The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) intends to issue an emergency rule that will implement changes to the 2002 Alaska groundfish fisheries that are determined necessary by NMFS to protect endangered Steller sea lions. The emergency rule also will establish 2002 harvest specifications for the federally managed groundfish fisheries off Alaska and is scheduled to be effective 00:01 hours, Alaska local time, January 1, 2002, according to James W. Balsiger, Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS.
The emergency rule will implement new regulations that establish Steller sea lion protection measures for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI) pollock, Pacific cod and Atka mackerel fisheries and the Gulf of Alaska Pacific cod and pollock fisheries. The emergency rule also will specify 2002 groundfish harvest specifications and associated management measures.
Given that the non trawl groundfish fisheries are scheduled to commence on January 1, 2002, the NMFS Alaska Region has posted on its website a draft version of the emergency rule so that interested members of the public may start to be informed of new management measures prior to the start of the 2002 fishing year. This draft version of the emergency rule is subject to change as it progresses through the final review process. The version the final emergency rule as filed with the Office of the Federal Register also will be posted on the Alaska Region's website when it becomes available and should be the source document for compliance with anticipated regulatory changes.
The anticipated new Steller sea lion protection measures as reflected in the draft emergency rule include:
(1) Closures in critical habitat for pollock, Atka mackerel and Pacific cod directed fishing. Closures depend on fishery, location, vessel size, gear type, and critical habitat fishery openings. (See Tables 21, 22, 23 and 24 of 50 CFR part 679 and § 679.22)
(2) Seasons and apportionments for the BSAI Atka mackerel, pollock and Pacific cod fisheries and for the GOA pollock and Pacific cod fisheries dependent on gear types, vessel size and location. (See § 679.20 and § 679.23)
(3) Platoon management, observer requirements, and groundfish fishing restrictions for Atka mackerel trawl vessels fishing in critical habitat west of 178' W long. (See § 679.7, § 679.20, § 679.22, and § 679.50)
(4) Critical habitat harvest limits for the directed fishery for Atka mackerel in waters west of 178' W long. and for the pollock fishery in the Steller sea lion conservation area. (See § 679.20)
(5) Registration requirements, and effective June 10, 2002, vessel monitoring systems (VMS) requirements for all trawl, pot and hook-and-line vessels participating in the pollock, Pacific cod or Atka mackerel directed fisheries. (See § 679.4, § 679.7 and § 679.28)
The proposed delayed effective date of the VMS requirement is intended to provide vessel owners time to purchase and install VMS equipment before the requirement is effective. Extension of the emergency rule beyond mid-July through the end of 2002 will require a separate emergency rule action.
This information bulletin provides notice of an anticipated 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.