Annual Catch Limits and Accountability Measures for the Main Hawaiian Islands Deep 7 Bottomfish Fishery for Fishing Years 2021–22 through 2023–24: Final Supplemental Environmental Assessment including a Regulatory Impact Review (RIN 0648-BI54)
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Annual Catch Limits and Accountability Measures for the Main Hawaiian Islands Deep 7 Bottomfish Fishery for Fishing Years 2021–22 through 2023–24: Final Supplemental Environmental Assessment including a Regulatory Impact Review (RIN 0648-BI54)

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    The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) proposes to implement an annual catch limit (ACL) of 492,000 lb of Deep 7 bottomfish in the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) for each fishing year, 2021–22, 2022–23, and 2023–24. The fishing year begins September 1 and ends on August 31 the following year. In addition to the ACL, NMFS also proposes to implement in-season and post-season accountability measures (AM). Under the in-season AM, NMFS would close the commercial and non-commercial fisheries for MHI Deep 7 bottomfish in Federal waters if we project that catch will reach the ACL in any fishing year. Under the post-season AM, NMFS would reduce the Deep 7 bottomfish ACL for the following fishing year by the amount the catch exceeds the ACL in a fishing year. NMFS and the Council monitor catch based on commercial catch data collected by the State of Hawaii, Department of Land and Natural Resources. The proposed ACL and AMs are associated with a 39–40 percent risk of overfishing, and are informed by a stock assessment update completed in 2021. The ACL and AMs are the same as in the past 3 years.

    This Supplemental Environmental Assessment (SEA) supplements the analysis in the May 22, 2019, environmental assessment (EA) entitled, “Annual Catch Limits and Accountability Measures for Main Hawaiian Islands Deep 7 Bottomfish Fisheries, Final Environmental Assessment” prepared by NMFS and the Council (2019 EA), which resulted in a finding of no significant impact. This SEA contains new information and an updated analysis of potential effects of the MHI Deep 7 bottomfish fishery on the biological resources, protected species, and socio-economic setting in light of new information with bearing on the environmental effects analysis of the 2019 EA. No new information was available for other aspects analyzed in the 2019 EA.

    The management action is intended to prevent overfishing and provide for continued sustainable harvest of the MHI Deep 7 bottomfish resource. Our analysis in this SEA indicates that the proposed ACLs and AMs are unlikely to change the MHI Deep 7 bottomfish fishery in terms of gear types used, areas fished, level of catch or effort, or effects on target or non-target stocks or protected species relative to the baseline, and the new information does not change the findings of the 2019 EA. The fishery has landed an annual average of 192,805 lb of Deep 7 bottomfish in the past three years and has not attained nor been constrained by the previous ACL of 492,000 lb. NMFS expects the fishery to continue to operate at a similar level, so the fishery is unlikely to reach the ACL and trigger AMs and would continue to fish sustainably while allowing fishery participants to continue to benefit from their utilization.

    On November 1, 2021, NMFS published in the Federal Register the proposed rule and request for public comments (86 FR 60194). The comment period ended on November 16, 2021. NMFS received 26 submissions, primarily from students from a policy class, and the remaining submissions were from interested public. NMFS did not receive any comments from fishery participants, fishery management agencies, or non-governmental organizations. All comments were considered in finalizing the EA. None of the comments resulted in a change to the alternatives or a substantive change to the environmental effects analysis.

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