[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 193 (Thursday, October 4, 2018)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 49994-50003]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-21632]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

15 CFR Part 902

50 CFR Part 679

[Docket No. 170630613-8749-02]
RIN 0648-BH02


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Yellowfin 
Sole Management in the Groundfish Fisheries of the Bering Sea and 
Aleutian Islands

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

ACTION: Final rule.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: NMFS issues regulations to implement Amendment 116 to the 
Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian 
Islands Management Area (FMP). Amendment 116 and this final rule limit 
access to the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) Trawl Limited 
Access Sector (TLAS) yellowfin sole directed fishery by vessels that 
deliver their catch of yellowfin sole to motherships for processing. 
This final rule establishes eligibility criteria based on historical 
participation in the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery; issues 
an endorsement to those groundfish License Limitation Program (LLP) 
licenses that meet the eligibility criteria; and authorizes delivery of 
BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole to motherships by only those vessels 
designated on a groundfish LLP license that is endorsed for the BSAI 
TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery. This action is necessary to 
prevent increased catcher vessel (CV) participation from reducing the 
benefits the fishery provides to historic and recent participants, 
mitigate the risk that a ``race for fish'' could develop, and help to 
maintain the consistently low rates of halibut bycatch in the BSAI TLAS 
yellowfin sole directed fishery. This action is intended to promote the 
goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act, Amendment 116, the BSAI FMP, and other applicable laws.

DATES: This rule is effective November 5, 2018.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of Amendment 116 and the Environmental 
Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review (collectively the ``Analysis'') 
prepared for this action may be obtained from www.regulations.gov. A 
Small Entity Compliance Guide for this final rule is available on the 
NMFS Alaska Region website at https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/.
    Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other 
aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this 
rule may be submitted by mail to NMFS Alaska Region, P.O. Box 21668, 
Juneau, AK 99802-1668, Attn: Ellen Sebastian, Records Officer; in 
person at NMFS Alaska Region, 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, 
AK; by email to OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov; or by fax to (202)-395-
5806.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Bridget Mansfield, 907-586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Authority for Action

    NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic 
zone of the BSAI under the BSAI FMP. The North Pacific Fishery 
Management Council (Council) prepared the BSAI FMP under the authority 
of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 
(Magnuson-Stevens Act), 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Regulations governing 
U.S. fisheries and implementing the BSAI FMP appear at 50 CFR parts 600 
and 679.
    This final rule implements Amendment 116. The Council submitted 
Amendment 116 for review by the Secretary of Commerce, and the notice 
of availability of this amendment was published in the Federal Register 
on May 18, 2018 (83 FR 23250), with comments invited through July 17, 
2018. NMFS published the proposed rule for this action on June 6, 2018 
(83 FR 26237), with comments invited through July 6, 2018. A correction 
notice to the proposed rule was published on June 20, 2018 (83 FR 
28604). The Secretary of Commerce approved Amendment 116 on August 10, 
2018. NMFS received five comment letters containing nine individual 
comments from five unique individuals during the comment periods for 
Amendment 116 and the proposed rule. The five commenters consisted of 
three individuals and two companies representing CVs. A summary of 
these comments and the responses by NMFS are provided under the heading 
``Comments and Responses'' below.
    A detailed review of the provisions of Amendment 116, the proposed 
regulations to implement Amendment 116, and the rationale for this 
action is provided in the preamble to the proposed rule and is briefly 
summarized in this final rule.

Background

    The BSAI yellowfin sole directed fishery is managed under a total 
allowable catch (TAC) limit with portions of the TAC allocated to the 
Community Development Quota (CDQ) Program, the Amendment 80 sector, and 
the BSAI TLAS. The BSAI TLAS comprises all BSAI trawl fishery 
participants not in the CDQ Program or Amendment 80 sector. The 
Council's intent in establishing the BSAI TLAS was to provide 
harvesting opportunities for American Fisheries Act (AFA) catcher/
processors (CPs), AFA CVs, and non-AFA CVs. The current BSAI TLAS 
yellowfin sole directed fishery is almost entirely an offshore fishery 
composed of two primary harvesting groups: (1) AFA CPs, and (2) AFA and 
non-AFA CVs delivering yellowfin sole to AFA and Amendment 80 CPs or 
stationary floating processors operating as motherships. A 
``mothership'' is defined as a vessel that receives and processes 
groundfish from other vessels (see definition at 50 CFR 679.2) and for 
purposes of this rule includes stationary floating processors.
    Since 2015, the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery has seen 
dramatic increases in CV and mothership participation as compared to 
the first seven years of the fishery (2008 through 2014). Also since 
2015, the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole TAC has been more fully harvested 
and the fishing season has grown shorter as the TAC has been reached 
earlier. The Analysis prepared

[[Page 49995]]

for this action notes that the potential exists for up to seven 
additional Amendment 80 CPs to participate as motherships in the 
fishery, providing processing capacity for up to 21 additional CVs, 
which would put greater fishing pressure on the fishery. The Council 
determined and NMFS agrees that limiting access to the BSAI TLAS 
yellowfin sole directed fishery by CVs delivering to motherships is 
needed given the expectation of additional capacity entering the 
fishery. The Council adopted its preferred alternative for Amendment 
116 at its June 2017 meeting.
    This final rule balances protections for the benefits from the 
fishery for long-time, historic, and recent participants, given the 
increasing number of participants in the fishery and shorter fishing 
seasons. This final rule promotes stability in the fishery by reducing 
the risk of a race for fish, lengthening the fishing season, and 
creating a safer, more predictable fishery. That stability will also 
minimize the potential for increased halibut prohibited species catch 
(PSC) rates, which could lead to closure of the fishery before the TAC 
is fully harvested.
    This final rule establishes the requirement that a vessel used to 
harvest yellowfin sole in the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery 
and deliver that catch to a mothership must be designated on a 
groundfish LLP license with a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery 
endorsement. This final rule also establishes the eligibility criteria 
and issuance process for this new endorsement. Vessels not designated 
on groundfish LLP licenses that receive the endorsement are prohibited 
from participating in the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery and 
delivering their catch to a mothership for processing. This final rule 
does not preclude any vessel from delivering BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole 
to a shoreside processor. This final rule also does not preclude a 
vessel without a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery endorsement 
from delivering incidental catch of yellowfin sole that is caught while 
participating in other directed fisheries to a mothership for 
processing. Finally, this final action does not preclude a vessel from 
participating as a CP and processing its own catch in the BSAI TLAS 
yellowfin sole directed fishery.
    Under this action, NMFS will issue a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole 
directed fishery endorsement to a groundfish LLP license with a Bering 
Sea trawl endorsement if (1) the groundfish LLP license is credited 
with at least one legal trip target landing in the BSAI TLAS yellowfin 
sole directed fishery; and (2) the credited legal trip target landing 
was to a mothership in any one year of the qualifying period (2008 
through 2015). Under this final rule, the term ``trip target'' is 
defined as a groundfish species that is retained in an amount greater 
than the retained amount of any other groundfish species for that trip. 
Where a vessel that made at least one trip target landing in the BSAI 
TLAS directed fishery from 2008 through 2015 was designated on more 
than one groundfish LLP license during the qualifying period, all 
groundfish LLP licenses on which the vessel was designated and was used 
to make a trip target landing in a BSAI TLAS fishery during the 
qualifying period are eligible to be credited with the qualifying 
landings made by the vessel. However, none of these groundfish LLP 
licenses will be credited with a qualifying landing and receive an 
endorsement from NMFS until the vessel owner notifies NMFS in writing 
to identify which single groundfish LLP license is to be credited with 
the qualifying landing(s). NMFS anticipates that a total of eight 
groundfish LLP licenses will receive a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole 
directed fishery endorsement under this final rule, resulting in up to 
eight vessels that may participate in the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole 
directed fishery and deliver their catch to a mothership.

Overview of Measures Implemented by This Rule

    This final rule limits access to the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole 
directed fishery by CVs delivering to motherships to those CVs 
designated on a groundfish LLP license with a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole 
directed fishery endorsement.
    In order to implement Amendment 116, this final rule--
     Authorizes delivery of BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole to 
motherships by only those vessels designated on a groundfish LLP 
license endorsed for the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery.
     Includes the provisions that are necessary for a 
groundfish LLP license to qualify for and receive a BSAI TLAS yellowfin 
sole directed fishery endorsement.
     Prohibits the delivery of yellowfin sole harvested with 
trawl gear in the BSAI TLAS directed fishery to a mothership without a 
copy of a valid LLP license with a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed 
fishery endorsement.
     Lists those groundfish LLP licenses that NMFS has 
determined are eligible, will be credited with qualifying landings, and 
will receive a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery endorsement 
under this final rule.
     Lists those pairs of groundfish LLP licenses that NMFS has 
determined are eligible, but will not be credited with qualifying 
landings and will not receive a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed 
fishery endorsement until the vessel owner notifies NMFS which single 
groundfish LLP license on which the vessel was designated during the 
qualifying period NMFS should credit with the qualifying landings.
     Establishes the process for notifying groundfish LLP 
license holders of eligibility for a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed 
fishery endorsement.
     Establishes the process for the issuance of revised 
groundfish LLP licenses with a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed 
fishery endorsement.
     Establishes an administrative adjudicative process to 
challenge NMFS's determinations on eligibility for a BSAI TLAS 
yellowfin sole directed fishery endorsement.
    Additional detail about the rationale for and effect of the 
regulatory changes in this rule is provided in the preamble to the 
proposed rule and in the Analysis for this action.

Summary of Regulatory Changes

    The following provides a brief summary of the regulatory changes 
made by this final rule.

Revisions to Prohibitions at Sec.  679.7

    This final rule adds Sec.  679.7(i)(11) to prohibit the delivery of 
yellowfin sole harvested with trawl gear in the BSAI TLAS directed 
fishery to a mothership without a copy of a valid LLP license with a 
BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery endorsement except as 
provided in Sec.  679.4(k)(2).

Revisions to Permits at Sec.  679.4

    This final rule adds Sec.  679.4(k)(14) to include the provisions 
that are necessary to qualify for, and receive, a BSAI TLAS yellowfin 
sole directed fishery endorsement. Section 679.4(k)(14) establishes a 
notification process for holders of groundfish LLP licenses eligible 
and ineligible for a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery 
endorsement. This section also establishes an administrative 
adjudicative process to challenge NMFS's determinations on eligibility 
for a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery endorsement.

Revisions to Tables to Part 679

    This final rule adds Table 52 to part 679 to list those groundfish 
LLP licenses that NMFS has determined are eligible, will be credited 
with qualifying

[[Page 49996]]

landings, and will receive a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery 
endorsement under this final rule.
    This final rule also adds Table 53 to part 679 to list those pairs 
of groundfish LLP licenses that NMFS has determined are eligible, but 
are not credited with qualifying landings. One groundfish LLP license 
from each pair in Table 53 will be credited with qualifying landings 
and will receive a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery 
endorsement once the vessel owner notifies NMFS in writing which one of 
the pair is selected to be credited with the qualifying landings and 
receive the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery endorsement.

Comments and Responses

    NMFS received five comment letters containing nine individual 
comments from five unique individuals during the comment periods for 
Amendment 116 and the proposed rule. The five commenters consisted of 
three individuals and two companies. Four comments did not support this 
action, three comments supported this action, and two comments 
addressed topics that were outside the scope of this action.
    In responding to these comments, reference to Amendment 116, unless 
otherwise noted, means Amendment 116 and this final rule implementing 
Amendment 116.
    Comment 1: This rule would eliminate most of the AFA and non-AFA 
CVs from harvesting yellowfin sole in the trawl limited access fishery 
and allow AFA CPs to continue to harvest as much as they can. That 
means the elimination of a very good fishing opportunity for most of 
the small CVs, in favor of further consolidation among the AFA CPs, 
which violates AFA Section 211. This proposed action is a de-facto 
exclusive allocation to a small, closed class of participants who have 
already shown their intention to privately organize and manage the 
fishery with harvest allocation agreements in 2016 and before. In 
addition, this proposed action conflicts with NMFS's policy allowing 
Amendment 80 vessels to participate as motherships in the BSAI TLAS 
fishery by limiting the opportunities for Amendment 80 vessels to 
partner with CVs.
    Response: NMFS disagrees that this final rule violates AFA section 
211, creates a de-facto allocation, or conflicts with NMFS policy 
regarding the ability of Amendment 80 vessels to act as motherships. 
AFA section 211(a) specifies that: ``The North Pacific Council shall 
recommend for approval by the Secretary such conservation and 
management measures as it determines necessary to protect fisheries 
under its jurisdiction and the participants in those fisheries, 
including processors, from adverse impacts caused by this Act or 
fishery cooperatives in the directed pollock fishery.'' This provision 
is intended to protect non-AFA vessels from potential negative impacts 
associated with the directed pollock fishery created by the AFA.
    This action is consistent with the provisions of section 211 of the 
AFA for several reasons. This action does not modify (i.e., increase) 
the amount of BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole that may be harvested by AFA CPs 
or CVs. Further, this action does not change (i.e., decrease) the 
allocation of BSAI yellowfin sole to the Amendment 80 sector or the 
BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery. In developing this action, 
the Council considered and recommended management measures for the BSAI 
TLAS yellowfin sole fishery that it determined were necessary to 
protect both AFA and non-AFA vessels from the negative impacts of a 
potential race for fish in the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed 
fishery. The final rule does not provide benefits to AFA vessels 
related to their rights in the directed pollock fishery, nor does it 
provide benefits to AFA vessels at the expense of non-AFA vessels. 
Under this action, AFA CPs and CVs are still subject to the sideboard 
provisions that limit harvests of AFA CPs and CVs established by the 
final rule implementing Amendment 80 (72 FR 52668, September 14, 2007) 
and in regulations at Sec.  679.64(a) and (b), which were created to 
minimize potential adverse impacts caused by the AFA pursuant to AFA 
section 211. In the final rule implementing Amendment 80, NMFS noted 
that the Council considered and recommended ``management measures 
applicable to the AFA sector that it determined necessary to protect 
other fisheries during the development of the [Amendment 80] Program'' 
(see 72 FR 5267).
    This final rule is not expected to significantly alter the amount 
of yellowfin sole that is harvested by AFA CPs. Since 2015, the 
proportion of harvest by AFA CPs has decreased, not increased, relative 
to the proportion of harvest by CVs. Section 2.7.1.1 of the Analysis 
states that, from 2008 through 2014, AFA CPs harvested approximately 85 
percent of the total catch in the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed 
fishery. In 2015, 2016, and 2017 (the last year of complete data), AFA 
CPs have harvested 55 percent, 51 percent, and 42 percent of the total 
catch in the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery, respectively 
(see Section 2.7.1.1). This final rule limits the number of CVs that 
may deliver catch in the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery to 
motherships to approximately the number of CVs that have participated 
in recent years. This final rule is not expected to result in an 
increase in catch by AFA CPs.
    This final rule does not create a closed class of participants in 
the fishery. This final rule does not limit the number or specific AFA 
or non-AFA CPs that can participate in the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole 
directed fishery, although AFA CPs are constrained by sideboard limits 
established under Amendment 80. This final rule does not establish a 
closed class of AFA or non-AFA CVs, because it does not preclude CVs 
from delivering catch in the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery 
to shoreside processors; this action limits only the number of CVs that 
deliver to motherships. Although the Analysis notes that currently CVs 
are not delivering harvests in the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed 
fishery to shoreside processors, should such markets develop, this 
final rule would not limit the ability of existing or new CVs from 
harvesting and delivering BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole to shoreside 
processors.
    This final rule does not establish or require any private 
agreements among fishery participants in order to participate in the 
BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery. This final rule was 
developed in response to the Council's and NMFS's concerns over the 
developing ``race for fish,'' which has already shortened the fishing 
season and raised management, conservation, and safety issues detailed 
in the preamble to the proposed rule (83 FR 26237, June 6, 2018). 
Because these concerns stem directly from the recent, dramatic increase 
in participation in this fishery by CVs delivering to motherships, the 
Council and NMFS determined that the appropriate response is to limit 
additional participation to provide stability to the fishery and 
predictability for participants and managers. This limitation allows 
for continued participation by the majority of CVs that have 
historically fished BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole and delivered to 
motherships. Only two CVs that have shown interest in participating in 
the fishery, notably after the Council signaled its intent to limit 
participation by CVs in the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole fishery, are 
precluded from future participation under this rule.

[[Page 49997]]

    This final rule is consistent with the establishment of the BSAI 
TLAS under Amendment 80, defined in regulations at Sec.  679.2 as all 
other BSAI trawl fishery participants not in the Amendment 80 or CDQ 
sectors, and specifically includes AFA CPs, AFA CVs, and non-AFA CVs. 
The final rule implementing Amendment 80 makes clear that the BSAI TLAS 
fisheries were created specifically to preserve the opportunity for 
such vessels to fish in the non-pollock trawl fisheries in the BSAI. 
This action does not favor AFA or non-AFA CVs. NMFS has determined that 
of the ten groundfish LLP licenses with CV designations eligible for a 
BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery endorsement, three are 
endorsed as AFA groundfish LLP licenses, while the remaining seven have 
no AFA or Amendment 80 endorsement.
    This final rule implementing Amendment 116 is also consistent with 
the determination under Amendment 80 that Amendment 80 vessels could be 
used as motherships to receive harvest from CVs fishing in the BSAI 
TLAS fisheries. The final rule implementing Amendment 80 noted that it 
allowed the continued participation of one Amendment 80 vessel that had 
historically been used as a mothership and acknowledged potential 
future growth in the use of Amendment 80 vessels as motherships in the 
BSAI TLAS. Under this rule Amendment 80 vessels can still act as 
motherships and receive deliveries of BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole from CVs 
with a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery endorsement. However, 
NMFS and the Council believe that further growth of CVs delivering to 
motherships must be limited at this time to maintain a balance between 
the ability of participants to fully harvest the TAC and the 
management, conservation, and safety concerns that result from 
accelerated harvest caused by continued increase in participation.
    Comment 2: As originally intended by NMFS, the partnerships between 
CVs and Amendment 80 mothership operations are lucrative for CVs, their 
crews, and the State of Alaska. Partnerships between Amendment 80 
vessels and CVs allow CVs the opportunity to harvest yellowfin sole and 
earn revenue during times they would not otherwise be fishing. This 
puts Alaskan vessels and crew to work during times that they would 
otherwise be sitting idle and collecting unemployment. The BSAI TLAS 
yellowfin sole fishery provides CVs significant, predictable income 
that CV owners can invest into Alaska and for new halibut reduction 
technology. Restricting the CV fleet to eight vessels under this 
proposed rule will divert this revenue to the largest fishing 
companies, the AFA CP owners, who already receive massive revenue from 
their protected pollock monopoly.
    Response: Capping the number of CVs delivering TLAS yellowfin sole 
to motherships will not significantly reduce CV participation in the 
fishery from historic levels. Under this rule, it is anticipated that 
eight groundfish LLPs will qualify for a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole 
directed fishery endorsement. CV participation in the fishery has never 
exceeded nine vessels in any one year. As noted in the response to 
Comment 1, the AFA CP sector is still subject to BSAI TLAS yellowfin 
sole sideboard limits as required at Sec.  679.64(a) and (b). Also 
noted in the response to Comment 1, the harvest has shifted from CPs 
harvesting the majority of the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole to CVs 
harvesting a slight majority of the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole TAC in 
recent years. The Analysis (Section 2.7.1.1) states that from 2008 
through 2014 AFA CPs harvested approximately 85 percent of the total 
catch in the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery. In 2015, 2016, 
and 2017 (the last year of complete data), AFA CPs have harvested 55 
percent, 51 percent, and 42 percent of the total catch in the BSAI TLAS 
yellowfin sole directed fishery, respectively (see Section 2.7.1.1). 
This final rule limits the number of CVs that may deliver catch in the 
BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery to motherships to 
approximately the number of CVs that have participated in recent years, 
and is not expected to result in an increase in catch by AFA CPs. 
Therefore, this rule is not expected to divert revenue from the CV 
sector to the CP sector.
    Comment 3: The proposed rule described the Council's concern 
regarding ``the likelihood of decreasing benefits from the yellowfin 
sole TLAS fishery for long-time, historic, and recent participants 
given the increasing number of participants in the fishery and shorter 
fishing seasons.'' The proposed action should not proceed based on 
``dependency'' because (a) there is no legal ``dependency'' by the AFA 
CPs on the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery, and (b) mere 
``dependency'' of a favored set of companies is not a legally 
sufficient reason under the Magnuson-Stevens Act to exclude their 
competitors from a fishery.
    Response: This action does not protect any particular group of 
vessels based on dependency on this fishery. As explained in the 
response to Comment 1, this action is consistent with the final rule 
implementing Amendment 80, which established criteria for participation 
in the BSAI TLAS fisheries. In developing this final rule to implement 
Amendment 116, the Council and NMFS based eligibility qualifications on 
historic participation, which is described in the rule as at least one 
legal trip target landing of BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed catch to 
a mothership in any one year during the qualifying period (2008 through 
2015). The Council and NMFS did not consider dependency on this fishery 
by participants and did not equate the fishery's benefits to long-time, 
historic, and recent participants with dependency on the fishery by 
those participants. To the extent that historic participation was taken 
into account in the development of this rule, it was the historic 
participation of CVs, rather than the historic participation of CPs. 
Further, in considering historic participation, the Council chose the 
more inclusive alternative that required participation in the fishery 
in any one year during the qualifying period, rather than any two 
years. For the eight CVs designated on a groundfish LLP license 
eligible to participate in the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed 
fishery endorsement under this final rule, participation in the fishery 
ranged from one to seven years. Of those eight vessels, five 
participated in the fishery for only one of the eight qualifying years.
    Comment 4: These regulations should not proceed in the guise of a 
halibut bycatch (PSC) management program. The Analysis states that 
under the status quo management, halibut PSC usage in the fishery will 
likely continue at similar levels. There are no data to support the 
creation of a closed class of participants on the basis of halibut 
bycatch concerns in the status quo fishery. Halibut bycatch has been 
reduced with CVs competing for lower halibut PSC in the TLAS. The 
entrance of new CVs into the fishery has created a new tool promoting 
bycatch reduction through competition between harvesters for the lowest 
halibut bycatch rates. The proposed regulations may actually reverse 
the bycatch reduction gains achieved by the competition between CPs and 
CVs.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges that the halibut PSC in the BSAI TLAS 
yellowfin sole directed fishery varies from year-to-year for a variety 
of reasons. With the exception of 2013, halibut PSC rates are generally 
low and within the PSC limits set through the annual specifications 
process. However, the preamble to the proposed rule states

[[Page 49998]]

that this action is necessary to mitigate the risk that a ``race for 
fish'' could develop, which could increase halibut PSC rates. The 
Analysis (Section 2.7.1.2) notes that overall, under status quo, 
halibut PSC usage in the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery will 
likely continue at similar levels if participation is stable. However, 
the Council noted the increase in the number of participating CVs that 
deliver to motherships in recent years and anticipated that such 
participation would continue to increase without action to curtail the 
increase. The recent increased participation, combined with recent 
lower BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole allocations, has resulted in a fully 
utilized fishery with increasingly shorter fishing seasons. Shorter 
fishing seasons can enhance the incentives for vessels to harvest 
quickly in order to gain a greater share of the TAC before it is fully 
harvested and the fishery is closed. These circumstances create a 
substantial disincentive for harvesters to take actions to reduce 
bycatch use and waste, particularly if those actions could reduce 
groundfish catch rates. This increases the potential for higher halibut 
PSC rates. Accordingly, the Analysis (Section 2.7.1.2 and 3.2.2.1) 
notes that by limiting the level of participation by CVs, this action 
has the potential to mitigate future increases in halibut PSC in this 
fishery by relieving the harvest pressure and providing more 
flexibility in fishing operations, which allows vessels to better avoid 
halibut PSC. In this way, this action may help maintain current low 
levels or even decrease halibut PSC in the fishery.
    Further, NMFS believes that limiting the number of CVs delivering 
to motherships provides more stability and predictability in the 
fishery over the long term. This can facilitate better communication 
among participants and provide a better opportunity to implement a 
voluntary best practices agreement. Section 2.7.1.2 of the Analysis 
describes this best practices agreement as ``target rates of halibut 
mortality, reporting real-time halibut mortality and location of the 
mortality, and established procedures for sharing halibut mortality 
information via Sea-State [a private third-party data manager]. In some 
years, the agreement has also included informal apportionment of 
remaining halibut mortality among participating vessels that fish late 
in the year.'' This action does not preclude competition between CPs 
and CVs to reduce halibut PSC rates from continuing to help maintain 
the consistently low rates of halibut bycatch in the BSAI TLAS 
yellowfin sole directed fishery.
    Comment 5: The proposed rule states that this action does not 
create a Limited Access Privilege (LAP) program. We believe the 
proposed action is a LAP program. The AFA-CP companies have previously 
operated in the TLAS subject to a voluntary cooperative agreement that 
these companies have refused to produce to NMFS or other participants. 
We believe that this cooperative agreement included allocation of 
harvest among its members. Thus, this action likely will have the 
effect of allocating species to the participants who may revert to 
their previously agreed and undisclosed allocation agreement.
    Response: As noted in the proposed rule, Section 3 of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act (16 U.S.C. 1802) defines a LAP as a Federal permit issued 
as part of a limited access system under section 303A to harvest a 
quantity of fish expressed by a unit or units representing a portion of 
the TAC of the fishery that may be received or held for exclusive use 
by a person and includes an individual fishing quota but does not 
include community development quotas. This final rule limits the number 
of groundfish LLP licenses, and therefore the number of CVs, that could 
be used to harvest BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole and deliver that harvest to 
a mothership, but it does not assign a portion of the BSAI TLAS 
yellowfin sole TAC for exclusive use by a person. An individual owner 
of a groundfish LLP license that receives an endorsement would not be 
allocated a specific amount of BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole for the owner's 
exclusive use. All vessels eligible to participate in the offshore BSAI 
TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery, including CPs as well as CVs 
designated on groundfish LLP licenses with the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole 
directed fishery endorsement, will continue to compete with each other 
in harvesting the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole TAC rather than act together 
as one entity. Additionally, although CVs have not historically 
delivered their catch of yellowfin sole to shore-based processing 
plants, this proposed action does not preclude CVs from conducting 
directed fishing for BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole and delivering that 
harvest to shore-based processing plants. This proposed action does not 
limit the amount of BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole that can be harvested by a 
CV designated on a groundfish LLP license with a BSAI TLAS yellowfin 
sole directed fishery endorsement; rather, it limits the number of CVs 
that are eligible to participate in the directed fishery and deliver 
their harvest to a mothership. This action does not limit CPs 
participating in the BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole fishery or assign a 
portion of the TAC for exclusive use by individual CPs or any specific 
group of CPs. Voluntary cooperative agreements are not equivalent to a 
LAP program created by NMFS. Moreover, NMFS maintains the ability to 
reallocate BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole TAC to the Amendment 80 sector, if 
NMFS determines that it will go unharvested.
    Comment 6: We support this action, because it tightens eligibility 
of CVs and will decelerate the race for fish to avoid the ``Tragedy of 
the Commons,'' whereby the common resource is depleted as the number of 
vessels harvesting fish increases, and over time the survival of the 
fish species itself is threatened. The recent influx of CV effort has 
resulted in shortened seasons and affects participants historically 
dependent on the fishery. The additional CV effort also reduces 
incentives and opportunities for participants to adopt measures to 
reduce halibut bycatch and associated mortality.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment in support of Amendment 
116.
    Comment 7: We support this action, because it will (1) allow for a 
reasonable level of CV participation in the offshore sector without 
limiting potential markets for sales of catch by qualifying vessels, 
(2) maintain competition for catches and landings of those catches, (3) 
reduce the race for fish, (4) protect historically dependent 
participants, and (5) allow for reasonable measures to reduce halibut 
bycatch mortality. The commenter also noted that the onshore sector is 
not constrained by this rule and that there is no restriction on the 
number of CVs that could deliver shoreside, which would allow for new 
entrants.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment in support of Amendment 
116.
    Comment 8: The correction to the proposed rule (83 FR 28604; June 
20, 2018) is appropriate, as is NMFS's interpretation of the Council's 
motion overall. Further, NMFS's interpretation of the Council's motion 
to treat stationary floating processors as motherships is consistent 
with the analysis of alternatives and the purpose and need statement of 
the Council, which explicitly mentioned a concern with CV deliveries to 
floating processors.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment in support of the 
correction to the proposed rule. The definition of a

[[Page 49999]]

``mothership'' in 679.2 includes vessels that are operating as 
``stationary floating processors'' as that term is defined in 679.2. In 
addition, Section 2.7.1.1 of the Analysis notes that two stationary 
floating processors participated in the fishery as motherships in 2008. 
Although those stationary floating processors did not participate in 
the fishery after 2008, data from landings to those vessels were 
included in the analysis of impacts of the alternatives.
    Comment 9: NMFS received two comments addressing issues outside the 
scope of this action. One commenter did not support this action because 
of the effects of fishing on natural resources, including marine 
mammals, and suggested that NMFS cut the yellowfin sole quota by 50 
percent. One commenter did not support this action and suggested that 
NMFS further limit industrial-level commercial fishing in favor of 
small, traditional fishing boats to reduce the impact of overfishing on 
natural resources and revitalize local fishing economy and tourism.
    Response: These comments address management issues that are beyond 
the scope of Amendment 116 and this regulatory action. This final rule 
does not change the process of allocating quota or establishing TACs or 
sideboard limits under the AFA or Amendment 80 Programs, nor will this 
final rule change specific management measures that govern the harvest 
of BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole, such as fishing location, timing, effort, 
or authorized gear types. This final rule limits access to the BSAI 
TLAS yellowfin sole fishery by CVs that deliver to motherships by 
requiring that those CVs be designated on a groundfish LLP license with 
a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole CV endorsement and establishes eligibility 
criteria for such an endorsement.

OMB Revisions to PRA References in 15 CFR 902.1(b)

    Section 3507(c)(B)(i) of the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) requires 
that agencies inventory and display a current control number assigned 
by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), for each 
agency's information collection. Section 902.1(b) identifies the 
location of NOAA regulations for which OMB approval numbers have been 
issued. Because this final rule adds a new collection-of-information 
for recordkeeping and reporting requirements, 15 CFR 902.1(b) is 
revised to reference correctly the section resulting from this final 
rule.

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    This final rule contains no substantive changes from the proposed 
rule, as corrected by the correction notice published on June 20, 2018 
(83 FR 28604). The final rule includes minor changes to the proposed 
rule text to correct citations and remove redundant language. These 
changes include: (1) Removed ``as defined at 679.2'' throughout the 
final rule; (2) Corrected incorrect references to other sections of the 
rule; and (3) Removed the word ``proposed'' when referring to new 
Tables 52 and 53.

Classification

    The Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, has determined that 
Amendment 116 to the BSAI FMP and this final rule are necessary for the 
conservation and management of the groundfish fishery and are 
consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for the 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.

Small Entity Compliance Guide

    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness 
Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for 
which an agency is required to prepare a final regulatory flexibility 
analysis, the agency shall publish one or more guides to assist small 
entities in complying with the rule, and shall designate such 
publications as ``small entity compliance guides.'' The agency shall 
explain the actions a small entity is required to take to comply with a 
rule or group of rules. As part of this rulemaking process, a letter to 
groundfish LLP license holders that also serves as small entity 
compliance guide (the guide) was prepared. Copies of the guide, i.e., 
groundfish LLP license holder letter, will be sent to all holders of 
groundfish LLP license for the Bering Sea trawl fisheries. The guide 
and this final rule will be available upon request from the Alaska 
Regional Office (see ADDRESSES). This action does not require any 
additional compliance from small entities that is not described in the 
preambles. Copies of the proposed rule, the correction notice, and this 
final rule are available from the NMFS website at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.

Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA)

    This FRFA incorporates the initial regulatory flexibility analysis 
(IRFA), a summary of the significant issues raised by the public 
comments in response to the IRFA, NMFS's responses to those comments, 
and a summary of the analyses completed to support this action.
    Section 604 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) requires that, 
when an agency promulgates a final rule under section 553 of Title 5 of 
the U.S. Code, after being required by that section or any other law to 
publish a general notice of proposed rulemaking, the agency shall 
prepare a FRFA. Section 604 describes the required contents of a FRFA: 
(1) A statement of the need for and objectives of the rule; (2) a 
statement of the significant issues raised by the public comments in 
response to the IRFA, a statement of the assessment of the agency of 
such issues, and a statement of any changes made to the proposed rule 
as a result of such comments; (3) the response of the agency to any 
comments filed by the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration (SBA) in response to the proposed rule, and a detailed 
statement of any change made to the proposed rule in the final rule as 
a result of the comments; (4) a description of and an estimate of the 
number of small entities to which the rule will apply or an explanation 
of why no such estimate is available; (5) a description of the 
projected reporting, recordkeeping, and other compliance requirements 
of the rule, including an estimate of the classes of small entities 
that will be subject to the requirement and the type of professional 
skills necessary for preparation of the report or record; and (6) a 
description of the steps the agency has taken to minimize the 
significant economic impact on small entities consistent with the 
stated objectives of applicable statutes including a statement of the 
factual, policy, and legal reasons for selecting the alternative 
adopted in this final rule and why each one of the other significant 
alternatives to the rule considered by the agency which affect the 
impact on small entities was rejected.
    A description of this final rule and the need for and objectives of 
this rule are contained in the preamble to this final rule and the 
preambles to the proposed rule (83 FR 26237, June 6, 2018) and the 
correction notice (83 FR 28604, June 20, 2018), and are not repeated 
here.
Public and Chief Counsel for Advocacy Comments on the IRFA
    NMFS published the proposed rule on June 6, 2018 (83 FR 26237), and 
a correction notice to the proposed rule on June 20, 2018 (83 FR 
28604). An IRFA was prepared and summarized in the Classification 
section of the preamble to the proposed rule. The comment period for 
the proposed rule closed on July 6, 2018. The comment period for the 
notice of availability for

[[Page 50000]]

Amendment 116 closed on July 17, 2018. NMFS received five letters of 
public comment on the proposed rule and Amendment 116. The Chief 
Counsel for Advocacy of the SBA did not file any comments on the 
proposed rule.
    NMFS received no comments specifically on the IRFA. However, one of 
the comments supported this action, because it provides operational 
relief to the owners and operators of trawl CVs.
Number and Description of Small Entities Regulated by This Final Action
    This final rule directly regulates (1) holders of groundfish LLP 
licenses that authorize a vessel designated on the LLP license to 
harvest groundfish using trawl gear in the Bering Sea, and (2) vessel 
owners that must choose one of two LLP licenses on which the vessel was 
designated during the qualifying period. Based on the best available 
and most recent complete data from 2008 through 2017, 163 groundfish 
LLP license holders and five vessel owners will be directly regulated 
by this action.
    For RFA purposes only, NMFS has established a small business size 
standard for businesses, including their affiliates, whose primary 
industry is commercial fishing (see 50 CFR 200.2). A business primarily 
engaged in commercial fishing (NAICS code 11411) is classified as a 
small business if it is independently owned and operated, is not 
dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and has 
combined annual receipts not in excess of $11 million for all its 
affiliated operations worldwide.
    The RFA requires consideration of affiliations between entities for 
the purpose of assessing whether an entity is classified as small. The 
AFA pollock and Amendment 80 cooperatives are types of affiliation 
between entities. All of the AFA and Amendment 80 cooperatives have 
gross annual revenues that are substantially greater than $11 million. 
Therefore, NMFS considers members in these cooperatives ``affiliated'' 
large (non-small) entities for RFA purposes.
    Of the 163 groundfish LLP license holders directly regulated by 
this action, 128 were members of an AFA cooperative and 26 were members 
of an Amendment 80 cooperative in 2017. Therefore, NMFS considers those 
154 groundfish LLP license holders to be ``affiliated'' large (non-
small) entities for RFA purposes. All of the groundfish LLP licenses 
with designated vessels that participated in the BSAI TLAS yellowfin 
sole directed fishery and delivered catch to a mothership from 2008 
through 2017 were affiliated with either an AFA or an Amendment 80 
cooperative in 2017. NMFS therefore considers these LLP license holders 
to be ``affiliated'' large (non-small) entities for RFA purposes.
    The remaining nine groundfish LLP license holders are not 
affiliated with AFA or Amendment 80 cooperatives and are assumed to be 
small entities directly regulated by this action for purposes of the 
RFA. All five vessel owners who are considered regulated entities under 
this final rule were affiliated with either an AFA pollock or an 
Amendment 80 cooperative in 2017. Therefore, NMFS considers them 
``affiliated'' large (non-small) entities for RFA purposes. This FRFA 
assumes that each vessel owner and each groundfish LLP license holder 
is a unique entity; therefore, the total number of directly regulated 
entities may be an overestimate because some vessel owners and 
groundfish LLP license holders are likely affiliated through common 
ownership. These potential affiliations are not known with the best 
available data and cannot be predicted.
Recordkeeping, Reporting, and Other Compliance Requirements
    This final rule does not add additional reporting or recordkeeping 
requirements for the vessels that choose to submit an appeal. An appeal 
process exists for LLP license endorsement issuance. No small entity is 
subject to reporting requirements that are in addition to or different 
from the requirements that apply to all directly regulated entities. No 
unique professional skills are needed for the LLP license or vessel 
owners or operators to comply with the reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements associated with this final rule. This final rule does not 
implement or increase any fees that NMFS collects from directly 
regulated entities. The Analysis identifies no operational costs of the 
endorsement (see ADDRESSES).
Description of Significant Alternatives Considered to the Final Action 
That Minimize Adverse Impacts on Small Entities
    None of the nine regulated small entities identified by NMFS have 
previously delivered TLAS YFS to a mothership. This rule will not 
affect existing delivery patterns of those vessels, and possible future 
impacts to these vessels could not be quantified. However, none of the 
alternatives considered by the Council that would have avoided 
regulating these small entities would have accomplished the stated 
objectives of the rule. Each of those alternatives would have allowed 
increased catcher vessel participation under certain conditions and 
thereby failed to mitigate the risk of a race for fish. The Council and 
NMFS selected the alternative in this rule because it best achieves 
their stated policy objectives.

Collection-of-Information Requirements

    This final rule contains collection-of-information requirements 
subject to the PRA, which have been approved by OMB under Control 
Number 0648-0766. The public reporting burden for the collection-of-
information requirements in this final rule is estimated to average 2 
hours per response for a one-time Election to Assign Qualifying 
Landings to an LLP license and 4 hours per response to submit an 
appeal, which includes the time for reviewing instructions, searching 
existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and 
completing and reviewing the collection of information.
    Send comments on these or any other aspects of the collection of 
information to NMFS Alaska Region at the ADDRESSES above, and by email 
to OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov or fax to (202) 395-5806.
    Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person is required 
to respond to, and no person shall be subject to penalty for failure to 
comply with, a collection of information subject to the requirements of 
the PRA, unless that collection of information displays a currently 
valid OMB control number. All currently approved NOAA collections of 
information may be viewed at http://www.cio.noaa.gov/services_programs/prasubs.html.

List of Subjects

15 CFR Part 902

    Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

50 CFR Part 679

    Alaska, Fisheries, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: October 1, 2018.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS amends 15 CFR part 
902 and 50 CFR part 679 as follows:

[[Page 50001]]

Title 15--Commerce and Foreign Trade

PART 902--NOAA INFORMATION COLLECTION REQUIREMENTS UNDER THE 
PAPERWORK REDUCTION ACT: OMB CONTROL NUMBERS

0
1. The authority citation for part 902 continues to read as follows:


    Authority:  44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.


0
2. In Sec.  [thinsp]902.1, in the table in paragraph (b), under the 
entry ``50 CFR'', revise the entry for ``679.4'' to read as follows:

Sec.  [thinsp]902.1  OMB control numbers assigned pursuant to the 
Paperwork Reduction Act.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *

------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                             Current OMB control number
 CFR part or section where the information  (all numbers begin with 0648-
     collection requirement is located                    )
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                                * * * * *
50 CFR:
 
                                * * * * *
679.4.....................................  -0206, -0272, -0334, -0393,
                                             0513, -0545, -0565, -0665,
                                             and -0766
 
                                * * * * *
------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *

Title 50--Wildlife and Fisheries

PART 679--FISHERIES OF THE EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE OFF ALASKA

0
3. The authority citation for part 679 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.; 1801 et seq.; 3631 et seq.; 
Pub. L. 108-447; Pub. L. 111-281.

0
4. In Sec.  679.4, add paragraph (k)(14) to read as follows:

Sec.  679.4  Permits.

* * * * *
    (k) * * *
    (14) Yellowfin sole trawl limited access sector (TLAS) directed 
fishery endorsement in the BSAI--(i) General. In addition to other 
requirements of this part, and unless specifically exempted in 
paragraph (k)(2) of this section, a vessel must be designated on a 
groundfish LLP license that has a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed 
fishery endorsement in order to conduct directed fishing for yellowfin 
sole with trawl gear in the BSAI Trawl Limited Access Sector fishery 
and deliver the catch to a mothership. A vessel designated on a 
groundfish LLP license with trawl and catcher/processor vessel 
designations and a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery 
endorsement may operate as a catcher vessel and deliver its catch of 
yellowfin sole harvested in the directed BSAI TLAS fishery to a 
mothership, or operate as a catcher/processor and catch and process its 
own catch in this fishery.
    (ii) Eligibility requirements for a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole 
directed fishery endorsement. (A) A groundfish LLP license is eligible 
to receive a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery endorsement if 
the groundfish LLP license:
    (1) Had a vessel designated on it, in any year from 2008 through 
2015, that made at least one legal trip target landing of yellowfin 
sole in the BSAI TLAS directed fishery to a mothership in any one year 
from 2008 through 2015, inclusive, where a trip target is the 
groundfish species for which the retained amount of that groundfish 
species is greater than the retained amount of any other groundfish 
species for that trip;
    (2) Has a Bering Sea area endorsement and a trawl gear designation; 
and
    (3) Is credited by NMFS with a legal trip target landing specified 
in paragraph (k)(14)(ii)(A)(1) of this section.
    (B) If a vessel specified in paragraph (k)(14)(ii)(A)(1) of this 
section was designated on more than one groundfish LLP license from 
2008 through 2015 and made at least one legal trip target landing in a 
BSAI TLAS directed fishery from 2008 through 2015, the vessel owner 
must specify to NMFS only one of those groundfish LLP licenses to 
receive credit with the legal trip target landing(s) specified in 
paragraph (k)(14)(ii)(A)(1) of this section.
    (iii) Explanations for BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery 
endorsement. (A) NMFS will determine whether a groundfish LLP license 
is eligible to receive a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery 
endorsement under paragraph (k)(14)(ii) of this section based only on 
information contained in the official record described in paragraph 
(k)(14)(v) of this section.
    (B) NMFS will credit a groundfish LLP license with a legal trip 
target landing specified in paragraph (k)(14)(ii)(A)(1) of this section 
if that groundfish LLP license was the only groundfish LLP license on 
which the vessel was designated from 2008 through 2015. If a vessel 
that made at least one legal trip target landing specified in paragraph 
(k)(14)(ii)(A)(1) of this section was designated on more than one 
groundfish LLP license from 2008 through 2015 and made at least one 
legal trip target landing in a BSAI TLAS directed fishery from 2008 
through 2015, the vessel owner must notify NMFS which one of those 
groundfish LLP licenses NMFS is to credit with the legal trip target 
landing(s) specified in paragraph (k)(14)(ii)(A)(1) of this section.
    (C) Trip target landings will be determined based on round weight 
equivalents.
    (iv) Exemptions to BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole endorsements. Any 
vessel exempted from the License Limitation Program at paragraph (k)(2) 
of this section is exempted from the requirement to have a BSAI TLAS 
yellowfin sole endorsement to deliver catch of BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole 
to a mothership for processing.
    (v) BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole participation official record. (A) The 
official record will contain all information used by the Regional 
Administrator that is necessary to administer the requirements 
described in paragraph (k)(14) of this section.
    (B) The official record is presumed to be correct. A groundfish LLP 
license holder has the burden to prove otherwise.
    (C) Only legal landings as defined in Sec.  679.2 and documented on 
State of Alaska fish tickets or NMFS weekly production reports will be 
used to determine legal trip target landings under paragraph 
(k)(14)(ii)(A)(1) of this section.
    (vi) Process for issuing BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole endorsements. (A) 
NMFS will issue to the holder of each groundfish LLP license endorsed 
to use trawl gear in the Bering Sea and designated in Column A of Table 
52 to this part a notice of eligibility to receive a BSAI TLAS 
yellowfin sole directed fishery endorsement and a revised groundfish 
LLP license with a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery 
endorsement.
    (B) NMFS will issue to the holder of each groundfish LLP license 
endorsed to use trawl gear in the Bering Sea and designated in Column A 
of Table 53 to this part a notice of eligibility to be credited with a 
legal trip target landing specified in (k)(14)(ii)(A)(1) of this 
section.
    (1) NMFS will also issue to the owner of the vessel designated on 
the groundfish LLP licenses in Column A of Table 53 a notice of 
eligibility for the two listed groundfish LLP licenses to be credited 
with a legal trip target landing specified in (k)(14)(ii)(A)(1) of this 
section. The notice to the vessel owner will provide instructions for 
the vessel owner to select the one groundfish LLP

[[Page 50002]]

license that NMFS is to credit with the legal trip target landing 
specified in (k)(14)(ii)(A)(1) of this section.
    (2) The holder of a groundfish LLP license in Column A of Table 53 
will receive a revised groundfish LLP license with a BSAI TLAS 
yellowfin sole directed fishery endorsement if:
    (i) The owner of the vessel designated on the groundfish LLP 
license requests in writing that NMFS credit that groundfish LLP 
license with the legal trip target landing specified in paragraph 
(k)(14)(ii)(A)(1) of this section;
    (ii) The vessel owner, or the authorized agent, signs the request;
    (iii) The written request is submitted to NMFS using one of the 
following methods: Mail at Regional Administrator, c/o Restricted 
Access Management Program, NMFS, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668; 
fax at 907-586-7352; or hand delivery or carrier at NMFS, Room 713, 709 
West 9th Street, Juneau, AK 99801;
    and
    (iv) NMFS receives the written request and credits the groundfish 
LLP license with the legal trip target landing specified in paragraph 
(k)(14)(ii)(A)(1) of this section.
    (3) The holder of a groundfish LLP license in Column A of Table 53 
that is not selected by the vessel owner will receive a notice, using 
the address on record at the time the notification is sent, informing 
the holder that the groundfish LLP license was not selected by the 
vessel owner, will not be credited with a legal trip target landing, 
and will not receive a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole endorsement. The notice 
will inform the holder of the groundfish LLP license of the timing and 
process through which the holder can provide additional information or 
evidence to amend or challenge the information in the official record 
of this section as specified in paragraphs (k)(14)(vi)(D) and (E) of 
this section.
    (C) NMFS will issue to the holder of a groundfish LLP license with 
a Bering Sea trawl designation and that is not listed in either Table 
52 or 53 a notice informing that holder that the groundfish LLP license 
is not eligible to be credited with a legal trip target landing or 
receive a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole directed fishery endorsement based 
on the official record, using the address on record at the time the 
notification is sent. The notice will inform the holder of the 
groundfish LLP license of the timing and process through which the 
holder can provide additional information or evidence to amend or 
challenge the information in the official record of this section, as 
specified in paragraphs (k)(14)(vi)(D) and (E) of this section.
    (D) The Regional Administrator will specify by letter a 30-day 
evidentiary period during which an applicant may provide additional 
information or evidence to amend or challenge the information in the 
official record. A person will be limited to one 30-day evidentiary 
period. Additional information or evidence received after the 30-day 
evidentiary period specified in the letter has expired will not be 
considered for purposes of the initial administrative determination 
(IAD).
    (E) The Regional Administrator will prepare and send an IAD to the 
applicant following the expiration of the 30-day evidentiary period, if 
the Regional Administrator determines that the information or evidence 
provided by the person fails to support the person's claims and is 
insufficient to rebut the presumption that the official record is 
correct, or if the additional information, evidence, or revised 
application is not provided within the time period specified in the 
letter that notifies the applicant of his or her 30-day evidentiary 
period. The IAD will indicate the deficiencies with the information or 
evidence submitted. The IAD will also indicate which claims cannot be 
approved based on the available information or evidence. A person who 
receives an IAD may appeal pursuant to 15 CFR part 906. NMFS will issue 
a non-transferable interim license that is effective until final agency 
action on the IAD to an applicant who avails himself or herself of the 
opportunity to appeal an IAD and who has a credible claim to 
eligibility for a BSAI TLAS yellowfin sole endorsement.
* * * * *

0
5. In Sec.  679.7, add paragraph (i)(11) to read as follows;


Sec.  679.7  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (i) * * *
    (11) Prohibitions specific to the BSAI Trawl Limited Access Sector 
yellowfin sole directed fishery. Deliver yellowfin sole harvested with 
trawl gear in the BSAI Trawl Limited Access Sector yellowfin sole 
directed fishery to a mothership without a legible copy of a valid 
groundfish LLP license with a BSAI Trawl Limited Access Sector 
yellowfin sole directed fishery endorsement, except as provided in 
Sec.  679.4(k)(2).
* * * * *

0
6. Add Table 52 to part 679 to read as follows:

 Table 52 to Part 679--Groundfish LLP Licenses Eligible for a BSAI Trawl
    Limited Access Sector Yellowfin Sole Directed Fishery Endorsement
                   [X indicates that Column A applies]
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Column A                             Column B
------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Holder of Groundfish License    Is eligible under 50 CFR
 Number . . .                        679.4(k)(14)(ii) to be assigned an
                                     Endorsement for the BSAI Trawl
                                     Limited Access Sector Yellowfin
                                     Sole Fishery.
    LLG 3944......................  X.
    LLG 2913......................  X.
    LLG 1667......................  X.
    LLG 3714......................  X.
    LLG 1820......................  X.
    LLG 3741......................  X.
------------------------------------------------------------------------


0
7. Add Table 53 to part 679 to read as follows:

[[Page 50003]]



  Table 53 to Part 679--Groundfish LLP Licenses That Require Qualified
   Landings Assignment To Be Eligible for a BSAI Trawl Limited Access
           Sector Yellowfin Sole Directed Fishery Endorsement
                   [X indicates that Column A applies]
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Column A                             Column B
------------------------------------------------------------------------
A single vessel was designated on the    The owner of the vessel
 following pairs of groundfish LLP        designated on the pair of LLP
 licenses during the qualifying period    licenses in Column A must
 identified in 50 CFR                     notify NMFS which LLP license
 679.4(k)(14)(ii)(A)(1) . . .             from each pair in Column A is
                                          to be credited with qualifying
                                          landing(s) under 50 CFR
                                          679.4(k)(14)(vi)(B)(2).
    LLG 3838 and LLG 2702..............  X.
    LLG 3902 and LLG 3826..............  X.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

[FR Doc. 2018-21632 Filed 10-3-18; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P