NMFS Implements Emergency Rule Establishing 2001 Steller Sea Lion Protection Measures and Groundfish Harvest Specifications

January 18, 2001 - 2:10 p.m.

Notice of a fishery management action.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has issued an emergency rule implementing changes to the 2001 Alaska groundfish fisheries that are determined necessary by NMFS to protect endangered Steller sea lions. The emergency rule also establishes 2001 harvest specifications for the federally managed groundfish fisheries off Alaska and is effective 12 noon, Alaska local time, January 20, 2001, according to James W. Balsiger, Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS.

The text of the emergency rule as filed with the Office of the Federal Register is available on the NMFS, Alaska Region website. The emergency rule extends into 2001 existing regulations that establish Steller sea lion protection measures for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI) pollock and Atka mackerel fisheries and the Gulf of Alaska pollock fishery contained in 50 CFR part 679. In addition, the emergency rule establishes 2001 harvest specifications for the Alaska groundfish fisheries and implements the following new measures:

(1) A prohibition on fishing in a directed fishery for any groundfish species by federally permitted groundfish vessels using any gear type within 3 nautical miles of haulouts that are identified under the criteria developed in the 1998 biological opinion on the pollock fishery (See Table 21 of 50 CFR part 679 as established under the emergency rule);

(2) Establishment of two fishing seasons for Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska Pacific cod. The total allowable catch (TAC) would be divided 60/40 between the first (January 1 - June 10) and second (June 10 - November 1 (trawl) and June 10 - December 31 (non trawl)) seasons;

(3) A ten percent reduction of the TAC for Gulf of Alaska pollock as required by Pub.L. 106-554;

(4) Limitations on the amounts of pollock harvested in the Bering Sea Steller sea lion conservation area (SCA) so that 2001 harvest amounts in the SCA do not exceed the harvest amounts (in metric tons) authorized for 2000; and

(5) Closure of 66 percent of Steller sea lion critical habitat, effective June 10, 2001, to directed fishing for pollock, Pacific cod, and Atka mackerel consistent with the closed areas identified in the agency's Reasonable and Prudent Alternative developed in a November 30, 2000, biological opinion on the Alaska groundfish fishery management plans.

The delayed effective date of this last provision (5) would provide the Council the opportunity to suggest modifications to the closures for the remainder of 2001 that will meet the requirements of the biological opinion (e.g., close at least 50% of critical habitat to the three fisheries and maximize protection of Steller sea lion pups and juveniles). Extension of the emergency rule beyond mid-July through the end of 2001, including modification of the critical habitat closures, will require a separate emergency rule action.

This information bulletin provides notice of a regulatory change. Do not rely upon it to guide you in complying with the regulatory change. For further information, please call the Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region, 907-586-7228.

Last updated by Alaska Regional Office on February 11, 2019