International Fisheries; Pacific Tuna Fisheries; Fishing Restrictions in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, 33240-33243 [2013-13240]

Download as PDF 33240 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 107 / Tuesday, June 4, 2013 / Rules and Regulations (6) Loss of minimum essential coverage is determined using the provisions of § 155.420(e). PART 156—HEALTH INSURANCE ISSUER STANDARDS UNDER THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT, INCLUDING STANDARDS RELATED TO EXCHANGES 4. The authority citation for part 156 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: Title I of the Affordable Care Act, sections 1301–1304, 1311–1312, 1321, 1322, 1324, 1334, 1341–1343, and 1401– 1402, Pub l. 111–148, 124 Stat. 119 (42 U.S.C. 18042). 5. Section 156.285 is amended by revising paragraph (b)(2) to read as follows: ■ § 156.285 SHOP. Additional standards specific to * * * * * (b) * * * (2) Provide special enrollment periods as described in § 155.725(j); * * * * * Dated: May 13, 2013. Marilyn Tavenner, Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Approved: May 15, 2013 Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services. [FR Doc. 2013–13149 Filed 5–31–13; 11:15 am] BILLING CODE 4120–01–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 300 [Docket No. 120814337–3488–02] RIN 0648–BC44 International Fisheries; Pacific Tuna Fisheries; Fishing Restrictions in the Eastern Pacific Ocean National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. wreier-aviles on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with RULES AGENCY: SUMMARY: NMFS is issuing regulations under the Tuna Conventions Act of 1950 to implement Resolution C–12–09 of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) by establishing limits on commercial retention of Pacific bluefin tuna by U.S. fishing vessels operating in the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) in 2013. This action is VerDate Mar<15>2010 15:17 Jun 03, 2013 Jkt 229001 necessary for the United States to satisfy its obligations as a member of the IATTC and to limit fishing on the stock. DATES: This rule becomes effective July 5, 2013 through December 31, 2013. ADDRESSES: Copies of the proposed and final rules, the Environmental Assessment, the Finding of No Significant Impact, and the Regulatory Impact Review for this action are available via the Federal e-Rulemaking portal, at https://www.regulations.gov, and are also available from the Regional Administrator, Rodney R. McInnis, NMFS Southwest Regional Office, 501 W. Ocean Boulevard, Suite 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802. Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other aspects of the collection-ofinformation requirements contained in this final rule may be submitted to NMFS Southwest Regional Office and by email to OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov, or fax to (202) 395–7285. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Heidi Taylor, NMFS SWR, 562–980– 4039. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On December 12, 2012, NMFS published a proposed rule in the Federal Register (76 FR 560790) to implement Resolution C–12–09 of the IATTC by revising regulations at 50 CFR part 300, subpart C. The proposed rule was open to public comment through January 11, 2012. In addition, a public hearing was held in Long Beach, CA on January 11, 2012. Background on the IATTC The United States is a member of the IATTC, which was established under the 1949 Convention for the Establishment of an Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission. The full text of the 1949 Convention is available at: https://www.iattc.org/PDFFiles/ IATTC_convention_1949.pdf. The Antigua Convention, which was negotiated to strengthen and replace the 1949 Convention establishing the IATTC, entered into force in 2010. The United States has not yet ratified the Antigua Convention. The IATTC serves as an international arrangement to ensure for conservation and management of highly migratory species of fish in the Convention Area (defined as the waters of the EPO). Since 1998, conservation resolutions adopted by the IATTC have further defined the Convention Area as the area bounded by the coast of the Americas, the 50° N. and 50° S. parallels, and the 150° W. meridian. The IATTC has maintained a scientific research and fishery monitoring program for many years, and regularly assesses the status of tuna and PO 00000 Frm 00048 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 billfish stocks in the EPO to determine appropriate catch limits and other measures deemed necessary to prevent overexploitation of these stocks and to promote sustainable fisheries. Current IATTC membership includes: Belize, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, the European Union, France, Guatemala, Japan, Kiribati, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, the United States, Vanuatu, and Venezuela. Bolivia and the Cook Islands are cooperating non-members. International Obligations of the United States Under the Convention As a Contracting Party to the 1949 Convention and a member of the IATTC, the United States is legally bound to implement resolutions of the IATTC. The Tuna Conventions Act (16 U.S.C. 951–962) directs the Secretary of Commerce, after approval by the Secretary of State, to promulgate such regulations as may be necessary to implement resolutions adopted by the IATTC. The authority to promulgate such regulations has been delegated to NMFS. IATTC Resolutions in 2012 At its 83rd Meeting, in June 2012, the IATTC adopted Resolution C–12–09, Conservation and Management Measures for Bluefin Tuna in the EPO. All active resolutions and recommendations of the IATTC are available on the following Web site: https://iattc.org/ ResolutionsActiveENG.htm. The main objective of Resolution C– 12–09 is to conserve Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) by establishing limits on the commercial catches of Pacific bluefin tuna in the EPO. Before Resolution C–12–09, the IATTC had not adopted catch limits for Pacific bluefin tuna in the EPO. The IATTC recognizes the need to reduce fishing mortality of Pacific bluefin tuna throughout its range. Accordingly, Resolution C–12–09 included both a cumulative catch limit of 10,000 metric tons for all commercial fishing vessels of all IATTC member countries and cooperating non-member countries (CPCs) fishing in the EPO for 2012 and 2013 combined, and an annual catch limit of 500 metric tons for each CPC with a historical record of Eastern Pacific bluefin catch to allow these nations some opportunity to catch Pacific bluefin tuna if the cumulative limit is reached. The IATTC emphasizes that the measures in Resolution C–12– 09 are intended as an interim means for assuring viability of the Pacific bluefin tuna resource. Future conservation E:\FR\FM\04JNR1.SGM 04JNR1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 107 / Tuesday, June 4, 2013 / Rules and Regulations measures are expected to be based in part on information and advice from the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean and the IATTC scientific staff. While Pacific bluefin tuna catch by U.S. vessels fishing in the EPO exceeded 1,000 metric tons as recently as the early 1990’s, catches have remained below 500 metric tons for more than a decade. Table 1 below shows the U.S. commercial catch of Pacific bluefin tuna for the years 1999 to 2012 in the EPO. The Pacific bluefin tuna catch by U.S. vessels fishing in the EPO have been greater than those from the WCPO. However, the average annual Pacific bluefin tuna landings (i.e., records of catch) by U.S. vessels fishing in the EPO from 2007 through 2011 represent only two percent of the average annual landings from all fleets fishing in the EPO during that time (for information on Pacific bluefin tuna harvests in the EPO, see: https://isc.ac.affrc.go.jp/pdf/ ISC12pdf/ISC12_Plenary_ReportFINAL.pdf). TABLE 1—U.S. COMMERCIAL CATCH PACIFIC BLUEFIN TUNA IN THE EPO OF [In metric tons] Pacific Bluefin Tuna catch (in metric tons) Year 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 186 313 196 11 36 10 207 1 45 1 415 1 118 *42 wreier-aviles on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with RULES Source: Highly Migratory Species Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation: https:// www.pcouncil.org/highly-migratory-species/ stock-assessment-and-fishery-evaluation-safedocuments/current-hms-safe-document/. *Preliminary PacFIN estimate of 2012 Pacific bluefin tuna landings by U.S., extracted February 22, 2013. In 2010, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) adopted conservation and management measures for Pacific bluefin tuna to ensure that the current level of fishing mortality is not increased. Resolution C–12–09 complements the action taken by the WCPFC in 2010 that set effort controls in the western central Pacific Ocean. In 2011, NMFS determined overfishing is occurring on Pacific bluefin tuna (76 FR 28422, May 17, VerDate Mar<15>2010 15:17 Jun 03, 2013 Jkt 229001 2011). Based on a 2013 stock assessment, NMFS determined Pacific bluefin tuna was not only experiencing overfishing but was also overfished. The combination of Resolution C–12–09 and the WCPFC effort controls are positive steps towards the conservation of Pacific bluefin tuna across the range of this resource. Tuna Conservation Measures for 2012– 2013 Under authority of the Tuna Conventions Act, NMFS is implementing Resolution C–12–09, which has been approved by an authorized official acting for the Secretary of State. In accordance with the 10,000 metric ton cumulative catch limit adopted in Resolution C–12–09 for both 2012 and 2013 combined, the cumulative catch limit for all CPCs for 2013 is 3,295 metric tons, because the cumulative catch of all CPCs in the Convention Area reached 6,705 metric tons in 2012. Therefore, targeting and retention of Pacific bluefin tuna by all U.S. commercial fishing vessels in the EPO shall be prohibited for the remainder of 2013 when the cumulative catch by all CPCs reaches 3,295 metric tons of Pacific bluefin tuna, and when the commercial catch of Pacific bluefin tuna by the U.S. fleet has reached or exceeded 500 metric tons in 2013. If the U.S. commercial fishing fleet has not caught 500 metric tons of Pacific bluefin tuna in 2013 when the cumulative catch limit for all CPCs is reached, then the U.S. commercial fishing fleet may continue to target and retain Pacific bluefin tuna until the 500 metric ton limit is reached. The U.S. commercial fishing fleet may retain more than the 500 metric tons of Pacific bluefin tuna in 2013 unless and until the international fleet reaches the limit of 3,295 metric tons. Announcement of the Limit Being Reached To help ensure that the total catch of Pacific bluefin tuna in the EPO does not exceed the catch limit for each year, NMFS will report U.S. catch to the IATTC Director on a monthly basis. The IATTC Director will inform CPCs when the total annual catch limit is reached. If NMFS determines, based on the information provided by the IATTC Director, that the applicable limit is imminent, NMFS will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing that restrictions will be effective on specific future dates until the end of the calendar year. This notice will specify a date and time for when targeting of Pacific bluefin tuna will be prohibited in the EPO, and a date and time when PO 00000 Frm 00049 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 33241 retention of Pacific bluefin tuna will be prohibited in the EPO. The effective date for the retention prohibition will follow the effective date for the targeting prohibition, to allow sufficient time for U.S. commercial fishing vessels retaining lawfully caught Pacific bluefin tuna to exit the EPO. NMFS will make estimates and/or projections of U.S. catch of Pacific bluefin tuna from the EPO publicly available on a quarterly basis, on the NMFS Southwest Regional Office Web page. Additionally, NMFS will continue to investigate other means of reporting preliminary Pacific bluefin tuna catch between quarterly intervals to help participants of the commercial fishery plan for the possibility of the catch limit being reached. This commercial catch limitation will remain in effect through 2013, unless the IATTC decides to remove or modify the measure in 2013. NMFS anticipates controls on fishing for Pacific bluefin tuna in the EPO to be included in future resolutions by the IATTC. Response to Public Comments NMFS received four written public comments during the proposed rule public comment period. Additionally, six individuals participated in the public hearing. Two individuals who submitted written comments also attended the public hearing. In total, eight commenters submitted comments to NMFS. Four commenters suggested further restricting the Pacific bluefin fishery beyond the scope of this action based on concerns that the action did not sufficiently advance conservation of the resource. Four commenters noted that U.S. catch is insignificant relative to other sources of Pacific bluefin mortality. In addition, the Department of the Interior, Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance, Pacific Southwest Region, noted that they reviewed the subject action, but did not have comments. Summaries of the comments received and NMFS’ responses appear below. Comment 1: The proposed rule is not consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) because it neither prevents overfishing by addressing the relative impacts of the U.S. fleet nor is it based on the best available information regarding the status of Pacific bluefin tuna. Response: NMFS is promulgating this rule in accordance with IATTC Resolution C–12–09 and under the authority of the Tuna Conventions Act. This action is not subject to the Magnuson-Stevens Act. During its June 2012 meeting, the IATTC adopted E:\FR\FM\04JNR1.SGM 04JNR1 wreier-aviles on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with RULES 33242 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 107 / Tuesday, June 4, 2013 / Rules and Regulations Resolution C–12–09 based on the best information on the stock status of Pacific bluefin available at that time: the IATTC scientific staff recommendations, recommendations from the IATTC’s Scientific Advisory Committee, the 2008 stock assessment for Pacific bluefin tuna (finding the stock subject to overfishing) by the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific (ISC), and Pacific bluefin management measures adopted in December 2010 by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. Following the adoption of Resolution C–12–09 and the publication of the proposed rule, the ISC completed another stock assessment for Pacific bluefin tuna which served as the basis for NMFS’ recent determination that the stock is experiencing overfishing and is overfished. In April 2013, NMFS informed the Pacific and the Western Pacific Fishery Management Councils of this determination and their obligations under section 304(i) of the MagnusonStevens Act. Comment 2: Pacific bluefin tuna catch by U.S. vessels fishing in the EPO is an insignificant source of mortality relative to international catch levels. Despite the low numbers of landings in recent years, the United States can and has caught more than 500 metric tons of Pacific bluefin tuna in years when the fish and fishing opportunity were available. Response: NMFS notes that the average annual Pacific bluefin tuna landings by U.S. vessels fishing in the EPO represent roughly two percent of the average annual landings from all fleets fishing in the EPO for years 2007 through 2011 (see section 1.5 of the Environmental Assessment). However, annual U.S. landings in the 1980s and 1990s often exceeded 1,000 metric tons. NMFS acknowledges that the U.S. fleet has the capacity to catch more than 500 metric tons of Pacific bluefin tuna, even though it is unlikely that the U.S. fleet would catch more than 500 metric tons. Therefore, it is in the interest of the United States to implement catch limits to both contribute to the sustainability of the stock and fulfill its obligations as a Contracting Party to the Convention. Comment 3: The supplementary information provided in the proposed rule should have included landings by U.S. vessels fishing in the EPO for years 2010, 2011, 2012. Additionally, more clarity should be provided on how catches will be publicly reported. Response: In the supplementary information section of this final rule, Table 1 (U.S. Commercial Catch of Pacific bluefin tuna in the EPO) has been updated to include landings for years 2010, 2011, and 2012. NMFS will VerDate Mar<15>2010 15:17 Jun 03, 2013 Jkt 229001 make estimates or projections of Pacific bluefin tuna catch publicly available on a quarterly basis. There is a time lag between the collection of this data by state management entities and its submission to the Pacific Fisheries Information Network database. Furthermore, because so few U.S. vessels actively participate in the Pacific bluefin tuna fishery, it is unlikely that NMFS will be able to report catch on a weekly or monthly basis, due to confidentiality concerns. However, NMFS will continue to explore other means of reporting preliminary Pacific bluefin tuna catch more often than quarterly to help fishermen plan for the possibility that the catch limit will be reached. Changes From the Proposed Rule NMFS made a few adjustments to the language of the regulatory text from the proposed rule. Because the final rule is being published in 2013, NMFS removed references to restrictions applicable in 2012. As described above, NMFS adjusted the cumulative catch limit from 10,000 metric tons to 3,295 metric tons of Pacific bluefin tuna for all CPCs to reflect the cumulative limit for 2013. Additionally, the regulatory text now references ‘‘dates’’ rather than ‘‘date,’’ because NMFS will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing that restrictions will be effective on a specific future date and time for the targeting prohibition and a later effective date and time for the retention prohibition to allow sufficient time for U.S. commercial fishing vessels retaining lawfully caught Pacific bluefin tuna to exit the EPO. Furthermore, the regulatory text now clarifies that the international limit applies to harvests by cooperating non-members of the IATTC, as well as member countries. Classification The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this final rule is consistent with the Tuna Conventions Act and other applicable laws. This final rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. The following paragraphs summarize the regulatory flexibility analysis. NMFS did not receive any comments on the summary of the initial regulatory flexibility analysis that was published with the proposed rule. The main objective of this rule is to establish catch limits to contribute to the conservation of the Pacific bluefin tuna stock. This rule applies to owners and operators of U.S. commercial fishing vessels that catch Pacific bluefin tuna in the IATTC Convention Area. It is important to note that no U.S. PO 00000 Frm 00050 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 commercial vessels specialize in harvesting Pacific bluefin tuna in the EPO. This rule does not mandate ‘‘reporting’’ or ‘‘recordkeeping.’’ As for compliance, in the unlikely event that the limit on Pacific bluefin tuna catch is reached for 2013, it will be the responsibility of the vessel owner to ensure that no further targeting of Pacific bluefin tuna occurs, and that no more Pacific bluefin tuna are retained on board after the specified dates published in the Federal Register notice announcing that the annual limit is expected to be reached. In the unlikely event of a closure under this rule, the cost of compliance would be de minimis. Compliance costs could consist of returning incidentally caught bluefin tuna to the ocean, forgoing associated profits, and potentially losing fishing opportunity if bluefin availability to the U.S. fleet increased in 2013. However, the U.S. fleet would have to catch more bluefin tuna in 2013 than they have caught in any given year in the past decade before they would incur any compliance costs associated with a fishery closure resulting from this action. NMFS will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing that restrictions will be effective from the dates specified through the end of the calendar year. NMFS will take reasonable actions to inform vessel owners if a closure of the Pacific bluefin tuna fishery appears imminent. Pacific bluefin tuna is commercially caught by U.S. vessels fishing in the EPO on an irregular basis. Most of the landings are made by small coastal purse seine vessels operating in the Southern California Bight with limited additional landings made by the drift gillnet fleet that targets swordfish and thresher shark. Lesser amounts of Pacific bluefin are caught by gillnet and longline gear. The Pacific bluefin tuna commercial catch limitations are not expected to result in closing the U.S. Pacific bluefin tuna fishery because annual catches have not reached 500 metric tons in over a decade. The average annual United States catch of Pacific bluefin tuna was 113 metric tons for 1999 through 2012. Table 1 (above) describes U.S. commercial catch of bluefin tuna in the EPO for the years 1999 to 2010. The U.S. west coast catch of bluefin tuna represents a relatively minor component of the overall EPO tuna catch. The number of purse seine vessels that have landed tuna in California averaged 197 annually from 1981 through 1990 but declined to an annual average of 11 from 2001 through 2010. The decline in the number of E:\FR\FM\04JNR1.SGM 04JNR1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 107 / Tuesday, June 4, 2013 / Rules and Regulations domestic vessels is correlated in part with the relocation of large cannery operations. Currently, there are no domestic deliveries of raw tuna to canneries in California. NMFS compared the effects of the bluefin tuna restrictions imposed by this rule to a no action alternative. Under the no action alternative, there would be no change to current regulations, which do not limit U.S. commercial catches of Pacific bluefin tuna in the IATTC Convention Area. Based on recent Pacific bluefin tuna catch data and expected future trends, it is unlikely that any benefit to U.S. commercial fisheries would be gained from not implementing Resolution C–12–09 because the catch limit is not expected to be reached. However, failing to adopt this rule would result in the United States not satisfying its international obligations as a member of the IATTC. Furthermore, implementing Resolution C–12–09 could benefit the conservation of Pacific bluefin tuna by limiting catches. Small Entities Compliance Guide The Compliance Guide for this action is available via the Federal eRulemaking portal, at https:// www.regulations.gov, and is also available from the Regional Administrator, Rodney R. McInnis, NMFS Southwest Regional Office, 501 W. Ocean Boulevard, Suite 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 300 Administrative practice and procedure, Fish, Fisheries, Fishing, Marine resources, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Treaties. Dated: May 30, 2013. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, performing the functions and duties of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. 1. The authority citation for 50 CFR part 300 continues to read as follows: wreier-aviles on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with RULES ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 951–961 et seq. 2. In § 300.24, a new paragraph (u) is added to read as follows: ■ Prohibitions. * * * * (u) Target or retain Pacific bluefin tuna in the IATTC Convention Area by VerDate Mar<15>2010 15:17 Jun 03, 2013 Jkt 229001 * * * * * (h) Bluefin tuna commercial catch limits in the eastern Pacific Ocean. (1) After the dates specified in a notice published by Regional Administrator in the Federal Register, a United States vessel engaged in commercial fishing may not target or retain bluefin tuna in the Convention Area for the remainder of the calendar year. NMFS will publish such a notice prohibiting further targeting and retention of Pacific bluefin tuna on the projected dates for the remainder of 2013 when 3,295 metric tons or more have been harvested in 2013 by the commercial fishing vessels of all IATTC member countries and cooperating non-member countries. This prohibition will not be effective unless and until the annual commercial harvest of Pacific bluefin tuna by the United States fleet has reached 500 metric tons. (2) [Reserved] [FR Doc. 2013–13240 Filed 6–3–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 15 CFR Part 902 50 CFR Parts 300 and 679 RIN 0648–BB94 PART 300—INTERNATIONAL FISHERIES REGULATIONS * § 300.25 Eastern Pacific fisheries management. [Docket No. 120223143–3489–02] For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 300 is amended as follows: § 300.24 any United States vessel engaged in commercial fishing after the dates specified by the Regional Administrator’s notification of closure issued under § 300.25 (h). ■ 3. In § 300.25, a new paragraph (h) is added to read as follows: Amendment 94 to the Gulf of Alaska Fishery Management Plan and Regulatory Amendments for Community Quota Entities National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: SUMMARY: NMFS publishes regulations to implement Amendment 94 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (FMP). This final rule amends certain sablefish provisions of the Individual Fishing Quota Program for the Fixed-Gear Commercial Fisheries for Pacific Halibut and Sablefish in Waters in and off Alaska (IFQ Program). Amendment 94 PO 00000 Frm 00051 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 33243 and its implementing regulations revise the vessel use caps applicable to sablefish quota share (QS) held by Gulf of Alaska (GOA) Community Quota Entities (CQEs). This final rule makes the same regulatory revisions to the vessel use caps applicable to halibut QS held by GOA CQEs. In this action, NMFS also revises the IFQ Program regulations to add three eligible communities to the CQE Program; to allow CQEs in International Pacific Halibut Commission regulatory area 3A (Area 3A) to purchase vessel category D halibut QS; to revise CQE annual reporting requirements, including specifying reporting requirements for the charter halibut program; to clarify the CQE floating processor landing reporting requirements; and to consolidate CQE Program eligibility by community in a single table in the regulations. DATES: Effective July 5, 2013. ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the Regulatory Impact Review (RIR) prepared for Amendment 94 and the changes to the vessel use caps applicable to halibut IFQ derived from CQE QS, the RIR prepared for the regulatory amendment to add three communities to the list of CQE eligible communities, and the RIR prepared for the regulatory amendment to allow CQEs in Area 3A to purchase vessel category D halibut QS are available from https://www.regulations.gov or from the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this final rule may be submitted by mail to NMFS, Alaska Region, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802–1668, Attn: Ellen Sebastian, Records Officer; in person at NMFS, Alaska Region, 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, AK; or by email to OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov or fax to (202) 395–7285. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Peggy Murphy, (907) 586–7228. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This final rule implements Amendment 94 to the FMP and a suite of regulations that modify the GOA CQE Program. NMFS published the Notice of Availability for Amendment 94 in the Federal Register on February 22, 2013 (78 FR 12287) with a 60-day comment period that ended April 23, 2013. The Secretary approved Amendment 94 on May 20, 2013 after taking into account public comments, and determining that Amendment 94 is consistent with the FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act E:\FR\FM\04JNR1.SGM 04JNR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 107 (Tuesday, June 4, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 33240-33243]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-13240]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 300

[Docket No. 120814337-3488-02]
RIN 0648-BC44


International Fisheries; Pacific Tuna Fisheries; Fishing 
Restrictions in the Eastern Pacific Ocean

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS is issuing regulations under the Tuna Conventions Act of 
1950 to implement Resolution C-12-09 of the Inter-American Tropical 
Tuna Commission (IATTC) by establishing limits on commercial retention 
of Pacific bluefin tuna by U.S. fishing vessels operating in the 
Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) in 2013. This action is necessary for the 
United States to satisfy its obligations as a member of the IATTC and 
to limit fishing on the stock.

DATES: This rule becomes effective July 5, 2013 through December 31, 
2013.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the proposed and final rules, the Environmental 
Assessment, the Finding of No Significant Impact, and the Regulatory 
Impact Review for this action are available via the Federal e-
Rulemaking portal, at https://www.regulations.gov, and are also 
available from the Regional Administrator, Rodney R. McInnis, NMFS 
Southwest Regional Office, 501 W. Ocean Boulevard, Suite 4200, Long 
Beach, CA 90802. Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates 
or other aspects of the collection-of-information requirements 
contained in this final rule may be submitted to NMFS Southwest 
Regional Office and by email to OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov, or fax to 
(202) 395-7285.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Heidi Taylor, NMFS SWR, 562-980-4039.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On December 12, 2012, NMFS published a 
proposed rule in the Federal Register (76 FR 560790) to implement 
Resolution C-12-09 of the IATTC by revising regulations at 50 CFR part 
300, subpart C. The proposed rule was open to public comment through 
January 11, 2012. In addition, a public hearing was held in Long Beach, 
CA on January 11, 2012.

Background on the IATTC

    The United States is a member of the IATTC, which was established 
under the 1949 Convention for the Establishment of an Inter-American 
Tropical Tuna Commission. The full text of the 1949 Convention is 
available at: https://www.iattc.org/PDFFiles/IATTC_convention_1949.pdf. The Antigua Convention, which was negotiated to strengthen 
and replace the 1949 Convention establishing the IATTC, entered into 
force in 2010. The United States has not yet ratified the Antigua 
Convention. The IATTC serves as an international arrangement to ensure 
for conservation and management of highly migratory species of fish in 
the Convention Area (defined as the waters of the EPO). Since 1998, 
conservation resolutions adopted by the IATTC have further defined the 
Convention Area as the area bounded by the coast of the Americas, the 
50[deg] N. and 50[deg] S. parallels, and the 150[deg] W. meridian. The 
IATTC has maintained a scientific research and fishery monitoring 
program for many years, and regularly assesses the status of tuna and 
billfish stocks in the EPO to determine appropriate catch limits and 
other measures deemed necessary to prevent overexploitation of these 
stocks and to promote sustainable fisheries. Current IATTC membership 
includes: Belize, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Colombia, 
Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, the European Union, France, 
Guatemala, Japan, Kiribati, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Nicaragua, 
Panama, Peru, the United States, Vanuatu, and Venezuela. Bolivia and 
the Cook Islands are cooperating non-members.

International Obligations of the United States Under the Convention

    As a Contracting Party to the 1949 Convention and a member of the 
IATTC, the United States is legally bound to implement resolutions of 
the IATTC. The Tuna Conventions Act (16 U.S.C. 951-962) directs the 
Secretary of Commerce, after approval by the Secretary of State, to 
promulgate such regulations as may be necessary to implement 
resolutions adopted by the IATTC. The authority to promulgate such 
regulations has been delegated to NMFS.

IATTC Resolutions in 2012

    At its 83rd Meeting, in June 2012, the IATTC adopted Resolution C-
12-09, Conservation and Management Measures for Bluefin Tuna in the 
EPO. All active resolutions and recommendations of the IATTC are 
available on the following Web site: https://iattc.org/ResolutionsActiveENG.htm.
    The main objective of Resolution C-12-09 is to conserve Pacific 
bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) by establishing limits on the 
commercial catches of Pacific bluefin tuna in the EPO. Before 
Resolution C-12-09, the IATTC had not adopted catch limits for Pacific 
bluefin tuna in the EPO. The IATTC recognizes the need to reduce 
fishing mortality of Pacific bluefin tuna throughout its range. 
Accordingly, Resolution C-12-09 included both a cumulative catch limit 
of 10,000 metric tons for all commercial fishing vessels of all IATTC 
member countries and cooperating non-member countries (CPCs) fishing in 
the EPO for 2012 and 2013 combined, and an annual catch limit of 500 
metric tons for each CPC with a historical record of Eastern Pacific 
bluefin catch to allow these nations some opportunity to catch Pacific 
bluefin tuna if the cumulative limit is reached. The IATTC emphasizes 
that the measures in Resolution C-12-09 are intended as an interim 
means for assuring viability of the Pacific bluefin tuna resource. 
Future conservation

[[Page 33241]]

measures are expected to be based in part on information and advice 
from the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like 
Species in the North Pacific Ocean and the IATTC scientific staff.
    While Pacific bluefin tuna catch by U.S. vessels fishing in the EPO 
exceeded 1,000 metric tons as recently as the early 1990's, catches 
have remained below 500 metric tons for more than a decade. Table 1 
below shows the U.S. commercial catch of Pacific bluefin tuna for the 
years 1999 to 2012 in the EPO. The Pacific bluefin tuna catch by U.S. 
vessels fishing in the EPO have been greater than those from the WCPO. 
However, the average annual Pacific bluefin tuna landings (i.e., 
records of catch) by U.S. vessels fishing in the EPO from 2007 through 
2011 represent only two percent of the average annual landings from all 
fleets fishing in the EPO during that time (for information on Pacific 
bluefin tuna harvests in the EPO, see: https://isc.ac.affrc.go.jp/pdf/ISC12pdf/ISC12_Plenary_Report-FINAL.pdf).

    Table 1--U.S. Commercial Catch of Pacific Bluefin Tuna in the EPO
                            [In metric tons]
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                        Pacific Bluefin
                         Year                            Tuna catch (in
                                                          metric tons)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1999.................................................                186
2000.................................................                313
2001.................................................                196
2002.................................................                 11
2003.................................................                 36
2004.................................................                 10
2005.................................................                207
2006.................................................                  1
2007.................................................                 45
2008.................................................                  1
2009.................................................                415
2010.................................................                  1
2011.................................................                118
2012.................................................                *42
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Source: Highly Migratory Species Stock Assessment and Fishery
  Evaluation: https://www.pcouncil.org/highly-migratory-species/stock-assessment-and-fishery-evaluation-safe-documents/current-hms-safe-document/ document/.
*Preliminary PacFIN estimate of 2012 Pacific bluefin tuna landings by
  U.S., extracted February 22, 2013.

    In 2010, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission 
(WCPFC) adopted conservation and management measures for Pacific 
bluefin tuna to ensure that the current level of fishing mortality is 
not increased. Resolution C-12-09 complements the action taken by the 
WCPFC in 2010 that set effort controls in the western central Pacific 
Ocean. In 2011, NMFS determined overfishing is occurring on Pacific 
bluefin tuna (76 FR 28422, May 17, 2011). Based on a 2013 stock 
assessment, NMFS determined Pacific bluefin tuna was not only 
experiencing overfishing but was also overfished. The combination of 
Resolution C-12-09 and the WCPFC effort controls are positive steps 
towards the conservation of Pacific bluefin tuna across the range of 
this resource.

Tuna Conservation Measures for 2012-2013

    Under authority of the Tuna Conventions Act, NMFS is implementing 
Resolution C-12-09, which has been approved by an authorized official 
acting for the Secretary of State. In accordance with the 10,000 metric 
ton cumulative catch limit adopted in Resolution C-12-09 for both 2012 
and 2013 combined, the cumulative catch limit for all CPCs for 2013 is 
3,295 metric tons, because the cumulative catch of all CPCs in the 
Convention Area reached 6,705 metric tons in 2012. Therefore, targeting 
and retention of Pacific bluefin tuna by all U.S. commercial fishing 
vessels in the EPO shall be prohibited for the remainder of 2013 when 
the cumulative catch by all CPCs reaches 3,295 metric tons of Pacific 
bluefin tuna, and when the commercial catch of Pacific bluefin tuna by 
the U.S. fleet has reached or exceeded 500 metric tons in 2013. If the 
U.S. commercial fishing fleet has not caught 500 metric tons of Pacific 
bluefin tuna in 2013 when the cumulative catch limit for all CPCs is 
reached, then the U.S. commercial fishing fleet may continue to target 
and retain Pacific bluefin tuna until the 500 metric ton limit is 
reached. The U.S. commercial fishing fleet may retain more than the 500 
metric tons of Pacific bluefin tuna in 2013 unless and until the 
international fleet reaches the limit of 3,295 metric tons.

Announcement of the Limit Being Reached

    To help ensure that the total catch of Pacific bluefin tuna in the 
EPO does not exceed the catch limit for each year, NMFS will report 
U.S. catch to the IATTC Director on a monthly basis. The IATTC Director 
will inform CPCs when the total annual catch limit is reached. If NMFS 
determines, based on the information provided by the IATTC Director, 
that the applicable limit is imminent, NMFS will publish a notice in 
the Federal Register announcing that restrictions will be effective on 
specific future dates until the end of the calendar year. This notice 
will specify a date and time for when targeting of Pacific bluefin tuna 
will be prohibited in the EPO, and a date and time when retention of 
Pacific bluefin tuna will be prohibited in the EPO. The effective date 
for the retention prohibition will follow the effective date for the 
targeting prohibition, to allow sufficient time for U.S. commercial 
fishing vessels retaining lawfully caught Pacific bluefin tuna to exit 
the EPO.
    NMFS will make estimates and/or projections of U.S. catch of 
Pacific bluefin tuna from the EPO publicly available on a quarterly 
basis, on the NMFS Southwest Regional Office Web page. Additionally, 
NMFS will continue to investigate other means of reporting preliminary 
Pacific bluefin tuna catch between quarterly intervals to help 
participants of the commercial fishery plan for the possibility of the 
catch limit being reached. This commercial catch limitation will remain 
in effect through 2013, unless the IATTC decides to remove or modify 
the measure in 2013. NMFS anticipates controls on fishing for Pacific 
bluefin tuna in the EPO to be included in future resolutions by the 
IATTC.

Response to Public Comments

    NMFS received four written public comments during the proposed rule 
public comment period. Additionally, six individuals participated in 
the public hearing. Two individuals who submitted written comments also 
attended the public hearing. In total, eight commenters submitted 
comments to NMFS. Four commenters suggested further restricting the 
Pacific bluefin fishery beyond the scope of this action based on 
concerns that the action did not sufficiently advance conservation of 
the resource. Four commenters noted that U.S. catch is insignificant 
relative to other sources of Pacific bluefin mortality. In addition, 
the Department of the Interior, Office of Environmental Policy and 
Compliance, Pacific Southwest Region, noted that they reviewed the 
subject action, but did not have comments. Summaries of the comments 
received and NMFS' responses appear below.
    Comment 1: The proposed rule is not consistent with the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) 
because it neither prevents overfishing by addressing the relative 
impacts of the U.S. fleet nor is it based on the best available 
information regarding the status of Pacific bluefin tuna.
    Response: NMFS is promulgating this rule in accordance with IATTC 
Resolution C-12-09 and under the authority of the Tuna Conventions Act. 
This action is not subject to the Magnuson-Stevens Act. During its June 
2012 meeting, the IATTC adopted

[[Page 33242]]

Resolution C-12-09 based on the best information on the stock status of 
Pacific bluefin available at that time: the IATTC scientific staff 
recommendations, recommendations from the IATTC's Scientific Advisory 
Committee, the 2008 stock assessment for Pacific bluefin tuna (finding 
the stock subject to overfishing) by the International Scientific 
Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific (ISC), 
and Pacific bluefin management measures adopted in December 2010 by the 
Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. Following the 
adoption of Resolution C-12-09 and the publication of the proposed 
rule, the ISC completed another stock assessment for Pacific bluefin 
tuna which served as the basis for NMFS' recent determination that the 
stock is experiencing overfishing and is overfished. In April 2013, 
NMFS informed the Pacific and the Western Pacific Fishery Management 
Councils of this determination and their obligations under section 
304(i) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
    Comment 2: Pacific bluefin tuna catch by U.S. vessels fishing in 
the EPO is an insignificant source of mortality relative to 
international catch levels. Despite the low numbers of landings in 
recent years, the United States can and has caught more than 500 metric 
tons of Pacific bluefin tuna in years when the fish and fishing 
opportunity were available.
    Response: NMFS notes that the average annual Pacific bluefin tuna 
landings by U.S. vessels fishing in the EPO represent roughly two 
percent of the average annual landings from all fleets fishing in the 
EPO for years 2007 through 2011 (see section 1.5 of the Environmental 
Assessment). However, annual U.S. landings in the 1980s and 1990s often 
exceeded 1,000 metric tons. NMFS acknowledges that the U.S. fleet has 
the capacity to catch more than 500 metric tons of Pacific bluefin 
tuna, even though it is unlikely that the U.S. fleet would catch more 
than 500 metric tons. Therefore, it is in the interest of the United 
States to implement catch limits to both contribute to the 
sustainability of the stock and fulfill its obligations as a 
Contracting Party to the Convention.
    Comment 3: The supplementary information provided in the proposed 
rule should have included landings by U.S. vessels fishing in the EPO 
for years 2010, 2011, 2012. Additionally, more clarity should be 
provided on how catches will be publicly reported.
    Response: In the supplementary information section of this final 
rule, Table 1 (U.S. Commercial Catch of Pacific bluefin tuna in the 
EPO) has been updated to include landings for years 2010, 2011, and 
2012. NMFS will make estimates or projections of Pacific bluefin tuna 
catch publicly available on a quarterly basis. There is a time lag 
between the collection of this data by state management entities and 
its submission to the Pacific Fisheries Information Network database. 
Furthermore, because so few U.S. vessels actively participate in the 
Pacific bluefin tuna fishery, it is unlikely that NMFS will be able to 
report catch on a weekly or monthly basis, due to confidentiality 
concerns. However, NMFS will continue to explore other means of 
reporting preliminary Pacific bluefin tuna catch more often than 
quarterly to help fishermen plan for the possibility that the catch 
limit will be reached.

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    NMFS made a few adjustments to the language of the regulatory text 
from the proposed rule. Because the final rule is being published in 
2013, NMFS removed references to restrictions applicable in 2012. As 
described above, NMFS adjusted the cumulative catch limit from 10,000 
metric tons to 3,295 metric tons of Pacific bluefin tuna for all CPCs 
to reflect the cumulative limit for 2013. Additionally, the regulatory 
text now references ``dates'' rather than ``date,'' because NMFS will 
publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing that restrictions 
will be effective on a specific future date and time for the targeting 
prohibition and a later effective date and time for the retention 
prohibition to allow sufficient time for U.S. commercial fishing 
vessels retaining lawfully caught Pacific bluefin tuna to exit the EPO. 
Furthermore, the regulatory text now clarifies that the international 
limit applies to harvests by cooperating non-members of the IATTC, as 
well as member countries.

Classification

    The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this final 
rule is consistent with the Tuna Conventions Act and other applicable 
laws. This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866. The following paragraphs summarize 
the regulatory flexibility analysis. NMFS did not receive any comments 
on the summary of the initial regulatory flexibility analysis that was 
published with the proposed rule.
    The main objective of this rule is to establish catch limits to 
contribute to the conservation of the Pacific bluefin tuna stock. This 
rule applies to owners and operators of U.S. commercial fishing vessels 
that catch Pacific bluefin tuna in the IATTC Convention Area. It is 
important to note that no U.S. commercial vessels specialize in 
harvesting Pacific bluefin tuna in the EPO.
    This rule does not mandate ``reporting'' or ``recordkeeping.'' As 
for compliance, in the unlikely event that the limit on Pacific bluefin 
tuna catch is reached for 2013, it will be the responsibility of the 
vessel owner to ensure that no further targeting of Pacific bluefin 
tuna occurs, and that no more Pacific bluefin tuna are retained on 
board after the specified dates published in the Federal Register 
notice announcing that the annual limit is expected to be reached. In 
the unlikely event of a closure under this rule, the cost of compliance 
would be de minimis. Compliance costs could consist of returning 
incidentally caught bluefin tuna to the ocean, forgoing associated 
profits, and potentially losing fishing opportunity if bluefin 
availability to the U.S. fleet increased in 2013. However, the U.S. 
fleet would have to catch more bluefin tuna in 2013 than they have 
caught in any given year in the past decade before they would incur any 
compliance costs associated with a fishery closure resulting from this 
action. NMFS will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing 
that restrictions will be effective from the dates specified through 
the end of the calendar year. NMFS will take reasonable actions to 
inform vessel owners if a closure of the Pacific bluefin tuna fishery 
appears imminent.
    Pacific bluefin tuna is commercially caught by U.S. vessels fishing 
in the EPO on an irregular basis. Most of the landings are made by 
small coastal purse seine vessels operating in the Southern California 
Bight with limited additional landings made by the drift gillnet fleet 
that targets swordfish and thresher shark. Lesser amounts of Pacific 
bluefin are caught by gillnet and longline gear. The Pacific bluefin 
tuna commercial catch limitations are not expected to result in closing 
the U.S. Pacific bluefin tuna fishery because annual catches have not 
reached 500 metric tons in over a decade. The average annual United 
States catch of Pacific bluefin tuna was 113 metric tons for 1999 
through 2012. Table 1 (above) describes U.S. commercial catch of 
bluefin tuna in the EPO for the years 1999 to 2010.
    The U.S. west coast catch of bluefin tuna represents a relatively 
minor component of the overall EPO tuna catch. The number of purse 
seine vessels that have landed tuna in California averaged 197 annually 
from 1981 through 1990 but declined to an annual average of 11 from 
2001 through 2010. The decline in the number of

[[Page 33243]]

domestic vessels is correlated in part with the relocation of large 
cannery operations. Currently, there are no domestic deliveries of raw 
tuna to canneries in California.
    NMFS compared the effects of the bluefin tuna restrictions imposed 
by this rule to a no action alternative. Under the no action 
alternative, there would be no change to current regulations, which do 
not limit U.S. commercial catches of Pacific bluefin tuna in the IATTC 
Convention Area. Based on recent Pacific bluefin tuna catch data and 
expected future trends, it is unlikely that any benefit to U.S. 
commercial fisheries would be gained from not implementing Resolution 
C-12-09 because the catch limit is not expected to be reached. However, 
failing to adopt this rule would result in the United States not 
satisfying its international obligations as a member of the IATTC. 
Furthermore, implementing Resolution C-12-09 could benefit the 
conservation of Pacific bluefin tuna by limiting catches.

Small Entities Compliance Guide

    The Compliance Guide for this action is available via the Federal 
e-Rulemaking portal, at https://www.regulations.gov, and is also 
available from the Regional Administrator, Rodney R. McInnis, NMFS 
Southwest Regional Office, 501 W. Ocean Boulevard, Suite 4200, Long 
Beach, CA 90802.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 300

    Administrative practice and procedure, Fish, Fisheries, Fishing, 
Marine resources, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Treaties.

    Dated: May 30, 2013.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, performing the functions and 
duties of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 300 is amended 
as follows:

PART 300--INTERNATIONAL FISHERIES REGULATIONS

0
1. The authority citation for 50 CFR part 300 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 951-961 et seq.


0
2. In Sec.  300.24, a new paragraph (u) is added to read as follows:


Sec.  300.24  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (u) Target or retain Pacific bluefin tuna in the IATTC Convention 
Area by any United States vessel engaged in commercial fishing after 
the dates specified by the Regional Administrator's notification of 
closure issued under Sec.  300.25 (h).
0
3. In Sec.  300.25, a new paragraph (h) is added to read as follows:


Sec.  300.25  Eastern Pacific fisheries management.

* * * * *
    (h) Bluefin tuna commercial catch limits in the eastern Pacific 
Ocean. (1) After the dates specified in a notice published by Regional 
Administrator in the Federal Register, a United States vessel engaged 
in commercial fishing may not target or retain bluefin tuna in the 
Convention Area for the remainder of the calendar year. NMFS will 
publish such a notice prohibiting further targeting and retention of 
Pacific bluefin tuna on the projected dates for the remainder of 2013 
when 3,295 metric tons or more have been harvested in 2013 by the 
commercial fishing vessels of all IATTC member countries and 
cooperating non-member countries. This prohibition will not be 
effective unless and until the annual commercial harvest of Pacific 
bluefin tuna by the United States fleet has reached 500 metric tons.
    (2) [Reserved]

[FR Doc. 2013-13240 Filed 6-3-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P