NMFS, in consultation with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), announces its intent to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) on Steller sea lion protection measures for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI) groundfish fisheries, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. The proposed action would restrict groundfish fishing in the BSAI to ensure the groundfish fisheries are not likely to result in jeopardy of continued existence or adverse modification or destruction of designated critical habitat (JAM) for the western distinct population segment (DPS) of Steller sea lions. The western DPS of Steller sea lions is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and NMFS must ensure that the groundfish fisheries are not likely to result in JAM for this DPS. NMFS intends to work with stakeholders to develop fisheries restrictions that avoid the likelihood of JAM and minimize the potential economic impact on the fishing industry to the extent practicable while meeting the requirements of the ESA. The analysis in the EIS will determine the impacts to the human environment resulting from this proposed action and the alternatives. In scoping for the EIS, NMFS will accept written comments from the public to determine the issues of concern; the appropriate range of management alternatives; and the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts. NMFS, in coordination with the Council, will conduct a public meeting at the October 2012 Council meeting to inform the public of this proposed action and alternatives, present issues and potential impacts, and gather public comment.
Agency Contact: Melanie Brown, (907) 586-7228.
This is a proposed regulation. Comments were due on October 15, 2012.