Western Pacific Pelagic Fisheries; Prohibiting Purse Seine Fishing in the U.S. EEZ Around Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, and Prohibiting Longline Fishing Within 30 nm of the Northern Mariana Islands, 17811-17816 [2011-7633]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 62 / Thursday, March 31, 2011 / Proposed Rules effect until the end of the fishing year, except that the Regional Administrator may, based on a recommendation from the Council, remove or modify the restriction before the end of the fishing year. (2) It is unlawful for any person to conduct fishing in violation of the restrictions specified in the notification issued pursuant to paragraph (f)(1) of this section. 3. In § 665.12 add the definitions of ‘‘Ecosystem component species’’ and ‘‘SSC’’ in alphabetical order to read as follows: § 665.12 Definitions. * * * * * Ecosystem component species means any western Pacific MUS that the Council has identified to be, generally, a non-target species, not determined to be subject to overfishing, approaching overfished, or overfished, not likely to become subject to overfishing or overfished, and generally not retained for sale or personal use. * * * * * SSC means the Scientific and Statistical Committee of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council. * * * * * 4. In § 665.15 add a new paragraph (u) to read as follows: § 665.15 Prohibitions. * * * * * (u) Fail to comply with the restrictions specified in the notification issued pursuant to § 665.4(f)(1), in violation of § 665.15(f)(2). [FR Doc. 2011–7622 Filed 3–30–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 665 [Docket No. 0808051054–91123–01] sroberts on DSK3CLS3C1PROD with PROPOSALS RIN 0648–AW67 Western Pacific Pelagic Fisheries; Prohibiting Purse Seine Fishing in the U.S. EEZ Around Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, and Prohibiting Longline Fishing Within 30 nm of the Northern Mariana Islands National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 23:19 Mar 30, 2011 Jkt 223001 Through this action, NMFS proposes to prohibit purse seine fishing in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and to prohibit pelagic longline fishing within 30 nautical miles (nm) of the CNMI. The purse seine prohibition is intended to reduce the potential for localized fish depletion by purse seine fishing, limit catch competition and gear conflicts between the purse seine fishery and the Guam and CNMI pelagic longline and trolling fleets, and reduce the potential impacts of purse seine fishing on the recruitment of juvenile bigeye tuna. By establishing a longline fishing prohibited area around the CNMI, NMFS intends to reduce the potential for localized fish depletion by longline fishing, and to limit catch competition and gear conflicts between the developing CNMI longline fishery and the CNMI pelagic trolling fleet. This rule also would make several administrative clarifications to the pelagic fishing regulations. DATES: NMFS must receive comments on the proposed rule by May 16, 2011. ADDRESSES: The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared Amendment 2 to the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific Region (FEP), which describes the issues, and includes an environmental assessment (EA). Copies of Amendment 2 and EA are available from http://www.regulations.gov or the Council, 1164 Bishop St., Suite 1400, Honolulu, HI 96813, tel 808–522–8220, fax 808–522–8226, http:// www.wpcouncil.org. You may send a comment on this proposed rule, identified by 0648– AW67, to either of the following addresses: • Electronic Submission: Send electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal http:// www.regulations.gov; or • Mail: Mail written comments to Michael D. Tosatto, Regional Administrator, NMFS, Pacific Islands Region (PIR), 1601 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 1110, Honolulu, HI 96814–4700. Instructions: You must send comments to one of the above two addresses to ensure that NMFS receives, documents, and considers all comments. Comments sent to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to http:// www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.) submitted SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 17811 voluntarily by the sender may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Toby Wood, NMFS PIR Sustainable Fisheries, 808–944–2234. Pelagic fisheries in the U.S. western Pacific are managed under the Pelagics FEP. The Council is concerned that any influx of purse seine fishing near the islands of Guam and the CNMI might affect the sustained participation by local fishing communities in those areas, which are made up almost exclusively of small vessel trollers that have a strong cultural and economic dependence on inshore pelagic catches. Similarly, the Council is also concerned that the CNMI troll fishery is vulnerable to potential catch competition and gear conflicts with the growing CNMI longline fleet in areas where both fleets fish. In response to these concerns, and pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the Council prepared Amendment 2 to the Pelagic FEP in the Mariana Archipelago. In Amendment 2, the Council proposes to prohibit purse seine fishing in the EEZ around Guam and the CNMI, and to prohibit pelagic longline fishing within 30 nm (55.6 km) of the CNMI. If Amendment 2 is adopted, this rule would implement the Council’s recommendations. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Fisheries The following section describes the fisheries that would be affected by this rule, if it is promulgated. Because 2008 is the most recent year for which we have comprehensive information about all fisheries considered, we use 2008 as the baseline year for analyzing the potential effects of this proposed rule. Although more recent troll, longline, and purse seine fishery information has become available, including this information would not change the analysis, management objectives, or measures of the Council’s proposed action. Pelagic fisheries in the Mariana Islands (Guam and the CNMI) consist of small trolling fleets and several pelagic longline vessels. Purse seine vessels have been based in Guam, but have not E:\FR\FM\31MRP1.SGM 31MRP1 sroberts on DSK3CLS3C1PROD with PROPOSALS 17812 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 62 / Thursday, March 31, 2011 / Proposed Rules historically reported fishing within the U.S. EEZ around the Mariana Islands. Guam’s pelagic fishery consists mostly of small trolling boats that are either towed to launching sites or berthed in marinas that fish in local waters. Most of these boats are shorter than 33 ft (10 m) in length overall (LOA), and are usually owned and operated by fishermen who earn a living outside of fishing, even though most fishermen sell a portion of their catch. Estimated annual landings of pelagic fish in Guam have ranged between 301,504 to 935,809 lb (136 to 424 mt) over the past 20 years. In 2008, landings of pelagic fish—primarily of skipjack tuna, yellowfin tuna, mahimahi (dorado), wahoo, and blue marlin— totaled 551,504 lb (250 mt), with an estimated total ex-vessel value of $247,188. Additionally, the pelagic fishing fleet landed an estimated 296,121 lb (134 mt) of skipjack tuna and 19,899 (9 mt) of yellowfin tuna. For 2008, Guam’s pelagic fishery consisted of 385 boats: Non-charter boats made 5,057 fishing trips, and charter boats made 1,891 trips. Trolling is also the primary fishing method in the CNMI pelagic fishery. CNMI’s troll fleet consists primarily of vessels shorter than 24 ft (7.3 m) in LOA, with a travel radius from Saipan of about 20 miles (32 km). The number of fishermen landing pelagic fish in the CNMI in the past 20 years has ranged from 114 in 1996 to 47, as of 2008. The primary target for the CNMI troll fleet is skipjack tuna. In 2008, skipjack tuna landings comprised over 157,708 lb (71 mt), or three-quarters of total pelagic landings, and was valued at nearly $280,000 ex-vessel. The CNMI troll fleet also catches yellowfin tuna and mahimahi on a seasonal basis. In 2008, this fleet landed 16,344 lb (7.4 mt) of yellowfin tuna, and 11,169 lb (5 mt) of mahimahi. Pelagic longline fishing in the Mariana Archipelago targets bigeye and yellowfin tuna. U.S. longline vessels range in length from 40 to 100 ft (12 to 30 m) in LOA, and a single fishing trip can last for more than 30 days. Longline gear can range in length from one to 60 miles (1.6 to 96.6 km). Interest in this fishery has been variable in recent years. Four permitted longline vessels are based in the CNMI and one is based in Guam. As recently as 2010, three longline vessels have been actively fishing in the EEZ around the CNMI, but no longline vessels have reported landings from the EEZ around Guam since 2000. In 1992, the Council proposed and NMFS implemented a 50 nm (92.6 km) longline prohibited area around Guam to prevent gear conflicts VerDate Mar<15>2010 23:19 Mar 30, 2011 Jkt 223001 between the developing longline fishery and the troll fishery, and to assist in preserving the local availability of important pelagic troll caught species (57 FR 45989, October 6, 1992). CNMI longline vessels target yellowfin and bigeye tunas and retain incidental catches of albacore, blue marlin, mahimahi, skipjack tuna, and spearfish. From 2007 through 2010, these vessels made approximately 30 trips in the EEZ around the CNMI. Section 402 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act generally prohibits the release of confidential fishery information that is submitted to the Secretary of Commerce in accordance with the MagnusonStevens Act and is identifiable to an individual submitter. Because of the limited size of the longline fleet in the Marianas, NMFS is prohibited from releasing fishery information, as such a release could be used to identify the activities of specific vessels. Accordingly, proxy information about catch from the nearby Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) fishery, and the operating characteristic of longliners in American Samoa are used to analyze fishing impacts. Between 2007 and 2008, activity by the U.S. purse seine fleet in the western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) increased from 21 U.S. vessels to 38, respectively. The current U.S. purse seine fleet in the WCPO stands at 36 vessels. These vessels range in length from 191 to 293 ft (58 to 89 m). Fishcarrying capacities range from approximately 800 to 1,500 mt (1.8 to 3.3 million lb). The U.S. purse seine catch in the western Pacific is made on the high seas, in foreign EEZs under licenses issued in accordance with the South Pacific Tuna Treaty (SPTA), and in the U.S. EEZ around American Samoa and the U.S. Pacific Remote Island Areas (i.e., Wake, Baker, Howland, and Jarvis Islands, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, and Palmyra Atoll). According to the most recent information available, U.S. purse seine catches of skipjack in the WCPO increased from 75,210 mt (165 million lb) in 2007 to 127,307 mt (280 million lb) in 2008. No U.S. purse seine catches have been recorded from the EEZ around the CNMI, and no U.S. purse seine catches have been recorded from the EEZ around Guam since 1980. To estimate the potential impact of U.S. purse seine fishing in the Marianas, Japan’s purse seine statistics (as the purse seine fishery operating closest to the Mariana Archipelago) were used as a proxy for potential U.S. purse seine catches from the EEZ around the Marianas. The average daily skipjack and yellowfin PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 tuna catches by Japan purse seine fishery from 2004 to 2006 were 57,320 lb (26 mt) and 6,613 lb (3 mt), respectively. This daily amount is approximately 13 and 18 percent of the total annual catches of skipjack and yellowfin tuna, respectively, landed in 2008 by the longline and troll fleets of Guam and the CNMI. Council Concerns The Council is concerned about the potential impacts, such as localized stock depletion, on other pelagic fisheries if U.S. purse seine vessels begin fishing in the EEZ around Guam and the CNMI. Localized fish depletion occurs when a stock in a small area is reduced by the removal of large amounts of fish, thereby temporarily depleting the availability of the stock to fishing activity or other predators in that area. Some studies suggest that temporary, localized depletion could occur when purse seines take large quantities of fish. In recent years the competition for skipjack tuna among multi-national purse seine fleets in the WCPO has increased, and as a result U.S. purse seiners could turn to fishing grounds such as the EEZ around the Mariana Archipelago, where foreign fishing is prohibited, to increase their catch. The recent closures of two high seas fishing areas and restrictions placed on the use of fish aggregating devices by the Western and Central Pacific Fishery Commission could also encourage U.S. purse seiners to fish around the Marianas. Additionally, the Council is concerned that the President’s establishment in 2009 of three new Marine National Monuments in the Marianas, Rose Atoll, and the Pacific Remote Islands Areas, which include large areas now closed to commercial fishing, could displace purse seine fishing into the EEZ around Guam and the CNMI. If purse seine effort shifts to areas fished by the troll and longline fisheries of Guam and the CNMI, those smaller vessels could experience reduced catch rates, or have to travel further to maintain catch rates, resulting in lost revenue and possible safety-at-sea issues. Reduced catch rates could negatively impact ex-vessel revenue of the troll and longline fleets. To maintain catches or catch rates, vessels may need to fish longer or travel farther to find more abundant fish populations. These factors could increase costs associated with fishing, such as fuel, food, crew time, and ice, while also increasing safety risks for small vessels that would have to fish farther from shore and for longer intervals. E:\FR\FM\31MRP1.SGM 31MRP1 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 62 / Thursday, March 31, 2011 / Proposed Rules sroberts on DSK3CLS3C1PROD with PROPOSALS Although the purse seine fleet is highly mobile and can harvest large quantities of fish, it does not (with the current fishing technologies) target mature fish. While targeting skipjack tuna, particularly through the use of fish aggregating devices, purse seines also catch juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna. Bigeye tuna is currently subject to overfishing, and the harvest of juvenile bigeye by purse seines contributes to recruitment overfishing. The impacts from an increase in juvenile catch of bigeye tuna could reduce the number of mature fish in the population, thereby decreasing the number of fish reproduced. This reduction could also decrease the future availability of adult fish for fisheries that target adult bigeye tuna. The Council is also concered that any future expansion of longline fishing around the Mariana Archipelago could result in adverse impacts to the CNMI troll fleet. If the number of CNMI-based longline vessels increases and they move into areas traditionally utilized by the local troll fleet (typically within 30 nm (55.6 km) of shore), there is potential for gear conflict and catch competition between the two fleets. Longline gear can be up to 60 nm (111 km) long, deployed horizontally at depth of 25 to 100 meters with floats at the surface, and drifting with the current. Troll vessels drag gear through the water column, and could snag or cut shallow longline gear or lines attached to floats. Consequently, troll vessels may need to move to other areas that do not have longline gear in the area to avoid these interactions. VerDate Mar<15>2010 23:19 Mar 30, 2011 Jkt 223001 Since tunas tend to aggregate around objects in the water, offshore banks and reefs are a popular place for fishing activity by the troll fleet. Accordingly, competition for fish can be concentrated in these areas when fish are available. By including those banks and reefs within the proposed prohibited area, the Council plans to reduce the potential for catch competition, and the related stock losses. at these locations. The Council is also concerned that increased longline fishing could take yellowfin tuna and other species on which the troll fishery depends, causing enough localized depletion to impact trolling catch rates. In addition, any growth of the longline fishery could result in increased costs (i.e., more fuel, time at sea, and ice) for the troll fleet trolling costs, along with decreased revenues due to an increase of market supply of fish like yellowfin tuna. Proposed Actions Due to these concerns, the Council has recommended, pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the following measures. These recommendations are precautionary approaches intended to reduce temporary localized depletion, catch competition, and gear conflicts to sustain local troll and longline fisheries, and to limit the potential impacts of purse seine fishing on recruitment of juvenile bigeye tuna. To address their concerns about the potential impact of purse seine fishing on the troll and longline fisheries in the Marianas, the Council recommended prohibiting U.S. purse seine vessels from fishing within the EEZ around Guam and the CNMI. To address the Council’s concerns about PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 17813 the potential impact of uncontrolled expansion in the CNMI longline fishery, the Council recommended a prohibition on longline fishing within 30 nm (55.6 km) of the islands (see Fig. 1). Additionally, if implemented, this rule would make administrative housekeeping changes to the pelagic fishing regulations, unrelated to Amendment 2. All prohibited areas would be grouped into one section, making the area requirements easier for fishermen and the general public to find. Existing longline prohibited areas (in Hawaii and Guam) and the American Samoa large vessel prohibited areas for pelagic fishing would be combined into 50 CFR 665.806. The proposed purse seine and CNMI longline prohibited areas would also be added to that section. As described above, the Council’s approach under Amendment 2 is precautionary. NMFS notes that no U.S. purse seine catches have been recorded from the EEZ surrounding the CNMI, and no U.S. purse seine catches have been recorded from the EEZ surrounding Guam since 1980. NMFS also notes that there is only limited longline activity currently being conducted out of the Mariana Archipelago. Accordingly, NMFS specifically invites public comments addressing whether the action is ‘‘necessary and appropriate’’ according to MSA 303(a)(1) to accomplish its identified conservation and management objectives, and the state of the science supporting the action. BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\31MRP1.SGM 31MRP1 VerDate Mar<15>2010 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 62 / Thursday, March 31, 2011 / Proposed Rules 05:36 Mar 31, 2011 Jkt 223001 PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\31MRP1.SGM 31MRP1 EP31MR11.069</GPH> sroberts on DSK3CLS3C1PROD with PROPOSALS 17814 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 62 / Thursday, March 31, 2011 / Proposed Rules sroberts on DSK3CLS3C1PROD with PROPOSALS BILLING CODE 3510–22–C Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is consistent with the FEP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable laws, subject to further consideration after public comment. The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The analysis follows: ‘‘This rule would prohibit purse seine fishing in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and would prohibit longline fishing within 30 nm (55.6 km) of the CNMI. A description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis are contained in the preamble to this proposed rule. Briefly, the purse seine prohibition is intended to reduce the potential for localized fish depletion by purse seine fishing, limit catch competition and gear conflicts between the purse seine fishery and the Guam and CNMI pelagic longline and trolling fleets, and reduce the potential impacts of purse seine fishing on the recruitment of juvenile bigeye tuna. The longline fishing prohibited area around the CNMI, is intended to reduce the potential for localized fish depletion by longline fishing, and to limit catch competition and gear conflicts between the developing CNMI longline fishery and the CNMI pelagic trolling fleet. This proposed rule consists of three actions: 1. Prohibit pelagic longline fishing within 30 nm (55.6 km) of the CNMI; 2. Prohibit pelagic purse seine fishing within the EEZ around the CNMI; and 3. Prohibit pelagic purse seine fishing within the EEZ around Guam. Action 1 would impact the longline vessels in and operating from the CNMI. This is a relatively small fishery; the number of permits issued to vessel owners in this fishery in recent years has ranged from four to eight. Fishing vessels are considered to be small entities by the SBA if they are independently-owned or operated, are not dominant in their field of operation, and have annual gross receipts not in excess of $4 million. Although exact revenue data for the CNMI longline vessel group are not available, similarlysituated vessels operating in Hawaii earn an average of less than $4 million VerDate Mar<15>2010 23:19 Mar 30, 2011 Jkt 223001 per year. Using this figure as a proxy for annual revenue, this analysis assumes the affected vessels are small entities. Prohibiting fishing within 30 nm (55.6 km) of shore could require vessels to spend more time and fuel traveling offshore before fishing, and could prevent catching any target fish stocks that might occur within the prohibited area. However, logbook information suggests that the affected longline vessels currently fish farther than 30 nm (55.6 km) from shore. Action 1 would not modify their current fishing practices and, therefore, is not expected to impact the affected vessels’ revenue. Additionally, Action 1 could benefit the local CNMI troll fleet, which fishes closer to shore than longliners, by reducing the likelihood of catch competition and gear conflict between trolling and longlining. In 2008, the CNMI troll fleet consisted of 47 boats, most of which were less than 24 ft (7 m) long. That year, these boats made 989 trips, landing 197,013 lb (89.4 mt) of fish, and earned total ex-vessel revenue of $317,330, or $6,752 per vessel. Accordingly, these vessels are all considered small entities under the RFA. This rule, however, would not modify these vessels’ activities. The rule is intended as a precautionary measure to protect and conserve the fish stocks and fishing resources around Guam and the CNMI, and if implemented would reduce the risk that local stocks would decline due to longline fishing. Additionally, Action 1 would reduce the potential for gear conflicts between CNMI trollers and the longline fleet. Because Action 1 of this rule is not expected to alter the current fishing practices of the longline fleet, and because it is expected to benefit the CNMI troll fleet as well as the local fishery resources, Action 1, if implemented, will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. If implemented, Actions 2 and 3 could potentially affect purse seine fishing vessels. The average 1998 gross revenue per purse seine vessel was $4.7 million, equivalent to $6.1 million in 2009 dollars. Therefore, most or all of the 38 purse seine licenses in 2009–10 were held by large entities. NMFS recognizes that newly-permitted vessels may experience lower revenues during the start-up period, and may constitute small entities under the RFA, but it is expected that the purse seine provisions of the rule will only affect large entities. Similar to the effects of Action 1, prohibiting fishing within the EEZ could force any Guam- or CNMI-based purse seine vessels to spend more time and fuel traveling beyond the EEZ PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 17815 before fishing, and could prevent catching any target fish stocks that occur within the EEZ. However, the U.S. purse seine fishery has never operated in the EEZ around Guam and the CNMI, nor it is expected to in the near future. Accordingly, these small entities will likely not be affected by these actions. Based on the above analysis indicating that few or no potentially affected vessels currently fish in the areas closed by this proposed rule because this rule is a precautionary measure meant to conserve local fisheries and fish stocks, NMFS has determined that the proposed rule would not result in ‘‘a substantial economic impact to a significant number of small entities.’’ Accordingly, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared. This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 665 Administrative practice and procedure, Fisheries, Fishing, Guam, Longline, Northern Mariana Islands, Prohibited areas, Purse seine. Dated: March 28, 2011. John Oliver, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Operations, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR chapter VI is proposed to be amended as follows: PART 665—FISHERIES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 1. The authority citation for part 665 continues to read as follows: Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 665.800, add a definition of ‘‘Purse seine’’ in alphabetical order to read as follows: § 665.800 Definitions. * * * * * Purse seine means a floated and weighted encircling net that is closed by means of a drawstring threaded through rings attached to the bottom of the net. * * * * * 3. In § 665.802, revise paragraphs (v), (w), and (xx) to read as follows: § 665.802 Prohibitions. * * * * * (v) Use longline gear to fish within a longline fishing prohibited area in violation of § 665.806, except as allowed pursuant to an exemption issued under §§ 665.17 or 665.807. (w) Use a purse seine to fish within a purse seine fishing prohibited area in E:\FR\FM\31MRP1.SGM 31MRP1 17816 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 62 / Thursday, March 31, 2011 / Proposed Rules violation of § 665.806, except as allowed pursuant to an exemption issued under § 665.17. * * * * * (xx) Use a large vessel to fish for western Pacific Pelagic MUS within an American Samoa large vessel prohibited area in violation of § 665.806, except as allowed pursuant to an exemption issued under §§ 665.17 or 665.818. * * * * * 4. Revise § 665.806 to read as follows: § 665.806 Point J ........................ K ........................ A ........................ Name N. lat. Nihoa Island ................. Necker Island ............... French Frigate Shoals Gardner Pinnacles ....... Maro Reef .................... Laysan Island ............... Lisianski Island ............ Pearl and Hermes Reef Midway Island .............. Kure Island ................... 23°05′ 23°35′ 23°45′ 25°00′ 25°25′ 25°45′ 26°00′ 27°50′ 28°14′ 28°25′ W. long. 161°55′ 164°40′ 166°15′ 168°00′ 170°35′ 171°45′ 173°55′ 175°50′ 177°22′ 178°20′ Where the areas are not contiguous, parallel lines drawn tangent to and connecting those semicircles of the 50-nm areas that lie between Nihoa Island and Necker Island, French Frigate Shoals and Gardner Pinnacles, Gardner Pinnacles and Maro Reef, and Lisianski Island and Pearl and Hermes Reef, delimit the remainder of the NWHI longline protected species zone. (2) Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI). (i) From February 1 through September 30 each year, the MHI longline fishing prohibited area is the portion of the EEZ around Hawaii bounded by straight lines connecting the following coordinates in the order listed: Point N. lat. 19°50′ 19°00′ 18°05′ Point N. lat. A ........................ L ........................ M ....................... N ........................ O ....................... P ........................ Q ....................... R ........................ S ........................ T ........................ U ........................ V ........................ W ....................... E ........................ D ........................ C ........................ B ........................ A ........................ 18°05′ 18°25′ 19°00′ 19°15′ 19°40′ 20°20′ 20°35′ 21°00′ 22°30′ 22°40′ 22°25′ 21°55′ 21°40′ 21°40′ 20°40′ 20°00′ 18°20′ 18°05′ sroberts on DSK3CLS3C1PROD with PROPOSALS VerDate Mar<15>2010 18°05′ 18°20′ 20°00′ 20°40′ 21°40′ 23°00′ 23°05′ 22°55′ 21°30′ 23:19 Mar 30, 2011 153°50′ 154°05′ 155°40′ W. long. 155°40′ 155°40′ 154°45′ 154°25′ 154°20′ 154°55′ 155°30′ 155°35′ 157°35′ 159°35′ 160°20′ 160°55′ 161°00′ 161°55′ 161°40′ 157°30′ 156°25′ 155°40′ (3) Guam. The Guam longline fishing prohibited area is the portion of the EEZ around Guam bounded by straight lines connecting the following coordinates in the order listed: Point N. lat. A ........................ B ........................ C ........................ D ........................ E ........................ F ........................ G ....................... H ........................ I ......................... 14°25′ 14°00′ 13°41′ 13°00′ 12°20′ 11°40′ 12°00′ 13°00′ 13°27′ E. long. 144°00′ 143°38′ 143°33′33″ 143°25′30″ 143°37′ 144°09′ 145°00′ 145°42′ 145°51′ (4) CNMI. The CNMI longline fishing prohibited area is the portion of the EEZ around the CNMI bounded by straight lines connecting the following coordinates in the order listed: W. long. Point A ........................ B ........................ C ........................ D ........................ E ........................ F ........................ G ....................... H ........................ I ......................... W. long. (ii) From October 1 through the following January 31 each year, the MHI longline fishing prohibited area is the portion of the EEZ around Hawaii bounded by straight lines connecting the following coordinates in the order listed: Prohibited area management. (a) Longline fishing prohibited areas. Longline fishing is prohibited in the longline fishing prohibited areas as defined in paragraphs (a)(1) through (a)(4) of this section. (1) NWHI protected species zone. The NWHI protected species zone is the portion of the EEZ within 50 nm of the center geographical positions of certain islands and reefs in the NWHI, as follows: N. lat. 155°40′ 156°25′ 157°30′ 161°40′ 161°55′ 161°30′ 159°30′ 157°30′ 155°30′ Jkt 223001 A B C D E F G H N. lat. ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ....................... ........................ PO 00000 Frm 00023 14°00′ 15°49′ 16°21′ 17°03′ 19°07′ 20°39′ 21°04′ 19°19′ Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 E. long. 144°34′ 145°29′ 145°06′ 145°22′ 145°09′ 144°19′ 145°06′ 146°04′ Point N. lat. I ......................... J ........................ A ........................ 16°00′ 13°32′ 14°00′ E. long. 146°32′ 145°32′ 144°34′ (b) American Samoa large vessel prohibited areas. A large vessel of the United States may not be used to fish for western Pacific pelagic MUS in the American Samoa large vessel prohibited areas as defined in paragraphs (b)(1) and (b)(2) of this section, except as allowed pursuant to an exemption issued under § 665.818. (1) Tutuila Island, Manua Islands, and Rose Atoll (AS–1). The Tutuila Island, Manua Islands, and Rose Atoll large vessel prohibited area is the portion of the EEZ around American Samoa enclosed by straight lines connecting the following coordinates: Point S. lat. AS–1–A ............. AS–1–B ............. 13°30′ 15°13′ W. long. 167°25′ 167°25′ and from Point AS–1–A westward along the latitude 13°30′ S. until intersecting the U.S. EEZ boundary with Samoa, and from Point AS–1–B westward along the latitude 15°13′ S. until intersecting the U.S. EEZ boundary with Samoa. (2) Swains Island (AS–2). The Swains Island large vessel prohibited area is the portion of the EEZ around American Samoa enclosed by straight lines connecting the following coordinates: Point S. lat. AS–2–A ............. AS–2–B ............. 11°48′ 11°48′ W. long. 171°50′ 170°20′ and from Point AS–2–A northward along the longitude 171°50′ W. until intersecting the U.S. EEZ boundary with Tokelau, and from Point AS–2–B northward along the longitude 170°20′ W. until intersecting the U.S. EEZ boundary with Tokelau. (c) Purse seine fishing prohibited areas. Purse seine fishing is prohibited in the EEZ around Guam and the CNMI. 5. Revise the section heading in § 665.807 to read as follows: § 665.807 Exemptions for Hawaii longline fishing prohibited areas; procedures. * * § 665.817 * * * [Removed and Reserved] 6. Remove and reserve § 665.817. [FR Doc. 2011–7633 Filed 3–30–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\31MRP1.SGM 31MRP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 62 (Thursday, March 31, 2011)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 17811-17816]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-7633]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 665

[Docket No. 0808051054-91123-01]
RIN 0648-AW67


Western Pacific Pelagic Fisheries; Prohibiting Purse Seine 
Fishing in the U.S. EEZ Around Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, 
and Prohibiting Longline Fishing Within 30 nm of the Northern Mariana 
Islands

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: Through this action, NMFS proposes to prohibit purse seine 
fishing in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around Guam and the 
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and to prohibit 
pelagic longline fishing within 30 nautical miles (nm) of the CNMI. The 
purse seine prohibition is intended to reduce the potential for 
localized fish depletion by purse seine fishing, limit catch 
competition and gear conflicts between the purse seine fishery and the 
Guam and CNMI pelagic longline and trolling fleets, and reduce the 
potential impacts of purse seine fishing on the recruitment of juvenile 
bigeye tuna. By establishing a longline fishing prohibited area around 
the CNMI, NMFS intends to reduce the potential for localized fish 
depletion by longline fishing, and to limit catch competition and gear 
conflicts between the developing CNMI longline fishery and the CNMI 
pelagic trolling fleet. This rule also would make several 
administrative clarifications to the pelagic fishing regulations.

DATES: NMFS must receive comments on the proposed rule by May 16, 2011.

ADDRESSES: The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) 
prepared Amendment 2 to the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pelagic 
Fisheries of the Western Pacific Region (FEP), which describes the 
issues, and includes an environmental assessment (EA). Copies of 
Amendment 2 and EA are available from http://www.regulations.gov or the 
Council, 1164 Bishop St., Suite 1400, Honolulu, HI 96813, tel 808-522-
8220, fax 808-522-8226, http://www.wpcouncil.org.
    You may send a comment on this proposed rule, identified by 0648-
AW67, to either of the following addresses:
     Electronic Submission: Send electronic public comments via 
the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov; or
     Mail: Mail written comments to Michael D. Tosatto, 
Regional Administrator, NMFS, Pacific Islands Region (PIR), 1601 
Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 1110, Honolulu, HI 96814-4700.
    Instructions: You must send comments to one of the above two 
addresses to ensure that NMFS receives, documents, and considers all 
comments. Comments sent to any other address or individual, or received 
after the end of the comment period, may not be considered. All 
comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be 
posted to http://www.regulations.gov without change. All personal 
identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.) submitted 
voluntarily by the sender may be publicly accessible. Do not submit 
confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive or protected 
information. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the 
required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Attachments to 
electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel, 
WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Toby Wood, NMFS PIR Sustainable 
Fisheries, 808-944-2234.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Pelagic fisheries in the U.S. western 
Pacific are managed under the Pelagics FEP. The Council is concerned 
that any influx of purse seine fishing near the islands of Guam and the 
CNMI might affect the sustained participation by local fishing 
communities in those areas, which are made up almost exclusively of 
small vessel trollers that have a strong cultural and economic 
dependence on inshore pelagic catches. Similarly, the Council is also 
concerned that the CNMI troll fishery is vulnerable to potential catch 
competition and gear conflicts with the growing CNMI longline fleet in 
areas where both fleets fish.
    In response to these concerns, and pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens 
Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the 
Council prepared Amendment 2 to the Pelagic FEP in the Mariana 
Archipelago. In Amendment 2, the Council proposes to prohibit purse 
seine fishing in the EEZ around Guam and the CNMI, and to prohibit 
pelagic longline fishing within 30 nm (55.6 km) of the CNMI. If 
Amendment 2 is adopted, this rule would implement the Council's 
recommendations.

Fisheries

    The following section describes the fisheries that would be 
affected by this rule, if it is promulgated. Because 2008 is the most 
recent year for which we have comprehensive information about all 
fisheries considered, we use 2008 as the baseline year for analyzing 
the potential effects of this proposed rule. Although more recent 
troll, longline, and purse seine fishery information has become 
available, including this information would not change the analysis, 
management objectives, or measures of the Council's proposed action.
    Pelagic fisheries in the Mariana Islands (Guam and the CNMI) 
consist of small trolling fleets and several pelagic longline vessels. 
Purse seine vessels have been based in Guam, but have not

[[Page 17812]]

historically reported fishing within the U.S. EEZ around the Mariana 
Islands.
    Guam's pelagic fishery consists mostly of small trolling boats that 
are either towed to launching sites or berthed in marinas that fish in 
local waters. Most of these boats are shorter than 33 ft (10 m) in 
length overall (LOA), and are usually owned and operated by fishermen 
who earn a living outside of fishing, even though most fishermen sell a 
portion of their catch. Estimated annual landings of pelagic fish in 
Guam have ranged between 301,504 to 935,809 lb (136 to 424 mt) over the 
past 20 years. In 2008, landings of pelagic fish--primarily of skipjack 
tuna, yellowfin tuna, mahimahi (dorado), wahoo, and blue marlin--
totaled 551,504 lb (250 mt), with an estimated total ex-vessel value of 
$247,188. Additionally, the pelagic fishing fleet landed an estimated 
296,121 lb (134 mt) of skipjack tuna and 19,899 (9 mt) of yellowfin 
tuna. For 2008, Guam's pelagic fishery consisted of 385 boats: Non-
charter boats made 5,057 fishing trips, and charter boats made 1,891 
trips.
    Trolling is also the primary fishing method in the CNMI pelagic 
fishery. CNMI's troll fleet consists primarily of vessels shorter than 
24 ft (7.3 m) in LOA, with a travel radius from Saipan of about 20 
miles (32 km). The number of fishermen landing pelagic fish in the CNMI 
in the past 20 years has ranged from 114 in 1996 to 47, as of 2008. The 
primary target for the CNMI troll fleet is skipjack tuna. In 2008, 
skipjack tuna landings comprised over 157,708 lb (71 mt), or three-
quarters of total pelagic landings, and was valued at nearly $280,000 
ex-vessel. The CNMI troll fleet also catches yellowfin tuna and 
mahimahi on a seasonal basis. In 2008, this fleet landed 16,344 lb (7.4 
mt) of yellowfin tuna, and 11,169 lb (5 mt) of mahimahi.
    Pelagic longline fishing in the Mariana Archipelago targets bigeye 
and yellowfin tuna. U.S. longline vessels range in length from 40 to 
100 ft (12 to 30 m) in LOA, and a single fishing trip can last for more 
than 30 days. Longline gear can range in length from one to 60 miles 
(1.6 to 96.6 km). Interest in this fishery has been variable in recent 
years. Four permitted longline vessels are based in the CNMI and one is 
based in Guam. As recently as 2010, three longline vessels have been 
actively fishing in the EEZ around the CNMI, but no longline vessels 
have reported landings from the EEZ around Guam since 2000. In 1992, 
the Council proposed and NMFS implemented a 50 nm (92.6 km) longline 
prohibited area around Guam to prevent gear conflicts between the 
developing longline fishery and the troll fishery, and to assist in 
preserving the local availability of important pelagic troll caught 
species (57 FR 45989, October 6, 1992).
    CNMI longline vessels target yellowfin and bigeye tunas and retain 
incidental catches of albacore, blue marlin, mahimahi, skipjack tuna, 
and spearfish. From 2007 through 2010, these vessels made approximately 
30 trips in the EEZ around the CNMI. Section 402 of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act generally prohibits the release of confidential fishery 
information that is submitted to the Secretary of Commerce in 
accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and is identifiable to an 
individual submitter. Because of the limited size of the longline fleet 
in the Marianas, NMFS is prohibited from releasing fishery information, 
as such a release could be used to identify the activities of specific 
vessels. Accordingly, proxy information about catch from the nearby 
Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) fishery, and the operating 
characteristic of longliners in American Samoa are used to analyze 
fishing impacts.
    Between 2007 and 2008, activity by the U.S. purse seine fleet in 
the western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) increased from 21 U.S. 
vessels to 38, respectively. The current U.S. purse seine fleet in the 
WCPO stands at 36 vessels. These vessels range in length from 191 to 
293 ft (58 to 89 m). Fish-carrying capacities range from approximately 
800 to 1,500 mt (1.8 to 3.3 million lb). The U.S. purse seine catch in 
the western Pacific is made on the high seas, in foreign EEZs under 
licenses issued in accordance with the South Pacific Tuna Treaty 
(SPTA), and in the U.S. EEZ around American Samoa and the U.S. Pacific 
Remote Island Areas (i.e., Wake, Baker, Howland, and Jarvis Islands, 
Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, and Palmyra Atoll). According to the most 
recent information available, U.S. purse seine catches of skipjack in 
the WCPO increased from 75,210 mt (165 million lb) in 2007 to 127,307 
mt (280 million lb) in 2008.
    No U.S. purse seine catches have been recorded from the EEZ around 
the CNMI, and no U.S. purse seine catches have been recorded from the 
EEZ around Guam since 1980. To estimate the potential impact of U.S. 
purse seine fishing in the Marianas, Japan's purse seine statistics (as 
the purse seine fishery operating closest to the Mariana Archipelago) 
were used as a proxy for potential U.S. purse seine catches from the 
EEZ around the Marianas. The average daily skipjack and yellowfin tuna 
catches by Japan purse seine fishery from 2004 to 2006 were 57,320 lb 
(26 mt) and 6,613 lb (3 mt), respectively. This daily amount is 
approximately 13 and 18 percent of the total annual catches of skipjack 
and yellowfin tuna, respectively, landed in 2008 by the longline and 
troll fleets of Guam and the CNMI.

Council Concerns

    The Council is concerned about the potential impacts, such as 
localized stock depletion, on other pelagic fisheries if U.S. purse 
seine vessels begin fishing in the EEZ around Guam and the CNMI. 
Localized fish depletion occurs when a stock in a small area is reduced 
by the removal of large amounts of fish, thereby temporarily depleting 
the availability of the stock to fishing activity or other predators in 
that area. Some studies suggest that temporary, localized depletion 
could occur when purse seines take large quantities of fish.
    In recent years the competition for skipjack tuna among multi-
national purse seine fleets in the WCPO has increased, and as a result 
U.S. purse seiners could turn to fishing grounds such as the EEZ around 
the Mariana Archipelago, where foreign fishing is prohibited, to 
increase their catch. The recent closures of two high seas fishing 
areas and restrictions placed on the use of fish aggregating devices by 
the Western and Central Pacific Fishery Commission could also encourage 
U.S. purse seiners to fish around the Marianas. Additionally, the 
Council is concerned that the President's establishment in 2009 of 
three new Marine National Monuments in the Marianas, Rose Atoll, and 
the Pacific Remote Islands Areas, which include large areas now closed 
to commercial fishing, could displace purse seine fishing into the EEZ 
around Guam and the CNMI.
    If purse seine effort shifts to areas fished by the troll and 
longline fisheries of Guam and the CNMI, those smaller vessels could 
experience reduced catch rates, or have to travel further to maintain 
catch rates, resulting in lost revenue and possible safety-at-sea 
issues. Reduced catch rates could negatively impact ex-vessel revenue 
of the troll and longline fleets. To maintain catches or catch rates, 
vessels may need to fish longer or travel farther to find more abundant 
fish populations. These factors could increase costs associated with 
fishing, such as fuel, food, crew time, and ice, while also increasing 
safety risks for small vessels that would have to fish farther from 
shore and for longer intervals.

[[Page 17813]]

    Although the purse seine fleet is highly mobile and can harvest 
large quantities of fish, it does not (with the current fishing 
technologies) target mature fish. While targeting skipjack tuna, 
particularly through the use of fish aggregating devices, purse seines 
also catch juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna. Bigeye tuna is currently 
subject to overfishing, and the harvest of juvenile bigeye by purse 
seines contributes to recruitment overfishing. The impacts from an 
increase in juvenile catch of bigeye tuna could reduce the number of 
mature fish in the population, thereby decreasing the number of fish 
reproduced. This reduction could also decrease the future availability 
of adult fish for fisheries that target adult bigeye tuna.
    The Council is also concered that any future expansion of longline 
fishing around the Mariana Archipelago could result in adverse impacts 
to the CNMI troll fleet. If the number of CNMI-based longline vessels 
increases and they move into areas traditionally utilized by the local 
troll fleet (typically within 30 nm (55.6 km) of shore), there is 
potential for gear conflict and catch competition between the two 
fleets. Longline gear can be up to 60 nm (111 km) long, deployed 
horizontally at depth of 25 to 100 meters with floats at the surface, 
and drifting with the current. Troll vessels drag gear through the 
water column, and could snag or cut shallow longline gear or lines 
attached to floats. Consequently, troll vessels may need to move to 
other areas that do not have longline gear in the area to avoid these 
interactions.
    Since tunas tend to aggregate around objects in the water, offshore 
banks and reefs are a popular place for fishing activity by the troll 
fleet. Accordingly, competition for fish can be concentrated in these 
areas when fish are available. By including those banks and reefs 
within the proposed prohibited area, the Council plans to reduce the 
potential for catch competition, and the related stock losses. at these 
locations.
    The Council is also concerned that increased longline fishing could 
take yellowfin tuna and other species on which the troll fishery 
depends, causing enough localized depletion to impact trolling catch 
rates. In addition, any growth of the longline fishery could result in 
increased costs (i.e., more fuel, time at sea, and ice) for the troll 
fleet trolling costs, along with decreased revenues due to an increase 
of market supply of fish like yellowfin tuna.

Proposed Actions

    Due to these concerns, the Council has recommended, pursuant to the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, the following measures. These recommendations are 
precautionary approaches intended to reduce temporary localized 
depletion, catch competition, and gear conflicts to sustain local troll 
and longline fisheries, and to limit the potential impacts of purse 
seine fishing on recruitment of juvenile bigeye tuna. To address their 
concerns about the potential impact of purse seine fishing on the troll 
and longline fisheries in the Marianas, the Council recommended 
prohibiting U.S. purse seine vessels from fishing within the EEZ around 
Guam and the CNMI. To address the Council's concerns about the 
potential impact of uncontrolled expansion in the CNMI longline 
fishery, the Council recommended a prohibition on longline fishing 
within 30 nm (55.6 km) of the islands (see Fig. 1).
    Additionally, if implemented, this rule would make administrative 
housekeeping changes to the pelagic fishing regulations, unrelated to 
Amendment 2. All prohibited areas would be grouped into one section, 
making the area requirements easier for fishermen and the general 
public to find. Existing longline prohibited areas (in Hawaii and Guam) 
and the American Samoa large vessel prohibited areas for pelagic 
fishing would be combined into 50 CFR 665.806. The proposed purse seine 
and CNMI longline prohibited areas would also be added to that section.
    As described above, the Council's approach under Amendment 2 is 
precautionary. NMFS notes that no U.S. purse seine catches have been 
recorded from the EEZ surrounding the CNMI, and no U.S. purse seine 
catches have been recorded from the EEZ surrounding Guam since 1980. 
NMFS also notes that there is only limited longline activity currently 
being conducted out of the Mariana Archipelago. Accordingly, NMFS 
specifically invites public comments addressing whether the action is 
``necessary and appropriate'' according to MSA 303(a)(1) to accomplish 
its identified conservation and management objectives, and the state of 
the science supporting the action.

BILLING CODE 3510-22-P

[[Page 17814]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP31MR11.069


[[Page 17815]]


BILLING CODE 3510-22-C

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is 
consistent with the FEP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 
and other applicable laws, subject to further consideration after 
public comment.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. 
The analysis follows:
    ``This rule would prohibit purse seine fishing in the U.S. 
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around Guam and the Commonwealth of the 
Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and would prohibit longline fishing 
within 30 nm (55.6 km) of the CNMI. A description of the action, why it 
is being considered, and the legal basis are contained in the preamble 
to this proposed rule. Briefly, the purse seine prohibition is intended 
to reduce the potential for localized fish depletion by purse seine 
fishing, limit catch competition and gear conflicts between the purse 
seine fishery and the Guam and CNMI pelagic longline and trolling 
fleets, and reduce the potential impacts of purse seine fishing on the 
recruitment of juvenile bigeye tuna. The longline fishing prohibited 
area around the CNMI, is intended to reduce the potential for localized 
fish depletion by longline fishing, and to limit catch competition and 
gear conflicts between the developing CNMI longline fishery and the 
CNMI pelagic trolling fleet.
    This proposed rule consists of three actions:
    1. Prohibit pelagic longline fishing within 30 nm (55.6 km) of the 
CNMI;
    2. Prohibit pelagic purse seine fishing within the EEZ around the 
CNMI; and
    3. Prohibit pelagic purse seine fishing within the EEZ around Guam.
    Action 1 would impact the longline vessels in and operating from 
the CNMI. This is a relatively small fishery; the number of permits 
issued to vessel owners in this fishery in recent years has ranged from 
four to eight. Fishing vessels are considered to be small entities by 
the SBA if they are independently-owned or operated, are not dominant 
in their field of operation, and have annual gross receipts not in 
excess of $4 million. Although exact revenue data for the CNMI longline 
vessel group are not available, similarly-situated vessels operating in 
Hawaii earn an average of less than $4 million per year. Using this 
figure as a proxy for annual revenue, this analysis assumes the 
affected vessels are small entities.
    Prohibiting fishing within 30 nm (55.6 km) of shore could require 
vessels to spend more time and fuel traveling offshore before fishing, 
and could prevent catching any target fish stocks that might occur 
within the prohibited area. However, logbook information suggests that 
the affected longline vessels currently fish farther than 30 nm (55.6 
km) from shore. Action 1 would not modify their current fishing 
practices and, therefore, is not expected to impact the affected 
vessels' revenue.
    Additionally, Action 1 could benefit the local CNMI troll fleet, 
which fishes closer to shore than longliners, by reducing the 
likelihood of catch competition and gear conflict between trolling and 
longlining. In 2008, the CNMI troll fleet consisted of 47 boats, most 
of which were less than 24 ft (7 m) long. That year, these boats made 
989 trips, landing 197,013 lb (89.4 mt) of fish, and earned total ex-
vessel revenue of $317,330, or $6,752 per vessel. Accordingly, these 
vessels are all considered small entities under the RFA. This rule, 
however, would not modify these vessels' activities. The rule is 
intended as a precautionary measure to protect and conserve the fish 
stocks and fishing resources around Guam and the CNMI, and if 
implemented would reduce the risk that local stocks would decline due 
to longline fishing. Additionally, Action 1 would reduce the potential 
for gear conflicts between CNMI trollers and the longline fleet.
    Because Action 1 of this rule is not expected to alter the current 
fishing practices of the longline fleet, and because it is expected to 
benefit the CNMI troll fleet as well as the local fishery resources, 
Action 1, if implemented, will not have a significant economic impact 
on a substantial number of small entities.
    If implemented, Actions 2 and 3 could potentially affect purse 
seine fishing vessels. The average 1998 gross revenue per purse seine 
vessel was $4.7 million, equivalent to $6.1 million in 2009 dollars. 
Therefore, most or all of the 38 purse seine licenses in 2009-10 were 
held by large entities. NMFS recognizes that newly-permitted vessels 
may experience lower revenues during the start-up period, and may 
constitute small entities under the RFA, but it is expected that the 
purse seine provisions of the rule will only affect large entities.
    Similar to the effects of Action 1, prohibiting fishing within the 
EEZ could force any Guam- or CNMI-based purse seine vessels to spend 
more time and fuel traveling beyond the EEZ before fishing, and could 
prevent catching any target fish stocks that occur within the EEZ. 
However, the U.S. purse seine fishery has never operated in the EEZ 
around Guam and the CNMI, nor it is expected to in the near future. 
Accordingly, these small entities will likely not be affected by these 
actions.
    Based on the above analysis indicating that few or no potentially 
affected vessels currently fish in the areas closed by this proposed 
rule because this rule is a precautionary measure meant to conserve 
local fisheries and fish stocks, NMFS has determined that the proposed 
rule would not result in ``a substantial economic impact to a 
significant number of small entities.''
    Accordingly, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not 
required and none has been prepared.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 665

    Administrative practice and procedure, Fisheries, Fishing, Guam, 
Longline, Northern Mariana Islands, Prohibited areas, Purse seine.

    Dated: March 28, 2011.
John Oliver,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Operations, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR chapter VI is 
proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 665--FISHERIES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC

    1. The authority citation for part 665 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

    2. In Sec.  665.800, add a definition of ``Purse seine'' in 
alphabetical order to read as follows:


Sec.  665.800  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Purse seine means a floated and weighted encircling net that is 
closed by means of a drawstring threaded through rings attached to the 
bottom of the net.
* * * * *
    3. In Sec.  665.802, revise paragraphs (v), (w), and (xx) to read 
as follows:


Sec.  665.802  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (v) Use longline gear to fish within a longline fishing prohibited 
area in violation of Sec.  665.806, except as allowed pursuant to an 
exemption issued under Sec. Sec.  665.17 or 665.807.
    (w) Use a purse seine to fish within a purse seine fishing 
prohibited area in

[[Page 17816]]

violation of Sec.  665.806, except as allowed pursuant to an exemption 
issued under Sec.  665.17.
* * * * *
    (xx) Use a large vessel to fish for western Pacific Pelagic MUS 
within an American Samoa large vessel prohibited area in violation of 
Sec.  665.806, except as allowed pursuant to an exemption issued under 
Sec. Sec.  665.17 or 665.818.
* * * * *
    4. Revise Sec.  665.806 to read as follows:


Sec.  665.806  Prohibited area management.

    (a) Longline fishing prohibited areas. Longline fishing is 
prohibited in the longline fishing prohibited areas as defined in 
paragraphs (a)(1) through (a)(4) of this section.
    (1) NWHI protected species zone. The NWHI protected species zone is 
the portion of the EEZ within 50 nm of the center geographical 
positions of certain islands and reefs in the NWHI, as follows:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Name                      N. lat.           W. long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nihoa Island.......................  23[deg]05'         161[deg]55'
Necker Island......................  23[deg]35'         164[deg]40'
French Frigate Shoals..............  23[deg]45'         166[deg]15'
Gardner Pinnacles..................  25[deg]00'         168[deg]00'
Maro Reef..........................  25[deg]25'         170[deg]35'
Laysan Island......................  25[deg]45'         171[deg]45'
Lisianski Island...................  26[deg]00'         173[deg]55'
Pearl and Hermes Reef..............  27[deg]50'         175[deg]50'
Midway Island......................  28[deg]14'         177[deg]22'
Kure Island........................  28[deg]25'         178[deg]20'
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Where the areas are not contiguous, parallel lines drawn tangent to and
 connecting those semicircles of the 50-nm areas that lie between Nihoa
 Island and Necker Island, French Frigate Shoals and Gardner Pinnacles,
 Gardner Pinnacles and Maro Reef, and Lisianski Island and Pearl and
 Hermes Reef, delimit the remainder of the NWHI longline protected
 species zone.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

     (2) Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI). (i) From February 1 through 
September 30 each year, the MHI longline fishing prohibited area is the 
portion of the EEZ around Hawaii bounded by straight lines connecting 
the following coordinates in the order listed:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Point                     N. lat.            W. long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
A...............................  18[deg]05'          155[deg]40'
B...............................  18[deg]20'          156[deg]25'
C...............................  20[deg]00'          157[deg]30'
D...............................  20[deg]40'          161[deg]40'
E...............................  21[deg]40'          161[deg]55'
F...............................  23[deg]00'          161[deg]30'
G...............................  23[deg]05'          159[deg]30'
H...............................  22[deg]55'          157[deg]30'
I...............................  21[deg]30'          155[deg]30'
J...............................  19[deg]50'          153[deg]50'
K...............................  19[deg]00'          154[deg]05'
A...............................  18[deg]05'          155[deg]40'
------------------------------------------------------------------------

     (ii) From October 1 through the following January 31 each year, 
the MHI longline fishing prohibited area is the portion of the EEZ 
around Hawaii bounded by straight lines connecting the following 
coordinates in the order listed:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Point                     N. lat.            W. long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
A...............................  18[deg]05'          155[deg]40'
L...............................  18[deg]25'          155[deg]40'
M...............................  19[deg]00'          154[deg]45'
N...............................  19[deg]15'          154[deg]25'
O...............................  19[deg]40'          154[deg]20'
P...............................  20[deg]20'          154[deg]55'
Q...............................  20[deg]35'          155[deg]30'
R...............................  21[deg]00'          155[deg]35'
S...............................  22[deg]30'          157[deg]35'
T...............................  22[deg]40'          159[deg]35'
U...............................  22[deg]25'          160[deg]20'
V...............................  21[deg]55'          160[deg]55'
W...............................  21[deg]40'          161[deg]00'
E...............................  21[deg]40'          161[deg]55'
D...............................  20[deg]40'          161[deg]40'
C...............................  20[deg]00'          157[deg]30'
B...............................  18[deg]20'          156[deg]25'
A...............................  18[deg]05'          155[deg]40'
------------------------------------------------------------------------

     (3) Guam. The Guam longline fishing prohibited area is the portion 
of the EEZ around Guam bounded by straight lines connecting the 
following coordinates in the order listed:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Point                     N. lat.            E. long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
A...............................  14[deg]25'          144[deg]00'
B...............................  14[deg]00'          143[deg]38'
C...............................  13[deg]41'          143[deg]33'33''
D...............................  13[deg]00'          143[deg]25'30''
E...............................  12[deg]20'          143[deg]37'
F...............................  11[deg]40'          144[deg]09'
G...............................  12[deg]00'          145[deg]00'
H...............................  13[deg]00'          145[deg]42'
I...............................  13[deg]27'          145[deg]51'
------------------------------------------------------------------------

     (4) CNMI. The CNMI longline fishing prohibited area is the portion 
of the EEZ around the CNMI bounded by straight lines connecting the 
following coordinates in the order listed:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Point                     N. lat.            E. long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
A...............................  14[deg]00'          144[deg]34'
B...............................  15[deg]49'          145[deg]29'
C...............................  16[deg]21'          145[deg]06'
D...............................  17[deg]03'          145[deg]22'
E...............................  19[deg]07'          145[deg]09'
F...............................  20[deg]39'          144[deg]19'
G...............................  21[deg]04'          145[deg]06'
H...............................  19[deg]19'          146[deg]04'
I...............................  16[deg]00'          146[deg]32'
J...............................  13[deg]32'          145[deg]32'
A...............................  14[deg]00'          144[deg]34'
------------------------------------------------------------------------

     (b) American Samoa large vessel prohibited areas. A large vessel 
of the United States may not be used to fish for western Pacific 
pelagic MUS in the American Samoa large vessel prohibited areas as 
defined in paragraphs (b)(1) and (b)(2) of this section, except as 
allowed pursuant to an exemption issued under Sec.  665.818.
    (1) Tutuila Island, Manua Islands, and Rose Atoll (AS-1). The 
Tutuila Island, Manua Islands, and Rose Atoll large vessel prohibited 
area is the portion of the EEZ around American Samoa enclosed by 
straight lines connecting the following coordinates:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Point                     S. lat.            W. long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
AS-1-A..........................  13[deg]30'          167[deg]25'
AS-1-B..........................  15[deg]13'          167[deg]25'
------------------------------------------------------------------------
and from Point AS-1-A westward along the latitude 13[deg]30' S. until
 intersecting the U.S. EEZ boundary with Samoa, and from Point AS-1-B
 westward along the latitude 15[deg]13' S. until intersecting the U.S.
 EEZ boundary with Samoa.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

     (2) Swains Island (AS-2). The Swains Island large vessel 
prohibited area is the portion of the EEZ around American Samoa 
enclosed by straight lines connecting the following coordinates:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Point                     S. lat.            W. long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
AS-2-A..........................  11[deg]48'          171[deg]50'
AS-2-B..........................  11[deg]48'          170[deg]20'
------------------------------------------------------------------------
and from Point AS-2-A northward along the longitude 171[deg]50' W. until
 intersecting the U.S. EEZ boundary with Tokelau, and from Point AS-2-B
 northward along the longitude 170[deg]20' W. until intersecting the
 U.S. EEZ boundary with Tokelau.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

     (c) Purse seine fishing prohibited areas. Purse seine fishing is 
prohibited in the EEZ around Guam and the CNMI.
    5. Revise the section heading in Sec.  665.807 to read as follows:


Sec.  665.807  Exemptions for Hawaii longline fishing prohibited areas; 
procedures.

* * * * *


Sec.  665.817  [Removed and Reserved]

    6. Remove and reserve Sec.  665.817.

[FR Doc. 2011-7633 Filed 3-30-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P