Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Observer Coverage Requirements for Small Catcher/Processor in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Groundfish Fisheries, 78705-78707 [2015-31761]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 242 / Thursday, December 17, 2015 / Proposed Rules Foreign Missions Records, State-81’’ to the lists in paragraph (b)(2) Joyce A. Barr, Assistant Secretary for Administration, U.S. Department of State. [FR Doc. 2015–31551 Filed 12–16–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4710–43–P ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY 40 CFR Part 82 [EPA–HQ–OAR–2015–0453; FRL–9940–31– OAR] RIN 2060–AS51 Protection of Stratospheric Ozone: Update to the Refrigerant Management Requirements Under the Clean Air Act; Extension of Comment Period Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). ACTION: Proposed rule; extension of comment period. AGENCY: Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:08 Dec 16, 2015 Jkt 238001 List of Subjects in 40 CFR Part 82 Environmental protection, Air pollution control, Chemicals, Incorporation by reference, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. Dated: December 10, 2015. Sarah Dunham, Director, Office of Atmospheric Programs. EPA issued a proposed rule in the Federal Register on November 9, 2015, proposing to update service practices that reduce emissions of ozone-depleting refrigerants as well as extend them, as appropriate, to nonozone-depleting substitute refrigerants. The November 9, 2015, proposal provided for a 60-day public comment period ending January 8, 2016. EPA received requests from the public to extend this comment period. This document extends the comment period for 17 days, from January 8, 2016, to January 25, 2016. DATES: Comments, identified by docket identification (ID) number EPA–HQ– OAR–2015–0453, must be received on or before January 25, 2016. ADDRESSES: Follow the detailed instructions as provided under ADDRESSES in the Federal Register document of November 9, 2015. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Luke Hall-Jordan, Stratospheric Protection Division, Office of Atmospheric Programs, Mail Code 6205T, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460; telephone number (202) 343–9591; email address hall-jordan.luke@epa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This document extends the public comment period established in the proposed rule published in the Federal Register on November 9, 2015 (80 FR 69457) (FRL– 9933–48–OAR). In that document, EPA solicited comments and information on its proposed rule titled ‘‘Protection of Stratospheric Ozone: Update to the SUMMARY: Refrigerant Management Requirements under the Clean Air Act.’’ EPA received requests from members of the public to extend the comment period. EPA is hereby extending the comment period, which was previously set to end on January 8, 2016, to January 25, 2016. Accordingly, any comments on this proposed rule must be received on or before January 25, 2016. To submit comments, or access the public docket, please follow the detailed instructions as provided under ADDRESSES in the November 9, 2015, Federal Register document. If you have questions, consult the person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. [FR Doc. 2015–31661 Filed 12–16–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6560–50–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 RIN 0648–BF36 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Observer Coverage Requirements for Small Catcher/ Processor in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Groundfish Fisheries National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of availability of fishery management plan amendments; request for comments. AGENCY: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) has submitted Amendment 112 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI FMP) and Amendment 102 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA FMP). If approved, Amendments 112 and 102 would modify the criteria for NMFS to place small catcher/processors in the partial observer coverage category under the North Pacific Groundfish and SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 78705 Halibut Observer Program (Observer Program). Under Amendments 112 and 102, the GOA and BSAI FMPs would each be amended to allow certain catcher/processors with relatively small levels of groundfish production to be placed in the partial observer coverage category. Amendments 112 and 102 are intended to promote the goals of the BSAI and GOA FMPs and to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) and other applicable laws. DATES: Submit comments on or before February 16, 2016. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2015–0114, by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20150114, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802–1668. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may 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, 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). Electronic copies of Amendment 112 to the BSAI FMP and Amendment 102 to the GOA FMP and the Regulatory Impact Review/Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (RIR/IRFA) prepared for this action (collectively the ‘‘Analysis’’) are available from http:// www.regulations.gov or from the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http:// alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Anne Marie Eich, 907–586–7228. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries of the GOA under the GOA FMP. NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries of E:\FR\FM\17DEP1.SGM 17DEP1 Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 78706 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 242 / Thursday, December 17, 2015 / Proposed Rules Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands under the BSAI FMP. The Council prepared the GOA FMP pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act (16 U.S.C. 1801, et seq.). Regulations implementing the GOA FMP appear at 50 CFR 679. The Magnuson-Stevens Act in section 304(a) requires that each regional fishery management council submit an amendment to a fishery management plan for review and approval, disapproval, or partial approval by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary). The Magnuson-Stevens Act in section 304(a) also requires that the Secretary, upon receiving an amendment to a fishery management plan, immediately publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing that the amendment is available for public review and comment. The Council has submitted Amendment 112 to the BSAI FMP and Amendment 102 to the GOA FMP to the Secretary for review. This notice announces that proposed Amendment 112 to the BSAI FMP and Amendment 102 to the GOA FMP are available for public review and comment. Amendments 112 and 102 to the FMPs were adopted by the Council in June 2015. If approved by the Secretary, Amendments 112 and 102 would amend Section 3.2.4.1 of the BSAI and GOA FMPs to state that catcher/processors would be subject to full observer coverage requirement with some exceptions specified in regulations. To be consistent with current terminology, Amendments 112 and 102 would replace references to ‘‘less than 100 percent’’ and ‘‘greater than or equal to 100 percent’’ with ‘‘partial’’ and ‘‘full,’’ respectively, in Section 3.2.4.1 of both the GOA and BSAI FMPs. Additionally, the Amendments would make minor technical edits and modifications in terminology in Section 3.2.4.1 of the GOA and BSAI FMPs to conform to current NMFS style guidelines. These minor technical edits and modifications in terminology are not substantive. Amendments 112 and 102 would also amend Appendix A to the GOA and BSAI FMPs to list the date that the Amendments are implemented, if approved, in chronological order. The objectives of Amendments 112 and 102 are to (1) refine the balance between observer data quality from the fishery and the cost of observer coverage to catcher/processors with limited groundfish production relative to the rest of the catcher/processor fleet by allowing those catcher/processors with limited production to be placed in the partial observer coverage category based on contemporary groundfish production amounts; and (2) implement this exception without altering the full VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:08 Dec 16, 2015 Jkt 238001 observer coverage requirements for all trawl catcher/processors and catcher/ processors in a catch share program. Background on the Observer Program Regulations implementing the Observer Program allow NMFS-certified observers (observers) to obtain information necessary for the conservation and management of the BSAI and GOA groundfish and halibut fisheries. The Observer Program was implemented in 1990 (55 FR 4839, February 12, 1990). In 2012, NMFS restructured the funding and deployment systems of the Observer Program (77 FR 70062, November 21, 2012). Since implementation of the restructured Observer Program in 2013, vessels, shoreside processors and stationary floating processors participating in the groundfish and halibut fisheries off Alaska are placed in one of two observer coverage categories: (1) Partial observer coverage category or (2) full observer coverage category. In the full observer coverage category, vessel operators obtain observers by contracting directly with observer providers. Operators of vessels in the full observer coverage category pay the observer provider for each day the observer is on board the vessel, including days that the vessel is travelling to or from the fishing grounds but not fishing. NMFS deploys observers on vessels in the partial observer coverage category according to a statistical sample design based on an annual deployment plan developed in consultation with the Council. Vessels in the partial observer coverage category are required to carry observers only on fishing trips selected at random pursuant to the statistical sample design. Instead of paying for each day an observer is on board, NMFS assesses a fee equal to 1.25 percent of the ex-vessel value of the retained groundfish and halibut landed by vessels in the partial observer coverage category. NMFS uses these fees to establish a Federal contract with an observer service provider to deploy observers in the partial observer coverage category. Under this structure, observer coverage funding is based on the number of days a vessel operates (full observer coverage category) or on the ex-vessel value of a vessel’s retained catch regardless of the amount of time the vessel is covered by an observer (partial observer coverage category). Under the restructured Observer Program, almost all catcher/processors were assigned to the full observer coverage category to obtain independent estimates of catch, at-sea discards, and prohibited species catch (PSC) to reduce PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 the potential for introducing error into NMFS’ catch accounting system (as described in the proposed rule: 77 FR 23326, April 18, 2012). The restructured Observer Program provided for three limited exceptions for catcher/processors to be placed in the partial observer coverage category in recognition that the cost of full observer coverage would be disproportionate to total revenues for some small catcher/ processors. First, the restructured Observer Program provided an exception (specified at the current § 679.51(a)(2)(v)) that applies to ‘‘hybrid’’ vessels less than 60 feet length overall (LOA) that acted as both a catcher vessel and a catcher/processor in the same year in any year from 2003 through 2009. Second, the restructured Observer Program provided an exception from full coverage (specified at the current § 679.5(a)(2)(v)) if a catcher/processor had an average daily production of less than 5,000 lb (2.3 mt) round weight equivalent in its most recent full calendar year of operation from 2003 through 2009. Third, the restructured Observer Program provided an exception from full coverage (specified at § 679.5(a)(2)(iv)(B)) if a catcher/processor did not process more than one metric ton round weight of groundfish on any day in the immediately preceding year. The first two exceptions are based on a vessel’s activity between 2003 and 2009. A vessel that started processing after 2009 could never qualify to be placed in the partial observer coverage category under either of these exceptions. The first two exceptions permanently placed a vessel in the partial observer coverage category. These exceptions have no provision to review the production of a catcher/ processor placed in the partial observer coverage category on an ongoing basis and remove them from the partial observer coverage category if their production increases. Out of approximately seventy catcher/ processors in the Observer Program, three catcher/processors have qualified for, and elected to be assigned permanently to the partial observer coverage category under these two exceptions (Section 2.1.1 and Table 2 of the Analysis). The third exception, the one metric ton exception, is theoretically open to any catcher/processor that began production after 2009. However, in reviewing production data from 2008 through 2014 for this action, NMFS found no active catcher/processor (i.e., a catcher/processor which did any processing in a year) that processed one metric ton or less on every day during E:\FR\FM\17DEP1.SGM 17DEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 242 / Thursday, December 17, 2015 / Proposed Rules a year (Section 2.1.1 of the Analysis). One catcher/processor qualified for placement in the partial observer coverage category in 2015 under the one metric ton exception, but that catcher/ processor processed nothing in 2014 and therefore processed one metric ton or less on every day in 2014 (Section 2.1.1 of the Analysis). Need for Amendments 112 and 102 to the BSAI and GOA FMPs Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Beginning with comments on the proposed rule for the restructured Observer Program, industry participants asked that the final rule for the restructured Observer Program allow NMFS to place catcher/processors with limited production in the partial observer coverage category. In response to these comments, NMFS stated in the final rule for the restructured Observer Program (77 FR 70062, November 21, 2012) that neither the Council nor NMFS had analyzed the situation of small catcher/processors that began production after 2009. NMFS explained that if these industry participants wished to be considered for placement in the partial observer coverage category, the Council and NMFS would need to make these changes through a separate rulemaking process. Industry participants subsequently sought to change in the rules for placement of catcher/processors in the partial observer coverage category. The VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:08 Dec 16, 2015 Jkt 238001 Council and NMFS reviewed and developed a series of analyses that resulted in this proposed action. The history of this action is described in detail in Section 1.2 of the Analysis. Data on past production identified a small number of catcher/processors that processed a small amount of groundfish relative to the rest of the fleet. The Council and NMFS concluded that these vessels were paying, or would pay, a disproportionate amount for full observer coverage relative to the amount these vessels had processed, or would be likely to process. The Council and NMFS concluded that the cost of full observer coverage might be discouraging beneficial activity, such as processing sablefish in remote fishing grounds in the Aleutian Islands or processing by small jig gear vessels. As noted earlier, Amendments 112 and 102 would amend Section 3.2.4.1 of the BSAI and GOA FMPs to state that catcher/processors would be subject to full observer coverage requirements with some exceptions, as specified in regulations. The proposed rule describes the regulations that would assign catcher/processors to either the full or partial coverage categories. Those regulatory provisions are not repeated here. Public Comments NMFS is soliciting public comments on proposed Amendments 112 and 102 PO 00000 Frm 00031 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 78707 to the FMPs through the end of the comment period (see DATES). A proposed rule that would implement Amendment 112 to the BSAI FMP and Amendment 102 to the GOA FMP is intended to be published in the Federal Register for public comment, following NMFS’ evaluation of the proposed rule pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Public comments on the proposed rule must be received by the end of the comment period on Amendments 112 and 102 to the BSAI and GOA FMP in order to be considered in the approval/ disapproval decision on the amendment. NMFS will consider all comments on the Amendments received by the end of the comment period, whether specifically directed to the FMP amendments or the proposed rule, in the approval/disapproval decision. Comments received after the end of the comment period may not be considered in the approval/disapproval decision on Amendments 112 and 102. To be certain of consideration, comments must be received, not just postmarked or otherwise transmitted, by the last day of the comment period. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: December 14, 2015. Galen R. Tromble, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2015–31761 Filed 12–15–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\17DEP1.SGM 17DEP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 242 (Thursday, December 17, 2015)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 78705-78707]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-31761]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

RIN 0648-BF36


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Observer 
Coverage Requirements for Small Catcher/Processor in the Gulf of Alaska 
and Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Groundfish Fisheries

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

ACTION: Notice of availability of fishery management plan amendments; 
request for comments.

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SUMMARY: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) has 
submitted Amendment 112 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish 
of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI FMP) and 
Amendment 102 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf 
of Alaska (GOA FMP). If approved, Amendments 112 and 102 would modify 
the criteria for NMFS to place small catcher/processors in the partial 
observer coverage category under the North Pacific Groundfish and 
Halibut Observer Program (Observer Program). Under Amendments 112 and 
102, the GOA and BSAI FMPs would each be amended to allow certain 
catcher/processors with relatively small levels of groundfish 
production to be placed in the partial observer coverage category. 
Amendments 112 and 102 are intended to promote the goals of the BSAI 
and GOA FMPs and to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) 
and other applicable laws.

DATES: Submit comments on or before February 16, 2016.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2015-0114, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2015-0114, click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant 
Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region 
NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, 
AK 99802-1668.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may 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, 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).
    Electronic copies of Amendment 112 to the BSAI FMP and Amendment 
102 to the GOA FMP and the Regulatory Impact Review/Initial Regulatory 
Flexibility Analysis (RIR/IRFA) prepared for this action (collectively 
the ``Analysis'') are available from http://www.regulations.gov or from 
the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Anne Marie Eich, 907-586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries of the 
GOA under the GOA FMP. NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries of

[[Page 78706]]

Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands under the BSAI FMP. The Council 
prepared the GOA FMP pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act (16 U.S.C. 
1801, et seq.). Regulations implementing the GOA FMP appear at 50 CFR 
679.
    The Magnuson-Stevens Act in section 304(a) requires that each 
regional fishery management council submit an amendment to a fishery 
management plan for review and approval, disapproval, or partial 
approval by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary). The Magnuson-Stevens 
Act in section 304(a) also requires that the Secretary, upon receiving 
an amendment to a fishery management plan, immediately publish a notice 
in the Federal Register announcing that the amendment is available for 
public review and comment. The Council has submitted Amendment 112 to 
the BSAI FMP and Amendment 102 to the GOA FMP to the Secretary for 
review. This notice announces that proposed Amendment 112 to the BSAI 
FMP and Amendment 102 to the GOA FMP are available for public review 
and comment.
    Amendments 112 and 102 to the FMPs were adopted by the Council in 
June 2015. If approved by the Secretary, Amendments 112 and 102 would 
amend Section 3.2.4.1 of the BSAI and GOA FMPs to state that catcher/
processors would be subject to full observer coverage requirement with 
some exceptions specified in regulations. To be consistent with current 
terminology, Amendments 112 and 102 would replace references to ``less 
than 100 percent'' and ``greater than or equal to 100 percent'' with 
``partial'' and ``full,'' respectively, in Section 3.2.4.1 of both the 
GOA and BSAI FMPs. Additionally, the Amendments would make minor 
technical edits and modifications in terminology in Section 3.2.4.1 of 
the GOA and BSAI FMPs to conform to current NMFS style guidelines. 
These minor technical edits and modifications in terminology are not 
substantive. Amendments 112 and 102 would also amend Appendix A to the 
GOA and BSAI FMPs to list the date that the Amendments are implemented, 
if approved, in chronological order.
    The objectives of Amendments 112 and 102 are to (1) refine the 
balance between observer data quality from the fishery and the cost of 
observer coverage to catcher/processors with limited groundfish 
production relative to the rest of the catcher/processor fleet by 
allowing those catcher/processors with limited production to be placed 
in the partial observer coverage category based on contemporary 
groundfish production amounts; and (2) implement this exception without 
altering the full observer coverage requirements for all trawl catcher/
processors and catcher/processors in a catch share program.

Background on the Observer Program

    Regulations implementing the Observer Program allow NMFS-certified 
observers (observers) to obtain information necessary for the 
conservation and management of the BSAI and GOA groundfish and halibut 
fisheries. The Observer Program was implemented in 1990 (55 FR 4839, 
February 12, 1990). In 2012, NMFS restructured the funding and 
deployment systems of the Observer Program (77 FR 70062, November 21, 
2012). Since implementation of the restructured Observer Program in 
2013, vessels, shoreside processors and stationary floating processors 
participating in the groundfish and halibut fisheries off Alaska are 
placed in one of two observer coverage categories: (1) Partial observer 
coverage category or (2) full observer coverage category.
    In the full observer coverage category, vessel operators obtain 
observers by contracting directly with observer providers. Operators of 
vessels in the full observer coverage category pay the observer 
provider for each day the observer is on board the vessel, including 
days that the vessel is travelling to or from the fishing grounds but 
not fishing.
    NMFS deploys observers on vessels in the partial observer coverage 
category according to a statistical sample design based on an annual 
deployment plan developed in consultation with the Council. Vessels in 
the partial observer coverage category are required to carry observers 
only on fishing trips selected at random pursuant to the statistical 
sample design. Instead of paying for each day an observer is on board, 
NMFS assesses a fee equal to 1.25 percent of the ex-vessel value of the 
retained groundfish and halibut landed by vessels in the partial 
observer coverage category. NMFS uses these fees to establish a Federal 
contract with an observer service provider to deploy observers in the 
partial observer coverage category. Under this structure, observer 
coverage funding is based on the number of days a vessel operates (full 
observer coverage category) or on the ex-vessel value of a vessel's 
retained catch regardless of the amount of time the vessel is covered 
by an observer (partial observer coverage category).
    Under the restructured Observer Program, almost all catcher/
processors were assigned to the full observer coverage category to 
obtain independent estimates of catch, at-sea discards, and prohibited 
species catch (PSC) to reduce the potential for introducing error into 
NMFS' catch accounting system (as described in the proposed rule: 77 FR 
23326, April 18, 2012).
    The restructured Observer Program provided for three limited 
exceptions for catcher/processors to be placed in the partial observer 
coverage category in recognition that the cost of full observer 
coverage would be disproportionate to total revenues for some small 
catcher/processors. First, the restructured Observer Program provided 
an exception (specified at the current Sec.  679.51(a)(2)(v)) that 
applies to ``hybrid'' vessels less than 60 feet length overall (LOA) 
that acted as both a catcher vessel and a catcher/processor in the same 
year in any year from 2003 through 2009. Second, the restructured 
Observer Program provided an exception from full coverage (specified at 
the current Sec.  679.5(a)(2)(v)) if a catcher/processor had an average 
daily production of less than 5,000 lb (2.3 mt) round weight equivalent 
in its most recent full calendar year of operation from 2003 through 
2009. Third, the restructured Observer Program provided an exception 
from full coverage (specified at Sec.  679.5(a)(2)(iv)(B)) if a 
catcher/processor did not process more than one metric ton round weight 
of groundfish on any day in the immediately preceding year.
    The first two exceptions are based on a vessel's activity between 
2003 and 2009. A vessel that started processing after 2009 could never 
qualify to be placed in the partial observer coverage category under 
either of these exceptions. The first two exceptions permanently placed 
a vessel in the partial observer coverage category. These exceptions 
have no provision to review the production of a catcher/processor 
placed in the partial observer coverage category on an ongoing basis 
and remove them from the partial observer coverage category if their 
production increases. Out of approximately seventy catcher/processors 
in the Observer Program, three catcher/processors have qualified for, 
and elected to be assigned permanently to the partial observer coverage 
category under these two exceptions (Section 2.1.1 and Table 2 of the 
Analysis).
    The third exception, the one metric ton exception, is theoretically 
open to any catcher/processor that began production after 2009. 
However, in reviewing production data from 2008 through 2014 for this 
action, NMFS found no active catcher/processor (i.e., a catcher/
processor which did any processing in a year) that processed one metric 
ton or less on every day during

[[Page 78707]]

a year (Section 2.1.1 of the Analysis). One catcher/processor qualified 
for placement in the partial observer coverage category in 2015 under 
the one metric ton exception, but that catcher/processor processed 
nothing in 2014 and therefore processed one metric ton or less on every 
day in 2014 (Section 2.1.1 of the Analysis).

Need for Amendments 112 and 102 to the BSAI and GOA FMPs

    Beginning with comments on the proposed rule for the restructured 
Observer Program, industry participants asked that the final rule for 
the restructured Observer Program allow NMFS to place catcher/
processors with limited production in the partial observer coverage 
category. In response to these comments, NMFS stated in the final rule 
for the restructured Observer Program (77 FR 70062, November 21, 2012) 
that neither the Council nor NMFS had analyzed the situation of small 
catcher/processors that began production after 2009. NMFS explained 
that if these industry participants wished to be considered for 
placement in the partial observer coverage category, the Council and 
NMFS would need to make these changes through a separate rulemaking 
process.
    Industry participants subsequently sought to change in the rules 
for placement of catcher/processors in the partial observer coverage 
category. The Council and NMFS reviewed and developed a series of 
analyses that resulted in this proposed action. The history of this 
action is described in detail in Section 1.2 of the Analysis.
    Data on past production identified a small number of catcher/
processors that processed a small amount of groundfish relative to the 
rest of the fleet. The Council and NMFS concluded that these vessels 
were paying, or would pay, a disproportionate amount for full observer 
coverage relative to the amount these vessels had processed, or would 
be likely to process. The Council and NMFS concluded that the cost of 
full observer coverage might be discouraging beneficial activity, such 
as processing sablefish in remote fishing grounds in the Aleutian 
Islands or processing by small jig gear vessels.
    As noted earlier, Amendments 112 and 102 would amend Section 
3.2.4.1 of the BSAI and GOA FMPs to state that catcher/processors would 
be subject to full observer coverage requirements with some exceptions, 
as specified in regulations. The proposed rule describes the 
regulations that would assign catcher/processors to either the full or 
partial coverage categories. Those regulatory provisions are not 
repeated here.

Public Comments

    NMFS is soliciting public comments on proposed Amendments 112 and 
102 to the FMPs through the end of the comment period (see DATES). A 
proposed rule that would implement Amendment 112 to the BSAI FMP and 
Amendment 102 to the GOA FMP is intended to be published in the Federal 
Register for public comment, following NMFS' evaluation of the proposed 
rule pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Public comments on the 
proposed rule must be received by the end of the comment period on 
Amendments 112 and 102 to the BSAI and GOA FMP in order to be 
considered in the approval/disapproval decision on the amendment. NMFS 
will consider all comments on the Amendments received by the end of the 
comment period, whether specifically directed to the FMP amendments or 
the proposed rule, in the approval/disapproval decision.
    Comments received after the end of the comment period may not be 
considered in the approval/disapproval decision on Amendments 112 and 
102. To be certain of consideration, comments must be received, not 
just postmarked or otherwise transmitted, by the last day of the 
comment period.

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

    Dated: December 14, 2015.
Galen R. Tromble,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-31761 Filed 12-15-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P