[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 59 (Monday, March 28, 2011)]
[Pages 17107-17109]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-7240]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XA295

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Application 
for an Exempted Fishing Permit

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

ACTION: Notice; public comment on an application for exempted fishing 


SUMMARY: This notice announces receipt of an application and the public 
comment period for an exempted fishing permit (EFP) from Mr. John 
Gauvin of Gauvin and Associates, LLC. If granted, this permit would 
allow the applicant to continue the development and testing of a salmon 
excluder device for the Bering Sea pollock trawl fishery. This activity 
is intended to promote the objectives of the Fishery Management Plan 
for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area 
(FMP) by reducing salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock trawl 

DATES: Written comments must be received by 5 p.m. A.l.t. April 27, 
2011. Interested persons may comment on the EFP application and on the 
environmental assessment during the North Pacific Fishery Management 
Council (Council) March 28 through April 5, 2011, meeting in Anchorage, 

ADDRESSES: The Council meeting will be held at the Hilton Hotel, 500 
West Third Ave., Anchorage, AK. Send comments to Galen Tromble, Acting 
Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, 
Alaska Region, NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. You may submit comments, 
identified by ``RIN 0648-XA295,'' by any one of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal Web site at 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 and will 
generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov without change. All 
Personal Identifying Information (e.g., name, address) voluntarily 
submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not

[[Page 17108]]

submit Confidential Business Information or otherwise sensitive or 
protected information.
    Copies of the EFP application and the environmental assessment (EA) 
are available from the Alaska Region, NMFS Web site at http://www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.


SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the domestic groundfish 
fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI) 
under the FMP. The Council prepared the FMP under the Magnuson-Stevens 
Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Regulations governing the 
groundfish fisheries of the BSAI appear at 50 CFR parts 600 and 679. 
The FMP and the implementing regulations at Sec. Sec.  600.745(b) and 
679.6 authorize issuance of EFPs to allow fishing that would otherwise 
be prohibited. Procedures for issuing EFPs are contained in the 
implementing regulations.
    NMFS received an application for an EFP from Mr. Gauvin in November 
2010. The purposes of the EFP project would be to improve the 
performance of the salmon excluder device developed under EFP 08-02 
from 2008 to 2010, and to validate the performance of this device for 
pollock trawl gear used in the BSAI. Focused efforts of the EFP project 
would be on using an excluder device to reduce chum salmon bycatch and 
refinement to the Chinook salmon excluder device. The goal is to 
develop a device for pollock trawl gear that reduces salmon bycatch 
without significantly lowering catch rates of pollock.
    The EFP would allow for development and testing of the salmon 
excluder device from August 2011 through November 2012, for several 
weeks in each pollock A and B season. Testing in each season would 
allow the device to be used under salmon occurrence and pollock fishing 
practices specific to each season. Testing in the A season would catch 
primarily Chinook salmon and roe-bearing pollock, while testing in the 
B season would catch Chinook and chum salmon and pollock that are not 
likely to be roe-bearing. EFP fishing would be conducted by one to two 
vessels in each season.
    To test the salmon excluder device, exemptions would be necessary 
from regulations for salmon bycatch management, observer requirements, 
closure areas, and total allowable catch amounts (TACs) for groundfish. 
The taking of salmon during the experiment is crucial for determining 
the effectiveness of the device. Salmon taken during the experiment 
would not be counted toward the Chinook and chum salmon bycatch limits 
under Sec.  679.21(e)(1)(vii) and f(2). The amount of chum salmon 
bycatch by the pollock trawl industry during the EFP period could 
potentially approach or exceed the chum salmon bycatch limits under 
Sec.  679.21(e). If the EFP chum salmon were counted toward the chum 
salmon bycatch limits, the EFP salmon may create an additional burden 
on the pollock trawl fishermen not participating in the 
intercooperative agreement for chum salmon bycatch reduction by causing 
earlier closures of the Chum Salmon Savings Area. More information 
regarding the intercooperative agreement for salmon bycatch reduction 
is at 72 FR 61070 (October 29, 2007). Information regarding Amendment 
91 for Bering Sea Chinook salmon bycatch management is at 75 FR 53026, 
August 30, 2010.
    Approximately 2,500 chum salmon and 125 Chinook salmon for each B 
season and 125 chum salmon and 600 Chinook salmon for one A season 
would be required to support the project. In total, the applicant would 
be limited to harvesting 5,125 chum salmon and 850 Chinook salmon for 
the time period of the EFP. The experimental design requires this 
quantity of salmon to ensure statistically valid results.
    The applicant also has requested an exemption from the Chum Salmon 
Savings Area (Sec. Sec.  679.21(e)(7)(vii) and 679.22(a)(10)), the 
Bering Sea Pollock Restriction Area (Sec.  679.22(a)(7)(ii)), and the 
Steller Sea Lion Conservation Area (Sec.  679.22(a)(7)(vii)). These 
overlapping areas occur in locations of salmon concentration. The 
experiment must be conducted in areas of salmon concentration 
sufficient to ensure a statistically adequate sample size. These 
locations are ideal for conducting the experiment and ensuring that the 
vessel encounters sufficient concentrations of salmon and pollock for 
meeting the experimental design.
    Groundfish taken under the EFP would be exempt from the TACs 
specified in the annual harvest specifications (Sec.  679.20). A total 
of 2,500 metric tons (mt) of groundfish (primarily pollock) would be 
taken during each season of the EFP for a total of 7,500 mt over the 
duration of the EFP. Approximately 98 percent of the groundfish 
harvested is expected to be pollock. The experimental design requires 
this quantity of pollock to ensure a statistically adequate sample size 
for measuring pollock escapement through the salmon excluder device. 
The EFP pollock harvest would not be included in the harvest applied 
against the Bering Sea groundfish TACs, including the 2011 pollock TAC 
of 1,266,400 mt and 2012 pollock TAC of 1,253,658 mt. The acceptable 
biological catches (ABC) for Bering Sea pollock in 2011 and 2012 are 
1,270,000 mt and 1,600,000 mt, respectively. Because of very little 
groundfish incidental catch in the pollock fishery, the harvest of 
other fish species during the EFP fishing is expected to be 25 mt to 75 
mt per season. The majority of these other species harvested under the 
EFP likely would be Pacific cod, skates, flatfish, halibut, and 
jellyfish. The amount of groundfish harvest under the EFP and by the 
commercial groundfish fisheries is not expected to exceed the ABCs for 
groundfish species in either 2011 or 2012.
    Using a catcher/processor for the EFP study would require exemption 
from the Catcher Vessel Operating Area (CVOA) restriction (Sec.  
679.22(a)(5)) because of the location of the Chinook salmon 
concentration in the CVOA. Catcher/processors are prohibited from 
operating in the CVOA during the B season. The EFP fishing may be done 
by either a catcher vessel or a catcher/processor. It may be necessary 
for the EFP applicant to use a catcher/processor to conduct tows in 
this area to ensure encountering sufficient pollock and salmon 
concentrations to meet the experimental design.
    The EFP would include an exemption from the observer requirements 
at Sec.  679.50. The applicants would use ``sea samplers'' who are 
NMFS-trained observers. They would not be deployed as NMFS observers, 
however, at the time of the EFP fishing. The ``sea samplers'' would 
conduct the EFP data collection and perform other observer duties that 
normally would be required for vessels directed fishing for pollock.
    The activities under the EFP are not expected to have a significant 
impact on the human environment as analyzed in the EA for this action 
(see ADDRESSES). The EFP would be subject to modifications pending any 
new relevant information regarding the 2012 fishery, including pollock 
harvest specifications.
    In accordance with Sec.  679.6, NMFS has determined that the 
proposal warrants further consideration and has forwarded the 
application to the Council to initiate consultation. The Council will 
consider the EFP application during its March 28 through April 5, 2011 
meeting, which will be held at the Hilton Hotel in Anchorage, AK. The 
applicant has been invited to appear in support of the application.

[[Page 17109]]

Public Comments

    Public comments are being solicited on the application and the EA 
through the end of the comment period stated in this notice. To be 
considered, comments must be received by 5 p.m. A.L.T. on the last day 
of the comment period; that does not mean postmarked or otherwise 
transmitted by that date. Copies of the application and EA are 
available for review from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). Interested persons also 
may comment on the application and on the EA at the March/April 2011 
Council meeting during public testimony.
    Information regarding the meeting is available at the Council's Web 
site at http://www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/npfmc/.

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

    Dated: March 23, 2011.
Margo Schulze-Haugen,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2011-7240 Filed 3-25-11; 8:45 am]