International Fisheries; Western and Central Pacific Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species; Purse Seine Fishing Restrictions During Closure Periods, 51478-51480 [2015-20955]

Download as PDF 51478 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 164 / Tuesday, August 25, 2015 / Rules and Regulations being published elsewhere in this issue of the Federal Register, NMFS is removing, through an interim rule, the restrictions on bunkering operations, if otherwise authorized by applicable laws and regulations, in the ELAPS during the closure period. Classification The Administrator, Pacific Islands Region, NMFS, has determined that this final rule is consistent with the WCPFC Implementation Act and other applicable laws. Administrative Procedure Act NMFS may waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness required under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 553(d), upon a finding of good cause that the delay is impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest. NMFS finds that it would be contrary to the public interest to delay the effective date of this final rule. The requirements have been in effect through the interim rule since May 21, 2015, and the ELAPS has been closed to fishing by U.S. purse seiners since June 15, 2015. If this final rule does not enter into effect immediately, there could be public confusion as to whether the ELAPS is reopened to fishing until the rule enters into effect. Thus, this final rule is effective upon publication in the Federal Register so there is no perceived regulatory gap in the implementation of the fishing effort limit in the ELAPS for 2015. Executive Order 12866 This final rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. Regulatory Flexibility Act Because prior notice and opportunity for public comment were not required for the interim rule by 5 U.S.C. 553, or any other law, the analytical requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq., are inapplicable. Therefore, no final regulatory flexibility analysis was required and none has been prepared. Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with RULES List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 300 Administrative practice and procedure, Fish, Fisheries, Fishing, Marine resources, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Treaties. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 6901 et seq. VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:04 Aug 24, 2015 Jkt 235001 Dated: August 19, 2015. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. PART 300—INTERNATIONAL FISHERIES REGULATIONS Subpart O—Western and Central Pacific Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species Accordingly, the interim rule revising § 300.223, paragraph (a)(1), which was published at 80 FR 29220 on May 21, 2015, is adopted as a final rule without change. ■ [FR Doc. 2015–20957 Filed 8–24–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 300 [Docket No. 150629563–5703–01] RIN 0648–BF23 International Fisheries; Western and Central Pacific Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species; Purse Seine Fishing Restrictions During Closure Periods National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Interim rule; request for comments. AGENCY: This interim rule amends the regulations to remove the restriction that prohibits U.S. purse seine vessels from conducting bunkering (refueling) activities in the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and on the high seas between the latitudes of 20° N. and 20° S. in the area of application of the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (Convention), also known as the Effort Limit Area for Purse Seine or ELAPS, when this area is closed to U.S. purse seine fishing. This action would relieve U.S. purse seine vessels from the burden of the prohibition while continuing to satisfy U.S. obligations pursuant to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention Implementation Act. DATES: This rule is effective on August 25, 2015. Comments must be submitted in writing by September 24, 2015. SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00056 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2015–0098, and the regulatory impact review (RIR) prepared for the interim rule, by either of the following methods: • Electronic submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. 1. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20150098, 2. Click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and 3. Enter or attach your comments. —OR— • Mail: Submit written comments to Michael D. Tosatto, Regional Administrator, NMFS, Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO), 1845 Wasp Blvd., Building 176, Honolulu, HI 96818. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, might not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name and address), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Copies of the RIR and the Record of Environmental Consideration prepared for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) purposes are available at www.regulations.gov or may be obtained from Michael D. Tosatto, Regional Administrator, NMFS PIRO (see address above). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Emily Crigler, NMFS PIRO, 808–725– 5036. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: ADDRESSES: Background on the Convention The Convention focuses on the conservation and management of highly migratory species (HMS) and the management of fisheries for HMS. The objective of the Convention is to ensure, through effective management, the longterm conservation and sustainable use of HMS in the western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). To accomplish this objective, the Convention established the Commission on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPFC or Commission). The E:\FR\FM\25AUR1.SGM 25AUR1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 164 / Tuesday, August 25, 2015 / Rules and Regulations Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with RULES Commission includes Members, Cooperating Non-members, and Participating Territories (hereafter, collectively ‘‘members’’). The United States is a Member, and American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are Participating Territories. As a Contracting Party to the Convention and a Member of the Commission, the United States is obligated to implement the decisions of the Commission. The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention Implementation Act (16 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.; WCPFC Implementation Act) authorizes the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Department in which the United States Coast Guard is operating (currently the Department of Homeland Security), to promulgate such regulations as may be necessary to carry out the obligations of the United States under the Convention, including implementation of the decisions of the Commission. The WCPFC Implementation Act further provides that the Secretary of Commerce shall ensure consistency, to the extent practicable, of fishery management programs administered under the WCPFC Implementation Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.), as well as other specific laws (see 16 U.S.C. 6905(b)). The Secretary of Commerce has delegated the authority to promulgate regulations under the WCPFC Implementation Act to NMFS. A map showing the boundaries of the area of application of the Convention (Convention Area), which comprises the majority of the WCPO, can be found on the Commission Web site at: www.wcpfc.int/doc/convention-areamap. WCPFC Decision on Tropical Tunas At its Eleventh Regular Session, in December 2014, the Commission adopted Conservation and Management Measure (CMM) 2014–01, ‘‘Conservation and Management Measure for Bigeye, Yellowfin and Skipjack Tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.’’ CMM 2014–01 is the most recent in a series of CMMs for the management of tropical tuna stocks under the purview of the Commission. It is the immediate successor to CMM 2013–01, adopted in December 2013. These and other CMMs are available at: www.wcpfc.int/ conservation-and-managementmeasures. The stated general objective of CMM 2014–01 and several of its predecessor VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:04 Aug 24, 2015 Jkt 235001 CMMs is to ensure that the stocks of bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus), yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), and skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis) in the WCPO are, at a minimum, maintained at levels capable of producing their maximum sustainable yield as qualified by relevant environmental and economic factors. CMM 2014–01 includes specific objectives for each of the three stocks; the common objective is that the fishing mortality rate is to be reduced to or maintained at levels no greater than the fishing mortality rate associated with maximum sustainable yield. CMM 2014–01 went into effect February 3, 2015, and is generally applicable for the 2015–2017 period. The CMM includes provisions for purse seine vessels, longline vessels, and other types of vessels that fish for HMS. The CMM’s provisions for purse seine vessels include limits on the allowable number of fishing vessels, limits on the allowable level of fishing effort, restrictions on the use of fish aggregating devices, requirements to retain all bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna, and skipjack tuna except in specific circumstances, and requirements to carry vessel observers. The provisions of CMM 2014–01 apply on the high seas and in EEZs in the Convention Area; they do not apply in territorial seas or archipelagic waters. CMM 2014–01 includes specific fishing effort limits for purse seine vessels. NMFS Regulations Regarding Purse Seine Fishing Effort Limits On May 21, 2015, NMFS published an interim rule to establish a limit on fishing effort by U.S. purse seine vessels in the ELAPS for the calendar year 2015 (80 FR 29220), in accordance with the relevant provisions of CMM 2014–01. The limit is 1,828 fishing days, and went into effect on May 21, 2015. NMFS is issuing a final rule that responds to comments on the interim rule issued on May 21, 2015 (see the final rule identified by RIN 0648–BF03), which is being published elsewhere in this issue of the Federal Register. On June 8, 2015, NMFS determined that the 2015 ELAPS limit was expected to be reached and, in accordance with the procedures established at 50 CFR 300.223, issued a temporary rule announcing that the purse seine fishery in the ELAPS would be closed to fishing by U.S. purse seine vessels starting June 15, 2015, and would remain closed through December 31, 2015 (80 FR 32313). The regulations at 50 CFR 300.223, promulgated in 2009, specify that once PO 00000 Frm 00057 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 51479 a fishery closure in the ELAPS goes into effect, U.S. fishing vessels equipped with purse seine gear may not be used to fish in the ELAPS during the closure period. Because the definition of fishing, as established in 50 CFR 300.211, specifically includes bunkering, U.S. purse seine vessels under these regulations are prohibited from conducting bunkering operations in the ELAPS. During the closure of the ELAPS, U.S. purse seine vessels are generally allowed to fish in some foreign EEZs pursuant to the South Pacific Tuna Treaty. Information suggests that the U.S. WCPO purse seine fleet conducts about half of all bunkering operations on the high seas in order to support fishing operations in foreign EEZs in the WCPO. Since the regulations at 50 CFR 300.223 prohibit bunkering on the high seas in the WCPO for the remainder of 2015, the vessels are compelled to bunker in foreign waters or ports, which brings additional costs to these businesses. As stated in the RIR, it is difficult to estimate the costs to these businesses of the bunkering prohibition, but considering lost fishing time, transit costs, higher fuel prices, and, in the situation of having to go to port, port-associated costs, it is clear the additional costs could be substantial. The Action This interim rule is limited to amending the regulations at 50 CFR 300.223 to remove the restriction that prohibits U.S. purse seine vessels from conducting bunkering (refueling) activities within the ELAPS after a closure is announced. The regulations at 50 CFR 300.223(a)(3) state that once a fishery closure is announced, fishing vessels of the United States equipped with purse seine gear may not be used to fish in the ELAPS during the period specified in the Federal Register notice. This interim final rule amends this paragraph to include language stating that once a fishery closure is announced, fishing vessels of the United States equipped with purse seine gear may not be used to fish in the ELAPS during the period specified, except that such vessels are not prohibited from bunkering in the ELAPS during a fishery closure. U.S. vessels conducting bunkering operations in the ELAPS would still need to comply with all applicable international and Coast Guard regulations concerning ship-toship fuel transfers. This action is consistent with the provisions of CMM 2014–01 regarding purse seine fishing effort limits and is undertaken pursuant to the WCPFC Implementation Act. Although E:\FR\FM\25AUR1.SGM 25AUR1 51480 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 164 / Tuesday, August 25, 2015 / Rules and Regulations bunkering is included in the general definition of ‘‘fishing’’ because it is an activity that directly supports fishing operations, Commission decisions do not prohibit bunkering after a fishing effort limit is reached, and NMFS believes that a prohibition on bunkering in the ELAPS would have little or no effect on controlling fishing mortality, which is the underlying objective of CMM 2014–01. The costs of the bunkering prohibition outweigh any benefits the prohibition may have. Thus, this action is consistent with the purse seine fishing effort limit provisions of CMM 2014–01, the objective of which is to reduce or maintain the fishing mortality rates of bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna, and skipjack tuna at levels no greater than the fishing mortality rates associated with maximum sustainable yield. Classification The Administrator, Pacific Islands Region, NMFS, has determined that this interim rule is consistent with the WCPFC Implementation Act and other applicable laws. Administrative Procedure Act (APA) Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with RULES 15:04 Aug 24, 2015 Jkt 235001 This interim rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. Regulatory Flexibility Act Because prior notice and opportunity for public comment are not required for this rule by 5 U.S.C. 553, or any other law, the analytical requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq., are inapplicable. Therefore, no final regulatory flexibility analysis was required and none has been prepared. PO 00000 Frm 00058 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 300 Administrative practice and procedure, Fish, Fisheries, Fishing, Marine resources, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Treaties. Dated: August 19, 2015. Samuel D. Rauch III, 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 Subpart O—Western and Central Pacific Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species 1. The authority citation for 50 CFR part 300, subpart O, continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 6901 et seq. 2. In § 300.223, paragraph (a)(3) is revised to read as follows: ■ § 300.223 Purse seine fishing restrictions. * Executive Order 12866 The Assistant Administrator finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment on this action, because it would be impracticable and contrary to the public interest. This rule removes a restriction that prohibits U.S. purse seine vessels from conducting bunkering (refueling) activities in the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and in certain areas of the high seas. Without the amendments in this interim final rule, vessels would be compelled to bunker in foreign waters or ports, VerDate Sep<11>2014 which brings additional costs to these businesses. It is difficult to estimate the costs to these businesses, but it could be substantial due to lost fishing time, transit costs, higher fuel prices, and, in the situation of having to go to port, port-associated costs. If this rule is delayed to allow for prior notice and opportunity for public comment, it could result in substantial economic costs to the regulated community as the bunkering prohibition is currently effective and impacting the regulated community. In addition, continuing this restriction is not necessary to satisfy the obligations of the United States as a member of the Commission. The Assistant Administrative finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness because the bunkering prohibition is currently effective and impacting the regulated community. If this rule is delayed to allow for a 30-day delay in effectiveness, it could result in substantial economic costs to the regulated community. In order to avoid the possible economic impacts, this rule needs to be implemented immediately. * * * * (a) * * * (3) Once a fishery closure is announced pursuant to paragraph (a)(2) of this section, fishing vessels of the United States equipped with purse seine gear may not be used to fish in the ELAPS during the period specified in the Federal Register notice, except that such vessels are not prohibited from bunkering in the ELAPS during a fishery closure. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2015–20955 Filed 8–24–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\25AUR1.SGM 25AUR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 164 (Tuesday, August 25, 2015)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 51478-51480]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-20955]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 300

[Docket No. 150629563-5703-01]
RIN 0648-BF23


International Fisheries; Western and Central Pacific Fisheries 
for Highly Migratory Species; Purse Seine Fishing Restrictions During 
Closure Periods

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

ACTION: Interim rule; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: This interim rule amends the regulations to remove the 
restriction that prohibits U.S. purse seine vessels from conducting 
bunkering (refueling) activities in the U.S. exclusive economic zone 
(EEZ) and on the high seas between the latitudes of 20[deg] N. and 
20[deg] S. in the area of application of the Convention on the 
Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the 
Western and Central Pacific Ocean (Convention), also known as the 
Effort Limit Area for Purse Seine or ELAPS, when this area is closed to 
U.S. purse seine fishing. This action would relieve U.S. purse seine 
vessels from the burden of the prohibition while continuing to satisfy 
U.S. obligations pursuant to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries 
Convention Implementation Act.

DATES: This rule is effective on August 25, 2015. Comments must be 
submitted in writing by September 24, 2015.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2015-0098, and the regulatory impact review (RIR) prepared 
for the interim rule, by either of the following methods:
     Electronic submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.
    1. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2015-0098,
    2. Click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, 
and
    3. Enter or attach your comments.

--OR--

     Mail: Submit written comments to Michael D. Tosatto, 
Regional Administrator, NMFS, Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO), 
1845 Wasp Blvd., Building 176, Honolulu, HI 96818.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
might not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of 
the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name and address), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).
    Copies of the RIR and the Record of Environmental Consideration 
prepared for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) purposes are 
available at www.regulations.gov or may be obtained from Michael D. 
Tosatto, Regional Administrator, NMFS PIRO (see address above).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Emily Crigler, NMFS PIRO, 808-725-
5036.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background on the Convention

    The Convention focuses on the conservation and management of highly 
migratory species (HMS) and the management of fisheries for HMS. The 
objective of the Convention is to ensure, through effective management, 
the long-term conservation and sustainable use of HMS in the western 
and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). To accomplish this objective, the 
Convention established the Commission on the Conservation and 
Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central 
Pacific Ocean (WCPFC or Commission). The

[[Page 51479]]

Commission includes Members, Cooperating Non-members, and Participating 
Territories (hereafter, collectively ``members''). The United States is 
a Member, and American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the 
Northern Mariana Islands are Participating Territories.
    As a Contracting Party to the Convention and a Member of the 
Commission, the United States is obligated to implement the decisions 
of the Commission. The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention 
Implementation Act (16 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.; WCPFC Implementation Act) 
authorizes the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the 
Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Department in which the 
United States Coast Guard is operating (currently the Department of 
Homeland Security), to promulgate such regulations as may be necessary 
to carry out the obligations of the United States under the Convention, 
including implementation of the decisions of the Commission. The WCPFC 
Implementation Act further provides that the Secretary of Commerce 
shall ensure consistency, to the extent practicable, of fishery 
management programs administered under the WCPFC Implementation Act and 
the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA; 16 
U.S.C. 1801 et seq.), as well as other specific laws (see 16 U.S.C. 
6905(b)). The Secretary of Commerce has delegated the authority to 
promulgate regulations under the WCPFC Implementation Act to NMFS. A 
map showing the boundaries of the area of application of the Convention 
(Convention Area), which comprises the majority of the WCPO, can be 
found on the Commission Web site at: www.wcpfc.int/doc/convention-area-map.

WCPFC Decision on Tropical Tunas

    At its Eleventh Regular Session, in December 2014, the Commission 
adopted Conservation and Management Measure (CMM) 2014-01, 
``Conservation and Management Measure for Bigeye, Yellowfin and 
Skipjack Tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.'' CMM 2014-01 
is the most recent in a series of CMMs for the management of tropical 
tuna stocks under the purview of the Commission. It is the immediate 
successor to CMM 2013-01, adopted in December 2013. These and other 
CMMs are available at: www.wcpfc.int/conservation-and-management-measures.
    The stated general objective of CMM 2014-01 and several of its 
predecessor CMMs is to ensure that the stocks of bigeye tuna (Thunnus 
obesus), yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), and skipjack tuna 
(Katsuwonus pelamis) in the WCPO are, at a minimum, maintained at 
levels capable of producing their maximum sustainable yield as 
qualified by relevant environmental and economic factors. CMM 2014-01 
includes specific objectives for each of the three stocks; the common 
objective is that the fishing mortality rate is to be reduced to or 
maintained at levels no greater than the fishing mortality rate 
associated with maximum sustainable yield.
    CMM 2014-01 went into effect February 3, 2015, and is generally 
applicable for the 2015-2017 period. The CMM includes provisions for 
purse seine vessels, longline vessels, and other types of vessels that 
fish for HMS. The CMM's provisions for purse seine vessels include 
limits on the allowable number of fishing vessels, limits on the 
allowable level of fishing effort, restrictions on the use of fish 
aggregating devices, requirements to retain all bigeye tuna, yellowfin 
tuna, and skipjack tuna except in specific circumstances, and 
requirements to carry vessel observers.
    The provisions of CMM 2014-01 apply on the high seas and in EEZs in 
the Convention Area; they do not apply in territorial seas or 
archipelagic waters.
    CMM 2014-01 includes specific fishing effort limits for purse seine 
vessels.

NMFS Regulations Regarding Purse Seine Fishing Effort Limits

    On May 21, 2015, NMFS published an interim rule to establish a 
limit on fishing effort by U.S. purse seine vessels in the ELAPS for 
the calendar year 2015 (80 FR 29220), in accordance with the relevant 
provisions of CMM 2014-01. The limit is 1,828 fishing days, and went 
into effect on May 21, 2015. NMFS is issuing a final rule that responds 
to comments on the interim rule issued on May 21, 2015 (see the final 
rule identified by RIN 0648-BF03), which is being published elsewhere 
in this issue of the Federal Register.
    On June 8, 2015, NMFS determined that the 2015 ELAPS limit was 
expected to be reached and, in accordance with the procedures 
established at 50 CFR 300.223, issued a temporary rule announcing that 
the purse seine fishery in the ELAPS would be closed to fishing by U.S. 
purse seine vessels starting June 15, 2015, and would remain closed 
through December 31, 2015 (80 FR 32313).
    The regulations at 50 CFR 300.223, promulgated in 2009, specify 
that once a fishery closure in the ELAPS goes into effect, U.S. fishing 
vessels equipped with purse seine gear may not be used to fish in the 
ELAPS during the closure period. Because the definition of fishing, as 
established in 50 CFR 300.211, specifically includes bunkering, U.S. 
purse seine vessels under these regulations are prohibited from 
conducting bunkering operations in the ELAPS. During the closure of the 
ELAPS, U.S. purse seine vessels are generally allowed to fish in some 
foreign EEZs pursuant to the South Pacific Tuna Treaty. Information 
suggests that the U.S. WCPO purse seine fleet conducts about half of 
all bunkering operations on the high seas in order to support fishing 
operations in foreign EEZs in the WCPO. Since the regulations at 50 CFR 
300.223 prohibit bunkering on the high seas in the WCPO for the 
remainder of 2015, the vessels are compelled to bunker in foreign 
waters or ports, which brings additional costs to these businesses. As 
stated in the RIR, it is difficult to estimate the costs to these 
businesses of the bunkering prohibition, but considering lost fishing 
time, transit costs, higher fuel prices, and, in the situation of 
having to go to port, port-associated costs, it is clear the additional 
costs could be substantial.

The Action

    This interim rule is limited to amending the regulations at 50 CFR 
300.223 to remove the restriction that prohibits U.S. purse seine 
vessels from conducting bunkering (refueling) activities within the 
ELAPS after a closure is announced. The regulations at 50 CFR 
300.223(a)(3) state that once a fishery closure is announced, fishing 
vessels of the United States equipped with purse seine gear may not be 
used to fish in the ELAPS during the period specified in the Federal 
Register notice. This interim final rule amends this paragraph to 
include language stating that once a fishery closure is announced, 
fishing vessels of the United States equipped with purse seine gear may 
not be used to fish in the ELAPS during the period specified, except 
that such vessels are not prohibited from bunkering in the ELAPS during 
a fishery closure. U.S. vessels conducting bunkering operations in the 
ELAPS would still need to comply with all applicable international and 
Coast Guard regulations concerning ship-to-ship fuel transfers.
    This action is consistent with the provisions of CMM 2014-01 
regarding purse seine fishing effort limits and is undertaken pursuant 
to the WCPFC Implementation Act. Although

[[Page 51480]]

bunkering is included in the general definition of ``fishing'' because 
it is an activity that directly supports fishing operations, Commission 
decisions do not prohibit bunkering after a fishing effort limit is 
reached, and NMFS believes that a prohibition on bunkering in the ELAPS 
would have little or no effect on controlling fishing mortality, which 
is the underlying objective of CMM 2014-01. The costs of the bunkering 
prohibition outweigh any benefits the prohibition may have. Thus, this 
action is consistent with the purse seine fishing effort limit 
provisions of CMM 2014-01, the objective of which is to reduce or 
maintain the fishing mortality rates of bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna, 
and skipjack tuna at levels no greater than the fishing mortality rates 
associated with maximum sustainable yield.

Classification

    The Administrator, Pacific Islands Region, NMFS, has determined 
that this interim rule is consistent with the WCPFC Implementation Act 
and other applicable laws.

Administrative Procedure Act (APA)

    The Assistant Administrator finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 
553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment 
on this action, because it would be impracticable and contrary to the 
public interest. This rule removes a restriction that prohibits U.S. 
purse seine vessels from conducting bunkering (refueling) activities in 
the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and in certain areas of the high 
seas. Without the amendments in this interim final rule, vessels would 
be compelled to bunker in foreign waters or ports, which brings 
additional costs to these businesses. It is difficult to estimate the 
costs to these businesses, but it could be substantial due to lost 
fishing time, transit costs, higher fuel prices, and, in the situation 
of having to go to port, port-associated costs. If this rule is delayed 
to allow for prior notice and opportunity for public comment, it could 
result in substantial economic costs to the regulated community as the 
bunkering prohibition is currently effective and impacting the 
regulated community. In addition, continuing this restriction is not 
necessary to satisfy the obligations of the United States as a member 
of the Commission.
    The Assistant Administrative finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 
553(d)(3) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness because the 
bunkering prohibition is currently effective and impacting the 
regulated community. If this rule is delayed to allow for a 30-day 
delay in effectiveness, it could result in substantial economic costs 
to the regulated community. In order to avoid the possible economic 
impacts, this rule needs to be implemented immediately.

Executive Order 12866

    This interim rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    Because prior notice and opportunity for public comment are not 
required for this rule by 5 U.S.C. 553, or any other law, the 
analytical requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601 
et seq., are inapplicable. Therefore, no final regulatory flexibility 
analysis was required and none has been prepared.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 300

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

    Dated: August 19, 2015.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
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

Subpart O--Western and Central Pacific Fisheries for Highly 
Migratory Species

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

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.


0
2. In Sec.  300.223, paragraph (a)(3) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  300.223  Purse seine fishing restrictions.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (3) Once a fishery closure is announced pursuant to paragraph 
(a)(2) of this section, fishing vessels of the United States equipped 
with purse seine gear may not be used to fish in the ELAPS during the 
period specified in the Federal Register notice, except that such 
vessels are not prohibited from bunkering in the ELAPS during a fishery 
closure.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2015-20955 Filed 8-24-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P