Environmental Assessment, Regulatory Impact Review, and Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis of Amendment 2 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Commercial King and Tanner Crab Fisheries of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands
Analysis of proposed Amendment 2 to the FMP for the Commercial King and Tanner Crab Fisheries of the BSAI which would establish the Norton Sound Section of the Northern District of the king crab fishery as a superexclusive registration area.
The Norton Sound summer king crab fishery has a unique collection of problems which makes fishery management difficult. These problems include overcapitalization, short seasons, high management costs, non-achievement of guideline harvest levels (OHL), and a failure to meet the goals and objectives of the Bering Sea crab FMP and the Magnuson Act. This fishery has the smallest biomass and OHL in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Island crab fisheries. Historically, the fishery has been characterized by years with low levels of participation and fairly high catch rates followed by years with high levels of participation and low catch rates. Lately, a combination of factors has lead to high participation which is expected to continue into the future. These factors are based primarily on the overcapitalized crab fleet and on participants' efforts to establish catch histories in the event individual fishing quotas (IFQ) are instituted.
Two management alternatives to the status quo are considered to remedy the aforementioned problems for this unique area: superexclusive registration and exclusive registration. The current fishery is nonexclusive and any vessel can participate in it regardless of participation in other crab fisheries. The effect of superexclusive registration would be that vessels participating in this fishery could not participate in any of the other king crab fisheries managed under the federal crab FMP. Additionally, vessels fishing for king crab in Norton Sound could not fish in any other king crab fisheries off the State. This action will effectively limit participation by the most highly mobile large crab vessels resulting in a fishery consisting of smaller, less mobile vessels. Choosing exclusive registration would prevent vessels from participating in other exclusive king crab fisheries such as Bristol Bay but would not eliminate vessels from participating in nonexclusive fisheries such as Adak and the Bering Sea. Thus, unless the Adak red king crab fishery is also designated as exclusive, there is no means of forestalling participation by much of that fleet in Norton Sound and not achieving biological and utilization goals.