Emergency Action to Temporarily Reopen the 2021 Sablefish Primary Fishery for Vessels Using Pot Gear
This emergency rule temporarily reopens the 2021 Limited Entry Fixed Gear (LEFG) sablefish primary fishery season for vessels using pot gear until December 31, 2021. At its September 2021 meeting, industry members requested the Pacific Fishery Management Council consider action to address unusually high underattainment of primary sablefish fishery allocation. This underattainment is attributed to unforeseen delays related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that have resulted in management problems for the harvesting fleet, processors and sales managers to catch, process and market sablefish in a timely manner within the current sablefish primary fishery season of April 1, 2021 to October 31, 2021.
On October 29, 2021, NMFS took emergency action to extend the sablefish primary fishery season for vessels using bottom longline gear from October 31 to December 31 for the 2021 fishing year (86 FR 59873). The Council recommended the emergency extension for the sablefish primary fishery, which includes vessels fishing with longline and/or pot gear. Due to lack of a Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) section 101(a)(5)(E) permit for sablefish pot gear, however, NMFS only issued the temporary season extension for vessels using bottom longline gear.
On December 10, 2021, NMFS also filed a notice of issuance of a final MMPA section 101(a)(5)(E) permit and negligible impact determination (NID) allowing NMFS to issue this extension for vessels using pot gear (86 FR 70420). This action is necessary to provide operational flexibility for vessels in the sablefish primary fishery to fully harvest their catch limits despite high economic uncertainty in 2021.
For more information on this action and the Council's recommendations, see the Federal Register notice and other information, below.