[Federal Register Volume 59, Number 43 (Friday, March 4, 1994)]
[Unknown Section]
[Page 0]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 94-4922]

[[Page Unknown]]

[Federal Register: March 4, 1994]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 671

[Docket No. 940253-4053; I.D. 021494C]
RIN 0648-AG20


King and Tanner Crab Fisheries of the Bering Sea and Aleutian 

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.


SUMMARY: NMFS proposes regulations to implement Amendment 2 to the 
Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Commercial King and Tanner Crab 
Fisheries of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI). This FMP 
amendment would establish the Norton Sound Section of the Northern 
District of the king crab fishery as a superexclusive registration 
area. If this amendment is approved, existing regulations, which 
supersede State of Alaska (State) regulations that establish Norton 
Sound as a superexclusive registration area in the exclusive economic 
zone (EEZ) of the BSAI, will be removed and reserved. This action is 
necessary for the effective management of the fishery having the 
smallest biomass and guideline harvest level (GHL) in the BSAI crab 
fisheries. This action is intended to promote management and 
conservation of crab and other fishery resources and to further the 
goals and objectives contained in the FMP for the Commercial King and 
Tanner Crab Fisheries of the BSAI.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before April 14, 1994.

ADDRESSES: Send comments to Ronald J. Berg, Chief, Fisheries Management 
Division, Alaska Region, NMFS, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, Alaska 99802 
(Attn. Lori Gravel). Individual copies of Amendment 2 and the 
environmental assessment/regulatory impact review/initial regulatory 
flexibility analysis (EA/RIR/IRFA) of this amendment may be obtained 
from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, P.O. Box 103136, 
Anchorage, AK 99510 (907-271-2809).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kim J. Spitler, Fisheries Management 
Division, Alaska Region, NMFS, 907-586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 304(a)(1)(D)(ii) of the Magnuson 
Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson Act) requires the 
Secretary to publish regulations proposed by a Council within 15 days 
of receipt of the amendment and regulations. At this time, the 
Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) has not determined that the amendment 
these rules would implement is consistent with the national standards, 
other provisions of the Magnuson Act, and other applicable laws. The 
Secretary, in making that determination, will take into account the 
information, views, and comments received during the comment period.


    The commercial king and Tanner crab fisheries in the EEZ of the 
BSAI are managed under the FMP. This FMP was prepared by the North 
Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) under the Magnuson Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson Act). It is a framework FMP 
that, with oversight by the Council and Secretary, defers management of 
the crab resources in the BSAI to the State. The FMP was approved by 
the Secretary and implemented on June 2, 1989. At times, regulations 
implementing the FMP must be amended to resolve problems pertaining to 
management of the BSAI crab fisheries.
    The State's Board of Fisheries (Board) formulates regulations to 
manage the crab fisheries under procedures specified in the State's 
Administrative Procedure Act. On February 8, 1993, the Board 
established Norton Sound in the BSAI as a superexclusive registration 
area for purposes of managing the Norton Sound red king crab fishery. 
The operator of any vessel registered in a superexclusive area would 
not be able to register the vessel in any other area during that 
registration year. This management measure was proposed to address the 
unique collection of problems that make fishery management difficult in 
Norton Sound. The problems are associated with conservation and 
management of a fishery with a small biomass, small guideline harvest 
level (GHL), and a stock on the edge of its geographic range, which 
makes it biologically sensitive. The problems include 
overcapitalization, short seasons, high management costs, and both 
over-harvest and under-harvest of GHLs. Historically, the fishery has 
been characterized by years with low levels of participation and fairly 
high catch rates followed by years with high levels of participation 
and low catch rates. A combination of factors has led to high 
participation, which is expected to continue into the future. These 
factors are primarily the overcapitalized crab fleet and participants' 
efforts to establish catch histories in the event individual fishing 
quotas (IFQs) are instituted. Superexclusive registration would be 
expected to create a management environment discouraging participation 
by large crab vessels and catcher/processors. Probable results are a 
slower-paced fishery, fuller attainment of GHLs, a longer season, and 
reduced administrative and enforcement costs.
    The Alaska Crab Coalition (ACC) appealed the State's designation of 
Norton Sound as a superexclusive registration area. Following 
Secretarial review of the State's action, the Secretary issued an 
interim final rule that superseded State regulations establishing 
Norton Sound as a superexclusive registration area in the EEZ of the 
BSAI (58 FR 38727, July 20, 1993). This action was necessary because 
the Secretary had determined that designation of superexclusive 
registration areas was inconsistent with provisions of the FMP. The FMP 
contains three categories of management measures: (1) Specific Federal 
management measures that require an FMP amendment to change; (2) 
framework type management measures, with criteria set out in the FMP 
that the State must follow when implementing changes in State 
regulations; and (3) measures that are neither rigidly specified nor 
frameworked in the FMP, and which may be freely adopted or modified by 
the State, subject to an appeals process or other Federal laws. 
Registration areas are listed as a Category 2 measure. Section 8.2.8 of 
the FMP specifies that king crab registration areas may be designated 
as either exclusive or nonexclusive. Designation of a registration area 
as superexclusive would require an FMP amendment and incorporation into 
the FMP as a Category 1 management measure.
    In July 1993, the Council requested proposals for possible 
amendments to the FMP. On August 13, 1993, the Board submitted a 
proposal to designate Norton Sound as a superexclusive registration 
area. This proposal was reviewed by the crab FMP plan team, which 
ranked it as a high priority and recommended it to the Council for 
consideration. At its September 1993 meetings, the Council recommended 
analysis of the Board's proposal. The Alaska Department of Fish and 
Game (ADF&G) and NMFS prepared a draft analysis for the proposed FMP 
amendment to designate Norton Sound as a superexclusive registration 
area. The draft analysis was reviewed by the Council and its Advisory 
Panel (AP) and Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) during the 
Council's December 1993 meetings and adopted for public review. At its 
January 1994 meetings, the Council considered the testimony and 
recommendations of the AP, SSC, fishing industry representatives and 
the general public on the proposed action to designate Norton Sound as 
a superexclusive registration area. The Council adopted the proposed 
action under Amendment 2 to the FMP and requested NMFS to remove 
existing regulations at 50 CFR 671.20, which supersede existing State 
regulations designating Norton Sound as a superexclusive registration 


    NMFS prepared an IRFA as part of the RIR, which concludes that this 
proposed rule, if adopted, could have significant effects on small 
entities. Overall, superexclusive registration area designation likely 
will result in a transfer of participation and income from a 
predominantly large-vessel fleet to a predominantly small-vessel fleet. 
Twenty-six vessels registered and fished in Norton Sound in 1992, and 
Norton Sound crab contributed no more than 0.7 percent to any of these 
vessels' crab landings for the year. Norton Sound crab contributed no 
more than 1.6 percent of the total for any of the catcher/processors in 
1990. Neither operators of individual vessels nor participants in the 
pre-1993 fleet were dependent on this fishery in terms of year-to-year 
participation or landings within any one year.
    Not knowing the outcome of the ACC's appeal and Secretarial review, 
many vessel owners chose not to register for the Norton Sound fishery 
in 1993. Twenty-eight percent of the vessels that were registered were 
from the local region. A new fresh market for summer king crab was 
developed and resulted in higher ex-vessel prices than that received 
for crab that are processed and frozen. Local residents are maintaining 
plans to develop this market further. Most of the fishermen on the 
small vessels are expected to be unemployed if they do not participate 
in this fishery. The infusion of employment and income from the 1993 
small vessel fishery was significant in the Nome area. The 1993 king 
crab fishery represented the largest fishery in the region in terms of 
    Superexclusive registration is predicted to result in an increase 
in retained revenues and possibly to improve market conditions for 
increasing overall revenues. It is expected to reduce industry 
compliance costs. The economic impact on small entities under the 
proposed action would not result in a reduction in annual gross 
revenues of more than 5 percent, annual compliance costs that increased 
total costs of production by more than 5 percent, or compliance costs 
for small entities that are at least 10 percent higher than compliance 
costs as a percent of sales for large entities. A copy of this analysis 
is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES).
    This rule is not subject to review under E.O. 12866.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 671

    Fisheries, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: February 28, 1994.
Nancy Foster,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 671 is 
proposed to be amended as follows:


    1. The authority citation for 50 CFR part 671 continues to read as 

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

Sec. 671.20   [Removed and reserved]

    2. Section 671.20 is removed and reserved.

[FR Doc. 94-4922 Filed 2-28-94; 4:22 pm]