[Federal Register Volume 60, Number 39 (Tuesday, February 28, 1995)]
[Pages 10838-10839]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 95-4794]


[I.D. 021495D]

Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery; Experimental Fishing Permits

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

ACTION: Receipt of experimental fishing permit applications; request 
for comments.


SUMMARY: NMFS has received applications from the states of Washington, 
Oregon, and California for experimental fishing permits (EFPs) for 
vessels participating in bycatch observation programs. The purpose of 
the observation programs is to enumerate the bycatch of non-target 
species in the groundfish fishery. If granted, the EFPs would allow 
designated vessels operating in the groundfish fishery in the exclusive 
economic zone off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California to 
delay sorting, until offloading, of prohibited species and groundfish 
catch in excess of trip limits. The California program would allow 
participating vessels with observers to retain Pacific whiting in 
excess of the nearshore trip limit in the Eureka subarea. These 
activities would otherwise be prohibited by Federal regulations.

DATES: Comments must be received by February 27, 1995.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to and copies of the EFP 
applications are available from William Stelle, Jr., Regional Director, 
Northwest Region, National Marine Fisheries Service, 7600 Sand Point 
Way NE., BIN-C15700, Seattle, WA 98115-0070; or Hilda Diaz-Soltero, 
Director, Southwest Region, National Marine Fisheries Service, 501 W. 
Ocean Blvd., Suite 4200,
    Long Beach, CA 90802-4213.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: William L. Robinson at 206-526-6140, 
or Rodney R. McInnis at 310-980-4030.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This action is authorized by the Pacific 
Coast Groundfish Management Plan and implementing regulations (50 CFR 
663), which specify that EFPs may be issued to authorize fishing that 
would otherwise be prohibited by the FMP and regulations. The 
procedures for issuing EFPs are found at 50 CFR 663.10.
    At the October 1994 meeting of the Pacific Fishery Management 
Council (Council), three EFP applications were received from the States 
of Oregon, California, and Washington (WOC) for vessels participating 
in observation programs.
    The first application is from the State of Washington and is for 
the continuation of the observation program in which information is 
collected on the bycatch of salmon and other prohibited species in 
Pacific whiting harvests delivered to shoreside processing plants. This 
application differs from previous years in that there would be no 
observer coverage; all observer coverage would occur onshore after the 
catch is landed.
    Under the second EFP application, submitted by California 
Department of Fish and Game, the focus is on shore-based whiting 
operations inside the 100 fathom contour in the Eureka subarea (from 
43 deg.00'00'' N. lat. to 40 deg.30'00'' N. lat.), where large-scale 
whiting operations are currently prohibited in order to minimize the 
impacts on salmon (50 CFR 663.23(b)(3)(iii)). The California EFP 
application is for the collection of data on the relative incidental 
catch rates of salmon inside and outside 100 fathoms in the Eureka 
subarea. The applicant requests that vessels be allowed to fish for and 
retain Pacific whiting in excess of the nearshore 10,000-lb (4,536 kg) 
trip limit if an observer is on board at all times, even when the 
vessel operates outside the area.
    The third EFP application, submitted by Oregon Department of Fish 
and Wildlife would allow the landing of unsorted catches taken in 
accordance with the proposed Oregon Trawl Commission data collection 
program that is planned to begin in 1995. The intent is to obtain 
representative bycatch and discard rates for groundfish and prohibited 
species. Observers would gather biological data on species' age, 
length, weight, sex, maturity, viability and mortality rates. The 
Oregon program would be similar to the whiting observer program that 
has been in effect for three seasons. Groundfish regulations at 50 CFR 
663.7(b) stipulate that prohibited species must be returned to sea as 
soon as practicable with a minimum of injury when caught and brought 
aboard. Groundfish trip limits restrict the amount of certain 
groundfish species that may be landed by a vessel (50 CFR 663.7(f)).
    The EFPs, if granted, would authorize vessels participating in the 
observation program to land unsorted Pacific whiting at designated 
shoreside processing plants where the incidence of salmon and other 
bycatch species can be monitored, on the condition that the prohibited 
species and groundfish trip limit overages are turned over to the state 
of landing for disposition. The states anticipate that about 30 vessels 
may participate in the experimental fisheries from March 1, 1995, to 
December 31, 1995. Under the EFPs, unsorted Pacific whiting catch could 
be delivered to shoreside processing plants in Newport, Hammond, 
Charleston, and Warrenton, OR; Crescent City, CA; and Westport and 
Ilwaco, WA. State port samplers would monitor the offloading of 
unsorted Pacific whiting, collect biological information on salmon and 
other bycatch, and arrange for the disposal of salmon. Prohibited 
species taken could not be sold; disposal options, to be determined by 
the states, would include donation to charitable organizations or 
reduction to fish meal.
    If 71,360 metric tons (mt) of Pacific whiting were landed under the 
EFPs, it is estimated that about 414 salmon would be caught 
incidentally, based on the observed salmon bycatch rate of 0.0058 
salmon per mt of whiting observed in 1994 (the salmon bycatch rate was 
0.0110 in 1993). The continuing shoreside monitoring 
[[Page 10839]] program is being pursued by the states at the request of 
the Council. Similar EFPs were issued to 21 vessels in 1993 and 31 
vessels in 1994 (58 FR 64296, December 6, 1993).
    The Director, Northwest Region, NMFS, Regional Director has made a 
preliminary determination that the applications contain all of the 
required information and constitute a valid experimental program 
appropriate for further consideration.
    At the October meeting of the Council, the Regional Director 
consulted with the Council and the directors of the state fishery 
management agencies concerning the applications for permits. The 
Council recommended that all three EFP applications be approved with 
terms and conditions similar to those applied to the EFPs in 1994. The 
decision on whether to issue EFPs and determinations on appropriate 
permit conditions will be based on a number of considerations, 
including the Council's recommendation and comments received from the 

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

    Dated: February 22, 1995.
David S. Crestin,
Acting Director, Office of Fisheries Conservation and Management, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 95-4794 Filed 2-22-95; 3:38 pm]