty CPS fisheries until a total of 
2,000 mt of Pacific sardine are landed.
     When 2,000 mt are landed, the incidental per landing 
allowance would be reduced to 20 percent until a total of 5,000 mt of 
Pacific sardine have been landed.
     When 5,000 mt have been landed, the incidental per landing 
allowance would be reduced to 10 percent for the remainder of the 2017-
2018 fishing year.
    Because Pacific sardine is known to comingle with other CPS stocks, 
these incidental allowances are proposed to allow for the continued 
prosecution of these other important CPS fisheries and reduce the 
potential discard of sardine. Additionally, a 2 mt incidental per 
landing allowance in non-CPS fisheries is proposed.
    The NMFS West Coast Regional Administrator would publish a notice 
in the Federal Register announcing the date of attainment of any of the 
incidental catch levels described above and subsequent changes to 
allowable incidental catch percentages. Additionally, to ensure that 
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.
    In each of the previous 5 fishing years, the Quinault Indian Nation 
requested, and NMFS approved, a set-aside for the exclusive right to 
harvest Pacific sardine in the Quinault Usual and Accustomed Fishing 
Area off the coast of Washington State, pursuant to the 1856 Treaty of 
Olympia (Treaty with the Quinault). For the 2017-2018 fishing season, 
the Quinault Indian Nation has requested that NMFS provide a set-aside 
of 800 mt (the same amount that was requested and approved for the 
2016-2017 season) and NMFS is considering the request.
    Detailed information on the fishery and the stock assessment are 
found in the report ``Assessment of the Pacific Sardine Resource in 
2017 for U.S. Management in 2017-2018'' (see ADDRESSES).


    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.
    This action is exempt from review under E.O. 12866.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, 
for the following reasons:
    For Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) purposes only, NMFS has 
established a small business size standard for businesses, including 
their affiliates, whose primary industry is commercial fishing (see 50 
CFR 200.2). A business primarily engaged in commercial fishing (NAICS 
code 11411) is classified as a small business if it is independently 
owned and operated, is not dominant in its field of operation 
(including its affiliates), and has combined annual receipts not in 
excess of $11 million for all its affiliated operations worldwide.
    The purpose of this proposed rule is to conserve the Pacific 
sardine stock by preventing overfishing, so that directed fishing may 
occur in future years. This will be accomplished by implementing the 
2017-2018 annual specifications for Pacific sardine in the U.S. EEZ off 
the Pacific coast. The small entities that would be affected by the 
proposed action are the vessels that, if the fishery was open, would be 
expected to harvest Pacific sardine as part of the West Coast CPS small 
purse seine fleet. In 2014, the last year that a directed fishery for 
Pacific sardine was allowed, there were approximately 81 vessels 
permitted to operate in the directed sardine fishery component of the 
CPS fishery off the U.S. West Coast; 58 vessels in the Federal CPS 
limited entry fishery off California (south of 39[deg] N. lat.), and a 
combined 23 vessels in Oregon and Washington's state Pacific sardine 
fisheries. The average annual per vessel revenue in 2014 for those 
vessels was well below the threshold level of $11 million; therefore, 
all of these vessels are considered small businesses under the RFA. 
Because each affected vessel is a small business, this proposed rule is 
considered to equally affect all of these small entities in the same 
manner. Therefore, this rule would not create disproportionate costs 
between small and large vessels/businesses.
    The CPS FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS to 
annually set an OFL, ABC, ACL, and HG or ACT for the Pacific sardine 
fishery based on the specified harvest control rules in the FMP applied 
to the current stock biomass estimate for that year. The derived annual 
HG is the level typically used to manage the principal commercial 
sardine fishery and is the harvest level typically used by NMFS for 
profitability analysis each year. As stated above, the CPS FMP dictates 
that when the estimated biomass drops below a certain level (150,000 
mt) there is no HG. Therefore, for the purposes of profitability 
analysis, this action is essentially proposing an HG of zero for the 
2017-2018 Pacific sardine fishing season (July 1, 2017, through June 
30, 2018). The estimated biomass used for management during the 
preceding fishing year (2016-2017) was also below 150,000 mt; 
therefore, NMFS did not implement a HG, thereby disallowing a 
commercial directed Pacific sardine fishery. Since there is again no 
directed fishing for the 2017-2018 fishing year, this proposed rule 
will not change the potential profitability as compared to the previous 
fishing year.
    The revenue derived from harvesting Pacific sardine is typically 
only one source of fishing revenue for many of the vessels that harvest 
Pacific sardine; as a result, the economic impact to the fleet from the 
proposed action cannot be viewed in isolation. From year to year, 
depending on market conditions and availability of fish, most CPS/
sardine vessels supplement their income by harvesting other species. 
Many vessels in California also harvest anchovy, mackerel, and in 
particular, squid, making Pacific sardine only one component of a 
multi-species CPS fishery. Additionally, some sardine vessels that 
operate off of Oregon and Washington also fish for salmon in Alaska or 
squid in California during times of the year when sardine are not 
available. The purpose of the proposed incidental allowances under this 

[[Page 24658]]

are to ensure the vessels impacted by this sardine action can still 
access these other profitable fisheries while still limiting the 
harvest of Pacific sardine. These proposed incidental allowances are 
similar to those implemented last year and should not restrict access 
to those other fisheries.
    CPS vessels typically rely on multiple species for profitability 
because abundance of Pacific sardine, like the other CPS stocks, is 
highly associated with ocean conditions and seasonality, and therefore 
are harvested at various times and areas throughout the year. Because 
each species responds to ocean conditions in its own way, not all CPS 
stocks are likely to be abundant at the same time; therefore, as 
abundance levels and markets fluctuate, it has necessitated that the 
CPS fishery as a whole rely on a group of species for its annual 
    Based on the disproportionality and profitability analysis above, 
the proposed action, if adopted, will not have a significant economic 
impact on a substantial number of small entities. As a result, an 
Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis is not required, and none has 
been prepared.
    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: May 23, 2017.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-11031 Filed 5-26-17; 8:45 am]