Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Inseason Adjustment to the 2011 Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Atka Mackerel Total Allowable Catch Amount

Summary:

NMFS is adjusting the 2011 total allowable catch (TAC) amount for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Island management area (BSAI) Atka mackerel fishery. This action is necessary because NMFS has determined this TAC is incorrectly specified. This action will ensure the BSAI Atka mackerel TAC is the appropriate amount, based on the best available scientific information for Atka mackerel in the BSAI. This action is consistent with the goals andobjectives of the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area.

Table of Figures

Dates:

Effective 1200 hrs, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), January 11, 2011, until the effective date of the final 2011 and 2012 harvest specifications for BSAI groundfish, unless otherwise modified or superseded through publication of a notification in the Federal Register.

Comments must be received at the following address no later than 4:30 p.m., A.l.t., January 26, 2011.

Addresses:

Send comments to James W. Balsiger, Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. You may submit comments, identified by RIN 0648-XA129, by any one of the following methods:

Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov.

Mail: P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802.

Fax:(907) 586-7557.

Hand delivery to the Federal Building:709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, AK.

All comments received are a part of the public record. No comments will be posted to http://www.regulations.gov for public viewing until after the comment period has closed. Comment will generally be posted without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may 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). You may submit attachments to electronic comments in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.

For further information contact:

Steve Whitney, 907-586-7228.

Supplementary information:

NMFS manages the groundfish fishery in the BSAI exclusive economic zone according to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP) prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) under authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Regulations governing fishing by U.S. vessels in accordance with the FMP appear at subpart H of 50 CFR part 600 and 50 CFR part 679.

The 2011 Atka mackerel TAC in the BSAI was set at 20,900 metric tons (mt) in the Eastern Aleutian District and the Bering Sea subarea, 26,000 mt in the Central Aleutian District, and 18,100 mt in the Western Aleutian District by the final 2010 and 2011 harvest specification for groundfish in the BSAI (75 FR 11778, March 12, 2010).

In December 2010, the Council recommended a 2011 Atka mackerel TACs of 40,300 metric tons (mt) in the Eastern Aleutian District and the Bering Sea subarea, 12,800 mt in the Central Aleutian District, and 1,500 mt in the Western Aleutian District. These amounts are more in the Eastern Aleutian District and Bering Sea subarea, and less in the Central Aleutian District and Western Aleutian District than established by the final 2010 and 2011 harvest specification for groundfish in the BSAI (75 FR 11778, March 12, 2010). The TACs recommended by the Council are based on the Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation report (SAFE), dated November 2010, which NMFS has determined is the best available scientific information for this fishery.

Regulations at § 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(A) apportion the Atka mackerel TAC allocated to the BSAI Atka mackerel trawl fisheries seasonally to distribute catch over time because Atka mackerel is a principal prey species for Steller sea lions listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The first seasonal apportionment can be harvested quickly, and must reflect the TAC based on the best available scientific information to provide the opportunity to harvest available TAC in a manner consistent with the established Steller sea lion protection measures.

In accordance with § 679.25(a)(1)(iii) & (a)(2)(i)(B), the Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS (Regional Administrator), has determined that, based on the November 2010 SAFE report for this fishery, the current BSAI Atka mackerel TAC is incorrectly specified. Consequently, the Regional Administrator is adjusting the 2011 Atka mackerel TACs to 40,300 mt in the Eastern Aleutian District and Bering Sea subarea, 11,280 mt in the Central Aleutian District, and 1,500 mt in the Western Aleutian District.

Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(8), Table 4 of the final 2010 and 2011 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (75 FR 11778, March 12, 2010) is revised for the 2011 Atka mackerel TAC consistent with this adjustment. Table 4 includes the Steller sea lion protection measures effective January 1, 2011 (75 FR 77535, December 13, 2010), to insure that the BSAI groundfish fisheries off Alaska are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the western distinct population segment of Steller sea lions or adversely modify its designated critical habitat.

Table 4—Final 2011 Seasonal and Spatial Allowances, Gear Shares, CDQ Reserve, Incidental Catch Allowance, and Amendment 80 Allocations of the BSAI ATKA Mackerel TAC
Sector1 Season2 3 4 2011 allocation by area
Eastern Aleutian District/Bering SeaCentral Aleutian District5 Western Aleutian District
[Amounts are in metric tons]
1Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii) allocates the Atka mackerel TACs, after subtraction of the CDQ reserves, jig gear allocation, and ICAs to the Amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access sectors. The allocation of the ITAC for Atka mackerel to the Amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access sectors is established in Table 33 to part 679 and § 679.91. The CDQ reserve is 10.7 percent of the TAC for use by CDQ participants (see§§ 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(C) and 679.31).
2Sections 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(A) and 679.22(a) establish temporal and spatial limitations for the Atka mackerel fishery.
3The seasonal allowances of Atka mackerel are 50 percent in the A season and 50 percent in the B season.
4Section 679.23(e)(3) authorizes directed fishing for Atka mackerel with trawl gear during the A season from January 20 to June 10 and the B season from June 10 to November 1.
5Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(C) requires the TAC in area 542 shall be no more than 47% of ABC, and Amendment 80 cooperatives and CDQ groups are allowed limited to no more than 10% of an allocation may be harvested within waters 10 nm to 20 nm of Gramp Rock and Tag Island, as described on Table 12 to this part.
6Section 679.20(a)(8)(i) requires that up to 2 percent of the Eastern Aleutian District and the Bering Sea subarea TAC be allocated to jig gear after subtraction of the CDQ reserve and ICA. The amount of this allocation is 0.5 percent. The jig gear allocation is not apportioned by season.
TAC n/a 40,300 11,280 1,500
CDQ reserve Total 4,312 1,207 161
A 2,156 603 80
Critical habitat5 n/a 60 n/a
B 2,156 603 80
Critical habitat5 n/a 60 n/a
ICA Total 75 75 40
Jig6 Total 180 0 0
BSAI trawl limited access Total 2,859 800 0
A 1,429 400 0
B 1,429 400 0
Amendment 80 sectors Total 32,875 9,198 1,300
A 16,437 4,599 650
B 16,437 4,599 650
Alaska Groundfish Cooperative Total 19,181 5,389 755
A 9,591 2,695 377
Critical habitat5 n/a 269 n/a
B 9,591 2,695 377
Critical habitat5 n/a 269 n/a
Alaska Seafood Cooperative Total 13,694 3,809 545
A 6,847 1,904 272
Critical habitat5 n/a 190 n/a
B 6,847 1,904 272
Critical habitat5 n/a 190 n/a

Classification

This action responds to the best available information recently obtained from the fishery. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA (AA), finds good cause to waive the requirement to provide prior notice and opportunity for public comment pursuant to the authority set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) as such requirement is impracticable and contrary to the public interest. This requirement is impracticable and contrary to the public interest as it would prevent NMFS from responding to the most recent fisheries data in a timely fashion and would require harvests other than the appropriate allocations for Atka mackerel, based on the best scientific information available. NMFS was unable to publish a notice providing time for public comment because the most recent, relevant data only became available as of December 25, 2010, and additional time for prior public comment would result in conservation concerns for the ESA-listed Steller sea lions.

The AA also finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in the effective date of this action under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3). This finding is based upon the reasons provided above for waiver of prior notice and opportunity for public comment.Under § 679.25(c)(2), interested persons are invited to submit written comments on this action to the above address until January 26, 2011.

This action is required by § 679.20 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

Authority:

16 U.S.C. 1801et seq.

Dated: January 6, 2011. James P. Burgess,

Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries,National Marine Fisheries Service.

References

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