EA/RIR/FRFA for an Amendment to the Regulations Implementing the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands - Enforcement Interval Change for Pollock Maximum Retainable Amounts
Enforcement interval for maximum retainable amounts of pollock in the groundfish fisheries of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands
This document is an Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review/Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis for a final rule which changes the regulations regarding the enforcement interval for maximum retainable amounts of pollock used in implementing the Groundfish Fishery Management Plan for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands.
The final rule directly addresses the problem, as articulated by the Council, which is to reduce pollock discards by non-AFA vessels, while limiting their pollock catch to current levels. Current regulations prohibit the retention of a species closed to directed fishing in amounts that exceed the MRA percentage at any time, and excess catch must be discarded. For most species, including pollock, a general default of 20 percent is established to slow the harvest of species that are closed to directed fishing - the rate is generally set high enough to avoid significant regulatory discards of these species when taken as incidental catch in other open fisheries.
The action analyzed is the modification of the enforcement period for the MRA for pollock harvested by non-AFA vessels in the BSAI. The preferred alternative (Alternative 2, offload to offload option) changes the enforcement period of the pollack MRA to an offload-to-offload basis, allowing non-AFA vessels that have otherwise been forced to discard pollock, the option to retain additional pollock as long as they are under the MRA for pollack at the end of their fishing trip.
Under Alternative 1, the no-action alternative, the MRA for pollock continues to be enforced on an instantaneous basis and it is unlawful for a vessel to retain pollock in an amount that exceeds the MRA at any time during a fishing trip.
Alternative 2 is the preferred alternative because it may increase the amount of pollack retained without increasing the overall amount of pollock harvested. Vessels are able to choose to retain pollock in excess of the MRA as long as the amount retained at the time of offload is at or below the current MRA percentage with respect to basis species or species groups retained. By allowing vessels to manage their MRA percentage for pollock on an offload-to-offload basis, additional pollock may be retained over the course of a fishing trip and regulatory discards could be reduced.