NACO

National Association of Charterboat Operators

Pacific Halibut Fisheries; Catch Sharing Plan

 These measures include the sport fishery allocations 

NMFS proposes to approve and implement changes to the Pacific Halibut Catch Sharing Plan (Plan) for the International Pacific Halibut Commission's (IPHC or Commission) regulatory area off Washington, Oregon, and California (Area 2A). NMFS proposes to implement the portions of the Plan and management measures that are not implemented through the IPHC. These measures include the sport fishery allocations and management measures for Area 2A. These actions are intended to enhance the conservation of Pacific halibut, provide greater angler opportunity where available, and protect overfished groundfish species from being incidentally caught in the halibut fisheries.

Comments on the proposed changes to the Plan and on the proposed domestic Area 2A halibut management measures must be received on February 26, 2013.

 

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2013-0015, by any of the following methods:

 

     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0015, click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.

     Mail: Submit written comments to William Stelle, Regional Administrator, Northwest Region, NMFS, 7600 Sand Point Way NE., Seattle, WA 98115-0070.

     Fax: 206-526-6736; Attn: Sarah Williams.

    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 anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah Williams, phone:  206-526-4646, fax: 206-526-6736, or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Electronic Access

    This rule is accessible via the Internet 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 Northwest Region Web site at http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/Groundfish-Halibut/Groundfish-Fishery-Management/index.cfm and at the Council's 

Web site at http://www.pcouncil.org.

Background

    The Northern Pacific Halibut Act (Halibut Act) of 1982, 16 U.S.C. 

773-773K, gives the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) general 

responsibility for implementing the provisions of the Halibut 

Convention between the United States and Canada (Halibut Convention) 

(16 U.S.C. 773c). It requires the Secretary to adopt regulations as may 

be necessary to carry out the purposes and objectives of the Halibut 

Convention and the Halibut Act. Section 773c of the Halibut Act also 

authorizes the regional fishery management councils to develop 

regulations in addition to, but not in conflict with, regulations of 

the IPHC to govern the Pacific halibut catch in their corresponding 

U.S. Convention waters. Each year between 1988 and 1995, the Pacific 

Fishery Management Council (Council) developed a catch sharing plan in 

accordance with the Halibut Act to allocate the total allowable catch 

(TAC) of Pacific halibut between treaty Indian and non-treaty 

harvesters and among non-treaty commercial and sport fisheries in Area 

2A.

    In 1995, NMFS implemented the long-term Plan recommended by the 

Pacific Council (60 FR 14651, March 20, 1995, as amended by 61 FR 

35548). In each of the intervening years between 1995 and the present, 

minor revisions to the Plan have been made to adjust for the changing 

needs of the fisheries, in accordance with 50 CFR 300.62. These 

revisions are not codified. The Plan allocates 35 percent of the Area 

2A Pacific halibut TAC to Washington treaty Indian tribes in Subarea 

2A-1, and 65 percent of the Area 2A TAC to non-tribal fisheries.

    The TAC allocation to non-tribal fisheries is divided into three 

shares, with the Washington sport fishery (north of the Columbia River) 

receiving 36.6 percent, the Oregon/California sport fishery receiving 

31.7 percent, and the commercial fishery receiving 31.7 percent. The 

commercial fishery is further divided into a directed commercial 

fishery that is allocated 85 percent of the commercial allocation of 

Pacific halibut TAC, and an incidental catch in the salmon troll 

fishery that is allocated 15 percent of the commercial allocation. The 

directed commercial fishery in Area 2A is confined to southern 

Washington (south of 46[deg]53.30' N. lat.), Oregon, and California. 

North of 46[deg]53.30' N. lat. (Pt. Chehalis), the Plan allows for 

incidental halibut retention in the sablefish primary fishery when the 

overall Area 2A TAC is above 900,000 lb (408.2 mt). The Plan also 

divides the sport fisheries into six geographic subareas, each with 

separate allocations, seasons, and bag limits.

    This proposed rule describes catch limit information presented at 

the

IPHC's annual meeting which occurred January 21-25, 2013, in Victoria, 

BC. The IPHC has set the 2013 Area 2A TAC at 990,000 pounds.

Incidental Halibut Retention in the Sablefish Primary Fishery North of 

Pt. Chehalis, WA

    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 2013, the TAC 

is 990,000 lb (449 mt); therefore incidental halibut retention will be 

allowed in this fishery. The Council will recommend landing 

restrictions for public review at its March 2013 meeting and make final 

recommendations at its April 2013 meeting. Following this meeting NMFS 

will publish the restrictions in the Federal Register.

    Through this proposed rule, NMFS requests public comments on the 

Pacific Council's recommended modifications to the Plan and the 

resulting proposed domestic fishing regulations by February 26, 2013. 

The States of Washington and Oregon will conduct public workshops 

shortly to obtain input on the sport season dates. Following the 

proposed rule comment period NMFS will review public comments and 

comments from the states, and issue a final rule for Areas 2A, 2C, 3A, 

3B, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, and 4E. This final rule will also contain the IPHC 

regulations for the 2013 Pacific halibut fisheries. This proposed rule 

provides for a 15-day public comment period, which will allow NMFS time 

to incorporate the final U.S. domestic regulations into the IPHC 

regulations in order to have the combined regulations in place as close 

to March 1 as possible. The regulations need to be in effect in early 

March because the fishing season begins in mid-March. The 2013 

commercial season starting date(s) need to be published soon after the 

IPHC meeting in January 2013 to notify the public of that date so the 

industry can plan for the season.

    Publishing the IPHC regulations in the same Federal Register notice 

with the final domestic regulations for Washington, Oregon, and 

California is in the best interest of the public because it results in 

the occurrence of all the halibut regulations in one Federal Register 

notice. Therefore fishery participants only have to reference one 

document for all Pacific halibut regulations applicable to the Area 2A 

fishery; both the IPHC regulations and domestic regulations. Combining 

these regulations also eliminates errors that may occur from trying to 

separate the halibut regulations into two different rules.

Proposed Changes to the Plan

    Each year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), 

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), California Department of 

Fish and Game (CDFG), and the tribes with treaty fishing rights for 

halibut consider whether changes to the Plan are needed or desired by 

their fishery participants. In 2012, fishery managers from WDFW and 

ODFW held public meetings before both the September and November 

Pacific Council meetings to get public input on revisions to the Plan. 

At the September 2012 Pacific Council meeting, WDFW, ODFW, and CDFG 

recommended changes to the Plan, while NMFS and the tribes did not 

recommend any changes to the Plan for the 2013 fishing season. 

Following the meeting, WDFW and ODFW again reviewed their proposals 

with the public and drafted their recommended revisions for review and 

recommendation by the Pacific Council.

    At its November 2-7, 2012, meeting the Pacific Council considered 

the results of state-sponsored workshops on the proposed changes to the 

Plan, and made its final recommendations for modifications to the Plan. 

The following are the Council's proposed changes to the Plan:

    1. In the Plan, sections (e)(1) and (e)(1)(iii), incidental halibut 

catch in the salmon troll fishery, adjust the months for the incidental 

take fishery from May-June to April-June. The goal of this change is to 

allow salmon fishers access to the incidental halibut allocation 

earlier in the year.

    2. In the Plan, section (f)(1)(iv) Columbia River subarea, adjust 

the spring season schedule from Thursday-Saturdays to Fridays-Sundays 

and replace the automatic regulatory closure for the spring fishery 

with a closure that would occur upon reaching 80 percent of the subarea 

allocation. The goal of the days of the week change is to allow better 

access to the spring fishery and to make the spring and summer season 

open days consistent. The goal of removing the regulatory closure is to 

allow the spring fishery to stay open longer in the spring, when effort 

is generally higher. The summer season has often underutilized the 

allocation, therefore allowing the spring fishery to stay open longer 

is designed to better utilize the allocation for the whole subarea. 

Since 2008 the summer fishery has harvested less than 20 percent of the 

subarea quota even though the allocation was 30 percent, leaving a 

portion of the allocation unharvested that could be harvested in the 

spring since the summer fishery occurs after the spring fishery.

    3. In the Plan, section (f)(1)(v), Oregon Central Coast subarea, 

several changes are proposed. This subarea consists of three fisheries, 

nearshore, spring and, summer. Changes are proposed to all three 

fisheries. The goal is to better align the allocations for the 

nearshore and spring fisheries with recent increasing effort. The 

proposed modifications to each fishery's allocation changes the 

allocations from fixed percentages to percentages that depend on the 2A 

TAC. This change is proposed to maximize the number of days the entire 

subarea can be open. The effort in the nearshore fishery has increased 

in recent years, requiring the fishery to close early. Eliminating the 

summer fishery and increasing the nearshore and spring allocations will 

allow more fishing days overall. The elimination of the summer fishery 

when the Area 2A TAC is below 700,000 lbs is necessary because if the 

TAC is at that level, the resulting summer fishery allocation is not 

enough to allow one day of fishing.

    a. For the nearshore fishery, adjust the open days from daily to 3 

days per week Thursday -Saturday and adjust the allocation to this 

fishery from 12 percent of the subarea quota to 12 percent of the 

subarea quota if the 2A TAC is above 700,000 lbs or greater and 25 

percent of the subarea quota if the 2A TAC is less than 700,000 lbs.

    b. For the spring fishery, adjust the allocation from 63 percent of 

the subarea allocation to 63 percent of the subarea quota if the 2A TAC 

is above 700,000 lbs or greater and 75 percent of the subarea quota if 

the 2A TAC is less than 700,000 lbs. Also, adjust the closure date for 

this fishery if the TAC is less than 700,000 lbs from July 31st to 

October 31st or attainment of the fishery allocation.

    c. For the summer fishery, adjust the allocation from 25 percent of 

the subarea allocation to 25 percent of the subarea quota if the 2A TAC 

is above 700,000 lbs or greater and 0 percent of the subarea quota if 

the 2A TAC is less than 700,000 lbs. This closes the summer fishery if 

the TAC is less than 700,000 lbs.

    NMFS proposes to approve the Pacific Council recommendations and to 

implement the changes described above. A version of the Plan including 

these changes can be found at http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/Groundfish-Halibut/Pacific-Halibut/Index.cfm.

Proposed 2013 Sport Fishery Management Measures

     In this rulemaking, NMFS also proposes sport fishery management 

measures that are necessary to implement the Plan in 2013. The annual 

domestic management measures are published each year through a final 

rule in combination with the IPHC regulations, as discussed above. For 

the 2012 fishing season the final rule was published on March 22, 2012 

(77 FR 16740), and the following section numbers refer to sections 

within that final rule. The final 2013 TAC for Area 2A has been 

determined by the IPHC in the amount of 990,000 lbsWhere season dates 

are not indicated, those dates will be provided in the final rule, 

following consideration of the 2013 TAC and consultation with the 

states and the public.

    In Section 8 of the annual domestic management measures, ``Fishing 

Periods,'' paragraphs (2) and (3) are proposed to read as follows and 

paragraph (6) is added to read as follows:

    (1) * * *

    (2) Each fishing period in the Area 2A directed fishery shall begin 

at 0800 hours and terminate at 1800 hours local time on (insert season 

dates) unless the Commission specifies otherwise.

    (3) Notwithstanding paragraph (2), and paragraph (7) of section 11, 

an incidental catch fishery is authorized during salmon troll seasons 

in Area 2A in accordance with regulations promulgated by NMFS. This 

fishery will occur between 1200 hours local time on (insert date) and 

1200 hours local time on (insert season date).

    (4) * * *

    (5) * * *

    (6) Notwithstanding paragraph (7) of section 11, an incidental 

catch fishery is authorized during the sablefish primary fishery in 

Area 2A in accordance with regulations promulgated by NMFS.

    In section 26 of the annual domestic management measures, ``Sport 

Fishing for Halibut,'' paragraph 1(a)-(b) will be updated with 2012 

total allowable catch limits in the final rule. In section 26 of the 

annual domestic management measures, ``Sport Fishing for Halibut'' 

paragraph (8) is proposed to read as follows:

    (8) * * *

    (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 (insert season dates), and the 

fishing season in western Puget Sound (west of 123[deg]49.50' W. long., 

Low Point) is (insert season dates), 5 days a week (Thursday through 

Monday).

    (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 

(See Table 1 for range).

    (i) The fishing seasons are:

    (A) Commencing on May 9 and continuing 2 days a week (Thursday and 

Saturday) until 108,030 lbs (49 mt) are estimated to have been taken 

and the season is closed by the Commission or until May 25.

    (B) If sufficient quota remains the fishery will reopen on June 6 

in the entire north coast subarea, 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. When there is 

insufficient quota remaining to reopen the entire north coast subarea 

for another day, then the nearshore areas described below will reopen 

for 2 days per week (Thursday and Saturday), until the overall quota of 

108,030 lbs (49 mt) is estimated to have been taken and the area is 

closed by the Commission, or until September 30, whichever is earlier. 

After May 25, any fishery opening will be announced on the NMFS hotline 

at  800-662-9825. No halibut fishing will be allowed after May 25 unless 

the date is announced on the NMFS hotline. The nearshore areas for 

Washington's North Coast fishery are defined as follows:

    (1) WDFW Marine Catch Area 4B, which is all waters west of the 

Sekiu River mouth, as defined by 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., to the Bonilla-Tatoosh line, as defined by a 

line connecting the light on Tatoosh Island, WA, with the light on 

Bonilla Point on Vancouver Island, British Columbia (at 48[deg]35.73' 

N. lat., 124[deg]43.00' W. long.) south of the International Boundary 

between the U.S. and Canada (at 48[deg]29.62' N. lat., 124[deg]43.55' 

W. long.), and north of the point where that line intersects with the 

boundary of the U.S. territorial sea.

    (2) Shoreward of the recreational halibut 30-fm boundary line, a 

modified line approximating the 30-fm depth contour from the Bonilla-

Tatoosh line south to the Queets River. The 30-fm depth contour is 

defined in groundfish regulations at 50 CFR 660.71(e).

    (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 lbs (19.3 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 

lbs (18.4 mt) for the primary fishery and 2,000 lb (0.9 mt) for the 

nearshore fishery. The primary fishery commences on May 5 and continues 

2 days a week (Sunday and Tuesday) until May 21. If the primary quota 

is projected to be obtained sooner than expected the management closure 

may occur earlier. Beginning on June 2 the primary fishery will be open 

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 5 and continues seven 

days per week. Subsequent to closure of the

 

[[Page 9663]]

 

primary fishery the nearshore fishery is open seven days per week, 

until 42,739 lbs (19.3 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 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 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 lbs (5.39 mt).

    (i) The fishing season commences on May 3, and continues 3 days a 

week (Friday through Sunday) until 9,516 lbs (4.3 mt) are estimated to 

have been taken and the season is closed by the Commission or until 

11,895 lbs (5.39 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 insufficient quota remaining in the Columbia 

River subarea for another fishing day, then any remaining quota may be 

transferred in-season 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.

    (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 191,979 lbs (87.8 mt).

    (i) The fishing seasons are:

    (A) The first season (the ``inside 40-fm'' fishery) commences May 2 

and continues 3 days a week (Thursday through Saturday) through October 

31, 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 23,038 lbs (10.4 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 from May 9, 2013, to (insert dates). The 

projected catch for this season is 120,947 lbs (54.8 mt). If sufficient 

unharvested catch remains for additional fishing days, the season will 

re-open. Depending on the amount of unharvested catch available, the 

potential season re-opening dates will be: (insert dates no later than 

July 31). If NMFS decides in-season 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 catch remains, the third season 

(summer season), which is for the ``all-depth'' fishery, will be open 

from August 2, 2013 to (insert dates) or until the combined spring 

season and summer season quotas in the area between Cape Falcon and 

Humbug Mountain, OR, totaling 191,979 lbs (87.8 mt), 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 (insert date following establishment of 

season dates). 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 (insert dates of next possible open period as established 

preseason), and ending October 31. If after September 2, 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 6 and 7, and ending October 31. After 

September 2, 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 area south of Humbug Mountain, Oregon (42[deg]40.50' N. 

lat.) and off the California coast is not managed

 

[[Page 9664]]

 

in-season relative to its quota. This area is managed on a season that 

is projected to result in a catch of 6,063 lbs (2.75 mt).

    (i) The fishing season will commence on May 1 and continue 7 days a 

week until October 31.

    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 

person.

 

Classification

 

    Regulations governing the U.S. fisheries for Pacific halibut are 

developed by the IPHC, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the 

North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), and the Secretary 

of Commerce. Section 5 of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 

(Halibut Act, 16 U.S.C. 773c) provides the Secretary of Commerce with 

the general responsibility to carry out the Convention between Canada 

and the United States for the management of Pacific halibut, including 

the authority to adopt regulations as may be necessary to carry out the 

purposes and objectives of the Convention and Halibut Act. This 

proposed rule is consistent with the Secretary of Commerce's authority 

under the Halibut Act.

    This action has been determined to be not significant for purposes 

of Executive Order 12866.

    NMFS has prepared an RIR/IRFA on the proposed changes to the Plan 

and the annual domestic Area 2A halibut management measures. Copies of 

these documents are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). NMFS prepared 

an IRFA that describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if 

adopted, would have on small entities. A description of the action, why 

it is being considered, and the legal basis for this action are 

contained at the beginning of this section in the preamble and in the 

SUMMARY section of the preamble. The IRFA is available from NMFS (see 

ADDRESSES). A summary of the IRFA follows:

    A fish-harvesting business is considered a ``small'' business by 

the Small Business Administration (SBA) if it has annual receipts not 

in excess of $4.0 million. For related fish-processing businesses, a 

small business is one that employs 500 or fewer persons. For wholesale 

businesses, a small business is one that employs not more than 100 

people. For marinas and charter/party boats, a small business is one 

with annual receipts not in excess of $6.5 million. All of the 

businesses that would be affected by this action are considered small 

businesses under Small Business Administration guidance.

    In 2012, 604 vessels were issued IPHC licenses to retain halibut. 

IPHC issues licenses for: the directed commercial fishery in Area 2A 

(147 licenses in 2012); incidental halibut caught in the salmon troll 

fishery (316 licenses in 2012); and the charterboat fleet (141 licenses 

in 2012). No vessel may participate in more than one of these three 

fisheries per year. However, only 227 of the commercial licensed 

vessels landed halibut in 2012 according to PacFIN. A similar situation 

may occur for charterboat vessels. The number of charter boats in 

Northern California, Oregon, and Washington that were involved in 

groundfish trips including halibut during 2010 was 161. Of these, 89 

vessels fished in either the Columbia River or Central Oregon 

fisheries. This suggests that 60 percent of the IPHC charterboat 

license holders may be affected by these regulations.

    The IRFA analyzed the impacts of the changes to the Plan and 

regulations. The following are the Council's proposed changes to the 

Plan::

    1. In the Plan, sections (e)(1)and (e)(1)(iii), incidental halibut 

catch in the salmon troll fishery, adjust the months for the incidental 

take fishery from May-June to April-June. The goals of these changes 

are to allow salmon fishers access to the incidental halibut allocation 

earlier in the year.

    2. In the Plan, section (f)(1)(iv) Columbia River subarea, adjust 

the spring season schedule from Thursday-Saturdays to Fridays-Sundays 

and remove the automatic regulatory closure for the spring fishery. The 

goal of the days of the week change is to allow better access to the 

spring fishery and to make the spring and summer season open days 

consistent. The goal of removing the regulatory closure is to allow the 

spring fishery to stay open longer when effort is higher. The summer 

season has often underutilized the allocation, therefore allowing the 

spring fishery to stay open longer is designed to better utilize the 

allocation for the whole subarea. Since 2008 the summer fishery has 

harvested less than 20 percent of the subarea quota even though the 

allocation was 30 percent, leaving a portion of the allocation 

unharvested that could be harvested in the spring since the summer 

fishery occurs after the spring fishery.

    3. In the Plan, section (f)(1)(v), Oregon Central Coast subarea, 

several changes are proposed. This subarea consists of three fisheries, 

nearshore, spring and, summer. Changes are proposed to all three 

fisheries. The goal is to better align the allocations for the 

nearshore and spring fisheries with recent increasing effort. The 

proposed changes to each fisheries allocation changes the allocations 

from fixed percentages to amounts based on the 2A TAC. This change is 

proposed to maximize the number of days the entire subarea can be open. 

The effort in the nearshore fishery has increased in recent years 

requiring the fishery to close early. Therefore eliminating the summer 

fishery and increasing the nearshore and spring allocations will allow 

more fishing days overall. The elimination of the summer fishery below 

700,000 lbs is necessary because if the 2A TAC is at that level the 

resulting summer fishery allocation is not enough to allow one day of 

fishing.

    a. For the nearshore fishery, adjust the open days from daily to 3 

days per week Thursday-Saturday and adjust the allocation to this 

fishery from 12 percent of the subarea quota to 12 percent of the 

subarea quota if the 2A TAC is above 700,000 lbs or greater and 25 

percent of the subarea quota if the 2A TAC is less than 700,000 lbs.

    b. For the spring fishery, adjust the allocation from 63 percent of 

the subarea allocation to 63 percent of the subarea quota if the 2A TAC 

is above 700,000 lbs or greater and 75 percent of the subarea quota if 

the 2A TAC is less than 700,000 lbs. Also, adjust the closure date for 

this fishery if the TAC is less than 700,000 lbs from July 31st to 

October 31st or attainment of the fishery allocation.

    c. For the summer fishery, adjust the allocation from 25 percent of 

the subarea allocation to 25 percent of the subarea quota if the 2A TAC 

is above 700,000 lbs or greater and 0 percent of the subarea quota if 

the 2A TAC is less than 700,000 lbs. This closes the summer fishery if 

the TAC is less than 700,000 lbs.

    As mentioned in the preamble, WDFW and ODFW held public meetings 

and crafted alternative changes to the Plan to adjust management of the 

sport halibut fisheries in their states to maximize angler 

participation given the TAC. The states then narrowed the alternatives 

under consideration and brought the resulting subset of alternatives to 

the Council at the Council's September and November 2012 meetings. The 

range of alternatives that were rejected includes alternate fishery 

structures, such as opening the sport fisheries on different days of 

the week than the final preferred alternative. Generally, by the time 

the alternatives reach the Council, because they have been through the 

state public review process, there is not a large number of 

alternatives. Rather, the range of alternatives has generally been 

reduced to the proposed action and the

 

[[Page 9665]]

 

status quo. However, the Council and the States still considered a 

range of alternatives that could have similarly improved angler 

enjoyment of participation in the fisheries while simultaneously 

protecting halibut and co-occurring groundfish species from 

overharvest. In 2010, 202 non-trawl vessels landed 1.6 million lbs of 

Pacific halibut and earned $6.5 million in ex-vessel revenues from 

prices that averaged just over $4.00 per pound. In 2011, the non-tribal 

commercial fleet (excluding trawlers), landed about 1.1 million lbs, 

earning $6.0 million in ex-vessel revenues, from prices that averaged 

$5.30 per pound. Preliminary data, complete through November of 2012, 

shows 234 vessels landing 1.0 million lbs, earning $5.0 million in ex-

vessel revenues, and an average price of $4.70 per pound. Total ex-

vessel revenues including tribal revenues were $7.8 million in 2010, 

$8.0 million in 2011, and through November 2012, $7.0 million.

    The Pacific Fishery Management Council analyzed 2006-2010 

recreational activity. (See discussion under 3.2.1.4 Recreational 

Fisheries-Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for Proposed 

Harvest Specifications and Management Measures for the 2013-2014 

Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery and Amendment 21-2 to the Pacific 

Coast Fishery Management Plan). The data that underlie the Council's 

analysis indicates that the years, the total number of directed charter 

and private halibut trips has ranged from 19,000 (2009) to 26,000 trips 

(2007 & 2008). (This data are trips are based on recreational activity 

from Northern California to the Canadian border.) Anglers also take 

halibut in conjunction with salmon and bottomfish recreational trips. 

Over the 2006-2010 period, the total number of directed and private 

recreational trips including directed halibut trips has ranged from 

216,000 trips (2008) to 354,000 trips (2009). Over these years, 

directed halibut trips had averaged about 8% of all trips, but have 

been as high as 12% in 2008 when there was a significant decline in 

salmon trips. In 2010, charterboat vessels undertook about 5500 

directed halibut trips. The highest charterboat rate found on the 

internet was $285 per angler trip. Using this rate suggests that 

charterboat halibut rate revenues were on the order of $1.6 million. 

This estimate does not include revenues associated with halibut caught 

in conjunction with salmon, bottomfish, or other recreational trips.

    The FEIS provides information to project amount of economic impact 

generated from halibut fisheries. Estimates of groundfish revenues and 

recreational trips can be related to personal income projections. Based 

these relationships, $8 million in halibut ex-vessel revenues and 

26,000 in recreational trips lead to an estimate of $14 million in 

personal income. Personal income is considered a key indicator of 

economic activity, and is used in economic analysis to evaluate 

distributional effects on local and regional economies associated with 

changes in regulations. Income impacts include the amount of employee 

salaries and benefits, business owner (proprietor) income, and 

property-related income (rents, dividends, interest, royalties, etc.) 

that result from commercial fishing and recreational expenditures. The 

proposed changes to the Plan and regulations do not include any 

reporting or recordkeeping requirements. These changes will not 

duplicate, overlap or conflict with other laws or regulations. These 

changes to the Plan and annual domestic Area 2A halibut management 

measures are not expected to meet any of the RFA tests of having a 

``significant'' economic impact on a ``substantial number'' of small 

entities because the changes will not affect overall allocations. They 

are designed to provide the best fishing opportunities within the 

overall TAC. 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, the Council and NMFS propose 

minor changes to the Plan to provide increased 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. Nonetheless, NMFS has prepared an IRFA. 

Because the goal of the proposed action is to maximize angler 

participation, and thus to maximize the economic benefits of the 

fishery, and the action is not expected to have a significant economic 

impact, NMFS did not analyze alternatives other than the proposed 

changes and the status quo for purposes of the IRFA. Through this 

proposed rule, NMFS requests comments on this conclusion.

    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 Pacific 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 (U and 

A) fishing areas. Under the Plan, the tribal fishery is allocated a 

percentage of the Area 2A TAC. Tribal fishing areas for purposes of the 

halibut fishery are 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 proposed 

changes to the Plan, have been developed in consultation with the 

affected tribe(s) and, insofar as possible, with tribal consensus.

    NMFS NWR initiated consultation on the halibut fishery under 

Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) following the listing of 

yelloweye, canary, and bocaccio rockfish of the Puget Sound/Georgia 

Basin. Area 2A partially overlaps with the Distinct Population Segments 

(DPSs) for listed rockfish. At this time the consultation is not 

completed. NMFS has prepared a 7(a)(2)/7(d) determination memo under 

the (ESA) finding that bycatch in the 2013 fishery is not likely to 

result in a significant impact on listed species, that direct effects 

of the fishery (e.g. direct takes) are not likely to jeopardize the 

continued existence of any listed species, and that in no way will the 

2013 fishery make an irreversible or irretrievable commitment of 

resources by the agency.

 

 

Print Email