The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is preparing an emergency rule extension to continue to implement Steller sea lion protection measures for the pollock fisheries off Alaska, according to Steven Pennoyer, Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS. This emergency rule extension was recommended by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (Council) in a vote of 8 to 1. NMFS intends the emergency rule extension to be effective until December 31, 1999. The purpose of this bulletin is to provide advance notice of technical revisions to the original emergency rule so that the affected public has opportunity to prepare for these regulatory changes. This bulletin is for informational purposes only. Do not rely on it to guide you in compliance with the upcoming regulatory changes.
Original Emergency Rule. NMFS published an emergency interim rule implementing reasonable and prudent alternatives in the Federal Register on January 22, 1999 (64 FR 3437), amended on February 25, 1999 (64 FR 9375), and effective through July 19, 1999. The preamble to the original emergency interim rule provides a detailed description of the purpose and need for the action. This emergency rule extension will revise the original emergency rule and also will amend the 1999 Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI) final harvest specifications (64 FR 12103) published on March 11, 1999.
Bering Sea Fishing Seasons. This emergency rule will establish new fishing seasons for the four sectors of the Bering Sea pollock fishery that are defined in the American Fisheries Act. The pollock total allowable cactch (TAC) allocated to each industry sector will be apportioned to the fishing seasons according to a formula developed by the Council. Overages and underages may be "rolled over" to subsequent fishing seasons during the same year except that no seasonal apportionment may exceed 30 percent of the annual TAC. These new fishing seasons and corresponding seasonal TAC apportionment percentages are summarized below:
|Fishing Season||Season Dates and Seasonal TAC Apportionment Percentages|
|Inshore and Catcher/processor||Mothership||CDQ|
|A1 Season||1/20 - 2/15 (27.5%)||2/1 - 4/15 (40%)||1/20 - 4/15 (45%)|
|A2 Season||2/20 - 4/15 (12.5%)|
|B Season||8/1 - 9/15 (30.0%)||8/1 - 9/15 (30%)||4/15 - 12/31 (55%)|
|C Season||9/15 - 11/1 (30.0%)||9/15 -11/1 (30%)|
This emergency rule also repeals existing fair start provisions that required vessels fishing for pollock in the Bering Sea Subarea to cease fishing for groundfish during the week leading up to each pollock season or face a mandatory stand down period during the first week of the pollock season. The Council has determined that these fair start requirements are no longer necessary given the protections for other fisheries that are contained within the AFA.
CH/CVOA) Conservation Zone. The emergency rule will establish a Critical Habitat/Catcher Vessel Operational Area (CH/CVOA) conservation zone for the purpose of regulating total removals of pollock. This CH/CVOA conservation zone will include the portion of Bering Sea critical habitat known as the Bogoslof foraging area, and the portion of the CVOA that extends eastward from the Bogoslof foraging area.
Pollock harvests within the CH/CVOA conservation zone during the A1 and A2 seasons will be restricted to a percentage of each sector's seasonal TAC apportionment according to the percentages displayed below:
|Fishing Season||Percentage of Catch Within CH/CVOA Conservation Zone|
|B Season||Not included in the emergency rule|
NMFS will monitor catch by each industry sector and close the CH/CVOA conservation zone to directed fishing for pollock by a sector when NMFS determines that the specified CH/CVOA limit has been reached. The Council intended that inshore catcher vessels less than or equal to 99 ft length overall (LOA) would be exempt from CH/CVOA closures from September 1 through March 31 unless the 70 percent cap for the inshore sector has been reached. To accomplish this objective, NMFS will announce the closure of the CH/CVOA conservation zone to catcher/vessels over 99 ft LOA before the inshore sector 70 percent limit is reached and in a manner intended to leave remaining quota within CH/CVOA sufficient to support fishing by vessels less than or equal to 99 ft LOA for the duration of the current inshore sector opening.
Gulf of Alaska Fishing Seasons and TAC Apportionments. The emergency rule will establish new fishing seasons and pollock TAC apportionments in the Western and Central (W/C) Regulatory Areas of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). These new fishing seasons are summarized below. The TAC for pollock in the combined W/C Regulatory Areas will continue to be apportioned among Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630 in proportion to the distribution of the pollock biomass as determined by the most recent NMFS surveys. The pollock fishing season in the Eastern Regulatory Area will be unchanged.
Revised 1999 specifications. To allow the Bering Sea and GOA pollock fisheries to commence on January 20, 1999, this emergency rule will revise the 1999 interim specifications for pollock by using the final TAC recommendations made by the Council in December 1998 and revising them to comport with the emergency rule measures outlined above. This change is necessary because the 1999 interim specifications as originally published did not contain temporal or spatial dispersion measures contained in the emergency rule.
Pollock Trawl Exclusion Zones. The emergency rule will prohibit directed fishing for pollock within 10 or 20 nautical miles (nm) of rookeries and significant haulouts in the Bering Sea Subarea and GOA. The size of the exclusion zones in each area reflects the relative widths of the continental shelf. In the Bering Sea Subarea, the shelf is relatively wide and exclusion zones will have radii of 20 nm. In the GOA the shelf is narrower and exclusion zones have radii of 10 nm.