Amendment 21-3 to the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan
This rule changes the management of the Pacific whiting at-sea sectors' (i.e., the Mothership [MS] and Catcher/Processor [C/P] sectors) allocations for darkblotched rockfish and Pacific ocean perch (POP) by managing the allocations as set-asides rather than as total catch limits, under the authority of the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP), and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). This rule revises regulations so that higher than anticipated harvest of darkblotched rockfish or POP that exceeds a sector's initial distribution of those species will not require automatic closure of one or more of the Pacific whiting at-sea sectors. This action is intended to reduce the risk of the Pacific whiting at-sea sectors not attaining their respective Pacific whiting allocations due to the incidental catch of darkblotched rockfish or POP causing early closure of those sectors. This action does not change or increase the risk of exceeding darkblotched rockfish or POP ACLs, because it also allows NMFS to close one or both of the Pacific whiting at-sea sectors via automatic action if the species-specific set-aside amounts plus the available reserve for unforeseen catch events, known colloquially as the “buffer,” are anticipated to be exceeded.