Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis For a Regulatory Amendment to Provide a Two-Week Trawl Closure Near Unimak Pass to Facilitate an Experiment Investigating the Effects of Commercial Fishing on Local Abundance of Pacific Cod
This Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) provides an analysis of a final regulatory amendment. Approval of the regulatory amendment would impose a two-week ban on trawl, hook-and line and pot fishing in the specified area near Unimak Pass in the eastern Bering Sea. This short-term closure would be in effect between March 15 and March 31 in the years 2003 - 2006. The changes in fishing regulations are needed to permit NMFS to conduct unimpeded experiments on the effects of commercial trawling on local abundance of Pacific cod, as part of a comprehensive research program on sea lion/fishery interactions. The FRFA provides an analysis of the expected impacts of proposed action on small entities.
This Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) examines the adverse impacts on small entities of a final rule that will close waters north of Unimak Pass to fishing for groundfish during the last two weeks of March in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. This action would implement the area closure in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, in order to facilitate the proposed experiments in those years. In each of these years, no trawling, hook-and-line, or pot fishing would be permitted in waters located within a quadrilateral bounded by the four points: (1) 54 30 N 165 14 W, (2) 54 35 N 165 26 W, (3) 54 48 N 165 04 W, and (4) 54 44 N 164 56 W, and outside of an arc drawn, 10 nm from Cape Sarichef., between March 15 and 31. The restriction would not apply to jigging. Regulations at 50 C.F.R. part 679 would be amended to accomplish this.
The objective of the proposed action is to reduce the loss of pots in this experiment, and to increase the statistical power and usefulness of the experimental results as a test of the localized depletion hypothesis.
The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on January 23, 2003 (68 FR 3225). The public comment period ended on February 7, 2003. No comments were received on the proposed rule.
There were an estimated 21 to 56 small entities per year active during the closure period in the Alaska statistical area that includes the area to be closed from 1998 to 2001. These vessels had estimated average annual gross revenues from all fishing activity in Alaska that ranged between and $1.02 million and $1.63 million in those years. Estimated average gross revenues from the Alaska statistical area during late March (the period during which the closure will take place) ranged from $10,000 to $19,000 during those years.
This regulation does not impose new recordkeeping or reporting requirements on the regulated small entities.
Three other alternatives were examined. Alternative 1, the status quo, would not meet the objective of this action to obtain information on rates of localized depletion of Pacific cod. Alternative 2 would close a slightly different treatment area to trawling for this period. This alternative was not chosen because it was found, in discussion with fishermen, to restrict trawling more than was necessary to meet the objectives of the action. Moreover, closing the area to trawling might encourage an influx of hook-and-line and pot gear operations during the two weeks of the experimental closure (once the potential gear conflicts with trawl gear were eliminated). This may produce a mis-interpretation of the experimental results, and may lead to gear conflicts when the closure area is reopened to trawling in early April. Alternative 3 would close the area used in Alternative 2, but to trawl, hook-and-line, and pot gear. This alternative was not chosen because the preferred alternative was found, in discussion with fishermen, to restrict trawling more than was necessary to meet the objectives of the action.