International Fisheries; Pacific Tuna Fisheries; 2015 and 2016 Commercial Fishing Restrictions for Pacific Bluefin Tuna in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, 38986-38989 [2015-16720]

Download as PDF 38986 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 130 / Wednesday, July 8, 2015 / Rules and Regulations VII. Congressional Review Act * Pursuant to the Congressional Review Act (5 U.S.C. 801 et seq.), EPA will submit a report containing this rule and other required information to the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Comptroller General of the United States prior to publication of the rule in the Federal Register. This action is not a ‘‘major rule’’ as defined by 5 U.S.C. 804(2). Environmental protection, Administrative practice and procedure, Agricultural commodities, Pesticides and pests, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. Dated: June 26, 2015. Susan Lewis, Director, Registration Division, Office of Pesticide Programs. 1. The authority citation for part 180 continues to read as follows: Authority: 21 U.S.C. 321(q), 346a and 371. 2. In § 180.368: a. Remove the entries ‘‘Cucumber,’’ ‘‘Melon subgroup 9A,’’ ‘‘Okra,’’ ‘‘Pumpkin,’’ ‘‘Squash, winter,’’ ‘‘Sunflower, seed,’’ and ‘‘Vegetable, fruiting, group 8, except tabasco pepper,’’ in paragraph (a)(2). ■ b. Add alphabetically the following commodities to the table in paragraph (a)(2). The amendments read as follows: ■ ■ § 180.368 Metolachlor; tolerances for residues. (a) * * * (2) * * * Parts per million tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES * * * * Vegetable, cucurbit group 9 * * * * Vegetable, fruiting, group 8– 10, except tabasco pepper * * VerDate Sep<11>2014 * * 18:08 Jul 07, 2015 * 1.5 0.40 * 1.0 * Jkt 235001 BILLING CODE 6560–50–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 300 RIN 0648–BE71 International Fisheries; Pacific Tuna Fisheries; 2015 and 2016 Commercial Fishing Restrictions for Pacific Bluefin Tuna in the Eastern Pacific Ocean The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is issuing regulations under the Tuna Conventions Act to implement Resolution C–14–06 of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC or the Commission) by establishing limits on U.S. commercial catch of Pacific bluefin tuna from waters of the IATTC Convention Area for 2015 and 2016. This action is necessary for the United States to satisfy its obligations as a member of the IATTC. DATES: The final rule is effective July 9, 2015. ADDRESSES: Copies of the Regulatory Impact Review (RIR), Environmental Assessment, and other supporting documents are available via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov, docket NOAA– NMFS–2014–0151, or contact with the Regional Administrator, William W. Stelle, Jr., NMFS West Coast Region, 7600 Sand Point Way NE., Bldg 1, Seattle, WA 98115–0070, or RegionalAdministrator.WCRHMS@ noaa.gov. SUMMARY: ■ * * * Sunflower subgroup 20B ...... * National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. PART 180—[AMENDED] * * AGENCY: Therefore, 40 CFR chapter I is amended as follows: * * * Lettuce .................................. Low growing berry subgroup 13–07G, except cranberry * [Docket No. 141222999–5561–02] List of Subjects in 40 CFR Part 180 Commodity * [FR Doc. 2015–16523 Filed 7–7–15; 8:45 am] FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Celia Barroso, NMFS, Celia.Barroso@ noaa.gov, 562–432–1850. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background On March 9, 2015, NMFS published a proposed rule in the Federal Register (80 FR 12375) to revise regulations at 50 * CFR part 300, subpart C, to implement Resolution C–14–06, ‘‘Measures for the 0.10 Conservation and Management of Bluefin Tuna in the Eastern Pacific * Ocean, 2015–2016.’’ This resolution was * 0.50 PO 00000 Frm 00074 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 adopted by the IATTC at its 88th meeting in October 2014. The public comment period was open until April 8, 2015, and NMFS accepted public comment at a hearing held at the NMFS West Coast Region Long Beach office on March 26, 2015. Additionally, NMFS solicited public comment on the proposed trip limits, which are a new management tool in U.S. West Coast management of fisheries for Pacific bluefin tuna. The proposed trip limits were based on a recommendation from the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) at its November 2014 meeting. The final rule is implemented under the authority of the Tuna Conventions Act (16 U.S.C. 951 et seq.), which directs the Secretary of Commerce, after approval by the Secretary of State, to promulgate regulations as may be necessary to implement resolutions adopted by the IATTC. This authority has been delegated to NMFS. The proposed rule contains additional background information, including information on the IATTC, the international obligations of the United States as an IATTC member, and the need for regulations. Additional information on changes since the proposed rule is included below. New Regulations This final rule establishes catch limits for U.S. commercial vessels that catch Pacific bluefin tuna in the Convention Area (defined as the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO)) for 2015 and 2016. 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. In 2015, the catch limit for the entire U.S. fleet is 425 metric tons (mt) with an initial trip limit 1 of 25 mt per vessel. When NMFS anticipates that the total catch for the fleet has reached 375 mt, NMFS will impose a 2-mt trip limit for each vessel that will be in effect until the total catch for 2015 reaches 425 mt. For calendar year 2016, NMFS will announce the catch limit in a Federal Register notice; NMFS will calculate the 2016 catch limit to ensure compliance with Resolution C–14–06 (i.e., not to exceed 425 mt in either year and if catch exceeds 300 mt in 2015, then catch will be limited to 200 mt in 2016). The 2016 catch limit will be calculated as the remainder from the 2015 catch limit (i.e., how much of 425 mt was not 1 This rule defines ‘‘trip limit’’ as the total allowable amount of a species by weight of fish that may be retained on board, transshipped, or landed during a single fishing trip. E:\FR\FM\08JYR1.SGM 08JYR1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 130 / Wednesday, July 8, 2015 / Rules and Regulations tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES caught) added to 175 mt, except as follows: (1) If 175 mt or less is caught in 2015, then the 2016 catch limit is 425 mt; (2) if greater than 300 mt and up to 400 mt are caught in 2015, then the catch limit in 2016 will be 200 mt; or (3) if greater than 425 mt is caught in 2015, then the catch limit in 2016 will be further reduced by the amount in excess of 425 mt (i.e., the remainder of the 600 mt limit for 2015–2016). The fishery in 2016 will also be subject to an initial 25-mt trip limit until catch is within 50 mt of the 2016 catch limit, after which a 2-mt trip limit will be imposed. When NMFS determines that the catch limit is expected to be reached in 2015 or 2016 (based on landings receipts, data submitted in logbooks, and other available fishery information), NMFS will prohibit commercial fishing for, or retention of, Pacific bluefin tuna for the remainder of the calendar year. NMFS will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing that the targeting, retaining, transshipping or landing for Pacific bluefin tuna will be prohibited on a specified effective date through the end of that calendar year. Upon that effective date, a commercial fishing vessel of the United States may not be used to target, retain on board, transship, or land Pacific bluefin tuna captured in the Convention Area during the period specified in the announcement, with the exception that any Pacific bluefin tuna already on board a fishing vessel on the effective date may be retained on board, transshipped, and/or landed, to the extent authorized by applicable laws and regulations, provided that they are landed within 14 days after the effective date. Catch Monitoring, Catch Limit Announcements NMFS will provide updates on Pacific bluefin tuna catches in the Convention Area to the public via the IATTC listserv and the West Coast Region Web site: http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa. gov/fisheries/migratory_species/bluefin_ tuna_harvest_status.html. Additionally, NMFS will report preliminary estimates of Pacific bluefin tuna catch between monthly intervals if and when commercial catches approach the limits to help participants in the U.S. commercial fishery plan for the possibility of catch limits being reached. NMFS will notify industry when catch approaches 250 mt in 2015. In 2015, NMFS will publish up to two Federal Register notices after the final rule is issued, imposing inseason management measures. First, NMFS will publish a notice when the commercial VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:08 Jul 07, 2015 Jkt 235001 2-mt trip limit is imposed (i.e., catch is expected to reach 375 mt). Second, NMFS will publish a notice closing the entire commercial fishery when NMFS determines that the catch limit is expected to be met. In 2016, NMFS will publish up to three notices in the Federal Register. The first notice will announce the 2016 catch limit. A second notice will announce the 2-mt trip limit, when NMFS determines that the commercial catch is expected to be within 50 mt of the catch limit. NMFS will publish a third notice in the Federal Register when NMFS determines that the catch limit is expected to be reached. Public Comments and Responses NMFS received eight written public comments and additional comments from attendees to a public hearing held on March 26, 2015, at the NMFS West Coast Region Long Beach office. Comments received were in regard to more than one aspect of the rule and some comments were very similar; therefore, NMFS is responding to the common themes/topics. The responses are summarized below. NMFS did not receive any comments objecting to the 2-mt trip limit when catch is within 50 mt of the catch limit in either 2015 or 2016. One commenter generally supported restrictions on commercial fishing and did not express support or objections to specific measures of the proposed rule. Comments that were beyond the scope of this rulemaking are not addressed here. Nonetheless, some of those comments are valuable and NMFS will consider them for future management planning. Comment 1: The rule should not include a trip limit (e.g., an initial 20mt trip limit proposed), or should have a higher trip limit (e.g., up to 50 mt), because it will lead to discards. In support for this point, a commenter noted that a recent record of per trip catches from one vessel exceeded the proposed trip limit. The commenter also stated that fish in excess of the trip limit that are encircled and then released would not survive; therefore, the trip limits do not promote management measures to reduce fishing mortality. Additionally, the ability of vessel operators to catch a small quantity is uncertain. If only large schools are present, the vessel operators may have to forgo catching Pacific bluefin tuna. A comment received at the public hearing also recommended a higher trip limit. Response: NMFS agrees that an increase in the trip limit from 20 mt to 25 mt is warranted (for an explanation of the rationale, please see the next PO 00000 Frm 00075 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 38987 section, Changes from the Proposed Rule). NMFS anticipates that increasing the trip limit from the proposed 20 mt to 25 mt will reduce the potential for discards while still sufficiently reducing the rate of harvest to meet the management objectives of providing access to, without exceeding, the full catch limit. Increasing the trip limit beyond 25 mt would make monitoring and timely closure more difficult. Regarding mortality of released fish, other comments received suggest vessel operators could target smaller schools and fish could survive brailing operations. NMFS is unaware of any studies that refute this anecdotal information. Comment 2: NMFS should adopt an initial trip limit (e.g., 20-mt trip limit) as proposed because it may alleviate derby-style fishing pressures and the potential for excess supply of Pacific bluefin tuna, and therefore, could make fishery more profitable. In particular, slowing the harvest rate could support development of a local fresh-frozen market for Pacific bluefin tuna in California, whereas large sets are only suitable for canning. Commenters also specifically supported 20 mt as the initial trip limit. The 20-mt trip limit is a good an inseason management tool to ensure that catch limits are not exceeded and reduce the potential for a fishery closure that could require discarding of incidentally caught PBF. A skilled purse seine captain can estimate the size of a set, and release fish alive during the brailing operation, if needed. One commenter suggested trip limits should only be imposed for the shortterm, while the overall catch limit is so low. Response: NMFS agrees that the initial trip limit (e.g., 20 mt) is a useful management tool in this situation. As explained in the Response to Comment 1, NMFS is implementing an initial trip limit of 25 mt, rather than 20 mt as originally proposed, to address concerns about discards; the higher trip limit is expected to meet the management objectives, including alleviating derbystyle fishing pressure. Further, the 2-mt trip limit when catch is within 50 mt of the 2015 or 2016 limit is intended to prevent discards of incidentally caught PBF in non-directed fisheries (e.g. troll and line, drift gillnet). Additionally, the catch and trip limits in this rule are only applicable to 2015 and 2016. If the IATTC adopts subsequent resolutions on the conservation and management of Pacific bluefin tuna, NMFS will evaluate whether trip limits are appropriate management measures at that time. E:\FR\FM\08JYR1.SGM 08JYR1 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES 38988 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 130 / Wednesday, July 8, 2015 / Rules and Regulations Comment 3: Current monitoring and enforcement is inadequate to enforce catch and trip limits, and ensure the biennial catch limits are not exceeded. The proposed trip limit—NMFS assumes this refers to the 20-mt trip limit and not the 2-mt trip limit— incentivizes discards. Further, misreporting could undermine accurate estimates of fishing mortality. Vessel operators should be required to record discards to ensure that the United States does not exceed the catch limits. Without observer coverage, NMFS should estimate the portion of catch discarded dead and include it in the estimate of total U.S. catch of Pacific bluefin tuna. The fishery should be closely monitored to ensure the catch limit is not exceeded. Response: NMFS acknowledges that monitoring and enforcement of trip limits can be a problem for fisheries management, but has determined that an initial trip limit of 25 mt can be adequately monitored and enforced. Vessel operators are required to fill out logbooks, which includes all catch, whether kept or returned to sea, and to submit the logbooks to NMFS within 30 days of each landing or transshipment (see 50 CFR 660.708). All catch, including discards, will count toward the catch limits. NMFS intends to work closely with California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and vessel operators, as it did in 2014, to monitor catches and landings to ensure limits are not exceeded. In 2014, NMFS received near real-time landings data from CDFW and vessel operators. Comment 4: The proposed rule fails to address an objective in Resolution C–14–06 that only 50 percent of the total catch be comprised of fish less than 30 kilograms (kg). Furthermore, the United States should limit catches even further to 250 mt per year, a level comparable to the 30 percent reduction considered for the recreational fishery. Response: Regarding size limits, C–14–06 establishes a goal, but not a requirement. NMFS is promulgating this rule in accordance with the requirements of Resolution C–14–06 with additional provisions (e.g., trip limits) to be able to effectively meet the requirements of the resolution (i.e., not exceeding catch limits). Resolution C–14–06 and this rule represent commercial catch reductions consistent with recommendations of the IATTC scientific staff (i.e., 20 to 45 percent) to aid in the rebuilding of the stock. More specifically, the catch limits in Resolution C–14–06 (i.e., an average of 300 mt per year) represent a 40 percent reduction from U.S. commercial catch limits in previous resolutions (i.e., 500 VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:08 Jul 07, 2015 Jkt 235001 mt per year) on the conservation and management of Pacific bluefin tuna. Lastly, requiring that fishermen target and land larger fish (i.e., greater than 30 kg) could lead to discards, as well as additional harvest costs (e.g., search time for schools of larger fish). General Comments not Within the Scope of the Rule: NMFS received several comments outside the scope of the proposed rule regarding: Future negotiations tactics by the United States on Pacific bluefin tuna conservation and management measures in the Convention Area, recommendations for additional science needs, improvement of catch monitoring by requiring daily communication between NMFS and vessel owners, requiring full retention of Pacific bluefin tuna, objections to the current catch limit as agreed to in Resolution C–14–06, and the effects of the current fishery conditions for other species targeted by the coastal purse seiners (i.e., sardines and market squid). Response to General Comments not Within the Scope of the Rule: NMFS will take these comments and concerns into consideration when developing future positions at upcoming IATTC meetings, as well as developing scientific partnerships to address gaps in knowledge. Regarding daily communication between vessel operators and NMFS, there would be value in increased communication to more closely monitor the fishery. NMFS is considering developing a rule to require vessel operators to notify NMFS upon landing Pacific bluefin tuna. Nonetheless, NMFS will endeavor to promote better cooperation and communication with vessel operators to receive catch data at the time of landing. NMFS views the requirement to log all catches and a requirement to land all catch (i.e., full retention) as having the same goal: To account for all Pacific bluefin tuna caught by U.S. vessels. Vessel operators are currently required to log all catch, which would be counted toward the catch limit. As described in responses above, NMFS is implementing a higher than originally proposed trip limit to address concerns about discards. Regarding other target fisheries (e.g., sardines, market squid), at the time Resolution C–14–06 was adopted (October 2014), the U.S. delegation was unaware of the drastic reductions in the fishery for Pacific sardine that are being imposed because of the reduced biomass estimates. However, the United States would have nonetheless endeavored to make cuts consistent with IATTC scientific staff recommendations to aid in rebuilding of Pacific bluefin tuna. PO 00000 Frm 00076 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Changes From the Proposed Rule NMFS received a number of comments expressing concern about the potential for discards resulting from the proposal to set the initial trip limit each year at 20 mt. NMFS has concluded that a higher trip limit of 25 mt is warranted to reduce the potential for discards while still meeting the management objectives (e.g., inseason management). NMFS found that the average landing by a vessel from a trip targeting PBF during 2005 to 2014 was 30.6 mt (ranging from 0.04 mt to 75.8 mt; median is 29.2); 36 percent of these trips included landings up to 25 mt, whereas only 23 percent of the trips included landings up to 20 mt. NMFS concludes that increasing the trip limit to 25 mt will tend to reduce discards while still sufficiently reducing the rate of harvest to meet the objective of providing access to, without exceeding, the full catch limit. Consequently, NMFS is implementing trip limits as recommended by the Council, but increasing the level of the initial trip limit from 20 mt to 25 mt. Classification The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this rule is consistent with the Tuna Conventions Act and other applicable laws. This rule was determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. Although there are no new collectionof-information requirements associated with this action that are subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act, existing collection-of-information requirements associated with the Fishery Management Plan for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species (HMS FMP) still apply. These requirements have been approved by the Office of Management and Budget under Control Number 0648–0204. Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is required to respond to, and no person shall be subject to penalty for failure to comply with, a collection-of-information subject to the requirements of the PRA, unless that collection-of-information displays a currently valid OMB control number. The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. This final rule contains a change in the trip limit that was published in the E:\FR\FM\08JYR1.SGM 08JYR1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 130 / Wednesday, July 8, 2015 / Rules and Regulations proposed action. As a result of public comments, the trip limit was increased from 20 mt to 25 mt. This change is anticipated to result in a minor economic benefit for impacted business entities. No comments were received regarding the certification. Therefore, the certification published with the proposed rule, that this rule is not expected to have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, is still valid. As a result, a regulatory flexibility analysis was not required and none was prepared. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries has determined that the need to conserve Pacific bluefin tuna and comply with our international obligations constitutes good cause, under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), to waive the requirement for a 30-day delay in effectiveness. Pacific bluefin tuna have migrated in significant numbers into waters off of southern California and commercial purse seine vessels have begun fishing for Pacific bluefin tuna off of the U.S West Coast. If the trip limits implemented by this rule were subject to the 30-day delay in effectiveness, and taking into account that a single trip could catch up to 75 mt, there is potential for a derby-style fishery that would result in exceeding the 425-mt catch limit for 2015 before this rule goes into effect. Although justification exists to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness, NMFS is implementing a 7-day delay in effectiveness to provide sufficient time for any vessels currently operating to comply with the new regulations; vessels that target Pacific bluefin tuna typically complete their fishing trips within one to two days. As soon as the rule is filed, notice will be sent to inform members of the tunafishing industry. Therefore, to conserve Pacific bluefin tuna, which are overfished, and to remain in compliance with IATTC Resolution C–14–06, NMFS has determined that implementing these measures 7 days after filing with the Office of Federal Register is in the public’s interest. tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 300 Administrative practice and procedure, Fish, Fisheries, Fishing, Marine resources, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Treaties. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:08 Jul 07, 2015 Jkt 235001 Dated: July 1, 2015. Eileen Sobeck, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, 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 Subpart C—Eastern Pacific Tuna Fisheries 1. The authority citation for part 300, subpart C, continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 951 et seq. 2. In § 300.21, add the definition for ‘‘Trip limit’’ in alphabetical order to read as follows: ■ § 300.21 Definitions. * * * * * Trip limit means the total allowable amount of a species by weight of fish that may be retained on board, transshipped, or landed from a single fishing trip by a vessel that harvests tuna or tuna-like species. * * * * * ■ 3. In § 300.24, revise paragraph (u) to read as follows: § 300.24 Prohibitions. * * * * * (u) Use a United States commercial fishing vessel in the Convention Area to target, retain on board, transship or land Pacific bluefin tuna in contravention of § 300.25(h)(3) and (5). * * * * * ■ 4. In § 300.25, revise paragraph (h) to read as follows: § 300.25 Eastern Pacific fisheries management. * * * * * (h) Pacific bluefin tuna commercial catch limits in the eastern Pacific Ocean for 2015–2016. The following is applicable to the U.S. commercial fishery for Pacific bluefin tuna in the Convention Area in the years 2015 and 2016. (1) For the calendar year 2015, all commercial fishing vessels of the United States combined may capture, retain, transship, or land no more than 425 metric tons in the Convention Area. (2) In 2016, NMFS will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing the 2016 catch limit. For PO 00000 Frm 00077 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 38989 the calendar year 2016, all commercial fishing vessels of the United States combined may capture, retain on board, transship, or land no more than the 2016 catch limit. The 2016 catch limit is calculated by adding any amount of the 425 metric ton catch limit that was not caught in 2015, as determined by NMFS, to 175 metric tons, except as follows: (i) If 175 metric tons or less are caught in 2015, as determined by NMFS, then the 2016 catch limit is 425 metric tons; (ii) If in 2015, greater than 300 metric tons and up to 400 metric tons are caught, as determined by NMFS, then the 2016 catch limit is 200 metric tons; or (iii) If greater than 425 metric tons are caught in 2015, as determined by NMFS, then the 2016 catch limit is calculated by subtracting the amount caught in 2015 from 600 metric tons. (3) In 2015 and 2016, a 25 metric ton trip limit will be in effect until NMFS anticipates that catch will be within 50 metric tons of the catch limits, after which a 2 metric ton trip limit will be in effect upon publication of a notice in the Federal Register by NMFS. (4) After NMFS determines that the catch limits under paragraphs (h)(1) and (2) of this section are expected to be reached by a future date, NMFS will publish a fishing closure notice in the Federal Register announcing the effective date that additional targeting, retaining on board, transshipping or landing Pacific bluefin tuna in the Convention Area shall be prohibited as described in paragraph (h)(5) of this section. (5) Beginning on the date announced in the fishing closure notice published under paragraph (h)(4) of this section through the end of the calendar year, a commercial fishing vessel of the United States may not be used to target, retain on board, transship, or land Pacific bluefin tuna captured in the Convention Area, with the exception that any Pacific bluefin tuna already on board a fishing vessel on the effective date of the notice may be retained on board, transshipped, and/or landed, to the extent authorized by applicable laws and regulations, provided such Pacific bluefin tuna is landed within 14 days after the effective date published in the fishing closure notice. [FR Doc. 2015–16720 Filed 7–2–15; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\08JYR1.SGM 08JYR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 130 (Wednesday, July 8, 2015)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 38986-38989]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-16720]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 300

[Docket No. 141222999-5561-02]
RIN 0648-BE71


International Fisheries; Pacific Tuna Fisheries; 2015 and 2016 
Commercial Fishing Restrictions for Pacific Bluefin Tuna in the Eastern 
Pacific Ocean

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is issuing 
regulations under the Tuna Conventions Act to implement Resolution C-
14-06 of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC or the 
Commission) by establishing limits on U.S. commercial catch of Pacific 
bluefin tuna from waters of the IATTC Convention Area for 2015 and 
2016. This action is necessary for the United States to satisfy its 
obligations as a member of the IATTC.

DATES: The final rule is effective July 9, 2015.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the Regulatory Impact Review (RIR), Environmental 
Assessment, and other supporting documents are available via the 
Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov, docket NOAA-
NMFS-2014-0151, or contact with the Regional Administrator, William W. 
Stelle, Jr., NMFS West Coast Region, 7600 Sand Point Way NE., Bldg 1, 
Seattle, WA 98115-0070, or RegionalAdministrator.WCRHMS@noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Celia Barroso, NMFS, 
Celia.Barroso@noaa.gov, 562-432-1850.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    On March 9, 2015, NMFS published a proposed rule in the Federal 
Register (80 FR 12375) to revise regulations at 50 CFR part 300, 
subpart C, to implement Resolution C-14-06, ``Measures for the 
Conservation and Management of Bluefin Tuna in the Eastern Pacific 
Ocean, 2015-2016.'' This resolution was adopted by the IATTC at its 
88th meeting in October 2014. The public comment period was open until 
April 8, 2015, and NMFS accepted public comment at a hearing held at 
the NMFS West Coast Region Long Beach office on March 26, 2015. 
Additionally, NMFS solicited public comment on the proposed trip 
limits, which are a new management tool in U.S. West Coast management 
of fisheries for Pacific bluefin tuna. The proposed trip limits were 
based on a recommendation from the Pacific Fishery Management Council 
(Council) at its November 2014 meeting.
    The final rule is implemented under the authority of the Tuna 
Conventions Act (16 U.S.C. 951 et seq.), which directs the Secretary of 
Commerce, after approval by the Secretary of State, to promulgate 
regulations as may be necessary to implement resolutions adopted by the 
IATTC. This authority has been delegated to NMFS.
    The proposed rule contains additional background information, 
including information on the IATTC, the international obligations of 
the United States as an IATTC member, and the need for regulations. 
Additional information on changes since the proposed rule is included 
below.

New Regulations

    This final rule establishes catch limits for U.S. commercial 
vessels that catch Pacific bluefin tuna in the Convention Area (defined 
as the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO)) for 2015 and 2016. 
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. In 2015, the catch limit for the entire U.S. fleet is 425 
metric tons (mt) with an initial trip limit \1\ of 25 mt per vessel. 
When NMFS anticipates that the total catch for the fleet has reached 
375 mt, NMFS will impose a 2-mt trip limit for each vessel that will be 
in effect until the total catch for 2015 reaches 425 mt. For calendar 
year 2016, NMFS will announce the catch limit in a Federal Register 
notice; NMFS will calculate the 2016 catch limit to ensure compliance 
with Resolution C-14-06 (i.e., not to exceed 425 mt in either year and 
if catch exceeds 300 mt in 2015, then catch will be limited to 200 mt 
in 2016). The 2016 catch limit will be calculated as the remainder from 
the 2015 catch limit (i.e., how much of 425 mt was not

[[Page 38987]]

caught) added to 175 mt, except as follows: (1) If 175 mt or less is 
caught in 2015, then the 2016 catch limit is 425 mt; (2) if greater 
than 300 mt and up to 400 mt are caught in 2015, then the catch limit 
in 2016 will be 200 mt; or (3) if greater than 425 mt is caught in 
2015, then the catch limit in 2016 will be further reduced by the 
amount in excess of 425 mt (i.e., the remainder of the 600 mt limit for 
2015-2016). The fishery in 2016 will also be subject to an initial 25-
mt trip limit until catch is within 50 mt of the 2016 catch limit, 
after which a 2-mt trip limit will be imposed.
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    \1\ This rule defines ``trip limit'' as the total allowable 
amount of a species by weight of fish that may be retained on board, 
transshipped, or landed during a single fishing trip.
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    When NMFS determines that the catch limit is expected to be reached 
in 2015 or 2016 (based on landings receipts, data submitted in 
logbooks, and other available fishery information), NMFS will prohibit 
commercial fishing for, or retention of, Pacific bluefin tuna for the 
remainder of the calendar year. NMFS will publish a notice in the 
Federal Register announcing that the targeting, retaining, 
transshipping or landing for Pacific bluefin tuna will be prohibited on 
a specified effective date through the end of that calendar year. Upon 
that effective date, a commercial fishing vessel of the United States 
may not be used to target, retain on board, transship, or land Pacific 
bluefin tuna captured in the Convention Area during the period 
specified in the announcement, with the exception that any Pacific 
bluefin tuna already on board a fishing vessel on the effective date 
may be retained on board, transshipped, and/or landed, to the extent 
authorized by applicable laws and regulations, provided that they are 
landed within 14 days after the effective date.

Catch Monitoring, Catch Limit Announcements

    NMFS will provide updates on Pacific bluefin tuna catches in the 
Convention Area to the public via the IATTC listserv and the West Coast 
Region Web site: http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/migratory_species/bluefin_tuna_harvest_status.html. Additionally, NMFS 
will report preliminary estimates of Pacific bluefin tuna catch between 
monthly intervals if and when commercial catches approach the limits to 
help participants in the U.S. commercial fishery plan for the 
possibility of catch limits being reached. NMFS will notify industry 
when catch approaches 250 mt in 2015.
    In 2015, NMFS will publish up to two Federal Register notices after 
the final rule is issued, imposing inseason management measures. First, 
NMFS will publish a notice when the commercial 2-mt trip limit is 
imposed (i.e., catch is expected to reach 375 mt). Second, NMFS will 
publish a notice closing the entire commercial fishery when NMFS 
determines that the catch limit is expected to be met.
    In 2016, NMFS will publish up to three notices in the Federal 
Register. The first notice will announce the 2016 catch limit. A second 
notice will announce the 2-mt trip limit, when NMFS determines that the 
commercial catch is expected to be within 50 mt of the catch limit. 
NMFS will publish a third notice in the Federal Register when NMFS 
determines that the catch limit is expected to be reached.

Public Comments and Responses

    NMFS received eight written public comments and additional comments 
from attendees to a public hearing held on March 26, 2015, at the NMFS 
West Coast Region Long Beach office. Comments received were in regard 
to more than one aspect of the rule and some comments were very 
similar; therefore, NMFS is responding to the common themes/topics. The 
responses are summarized below. NMFS did not receive any comments 
objecting to the 2-mt trip limit when catch is within 50 mt of the 
catch limit in either 2015 or 2016. One commenter generally supported 
restrictions on commercial fishing and did not express support or 
objections to specific measures of the proposed rule.
    Comments that were beyond the scope of this rulemaking are not 
addressed here. Nonetheless, some of those comments are valuable and 
NMFS will consider them for future management planning.
    Comment 1: The rule should not include a trip limit (e.g., an 
initial 20-mt trip limit proposed), or should have a higher trip limit 
(e.g., up to 50 mt), because it will lead to discards. In support for 
this point, a commenter noted that a recent record of per trip catches 
from one vessel exceeded the proposed trip limit. The commenter also 
stated that fish in excess of the trip limit that are encircled and 
then released would not survive; therefore, the trip limits do not 
promote management measures to reduce fishing mortality. Additionally, 
the ability of vessel operators to catch a small quantity is uncertain. 
If only large schools are present, the vessel operators may have to 
forgo catching Pacific bluefin tuna. A comment received at the public 
hearing also recommended a higher trip limit.
    Response: NMFS agrees that an increase in the trip limit from 20 mt 
to 25 mt is warranted (for an explanation of the rationale, please see 
the next section, Changes from the Proposed Rule). NMFS anticipates 
that increasing the trip limit from the proposed 20 mt to 25 mt will 
reduce the potential for discards while still sufficiently reducing the 
rate of harvest to meet the management objectives of providing access 
to, without exceeding, the full catch limit. Increasing the trip limit 
beyond 25 mt would make monitoring and timely closure more difficult. 
Regarding mortality of released fish, other comments received suggest 
vessel operators could target smaller schools and fish could survive 
brailing operations. NMFS is unaware of any studies that refute this 
anecdotal information.
    Comment 2: NMFS should adopt an initial trip limit (e.g., 20-mt 
trip limit) as proposed because it may alleviate derby-style fishing 
pressures and the potential for excess supply of Pacific bluefin tuna, 
and therefore, could make fishery more profitable. In particular, 
slowing the harvest rate could support development of a local fresh-
frozen market for Pacific bluefin tuna in California, whereas large 
sets are only suitable for canning. Commenters also specifically 
supported 20 mt as the initial trip limit. The 20-mt trip limit is a 
good an inseason management tool to ensure that catch limits are not 
exceeded and reduce the potential for a fishery closure that could 
require discarding of incidentally caught PBF. A skilled purse seine 
captain can estimate the size of a set, and release fish alive during 
the brailing operation, if needed. One commenter suggested trip limits 
should only be imposed for the short-term, while the overall catch 
limit is so low.
    Response: NMFS agrees that the initial trip limit (e.g., 20 mt) is 
a useful management tool in this situation. As explained in the 
Response to Comment 1, NMFS is implementing an initial trip limit of 25 
mt, rather than 20 mt as originally proposed, to address concerns about 
discards; the higher trip limit is expected to meet the management 
objectives, including alleviating derby-style fishing pressure. 
Further, the 2-mt trip limit when catch is within 50 mt of the 2015 or 
2016 limit is intended to prevent discards of incidentally caught PBF 
in non-directed fisheries (e.g. troll and line, drift gillnet). 
Additionally, the catch and trip limits in this rule are only 
applicable to 2015 and 2016. If the IATTC adopts subsequent resolutions 
on the conservation and management of Pacific bluefin tuna, NMFS will 
evaluate whether trip limits are appropriate management measures at 
that time.

[[Page 38988]]

    Comment 3: Current monitoring and enforcement is inadequate to 
enforce catch and trip limits, and ensure the biennial catch limits are 
not exceeded. The proposed trip limit--NMFS assumes this refers to the 
20-mt trip limit and not the 2-mt trip limit-- incentivizes discards. 
Further, misreporting could undermine accurate estimates of fishing 
mortality. Vessel operators should be required to record discards to 
ensure that the United States does not exceed the catch limits. Without 
observer coverage, NMFS should estimate the portion of catch discarded 
dead and include it in the estimate of total U.S. catch of Pacific 
bluefin tuna. The fishery should be closely monitored to ensure the 
catch limit is not exceeded.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges that monitoring and enforcement of trip 
limits can be a problem for fisheries management, but has determined 
that an initial trip limit of 25 mt can be adequately monitored and 
enforced. Vessel operators are required to fill out logbooks, which 
includes all catch, whether kept or returned to sea, and to submit the 
logbooks to NMFS within 30 days of each landing or transshipment (see 
50 CFR 660.708). All catch, including discards, will count toward the 
catch limits. NMFS intends to work closely with California Department 
of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and vessel operators, as it did in 2014, to 
monitor catches and landings to ensure limits are not exceeded. In 
2014, NMFS received near real-time landings data from CDFW and vessel 
operators.
    Comment 4: The proposed rule fails to address an objective in 
Resolution C-14-06 that only 50 percent of the total catch be comprised 
of fish less than 30 kilograms (kg). Furthermore, the United States 
should limit catches even further to 250 mt per year, a level 
comparable to the 30 percent reduction considered for the recreational 
fishery.
    Response: Regarding size limits, C-14-06 establishes a goal, but 
not a requirement. NMFS is promulgating this rule in accordance with 
the requirements of Resolution C-14-06 with additional provisions 
(e.g., trip limits) to be able to effectively meet the requirements of 
the resolution (i.e., not exceeding catch limits). Resolution C-14-06 
and this rule represent commercial catch reductions consistent with 
recommendations of the IATTC scientific staff (i.e., 20 to 45 percent) 
to aid in the rebuilding of the stock. More specifically, the catch 
limits in Resolution C-14-06 (i.e., an average of 300 mt per year) 
represent a 40 percent reduction from U.S. commercial catch limits in 
previous resolutions (i.e., 500 mt per year) on the conservation and 
management of Pacific bluefin tuna. Lastly, requiring that fishermen 
target and land larger fish (i.e., greater than 30 kg) could lead to 
discards, as well as additional harvest costs (e.g., search time for 
schools of larger fish).
    General Comments not Within the Scope of the Rule: NMFS received 
several comments outside the scope of the proposed rule regarding: 
Future negotiations tactics by the United States on Pacific bluefin 
tuna conservation and management measures in the Convention Area, 
recommendations for additional science needs, improvement of catch 
monitoring by requiring daily communication between NMFS and vessel 
owners, requiring full retention of Pacific bluefin tuna, objections to 
the current catch limit as agreed to in Resolution C-14-06, and the 
effects of the current fishery conditions for other species targeted by 
the coastal purse seiners (i.e., sardines and market squid).
    Response to General Comments not Within the Scope of the Rule: NMFS 
will take these comments and concerns into consideration when 
developing future positions at upcoming IATTC meetings, as well as 
developing scientific partnerships to address gaps in knowledge. 
Regarding daily communication between vessel operators and NMFS, there 
would be value in increased communication to more closely monitor the 
fishery. NMFS is considering developing a rule to require vessel 
operators to notify NMFS upon landing Pacific bluefin tuna. 
Nonetheless, NMFS will endeavor to promote better cooperation and 
communication with vessel operators to receive catch data at the time 
of landing. NMFS views the requirement to log all catches and a 
requirement to land all catch (i.e., full retention) as having the same 
goal: To account for all Pacific bluefin tuna caught by U.S. vessels. 
Vessel operators are currently required to log all catch, which would 
be counted toward the catch limit. As described in responses above, 
NMFS is implementing a higher than originally proposed trip limit to 
address concerns about discards. Regarding other target fisheries 
(e.g., sardines, market squid), at the time Resolution C-14-06 was 
adopted (October 2014), the U.S. delegation was unaware of the drastic 
reductions in the fishery for Pacific sardine that are being imposed 
because of the reduced biomass estimates. However, the United States 
would have nonetheless endeavored to make cuts consistent with IATTC 
scientific staff recommendations to aid in rebuilding of Pacific 
bluefin tuna.

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    NMFS received a number of comments expressing concern about the 
potential for discards resulting from the proposal to set the initial 
trip limit each year at 20 mt. NMFS has concluded that a higher trip 
limit of 25 mt is warranted to reduce the potential for discards while 
still meeting the management objectives (e.g., inseason management). 
NMFS found that the average landing by a vessel from a trip targeting 
PBF during 2005 to 2014 was 30.6 mt (ranging from 0.04 mt to 75.8 mt; 
median is 29.2); 36 percent of these trips included landings up to 25 
mt, whereas only 23 percent of the trips included landings up to 20 mt. 
NMFS concludes that increasing the trip limit to 25 mt will tend to 
reduce discards while still sufficiently reducing the rate of harvest 
to meet the objective of providing access to, without exceeding, the 
full catch limit. Consequently, NMFS is implementing trip limits as 
recommended by the Council, but increasing the level of the initial 
trip limit from 20 mt to 25 mt.

Classification

    The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this rule is 
consistent with the Tuna Conventions Act and other applicable laws.
    This rule was determined to be not significant for purposes of 
Executive Order 12866.
    Although there are no new collection-of-information requirements 
associated with this action that are subject to the Paperwork Reduction 
Act, existing collection-of-information requirements associated with 
the Fishery Management Plan for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly 
Migratory Species (HMS FMP) still apply. These requirements have been 
approved by the Office of Management and Budget under Control Number 
0648-0204. Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is 
required to respond to, and no person shall be subject to penalty for 
failure to comply with, a collection-of-information subject to the 
requirements of the PRA, unless that collection-of-information displays 
a currently valid OMB control number.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the 
proposed rule and is not repeated here. This final rule contains a 
change in the trip limit that was published in the

[[Page 38989]]

proposed action. As a result of public comments, the trip limit was 
increased from 20 mt to 25 mt. This change is anticipated to result in 
a minor economic benefit for impacted business entities. No comments 
were received regarding the certification. Therefore, the certification 
published with the proposed rule, that this rule is not expected to 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities, is still valid. As a result, a regulatory flexibility 
analysis was not required and none was prepared.
    The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries has determined that the 
need to conserve Pacific bluefin tuna and comply with our international 
obligations constitutes good cause, under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), to waive 
the requirement for a 30-day delay in effectiveness. Pacific bluefin 
tuna have migrated in significant numbers into waters off of southern 
California and commercial purse seine vessels have begun fishing for 
Pacific bluefin tuna off of the U.S West Coast. If the trip limits 
implemented by this rule were subject to the 30-day delay in 
effectiveness, and taking into account that a single trip could catch 
up to 75 mt, there is potential for a derby-style fishery that would 
result in exceeding the 425-mt catch limit for 2015 before this rule 
goes into effect. Although justification exists to waive the 30-day 
delay in effectiveness, NMFS is implementing a 7-day delay in 
effectiveness to provide sufficient time for any vessels currently 
operating to comply with the new regulations; vessels that target 
Pacific bluefin tuna typically complete their fishing trips within one 
to two days. As soon as the rule is filed, notice will be sent to 
inform members of the tuna-fishing industry.
    Therefore, to conserve Pacific bluefin tuna, which are overfished, 
and to remain in compliance with IATTC Resolution C-14-06, NMFS has 
determined that implementing these measures 7 days after filing with 
the Office of Federal Register is in the public's interest.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 300

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

    Dated: July 1, 2015.
Eileen Sobeck,
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, 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

Subpart C--Eastern Pacific Tuna Fisheries

0
1. The authority citation for part 300, subpart C, continues to read as 
follows:

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


0
2. In Sec.  300.21, add the definition for ``Trip limit'' in 
alphabetical order to read as follows:


Sec.  300.21  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Trip limit means the total allowable amount of a species by weight 
of fish that may be retained on board, transshipped, or landed from a 
single fishing trip by a vessel that harvests tuna or tuna-like 
species.
* * * * *

0
3. In Sec.  300.24, revise paragraph (u) to read as follows:


Sec.  300.24  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (u) Use a United States commercial fishing vessel in the Convention 
Area to target, retain on board, transship or land Pacific bluefin tuna 
in contravention of Sec.  300.25(h)(3) and (5).
* * * * *

0
4. In Sec.  300.25, revise paragraph (h) to read as follows:


Sec.  300.25  Eastern Pacific fisheries management.

* * * * *
    (h) Pacific bluefin tuna commercial catch limits in the eastern 
Pacific Ocean for 2015-2016. The following is applicable to the U.S. 
commercial fishery for Pacific bluefin tuna in the Convention Area in 
the years 2015 and 2016.
    (1) For the calendar year 2015, all commercial fishing vessels of 
the United States combined may capture, retain, transship, or land no 
more than 425 metric tons in the Convention Area.
    (2) In 2016, NMFS will publish a notice in the Federal Register 
announcing the 2016 catch limit. For the calendar year 2016, all 
commercial fishing vessels of the United States combined may capture, 
retain on board, transship, or land no more than the 2016 catch limit. 
The 2016 catch limit is calculated by adding any amount of the 425 
metric ton catch limit that was not caught in 2015, as determined by 
NMFS, to 175 metric tons, except as follows:
    (i) If 175 metric tons or less are caught in 2015, as determined by 
NMFS, then the 2016 catch limit is 425 metric tons;
    (ii) If in 2015, greater than 300 metric tons and up to 400 metric 
tons are caught, as determined by NMFS, then the 2016 catch limit is 
200 metric tons; or
    (iii) If greater than 425 metric tons are caught in 2015, as 
determined by NMFS, then the 2016 catch limit is calculated by 
subtracting the amount caught in 2015 from 600 metric tons.
    (3) In 2015 and 2016, a 25 metric ton trip limit will be in effect 
until NMFS anticipates that catch will be within 50 metric tons of the 
catch limits, after which a 2 metric ton trip limit will be in effect 
upon publication of a notice in the Federal Register by NMFS.
    (4) After NMFS determines that the catch limits under paragraphs 
(h)(1) and (2) of this section are expected to be reached by a future 
date, NMFS will publish a fishing closure notice in the Federal 
Register announcing the effective date that additional targeting, 
retaining on board, transshipping or landing Pacific bluefin tuna in 
the Convention Area shall be prohibited as described in paragraph 
(h)(5) of this section.
    (5) Beginning on the date announced in the fishing closure notice 
published under paragraph (h)(4) of this section through the end of the 
calendar year, a commercial fishing vessel of the United States may not 
be used to target, retain on board, transship, or land Pacific bluefin 
tuna captured in the Convention Area, with the exception that any 
Pacific bluefin tuna already on board a fishing vessel on the effective 
date of the notice may be retained on board, transshipped, and/or 
landed, to the extent authorized by applicable laws and regulations, 
provided such Pacific bluefin tuna is landed within 14 days after the 
effective date published in the fishing closure notice.

[FR Doc. 2015-16720 Filed 7-2-15; 4:15 pm]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P