Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for Sea Turtle Conservation and Recovery Actions in Relation to the Southeastern United States Shrimp Fishery and To Conduct Public Scoping Meetings, 13772-13774 [2016-05769]

Download as PDF 13772 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 50 / Tuesday, March 15, 2016 / Notices preliminary determination.3 In its request, Petitioner states: ‘‘Due to the number and nature of subsidy programs under investigation, and due to the fact that the Department has sent quantity and value questionnaires to select mandatory respondents, Petitioner believes that the normal 65-day deadline for a preliminary determination in a countervailing duty investigation would not provide sufficient time for the Department to examine adequately the amount of subsidies that producers and exporters of subject merchandise in China receive.’’ 4 For the reasons stated above and because there are no compelling reasons to deny the request, the Department, in accordance with section 703(c)(1)(A) of the Act, is postponing the deadline for the preliminary determination to no later than 130 days after the day on which the investigation was initiated. As a result, the Department will issue its preliminary determination no later than June 27, 2016.5 In accordance with section 735(a)(1) of the Act, the deadline for the final determination of this investigation will continue to be 75 days after the date of the preliminary determination, unless postponed at a later date. This notice is issued and published pursuant to section 703(c)(2) of the Act and 19 CFR 351.205(f)(1). Dated: March 9, 2016. Paul Piquado, Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Compliance. [FR Doc. 2016–05810 Filed 3–14–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–DS–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE International Trade Administration Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness; Public Meetings International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. ACTION: Notice. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES AGENCY: 3 See Letter from Petitioner, ‘‘Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric from the People’s Republic of China: Petitioner’s Request to Extend the Deadline for the Preliminary Determination,’’ dated March 8, 2016. 4 Id., at 1. 5 The deadline based on a 65-day extension would be June 25, 2016, which is a Saturday. Department practice dictates that where a deadline falls on a weekend or federal holiday, the appropriate deadline is the next business day. See Notice of Clarification: Application of ‘‘Next Business Day’’ Rule for Administrative Determination Deadlines Pursuant to the Tariff Act of 1930, As Amended, 70 FR 24533 (May 10, 2005). VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:40 Mar 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 This notice sets forth the schedule and proposed topics of discussion for public meetings of the Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness (Committee). DATES: The meetings will be held on April 20, 2016, from 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., and April 21, 2016, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time (EST). ADDRESSES: The meetings on April 20 and 21 will be held at the Port of Houston Authority, Executive Office Building, Boardroom, 111 East Loop North, Houston, Texas 77029. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Richard Boll, Office of Supply Chain, Professional & Business Services, International Trade Administration. (Phone: (202) 482–1135 or Email: richard.boll@trade.gov) SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background: The Committee was established under the discretionary authority of the Secretary of Commerce and in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App. 2). It provides advice to the Secretary of Commerce on the necessary elements of a comprehensive policy approach to supply chain competitiveness designed to support U.S. export growth and national economic competitiveness, encourage innovation, facilitate the movement of goods, and improve the competitiveness of U.S. supply chains for goods and services in the domestic and global economy; and provides advice to the Secretary on regulatory policies and programs and investment priorities that affect the competitiveness of U.S. supply chains. For more information about the Committee visit: http://trade.gov/td/services/oscpb/ supplychain/acscc/. Matters to Be Considered: Committee members are expected to continue to discuss the major competitivenessrelated topics raised at the previous Committee meetings, including trade and competitiveness; freight movement and policy; information technology and data requirements; regulatory issues; finance and infrastructure; and workforce development. The Committee’s subcommittees will report on the status of their work regarding these topics. The agendas may change to accommodate Committee business. The Office of Supply Chain, Professional & Business Services will post the final detailed agendas on its Web site, http://trade.gov/td/services/oscpb/ supplychain/acscc/, at least one week prior to the meeting. The meetings will be open to the public and press on a first-come, first-served basis. Space is limited. The public meetings are SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00002 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 physically accessible to people with disabilities. Individuals requiring accommodations, such as sign language interpretation or other ancillary aids, are asked to notify Mr. Richard Boll, at (202) 482–1135 or richard.boll@ trade.gov five (5) business days before the meeting. Interested parties are invited to submit written comments to the Committee at any time before and after the meeting. Parties wishing to submit written comments for consideration by the Committee in advance of this meeting must send them to the Office of Supply Chain, Professional & Business Services, 1401 Constitution Ave NW., Room 11014, Washington, DC 20230, or email to richard.boll@trade.gov. For consideration during the meetings, and to ensure transmission to the Committee prior to the meetings, comments must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. EST on April 8, 2016. Comments received after April 8, 2016, will be distributed to the Committee, but may not be considered at the meetings. The minutes of the meetings will be posted on the Committee Web site within 60 days of the meeting. Dated: March 8, 2016. Bruce Harsh, Acting Director, Office of Supply Chain and Professional & Business Services. [FR Doc. 2016–05780 Filed 3–14–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–DR–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XE459 Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for Sea Turtle Conservation and Recovery Actions in Relation to the Southeastern United States Shrimp Fishery and To Conduct Public Scoping Meetings National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce. ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement and conduct public scoping meetings. AGENCY: We (NMFS) intend to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) and to conduct public scoping meetings to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by assessing potential impacts resulting from the proposed implementation of new sea turtle regulatory requirements in the shrimp fishery of the southeastern SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\15MRN1.SGM 15MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 50 / Tuesday, March 15, 2016 / Notices United States. These requirements are proposed to protect threatened and endangered sea turtles in the western Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico from incidental capture, and would be implemented under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). DATES: The public scoping period starts March 15, 2016 and will continue until April 29, 2016. We will consider all written comments received or postmarked by April 29, 2016, in defining the scope of the EIS. Comments received or postmarked after that date will be considered to the extent practicable. Verbal comments will be accepted at the scoping meetings as specified below. ADDRESSES: We will hold public scoping meetings to provide the public with an opportunity to present verbal comments on the scope of the EIS and to learn more about the proposed action from NMFS officials. Scoping meetings will be held at the following locations: 1. Morehead City—Crystal Coast Civic Center, 3505 Arendell Street, Morehead City, NC 28557. 2. Larose—Larose Regional Park and Civic Center, 307 East 5th Street, Larose, LA 70373. 3. Belle Chasse—Belle Chasse Auditorium, 8398 Highway 23, Belle Chasse, LA 70037. 4. Biloxi—Biloxi Visitor’s Center, 1050 Beach Boulevard, Biloxi, MS 39530. 5. Bayou La Batre—Bayou La Batre Community Center, 12745 Padgett Switch Road, Bayou La Batre, AL 36509. The meeting dates are: asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 1. April 13, 2016, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Morehead City, NC. 2. April 18, 2016, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Larose, LA. 3. April 19, 2016, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Belle Chasse, LA. 4. April 20, 2016, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Biloxi, MS. 5. April 21, 2016, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Bayou La Batre, AL. In addition to the five scoping meetings, we will also submit a scoping document to the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, and the Atlantic and Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commissions. Written comments on the scope of the EIS should be sent electronically via email to Michael.Barnette@noaa.gov, or physically via U.S. mail to Michael Barnette, Southeast Regional Office, Protected Resources Division, 263 13th Ave. South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701– 5505. Additional information, including a scoping document, can be found at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/ turtles/regulations.htm. All comments, whether offered verbally in person at the scoping VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:40 Mar 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 meetings or in writing as described above, will be considered. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Barnette, NMFS, Southeast Regional Office, at the address above, or at (727) 824–5312. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background All sea turtles that occur in U.S. waters are listed as either endangered or threatened under the ESA. The Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) are listed as endangered. The green (Chelonia mydas) and the Northwest Atlantic Ocean distinct population segment (DPS) of the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) are listed as threatened, except for breeding populations of green sea turtles in Florida and on the Pacific coast of Mexico, which are listed as endangered; on March 23, 2015 (80 FR 15271), NMFS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to remove the existing ESA listings for the green sea turtle and, in their place, list three endangered (Mediterranean, Central West Pacific and Central South Pacific) and eight threatened (North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Southwest Indian, North Indian, East Indian-West Pacific, Southwest Pacific, Central North Pacific, and East Pacific) DPSs. Sea turtles are incidentally taken, and some are killed, as a result of numerous activities, including fishery-related trawling activities in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic seaboard. Under the ESA and its implementing regulations, the taking of sea turtles is prohibited, with exceptions identified in 50 CFR 223.206(d), or according to the terms and conditions of a biological opinion issued under section 7 of the ESA, or according to an incidental take permit issued under section 10 of the ESA. The incidental taking of threatened turtles during shrimp trawling is exempted from the taking prohibition of section 9 of the ESA if the conservation measures specified in the sea turtle conservation regulations (50 CFR 223.205) are followed. The regulations require most vessels defined as ‘‘shrimp trawlers’’ (50 CFR 222.102) operating in the southeastern United States (Atlantic or Gulf area, see 50 CFR 223.206) to have a NMFS-approved TED installed in each net that is rigged for fishing to allow sea turtles to escape. TEDs currently approved include singlegrid hard TEDs and hooped hard TEDs conforming to a generic description, and one type of soft TED—the Parker soft TED (see 50 CFR 223.207). Most approved hard TEDs are described in PO 00000 Frm 00003 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 13773 the regulations (50 CFR 223.207(a)) according to generic criteria based upon certain parameters of TED design, configuration, and installation, including height and width dimensions of the TED opening through which the turtles escape. The regulations also describe additional hard TEDs’ specific requirements. Skimmer trawls, pusherhead trawls, and wing nets (butterfly trawls), however, may employ alternative tow time restrictions in lieu of TEDs, pursuant to 50 CFR 223.206(d)(2)(ii)(A). The alternative tow time restrictions limit tow times to 55 minutes from April 1 through October 31, and 75 minutes from November 1 through March 31. TEDs incorporate an escape opening, usually covered by a webbing flap, which allows sea turtles to escape from trawl nets. To be approved, a TED design must be shown to be 97 percent effective in excluding sea turtles during testing based upon NMFS-approved scientific testing protocols (50 CFR 223.207(e)(1)). NMFS-approved testing protocols established to date include the ‘‘small turtle test’’ (55 FR 41092, October 9, 1990) and the ‘‘wild turtle test’’ (52 FR 24244, June 29, 1987). Additionally, we have established a leatherback model testing protocol to evaluate a candidate TED’s ability to exclude adult leatherback sea turtles (66 FR 24287, May 14, 2001). Because testing with live leatherbacks is impossible, we obtained the carapace measurements of 15 nesting female leatherback turtles and used these data to construct an aluminum pipe-frame model of a leatherback turtle measuring 40 inches (101.6 cm) in width, 60 inches (152.4 cm) in length, and 21 inches (53.3 cm) in height. If the leatherback model and a diver with full scuba gear are able to pass through the escape opening of a candidate TED, that escape opening is judged to be capable of excluding adult leatherback sea turtles, as well as other large adult sea turtles. On June 24, 2011 (76 FR 37050), we published a notice of intent to prepare an EIS and conduct scoping meetings on potential measures to reduce sea turtle bycatch in the shrimp fisheries. On May 10, 2012 (77 FR 27411), we published a proposed rule that, if implemented, would require all skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls, and wing nets (butterfly trawls) to use TEDs in their nets. We also prepared a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), which included a description of the purpose and need for evaluating the proposed action and other potential management alternatives, the scientific methodology and data used in the analyses, background information on E:\FR\FM\15MRN1.SGM 15MRN1 13774 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 50 / Tuesday, March 15, 2016 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES the physical, biological, human, and administrative environments, and a description of the effects of the proposed action and other potential management alternatives on the aforementioned environments; a notice of its availability was published on May 18, 2012 (77 FR 29636). At the time the DEIS was prepared, information on the effects of the skimmer trawl fisheries on sea turtle populations was extremely limited. New information gained after the preparation of the DEIS indicated that a significant number of sea turtles observed interacting with the skimmer trawl fishery had a body depth that would allow them to pass between the required maximum four-inch (10.16-cm) bar spacing of a standard TED and proceed into the back of the net (i.e., they would not escape the trawl net). Therefore, the conservation benefit of expanding the TED requirement to skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls, and wing nets was much less than originally anticipated. As a result, we determined that a final rule to withdraw the alternative tow time restriction and require all skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls, and wing nets to use TEDs was not warranted (February 7, 2013; 78 FR 9024). Following the withdrawal of the final rule, we initiated additional TED testing, evaluating both small sea turtle exclusion and shrimp retention within the skimmer trawl fishery. This testing has produced a TED grid with narrow bar spacing (i.e., less than the current four-inch bar spacing maximum) and escape-opening flap specifications that would allow small turtles to effectively escape the trawl net, which could be employed by skimmer and otter trawlers in areas where these small turtles occur. Purpose of This Action NEPA requires Federal agencies to conduct an environmental analysis of their proposed actions to determine if the actions may significantly affect the quality of the human environment. We are considering a variety of regulatory measures to reduce the bycatch of threatened and endangered sea turtles in the shrimp fishery of the southeastern United States in light of concerns regarding the effectiveness of existing TED regulations in protecting sea turtles. This EIS will provide background information and specifically evaluate the alternatives and impacts associated with any considered management alternative. This rulemaking would be implemented pursuant to the ESA. We are seeking public input on the scope of the required NEPA analysis, including the range of reasonable alternatives, VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:40 Mar 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 associated significant impacts of any alternatives, and suitable mitigation measures. Scope of the Action The EIS is expected to identify and evaluate the relevant significant impacts and issues associated with implementing new sea turtle regulations for the shrimp fishery of the southeastern United States, in accordance with the Council on Environmental Quality’s Regulations at 40 CFR parts 1500–1508 and NOAA’s procedures for implementing NEPA found in NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216–6, dated May 20, 1999. Alternatives We will evaluate a range of reasonable alternatives in the EIS to reduce sea turtle bycatch and mortality in the shrimp fishery of the southeastern United States. In addition to evaluating the status quo, we will evaluate several other alternatives. These alternatives include, but are not necessarily limited to: requiring all skimmer trawls, pusherhead trawls, and wing nets (butterfly trawls) in both the Atlantic and Gulf areas to use either modified TEDs with narrow bar spacing (i.e., less than the current four-inch bar spacing maximum) or standard TEDs; requiring all skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls, and wing nets in both the Atlantic and Gulf areas to use modified TEDs with narrow bar spacing; requiring all trawlers (i.e., otter trawls, skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls, and wing nets) fishing in specific areas where small sea turtles occur to use modified TEDs with narrow bar spacing; as well as time and area closures affecting all shrimp vessels. Potential new TED requirements could apply to vessels fishing in both state and Federal waters. Public Comments We are providing this notice to advise the public and other agencies of our intentions and to obtain suggestions and information on the scope of the significant issues to include in the EIS. Comments and suggestions are invited from all interested parties to ensure that the full range of issues related to this proposed action and all substantive issues are identified. We request that comments be as specific as possible. In particular, we are seeking information regarding the potential direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on the human environment from the proposed action. The human environment is defined as ‘‘. . . the natural and physical environment and the relationship of people with that environment’’ (40 CFR 1508.14). In the context of the EIS, the PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 9990 human environment could include air quality, water quality, underwater noise levels, socioeconomic resources, fisheries, and environmental justice. Comments concerning this environmental review process should be directed to us (see ADDRESSES). All comments and material received, including names and addresses, will become part of the administrative record and may be released to the public. Authority The environmental review of the proposed action will be conducted under the authority and in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), National Environmental Policy Act Regulations (40 CFR parts 1500–1508), NOAA Administrative Order 216–6, other appropriate Federal laws and regulations, and policies and procedures of NOAA and NMFS for compliance with those regulations. Scoping Meetings Code of Conduct The public is asked to follow the following code of conduct at the scoping meetings. At the beginning of each meeting, our representative will explain the ground rules (e.g., alcohol is prohibited from the meeting room; attendees will be called to give their comments in the order in which they registered to speak; each attendee will have an equal amount of time to speak; and attendees may not interrupt one another). Our representative will structure the meeting so that all attending members of the public will be able to comment, if they so choose, regardless of the controversial nature of the subject(s). Attendees are expected to respect the ground rules, and those that do not will be asked to leave the meeting. Special Accommodations The scoping meetings are physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to our representative (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) at least 7 days prior to the meeting. Vietnamese translation services will be provided at the Louisiana and Mississippi public hearings. Dated: March 9, 2016. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources. [FR Doc. 2016–05769 Filed 3–14–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\15MRN1.SGM 15MRN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 50 (Tuesday, March 15, 2016)]
[Notices]
[Pages 13772-13774]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-05769]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XE459


Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for 
Sea Turtle Conservation and Recovery Actions in Relation to the 
Southeastern United States Shrimp Fishery and To Conduct Public Scoping 
Meetings

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

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement 
and conduct public scoping meetings.

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

SUMMARY: We (NMFS) intend to prepare an environmental impact statement 
(EIS) and to conduct public scoping meetings to comply with the 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by assessing potential impacts 
resulting from the proposed implementation of new sea turtle regulatory 
requirements in the shrimp fishery of the southeastern

[[Page 13773]]

United States. These requirements are proposed to protect threatened 
and endangered sea turtles in the western Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of 
Mexico from incidental capture, and would be implemented under the 
Endangered Species Act (ESA).

DATES: The public scoping period starts March 15, 2016 and will 
continue until April 29, 2016. We will consider all written comments 
received or postmarked by April 29, 2016, in defining the scope of the 
EIS. Comments received or postmarked after that date will be considered 
to the extent practicable. Verbal comments will be accepted at the 
scoping meetings as specified below.

ADDRESSES: We will hold public scoping meetings to provide the public 
with an opportunity to present verbal comments on the scope of the EIS 
and to learn more about the proposed action from NMFS officials. 
Scoping meetings will be held at the following locations:

1. Morehead City--Crystal Coast Civic Center, 3505 Arendell Street, 
Morehead City, NC 28557.
2. Larose--Larose Regional Park and Civic Center, 307 East 5th 
Street, Larose, LA 70373.
3. Belle Chasse--Belle Chasse Auditorium, 8398 Highway 23, Belle 
Chasse, LA 70037.
4. Biloxi--Biloxi Visitor's Center, 1050 Beach Boulevard, Biloxi, MS 
39530.
5. Bayou La Batre--Bayou La Batre Community Center, 12745 Padgett 
Switch Road, Bayou La Batre, AL 36509.

    The meeting dates are:

1. April 13, 2016, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Morehead City, NC.
2. April 18, 2016, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Larose, LA.
3. April 19, 2016, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Belle Chasse, LA.
4. April 20, 2016, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Biloxi, MS.
5. April 21, 2016, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Bayou La Batre, AL.

    In addition to the five scoping meetings, we will also submit a 
scoping document to the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fishery 
Management Councils, and the Atlantic and Gulf States Marine Fisheries 
Commissions.
    Written comments on the scope of the EIS should be sent 
electronically via email to Michael.Barnette@noaa.gov, or physically 
via U.S. mail to Michael Barnette, Southeast Regional Office, Protected 
Resources Division, 263 13th Ave. South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701-5505. 
Additional information, including a scoping document, can be found at: 
http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/turtles/regulations.htm.
    All comments, whether offered verbally in person at the scoping 
meetings or in writing as described above, will be considered.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Barnette, NMFS, Southeast 
Regional Office, at the address above, or at (727) 824-5312.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    All sea turtles that occur in U.S. waters are listed as either 
endangered or threatened under the ESA. The Kemp's ridley (Lepidochelys 
kempii), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and hawksbill 
(Eretmochelys imbricata) are listed as endangered. The green (Chelonia 
mydas) and the Northwest Atlantic Ocean distinct population segment 
(DPS) of the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) are listed as threatened, 
except for breeding populations of green sea turtles in Florida and on 
the Pacific coast of Mexico, which are listed as endangered; on March 
23, 2015 (80 FR 15271), NMFS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
proposed to remove the existing ESA listings for the green sea turtle 
and, in their place, list three endangered (Mediterranean, Central West 
Pacific and Central South Pacific) and eight threatened (North 
Atlantic, South Atlantic, Southwest Indian, North Indian, East Indian-
West Pacific, Southwest Pacific, Central North Pacific, and East 
Pacific) DPSs.
    Sea turtles are incidentally taken, and some are killed, as a 
result of numerous activities, including fishery-related trawling 
activities in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic seaboard. Under 
the ESA and its implementing regulations, the taking of sea turtles is 
prohibited, with exceptions identified in 50 CFR 223.206(d), or 
according to the terms and conditions of a biological opinion issued 
under section 7 of the ESA, or according to an incidental take permit 
issued under section 10 of the ESA. The incidental taking of threatened 
turtles during shrimp trawling is exempted from the taking prohibition 
of section 9 of the ESA if the conservation measures specified in the 
sea turtle conservation regulations (50 CFR 223.205) are followed. The 
regulations require most vessels defined as ``shrimp trawlers'' (50 CFR 
222.102) operating in the southeastern United States (Atlantic or Gulf 
area, see 50 CFR 223.206) to have a NMFS-approved TED installed in each 
net that is rigged for fishing to allow sea turtles to escape. TEDs 
currently approved include single-grid hard TEDs and hooped hard TEDs 
conforming to a generic description, and one type of soft TED--the 
Parker soft TED (see 50 CFR 223.207). Most approved hard TEDs are 
described in the regulations (50 CFR 223.207(a)) according to generic 
criteria based upon certain parameters of TED design, configuration, 
and installation, including height and width dimensions of the TED 
opening through which the turtles escape. The regulations also describe 
additional hard TEDs' specific requirements. Skimmer trawls, pusher-
head trawls, and wing nets (butterfly trawls), however, may employ 
alternative tow time restrictions in lieu of TEDs, pursuant to 50 CFR 
223.206(d)(2)(ii)(A). The alternative tow time restrictions limit tow 
times to 55 minutes from April 1 through October 31, and 75 minutes 
from November 1 through March 31.
    TEDs incorporate an escape opening, usually covered by a webbing 
flap, which allows sea turtles to escape from trawl nets. To be 
approved, a TED design must be shown to be 97 percent effective in 
excluding sea turtles during testing based upon NMFS-approved 
scientific testing protocols (50 CFR 223.207(e)(1)). NMFS-approved 
testing protocols established to date include the ``small turtle test'' 
(55 FR 41092, October 9, 1990) and the ``wild turtle test'' (52 FR 
24244, June 29, 1987). Additionally, we have established a leatherback 
model testing protocol to evaluate a candidate TED's ability to exclude 
adult leatherback sea turtles (66 FR 24287, May 14, 2001). Because 
testing with live leatherbacks is impossible, we obtained the carapace 
measurements of 15 nesting female leatherback turtles and used these 
data to construct an aluminum pipe-frame model of a leatherback turtle 
measuring 40 inches (101.6 cm) in width, 60 inches (152.4 cm) in 
length, and 21 inches (53.3 cm) in height. If the leatherback model and 
a diver with full scuba gear are able to pass through the escape 
opening of a candidate TED, that escape opening is judged to be capable 
of excluding adult leatherback sea turtles, as well as other large 
adult sea turtles.
    On June 24, 2011 (76 FR 37050), we published a notice of intent to 
prepare an EIS and conduct scoping meetings on potential measures to 
reduce sea turtle bycatch in the shrimp fisheries. On May 10, 2012 (77 
FR 27411), we published a proposed rule that, if implemented, would 
require all skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls, and wing nets 
(butterfly trawls) to use TEDs in their nets. We also prepared a draft 
environmental impact statement (DEIS), which included a description of 
the purpose and need for evaluating the proposed action and other 
potential management alternatives, the scientific methodology and data 
used in the analyses, background information on

[[Page 13774]]

the physical, biological, human, and administrative environments, and a 
description of the effects of the proposed action and other potential 
management alternatives on the aforementioned environments; a notice of 
its availability was published on May 18, 2012 (77 FR 29636). At the 
time the DEIS was prepared, information on the effects of the skimmer 
trawl fisheries on sea turtle populations was extremely limited. New 
information gained after the preparation of the DEIS indicated that a 
significant number of sea turtles observed interacting with the skimmer 
trawl fishery had a body depth that would allow them to pass between 
the required maximum four-inch (10.16-cm) bar spacing of a standard TED 
and proceed into the back of the net (i.e., they would not escape the 
trawl net). Therefore, the conservation benefit of expanding the TED 
requirement to skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls, and wing nets was 
much less than originally anticipated. As a result, we determined that 
a final rule to withdraw the alternative tow time restriction and 
require all skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls, and wing nets to use 
TEDs was not warranted (February 7, 2013; 78 FR 9024).
    Following the withdrawal of the final rule, we initiated additional 
TED testing, evaluating both small sea turtle exclusion and shrimp 
retention within the skimmer trawl fishery. This testing has produced a 
TED grid with narrow bar spacing (i.e., less than the current four-inch 
bar spacing maximum) and escape-opening flap specifications that would 
allow small turtles to effectively escape the trawl net, which could be 
employed by skimmer and otter trawlers in areas where these small 
turtles occur.

Purpose of This Action

    NEPA requires Federal agencies to conduct an environmental analysis 
of their proposed actions to determine if the actions may significantly 
affect the quality of the human environment. We are considering a 
variety of regulatory measures to reduce the bycatch of threatened and 
endangered sea turtles in the shrimp fishery of the southeastern United 
States in light of concerns regarding the effectiveness of existing TED 
regulations in protecting sea turtles. This EIS will provide background 
information and specifically evaluate the alternatives and impacts 
associated with any considered management alternative. This rulemaking 
would be implemented pursuant to the ESA. We are seeking public input 
on the scope of the required NEPA analysis, including the range of 
reasonable alternatives, associated significant impacts of any 
alternatives, and suitable mitigation measures.

Scope of the Action

    The EIS is expected to identify and evaluate the relevant 
significant impacts and issues associated with implementing new sea 
turtle regulations for the shrimp fishery of the southeastern United 
States, in accordance with the Council on Environmental Quality's 
Regulations at 40 CFR parts 1500-1508 and NOAA's procedures for 
implementing NEPA found in NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216-6, dated 
May 20, 1999.

Alternatives

    We will evaluate a range of reasonable alternatives in the EIS to 
reduce sea turtle bycatch and mortality in the shrimp fishery of the 
southeastern United States. In addition to evaluating the status quo, 
we will evaluate several other alternatives. These alternatives 
include, but are not necessarily limited to: requiring all skimmer 
trawls, pusher-head trawls, and wing nets (butterfly trawls) in both 
the Atlantic and Gulf areas to use either modified TEDs with narrow bar 
spacing (i.e., less than the current four-inch bar spacing maximum) or 
standard TEDs; requiring all skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls, and 
wing nets in both the Atlantic and Gulf areas to use modified TEDs with 
narrow bar spacing; requiring all trawlers (i.e., otter trawls, skimmer 
trawls, pusher-head trawls, and wing nets) fishing in specific areas 
where small sea turtles occur to use modified TEDs with narrow bar 
spacing; as well as time and area closures affecting all shrimp 
vessels. Potential new TED requirements could apply to vessels fishing 
in both state and Federal waters.

Public Comments

    We are providing this notice to advise the public and other 
agencies of our intentions and to obtain suggestions and information on 
the scope of the significant issues to include in the EIS. Comments and 
suggestions are invited from all interested parties to ensure that the 
full range of issues related to this proposed action and all 
substantive issues are identified. We request that comments be as 
specific as possible. In particular, we are seeking information 
regarding the potential direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on the 
human environment from the proposed action. The human environment is 
defined as ``. . . the natural and physical environment and the 
relationship of people with that environment'' (40 CFR 1508.14). In the 
context of the EIS, the human environment could include air quality, 
water quality, underwater noise levels, socioeconomic resources, 
fisheries, and environmental justice.
    Comments concerning this environmental review process should be 
directed to us (see ADDRESSES). All comments and material received, 
including names and addresses, will become part of the administrative 
record and may be released to the public.

Authority

    The environmental review of the proposed action will be conducted 
under the authority and in accordance with the requirements of the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 
et seq.), National Environmental Policy Act Regulations (40 CFR parts 
1500-1508), NOAA Administrative Order 216-6, other appropriate Federal 
laws and regulations, and policies and procedures of NOAA and NMFS for 
compliance with those regulations.

Scoping Meetings Code of Conduct

    The public is asked to follow the following code of conduct at the 
scoping meetings. At the beginning of each meeting, our representative 
will explain the ground rules (e.g., alcohol is prohibited from the 
meeting room; attendees will be called to give their comments in the 
order in which they registered to speak; each attendee will have an 
equal amount of time to speak; and attendees may not interrupt one 
another). Our representative will structure the meeting so that all 
attending members of the public will be able to comment, if they so 
choose, regardless of the controversial nature of the subject(s). 
Attendees are expected to respect the ground rules, and those that do 
not will be asked to leave the meeting.

Special Accommodations

    The scoping meetings are physically accessible to people with 
disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other 
auxiliary aids should be directed to our representative (see FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) at least 7 days prior to the meeting. 
Vietnamese translation services will be provided at the Louisiana and 
Mississippi public hearings.

    Dated: March 9, 2016.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources.
[FR Doc. 2016-05769 Filed 3-14-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P