[Federal Register Volume 63, Number 110 (Tuesday, June 9, 1998)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 31406-31408]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 98-15299]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 660

[Docket No. 980603145-8145-01; I.D. 052998C]
RIN 0648-AL33


Fisheries Off West Coast States and in the Western Pacific; 
Western Pacific Crustacean Fisheries; Bank/Area-Specific Harvest 
Guidelines

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS issues this proposed rule that would allocate the 1998 
overall harvest guideline of 286,000 lobsters (spiny and slipper 
combined) in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) among three 
individual fishing banks and a fourth combined area. Specifically, 
under this proposed rule, no more than 70,000 lobsters may be harvested 
from Necker Island; no more than 20,000 lobsters may be harvested from 
Gardner Pinnacles; no more than 80,000 lobsters may be harvested from 
Maro Reef; and no more than 116,000 lobsters may be harvested from all 
the other remaining NWHI banks combined within Crustaceans Permit Area 
1. This rule is intended to protect the lobster resources at each 
fishing ground, to provide better data on stocks, and to conserve the 
resource.

DATES: Written comments must be received by June 24, 1998.

ADDRESSES: Written comments should be sent to, and copies of the 
initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) and environmental 
assessment are available from, Kitty Simonds, Executive Director, 
Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, 1164 Bishop St., Suite 
1400, Honolulu, HI 96813.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kitty Simonds at (808) 522-8220 or 
Alvin Katekaru, Fishery Management Specialist, Pacific Islands Area 
Office, NMFS, at (808) 973-2985.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Under the framework procedures of the 
Fishery Management Plan for the Crustaceans Fisheries of the Western 
Pacific Region (FMP) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 660.53), 
the Council, at its 96th meeting, requested that the Southwest Regional 
Administrator, NMFS (Regional Administrator) initiate a

[[Page 31407]]

rulemaking to establish bank/area-specific harvest guidelines, as 
described above, specifically for Necker Island, Gardner Pinnacles, 
Maro Reef, and the General NWHI Lobster Grounds. This proposed rule 
would establish harvest guidelines for four lobster grounds in the NWHI 
crustacean fishery as follows: No more than 70,000 lobsters may be 
harvested from Necker Island; no more than 20,000 lobsters may be 
harvested from Gardner Pinnacles; no more than 80,000 lobsters may be 
harvested from Maro Reef; and no more than 116,000 lobsters may be 
harvested from all the other remaining NWHI banks combined. These 
proposed allocations are based on a total 1998 NWHI-wide harvest 
guideline of 286,000 lobsters for the 1998 fishery as determined by the 
Regional Administrator. The overall harvest guideline of 286,000 
lobsters (spiny and slipper combined) was published in the Federal 
Register on June 3, 1998 (63 FR 30147).
    Once a bank/area-specific harvest guideline is reached or projected 
to be reached, the Regional Administrator would announce, at least 24 
hours in advance, closure of that bank or area via electronic 
communication to each of the vessels participating in the 1998 fishery. 
The entire NWHI lobster fishery would close when the fourth bank or 
area is closed. All lobster harvested by vessels not carrying a vessel 
monitoring system (VMS) unit must be landed within a specified period 
following closure of the fishery as provided by current regulations (50 
CFR 660.50).
    The Council recommended the four bank/area-specific allocations 
following review and discussion, including impacts, of three 
alternatives: (1) Partial bank-specific harvest guidelines (four 
lobster grounds), the preferred alternative; (2) full bank-specific 
harvest guidelines (11 of the 14 lobster grounds for which exploitable 
population estimates are available); and (3) no action (NWHI-wide 
fishing area). The Council concluded that the preferred alternative 
would best meet the management objectives of the FMP because it would 
promote broader distribution of fishing effort among the banks of the 
NWHI, which should enhance resource conservation and help prevent local 
bank depletion. This action would provide more information about the 
lobster resource in the NWHI because fishing effort would be 
distributed more widely than in the past several years. This 
information, combined with a NMFS scientific data collection/observer 
program, should result in more effective management of the fishery. 
Most importantly, the proposed allocations would respond to the concern 
that unless lobster harvest at Necker Island, Gardner Pinnacles, and 
Maro Reef is limited, the lobster populations in these areas may be at 
risk.
    The actions proposed in this rule would only be in effect from July 
1, 1998, through December 31, 1998.

Classification

    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
the purposes of E.O. 12866.
    The Council prepared an IRFA as part of the regulatory review 
process, which describes the impact this proposed rule would have on 
small entities. The proposed rule would apply to the 12 permit holders 
who own the 15 vessels in this fishery; however, only 5 vessels are 
expected to participate in the 1998 lobster fishery. All participants 
in the fishery are small business entities. No new reporting or 
recordkeeping requirements would be imposed by this proposed rule. No 
Federal rules are known to duplicate, overlap, or conflict with this 
rule. The reasons for, objectives of, and legal basis for this rule are 
described elsewhere in this preamble. The three alternative actions are 
analyzed in the IRFA. While participants would incur increased costs in 
1998 for compliance (e.g., additional fuel and transportation costs), 
the proposed action should result in long-term economic benefits to the 
fishery if the resource increases with improved fisheries management. A 
copy of the IRFA is available for public review and comment (see 
ADDRESSES).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 660

    Administrative practice and procedure, American Samoa, Fisheries, 
Fishing, Guam, Hawaiian Natives, Indians, Northern Mariana Islands, 
Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: June 3, 1998.
David L. Evans,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 660 is 
proposed to be amended as follows:
    1. The authority citation for part 660 continues to read as 
follows:

PART 660 - FISHERIES OFF WEST COAST STATES AND IN THE WESTERN 
PACIFIC

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

    2. Section 660.12 is amended by adding a definition of ``Lobster 
grounds'', in alphabetical order, to read as follows:


Sec. 660.12  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Lobster grounds refers, singularly or collectively, to the 
following four areas in Crustaceans Permit Area 1 that shall be used to 
manage the 1998 lobster fishery:
    (1) Necker Island Lobster Grounds-- waters bounded by straight 
lines connecting the following coordinates in the order presented: 
24 deg.00' N. lat., 165 deg.00' W. long.; 24 deg. 00' N. lat., 164 deg. 
00' W. long.; 23 deg. 00' N. lat., 164 deg. 00' W. long.; and 23 deg. 
00' N. lat., 165 deg. 00' W. long.
    (2) Gardner Pinnacles Lobster Grounds-- waters bounded by straight 
lines connecting the following coordinates in the order presented: 
25 deg. 20' N. lat., 168 deg. 20' W. long.; 25 deg. 20' N. lat., 
167 deg. 40' W. long.; 24 deg. 20' N. lat., 167 deg. 40' W. long.; and 
24 deg. 20' N. lat., 168 deg. 20' W. long.
    (3) Maro Reef Lobster Grounds-- waters bounded by straight lines 
connecting the following coordinates in the order presented: 25 deg. 
40' N. lat., 171 deg. 00' W. long.; 25 deg. 40' N. lat., 170 deg. 20' 
W. long.; 25 deg. 00' N. lat., 170 deg. 20' W. long.; and 25 deg. 00' 
N. lat., 171 deg. 00' W. long.
    (4) General NWHI Lobster Grounds-- all waters within Crustaceans 
Permit Area 1 except for the Necker Island, Gardner Pinnacles, and Maro 
Reef Lobster Grounds.
* * * * *
    3. Section 660.42 is amended by adding new paragraphs (a)(1)(vi) 
and (a)(13), to read as follows:


Sec. 660.42  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (vi) In a lobster grounds after closure of that grounds as 
specified in Sec. 660.50(b).
* * * * *
    (13) Possess, on a fishing vessel that has a limited access permit 
issued under this subpart, any lobster trap in a lobster grounds that 
is closed under Sec. 660.50(b), except if the vessel is operating a VMS 
unit certified by NMFS.
* * * * *
    4. Section 660.48 is amended by suspending paragraph (a)(7) and by 
adding a new paragraph (a)(10), to read as follows:


Sec. 660.48  Gear restrictions.

    (a) * * *
    (10) A vessel whose owner has a limited access permit issued under 
this subpart and has an operating VMS unit certified by NMFS may 
transit the Crustaceans Permit Area 1, including the Crustaceans Permit 
Area 1 VMS

[[Page 31408]]

Subarea, with lobster traps on board for the purpose of moving to 
another lobster grounds or returning to port following the closure 
date, as specified in Sec. 660.50, providing the vessel does not stop 
or fish and is making steady progress to another lobster grounds or 
back to port as determined by NMFS.
* * * * *
    5. Section 660.50 is amended by suspending paragraph (b)(4) and by 
adding new paragraphs (b)(5) through (b)(8) to read as follows:


Sec. 660.50  Harvest limitation program.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (5) For the 1998 fishing season, the following harvest guidelines 
apply to the four lobster grounds in Crustaceans Permit Area 1:
    (i) No more than 70,000 lobsters may be harvested from the Necker 
Island Lobster Grounds;
    (ii) No more than 20,000 lobsters may be harvested from the Gardner 
Pinnacles Lobster Grounds;
    (iii) No more than 80,000 lobsters may be harvested from the Maro 
Reef Lobster Grounds; and
    (iv) No more than 116,000 lobsters may be harvested from the 
General NWHI Lobster Grounds.
    (6) The Regional Administrator, Southwest Region, NMFS, shall 
determine, on the basis of the information reported to NMFS by the 
operator of each vessel fishing, when the harvest guideline for each 
lobster grounds will be reached.
    (7) Notice of the date when the harvest guideline for a lobster 
grounds is expected to be reached, and specification of the closure 
date of the lobster grounds, will be provided to each permit holder 
and/or operator of each permitted vessel at least 24 hours in advance 
of the closure. After a closure, the harvest of lobster in that lobster 
grounds is prohibited, and the possession of lobster traps on board the 
vessel in that lobster grounds is prohibited unless allowed under 
Sec. 660.48(a)(10).
    (8) With respect to the notifications in paragraphs (b)(3) and 
(b)(7) of this section, NMFS shall provide each permit holder and 
operator of each permitted vessel with the following information, as 
appropriate:
    (i) Determination of when the over-all harvest guideline for 
Crustaceans Permit Area 1 will be reached;
    (ii) Closure date after which harvest of lobster or possession of 
lobster traps on board the vessel in a lobster grounds is prohibited;
    (iii) Closure date after which the possession of lobster traps on 
board the vessel in Crustaceans Permit Area 1 is prohibited by any 
permitted vessel that is not operating a VMS unit certified by NMFS; 
and
    (iv) Specification of when further landings of lobster will be 
prohibited by permitted vessels not using VMS units certified by NMFS.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 98-15299 Filed 6-8-98; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-F