Categorical Exclusion for a Proposed Rule to Revise Pollock Trip Limit Regulations in the Gulf of Alaska
NAO 216-6, Environmental Review Procedures, requires all proposed agency actions to be reviewed with respect to potential impacts on the human environment. This memorandum summarizes the determination that this Proposed Rule to revise pollock trip limit regulations in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) qualifies to be categorically excluded from further National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review.
Groundfish trip limits at 50 CFR 679 regulate the amount of a species that a vessel is allowed to catch or retain during a fishing trip. The trip limit for pollock in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) prohibits a catcher vessel in the directed GOA pollock fishery from retaining more than 300,000 lb (136 mt) of unprocessed pollock at anytime during a fishing trip.
When originally implemented as part of the emergency Steller sea lion mitigation measures adopted in 1999 (64 FR 3437, January 22, 1999), the trip limit for pollock was intended to spatially and temporally disperse catches of pollock, a prey species for Steller sea lions. Additional rulemaking permanently implemented the current pollock trip limits at § 679.7(b)(2) (67 FR 956, January 8, 2002, and 68 FR 204, January 2, 2003).
In 2005, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) concluded that GOA pollock trip limits were not completely effective at restricting catches of pollock to 136 mt per day. A loophole in the pollock trip limit allowed for some vessels to take multiple trips in a day and offload to tenders to increase the amount of daily pollock catch.
In 2007, the Council again reviewed the effectiveness of 136 mt pollock trip limit, found that vessels in Western GOA were continuing to circumvent the intent of the 136 mt trip limit, and recommended adding two new provisions to the current GOA trip limit regulation. The first provision would add a daily landing limit of no more than 136 mt of unprocessed pollock harvested in any GOA regulatory area delivered to any processor or tender during a calendar day.