Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Integrating Electronic Monitoring Into the North Pacific Observer Program, 36991-37004 [2017-16703]

Download as PDF 36991 Rules and Regulations Federal Register Vol. 82, No. 151 Tuesday, August 8, 2017 This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains regulatory documents having general applicability and legal effect, most of which are keyed to and codified in the Code of Federal Regulations, which is published under 50 titles pursuant to 44 U.S.C. 1510. The Code of Federal Regulations is sold by the Superintendent of Documents. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Agricultural Marketing Service 7 CFR Part 929 [Doc. No. AMS–SC–16–0041; SC16–929–1] Cranberries Grown in the States of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, and Long Island in the State of New York; Order Amending Marketing Order 929 Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA. ACTION: Notification of disposition. AGENCY: Notice is hereby given that a referendum to amend Marketing Order and Agreement No. 929 (order), which regulates the handling of cranberries grown in the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, and Long Island in the State of New York, did not meet the minimum voting requirements for approval. The Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, as amended, hereinafter referred to as the ‘‘Act’’ requires, in part, that a proposed amendment to the cranberries order must be approved by two-thirds of producers voting, or by those voting in the referendum representing at least two-thirds of the volume of cranberries, as well as by processors who have frozen or canned more than 50 percent of the volume of cranberries within the production area. Processors representing only 18 percent of the volume of cranberries within the production area voted in the referendum. Because a minimum of 50 percent of the volume of cranberries processed within the production area is required in order to pass, the referendum did not pass and the proposed amendment will not be implemented. The amendment, which was proposed by the Cranberry Marketing Committee (Committee), asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with RULES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:34 Aug 07, 2017 Jkt 241001 would have authorized the Committee to receive and expend voluntary contributions from domestic sources. DATES: This action is effective August 8, 2017. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Geronimo Quinones, Marketing Specialist, or Julie Santoboni, Rulemaking Branch Chief, Marketing Order and Agreement Division, Specialty Crops Program, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Stop 0237, Washington, DC 20250–0237; Telephone: (202) 720–2491, Fax: (202) 720–8938, or Email: Geronimo.Quinones@ams.usda.gov or Julie.Santoboni@ams.usda.gov. ADDRESSES: Small businesses may request information on complying with this regulation by contacting Richard Lower, Marketing Order and Agreement Division, Specialty Crops Program, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., STOP 0237, Washington, DC 20250–0237; Telephone: (202) 720– 2491, Fax: (202) 720–8938, or Email: Richard.Lower@ams.usda.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Marketing Order and Agreement No. 929 (order) regulates the handling of cranberries grown in the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, and Long Island in the State of New York. The order is effective under the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, as amended (7 U.S.C. 601–674), hereinafter referred to as the ‘‘Act’’. Section 608c(17) of the Act and the applicable rules of practice and procedure (7 CFR part 900) authorize the use of informal rulemaking to amend the order. A proposed rule and referendum order was issued on December 14, 2016, and published in the Federal Register on December 21, 2016 (81 FR 93642). This document directed that a referendum among cranberry producers and processors be conducted during the period of January 23, 2017 through February 13, 2017, to determine whether they favored the proposed amendment to the order. The proposed amendment would authorize the Cranberry Marketing Committee (Committee) to receive and expend voluntary contributions from domestic sources. To become effective, the Act requires that the amendment be approved by two-thirds of producers voting, or by those voting in the PO 00000 Frm 00001 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 referendum representing at least twothirds of the volume of cranberries. Processors who have processed over 50 percent of the total volume of cranberries processed during a representative period must also approve the amendment. After tabulation of the ballots, the amendment was approved by 89 percent of the number of producers voting and by 96 percent of the volume voted in the referendum, which exceeds the required two-thirds approval of the producers voting in the referendum or two-thirds of the volume represented in the referendum. Of the processors voting, 89 percent voted in favor of the proposed amendment. However, those processors only represented 18 percent of the total 2015–16 processed production volume. Because a minimum of 50 percent of the total volume of cranberries processed must be represented by the processors voting to approve an amendment, the referendum did not pass. Consequently, the proposed amendment will not be implemented. Authority: 7 U.S.C. 601–674. Dated: August 2, 2017. Bruce Summers, Acting Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service. [FR Doc. 2017–16656 Filed 8–7–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–02–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 15 CFR Part 902 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 161219999–7708–02] RIN 0648–BG54 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Integrating Electronic Monitoring Into the North Pacific Observer Program National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: NMFS hereby issues regulations to implement Amendment 114 to the Fishery Management Plan for SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\08AUR1.SGM 08AUR1 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with RULES 36992 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 151 / Tuesday, August 8, 2017 / Rules and Regulations Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area and Amendment 104 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (collectively referred to as the FMPs). Amendments 114/104 and this final rule integrate electronic monitoring (EM) into the North Pacific Observer Program (Observer Program). This final rule establishes a process for owners or operators of vessels using nontrawl gear to request to participate in the EM selection pool and the requirements for vessel owners or operators while in the EM selection pool. This action is necessary to improve the collection of data needed for the conservation, management, and scientific understanding of managed fisheries. Amendments 114/104 are intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the FMPs, and other applicable laws. DATES: Effective September 7, 2017. ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of Amendments 114/104 and the Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review prepared for this action (collectively the ‘‘Analysis’’) may be obtained from www.regulations.gov or from the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. All public comment letters submitted during the comment periods may be obtained from www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20160154. Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this rule may be submitted by mail to NMFS Alaska Region, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802–1668, Attn: Ellen Sebastian, Records Officer; in person at NMFS Alaska Region, 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, AK; by email to OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov; or by fax to 202–395–5806. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gretchen Harrington or Jennifer Watson, 907–586–7228. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic zone under the FMPs. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared the FMPs under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Regulations governing U.S. fisheries and implementing the FMPs appear at 50 CFR parts 600 and 679. Management of the Pacific halibut fisheries in and off Alaska is governed by an international agreement, the Convention Between the United States VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:34 Aug 07, 2017 Jkt 241001 of America and Canada for the Preservation of the Halibut Fishery of the Northern Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea (Convention), which was signed in Ottawa, Canada, on March 2, 1953, and was amended by the Protocol Amending the Convention, signed in Washington, DC, on March 29, 1979. The Convention is implemented in the United States by the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982. This final rule implements Amendments 114/104 to the FMPs. The Council submitted Amendments 114/ 104 for review by the Secretary of Commerce, and NMFS published the Notice of Availability of these amendments in the Federal Register on March 10, 2017, with comments invited through May 9, 2017 (82 FR 13302). The Secretary of Commerce approved Amendments 114/104 on June 5, 2017. NMFS published the proposed rule to implement Amendments 114/104 on March 23, 2017 (82 FR 14853), with comments invited through May 22, 2017. The proposed rule and Amendments 114/104 to the FMPs amend the Council’s fisheries research plan prepared under the authority of section 313 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The Secretary implemented the fisheries research plan through the North Pacific Observer Program. Its purpose is to collect data necessary for the conservation, management, and scientific understanding of the groundfish and halibut fisheries off Alaska. Magnuson-Stevens Act section 313 requires NMFS to provide a 60-day public comment period on the proposed rule and conduct a public hearing in each state represented on the Council for the purpose of receiving public comment on the proposed regulations. The states represented on the Council are Alaska, Oregon, and Washington. Per section 313 of the MagnusonStevens Act, NMFS conducted public hearings to accept oral and written comments on the proposed rule in Oregon, Washington, and Alaska during the public comment period. The first public hearing was held in conjunction with the April meeting of the Council on April 6, 2017, in Anchorage, AK. The second public hearing was on April 18, 2017, in Seattle, WA. The third public hearing was held on April 19, 2017, in Newport, OR. NMFS received seven unique relevant comment letters. NMFS received one comment that was outside the scope of this action. NMFS considered 18 unique relevant written and oral comments received by the end of the applicable comment period or at a public hearing, whether specifically directed to the FMP amendments, this proposed rule, PO 00000 Frm 00002 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 or both, in the approval decision for Amendments 114/104 and in this final rule. NMFS summarizes and responds to each comment under the heading Response to Comments below. A detailed review of the provisions of Amendments 114/104, the proposed regulations to implement Amendments 114/104, and the rationale for these regulations is provided in the preamble to the proposed rule (82 FR 14853, March 23, 2017) and are briefly summarized in this final rule. Integrating Electronic Monitoring Into the North Pacific Observer Program The Observer Program is an integral component in the management of North Pacific fisheries. In 2013, the Council and NMFS restructured the Observer Program to address longstanding concerns about statistical bias of observer-collected data and cost inequality among fishery participants with the funding and deployment structure under the previous Observer Program (77 FR 70062, November 21, 2012). The restructured Observer Program established two observer coverage categories: Partial and full. This final rule applies to the partial coverage category and will not change the full coverage category. The partial coverage category includes fishing sectors (vessels and processors) that are not required to have an observer at all times. The partial coverage category includes catcher vessels, shoreside processors, and stationary floating processors when they are not participating in a catch share program with a transferrable bycatch limit, referred to in regulations as a prohibited species catch limit. Small catcher/ processors that meet certain criteria may also be assigned to the partial coverage category. The restructured Observer Program expanded the vessels subject to observer coverage to include groundfish vessels less than 60 ft in length overall (LOA) and halibut vessels that had not been previously required to carry an observer. Expanding observer coverage to the approximately 950 previously unobserved vessels improved NMFS’ ability to estimate total catch in all Federal fisheries in the North Pacific. The restructured Observer Program created a new system of fees to pay for the cost of implementing observer coverage in the partial coverage category. Vessels and processors included in the partial coverage category pay a fee of 1.25 percent of the ex-vessel value of fishery landings to NMFS to fund the deployment of observers in the partial coverage category. Under section 313 of the E:\FR\FM\08AUR1.SGM 08AUR1 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 151 / Tuesday, August 8, 2017 / Rules and Regulations Magnuson-Stevens Act, the fees shall not exceed 2 percent of the fishery exvessel value. Even before implementing the restructured Observer Program, many vessel owners and operators new to the Observer Program were opposed to carrying an observer (77 FR 70062, November 21, 2012). Vessel owners and operators explained that there is limited space on board for an additional person or limited space in the vessel’s life raft. Some vessel owners, operators, and industry representatives, particularly those active in nontrawl fisheries (i.e., hook-and-line and pot fisheries), advocated for the use of EM instead of having an observer on board their vessels (77 FR 70062, November 21, 2012). To address their concerns, the Council and NMFS have been actively engaged in developing EM as a tool to collect fishery data in the nontrawl fisheries. Over the past several years, NMFS and industry participants have undertaken cooperative research to test the applicability and reliability of EM systems. An EM system uses cameras, video storage devices, and associated sensors to record and monitor fishing activities. This final rule establishes the process and structure for owners and operators of vessels using nontrawl gear in the partial coverage category of the Observer Program to choose to be in the EM selection pool and to use an EM system to monitor catch and bycatch. EM data will supplement observer data from other nontrawl gear vessels. Some data necessary for catch estimation, fishery management, and stock assessment that observers collect cannot be collected from EM systems. NMFS will obtain this data from observers on board other nontrawl gear vessels that are fishing in similar areas and at similar time periods. To implement EM, NMFS will contract with one or multiple EM service providers to install and service EM equipment, and to collect and review EM data. The contract will specify hardware and field service specifications, EM data review requirements, and data and archiving requirements. ‘‘EM service provider’’ means any person, including their employees or agents, that NMFS contracts with to provide EM services, or to review, interpret, or analyze EM data. Annual Deployment Plan and Annual Report Each year, NMFS develops an annual deployment plan (ADP) that describes how NMFS plans to deploy observers to VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:34 Aug 07, 2017 Jkt 241001 vessels and processors in the partial coverage category in the upcoming year. The ADP describes the scientific sampling design NMFS uses to randomly deploy observers to generate unbiased estimates of total and retained catch, and catch composition in the groundfish and halibut fisheries. The ADP provides flexibility to improve deployment to meet scientifically based estimation needs while accommodating the realities of a dynamic fiscal environment. Each year, NMFS conducts a scientific evaluation of observer data collected to understand the impact of changes in observer deployment and to identify areas where improvements are needed to collect the data necessary to conserve and manage the groundfish and halibut fisheries. NMFS adjusts the ADP in response to this evaluation. After consultation with the Council, NMFS will make EM system and observer deployment decisions following the sampling design in the ADP. Through this scientific process for EM system deployment, NMFS will gather reliable data necessary for the conservation, management, and scientific understanding of the fisheries covered by the fisheries research plan. In the ADP, NMFS and the Council will define the criteria for vessels to be eligible to participate in EM. The criteria for placement in the EM selection pool may include, but are not limited to, gear type, vessel length, area fished, number of fishing trips or total catch, sector, target fishery, home or landing port, and availability of EM systems. The ADP will specify the EM selection rate—the portion of trips that are sampled—for each calendar year. NMFS and the Council may change the EM selection rate from one calendar year to the next to achieve efficiency, cost savings, and data collection goals. NMFS may adjust the EM selection rate set in the ADP to respond to new information inseason. NMFS posts the ADP on the NMFS Alaska Region Web site (http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov). NMFS will use the fees collected under section 313 of the MagnusonStevens Act to deploy EM systems. The amount of fee revenues NMFS collects will determine the level of costs that NMFS could incur to deploy EM systems and to deploy observers. In consultation with the Council, NMFS will allocate funds between EM and observers to achieve the most precision for the least cost. Since the fee is based on the ex-vessel value of harvested fish, which fluctuates annually, the amount of funding available for deploying observers and EM systems will also fluctuate. NMFS will need to adjust PO 00000 Frm 00003 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 36993 observer coverage and EM coverage levels to align anticipated annual costs with available fee revenues. The Analysis provides a detailed discussion of the potential costs of EM system deployment (see ADDRESSES). NMFS, in consultation with the Council, may also modify the criteria for participating or limit the number of participants in the EM selection pool to control costs. The specific deployment decisions, including the eligibility criteria for vessels to participate in EM, could vary from year to year based on the analysis conducted through the ADP process. An important part of the ADP analysis will be identifying and understanding gaps in observer data when a portion of the partial coverage vessels participates in the EM selection pool. Appendix 1 of the Analysis (see ADDRESSES) provides an example of the type of analysis that will be conducted annually to ensure that sufficient observers are deployed to maintain representative data (such as biological samples and average weights) that cannot be collected with an EM system. Each year, NMFS also develops an annual report that evaluates how well various aspects of the program are achieving program goals, identifies areas where improvements are needed, and includes preliminary recommendations regarding the upcoming ADP. The Council and its Scientific and Statistical Committee review the annual report in June. This timing allows NMFS and the Council to consider the results of past performance in developing the ADP for the following year. NMFS posts the annual report on the NMFS Alaska Region Web site (http:// alaskafisheries.noaa.gov). New Requirements for EM Participants This final rule implements the requirements to allow an owner or operator of a vessel using nontrawl gear to choose to use an EM system in place of an observer. Participation in the EM program and entry into the EM selection pool will be voluntary. Any owner or operator of a vessel that meets the EM selection pool criteria could annually request to be in the EM selection pool using the process established in this rule if they are willing to comply with the provisions established under this rule. While there are additional responsibilities for the owner or operator of a vessel in the EM selection pool to install and maintain the EM system, NMFS’ intent is to allow the vessel to continue its normal fishing practice and allow the cameras to capture data observations that an EM E:\FR\FM\08AUR1.SGM 08AUR1 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with RULES 36994 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 151 / Tuesday, August 8, 2017 / Rules and Regulations service provider then extracts onshore through video review. The vessel owner or operator will work with the EM service provider to develop a vessel monitoring plan (VMP). The VMP will describe how fishing operations on the vessel are conducted, including how gear is set, how catch is brought on board, and where catch is retained and discarded. The VMP will also describe how the EM system and associated equipment will be configured to meet the data collection objectives and purpose of the EM program, including camera locations to cover all fishing activities, any sensors to detect fishing activities, and any special catch handling requirements to ensure the data collection objectives can be met. The VMP will also include methods to troubleshoot the EM system and instructions for ensuring the EM system is functioning properly. These required components of the VMP will be detailed in the VMP template and in the contract between NMFS and the EM service provider. Once the VMP is complete and the vessel owner or operator agrees to comply with the components of the VMP, the vessel owner or operator must sign and submit the VMP to NMFS for approval. NMFS will provide a VMP template for guidance to the EM service provider and the vessel owner or operator on the elements NMFS will require in the final approved VMP. NMFS will make this VMP template available on the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at https:// alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/ to allow vessel owners and operators an opportunity to review the VMP requirements and components for the upcoming year. Once in the EM selection pool and after the vessel has an approved VMP, the vessel operator will register fishing trips in the Observer Declare and Deploy System (ODDS). ODDS will notify the vessel operator when the vessel is selected to use the EM system and guide the vessel operator to the requirements for using an EM system. Vessel owners or operators will be required to maintain the EM system in working order, including ensuring the EM system is powered and functioning throughout the trip, keeping cameras clean and unobstructed, and ensuring the system is not tampered with. The vessel owner or operator will also need to ensure that power is maintained to the EM system at all times when the vessel is underway or the engine is operating. The vessel operator will also be required to conduct a system function test before each trip to ensure the EM system is working properly before departing. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:34 Aug 07, 2017 Jkt 241001 At the end of the fishing trip selected for EM coverage, the vessel operator will close the trip in ODDS and submit the video data storage device to NMFS. Previously, a vessel was prohibited from retaining halibut or sablefish in excess of the total amount of unharvested individual fishing quota (IFQ) or community development quota (CDQ) applicable to that vessel for the IFQ regulatory area in which the vessel was operating and that was currently held by all IFQ or CDQ permit holders aboard the vessel, unless that vessel had an observer aboard and maintained the applicable daily logbook. This final rule expands this exception to the prohibition to include when a vessel is in the EM selection pool and complies with the applicable requirements. This final rule provides that the owner or operator of a vessel in the EM selection pool, who complies with the regulations and maintains the applicable daily logbook, can retain halibut or sablefish in excess of the total amount of unharvested IFQ or CDQ applicable to that vessel for the IFQ regulatory area in which the vessel is operating and that is currently held by all IFQ or CDQ permit holders aboard the vessel. If a vessel is not part of the EM selection pool and is not selected for observer coverage for that fishing trip, the vessel owner or operator will continue to be prohibited from retaining halibut or sablefish in excess of the total amount of unharvested IFQ or CDQ applicable to that vessel for the IFQ regulatory area in which the vessel is operating. If a vessel owner or operator in the EM selection pool intends to use this expanded exception to fish in multiple IFQ/CDQ areas, the vessel owner or operator will use ODDS to identify when he or she intends to fish in multiple areas and to commit to using a functioning EM system on the whole trip, even if the vessel was not selected for EM coverage. The vessel owner or operator will be required to meet all the same responsibilities as if the vessel’s fishing trip had been selected for EM coverage in ODDS. These include having a copy of a valid NMFSapproved VMP on board before the vessel starts a fishing trip, maintaining the EM system in working order, and submitting the required information at the end of the trip. Because the EM system in this instance will be used as a compliance monitoring tool, some additional regulatory requirements will also apply to the vessel owner and operator (see § 679.51(f)(6)). Changes From Proposed to Final Rule NMFS made the following changes to this final rule in response to comments PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 received on the proposed rule. All of the specific regulation changes, and the reasons for making these changes, are explained under Response to Comments, below. NMFS revised: • The definition of a fishing trip at § 679.2, paragraph (3)(iv), for a vessel in the EM selection pool of the partial coverage category to include delivery to a tender vessel; • § 679.7(j)(2) and § 679.51(f)(5)(iii) to clarify that these paragraphs only apply to vessels when directed fishing in a fishery subject to EM coverage; • § 679.7(j)(9) to clarify that it applies only to vessels when directed fishing in a fishery subject to EM coverage, and it applies unless the vessel operator is directed to make changes to the EM system by NMFS, the EM service provider, or as directed in the troubleshooting guide of the VMP; • § 679.51(f)(2)(i) to remove the 72hour requirement to register each fishing trip in ODDS; • § 679.51(f)(3)(ii) to remove the requirement for fishing trips to be closed within 24 hours of the end of a trip and add the requirement that, at the end of a fishing trip selected for EM coverage, the vessel operator must use ODDS to close the fishing trip following the instructions in the VMP; and • § 679.51(f)(5)(vii) to add that, if the fishing trip ends in a remote port with limited postal service or at a tender vessel, the vessel operator must ensure the video data storage device and associated documentation is postmarked as soon as possible but no later than two weeks after the end of the fishing trip. Response to Comments NMFS received 18 unique substantive comments, which are summarized and responded to below. The commenters consisted of individuals, representatives of vessels using hook-and-line and pot gear, and the Council. Comment 1: We support integrating electronic monitoring into the Observer Program. This action provides flexibility to the Observer Program particularly for the small boats that for a variety of reasons have difficulty in carrying an observer. Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment. Comment 2: We appreciate the provisions of the proposed rule to accommodate a vessel with an existing EM system. A vessel that already has an EM system from another NMFS EM program should not have the added burden of installing a new, substantially similar system for use in Alaska, nor should the Observer Program purchase a new EM system for a vessel if its E:\FR\FM\08AUR1.SGM 08AUR1 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 151 / Tuesday, August 8, 2017 / Rules and Regulations existing EM system meets management needs. Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment. Comment 3: The proposed rule preamble states that a vessel can use an EM system it already has on board or it could modify that EM system as necessary to meet the specifications in the VMP. To ensure that management needs are met, clarify that the EM system must also meet the specifications for data quality and data output required in the EM service provider contract. Response: NMFS agrees that all EM systems must meet the required specifications for data quality and data output in the EM service provider contract. NMFS will provide these EM specifications to fishery participants on our Web site (http:// alaskafisheries.noaa.gov). The EM specifications will contain the same specifications for an EM system as the EM service provider contract. Comment 4: Clarify (1) how the development and vetting process outlined in the Analysis will be integrated into the contracting process to ensure that any EM equipment installed on a vessel has been properly tested and vetted, (2) how existing EM systems that have not undergone this vetting process will be vetted and integrated into the EM program, and (3) how future research and development work on EM systems will be integrated into the program. The Analysis identified a clear process for EM technology development, maturation, and vetting prior to being deployed in the operational EM program. This process is necessary to ensure that the EM hardware and software meet reliability standards, are compatible with normal operating procedures on board fishing vessels, and provide data of sufficient reliability, quality, and formats capable of meeting management needs. From an industry perspective, it is critical that any EM system be thoroughly vetted prior to being installed on a vessel in the EM program. During pre-implementation, several volunteer vessels experienced costly damage to hydraulic systems, VHF radio interference, and significant delays due to EM systems under development. The proposed rule preamble indicates the EM service provider, not the vessel owner, determines which EM hardware to install on a vessel. However, the vessel operator bears the cost of malfunctioning EM systems because a malfunction may require trips to be delayed for up to 72 hours, a malfunction may cause damage to the VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:34 Aug 07, 2017 Jkt 241001 vessel systems, or a vessel operator may be required to terminate a fishing trip if that vessel is fishing IFQ in multiple areas. This proposed EM service provider based approach is only workable if the EM systems have undergone a thorough vetting process. Response: The EM service provider will install an EM system that meets the EM specifications that NMFS includes in the contract. NMFS will follow the process for EM technology development, maturation, and vetting described in Section 3.5 of the Analysis for substantive changes in EM technology. Once the specifications and requirements for new technology are developed and vetted, these changes will be included in the EM service provider contract and in the EM specifications provided to EM participants. Comment 5: Clearly articulate how NMFS envisions funding future research and development work for EM systems. The cost of new EM system research and development should not be paid for through the use of fees. The allocation of fees between EM deployment and observer deployment should be focused on maximizing data quality and meeting management objectives. Response: As explained in Section 3.5 of the Analysis, NMFS will not use fees to fund EM system development. The Council did not explicitly include EM development as a component of its research plan when it recommended this action to integrate EM into the Observer Program. Future EM development may be funded with NMFS funds or through grants, such as from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, similar to how the EM system development under preimplementation has been funded since 2014. Comment 6: Consider allowing a vessel that enters a fishery in the partial coverage category for the first time midyear to join the EM selection pool if it meets the criteria and does not have sufficient raft space or bunk space on board for an observer. Response: NMFS will place a vessel entering a nontrawl fishery mid-year in the observer selection pool for the remainder of that year. A vessel cannot enter the EM selection pool mid-year because prior to the fishing year NMFS needs to have an accurate count of the number of new vessels in the EM selection pool to determine the budget and number of vessels that will be equipped with EM systems. It is expensive to equip a vessel with an EM system for the first time and that money would not be available mid-year because it would have already been PO 00000 Frm 00005 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 36995 allocated to EM deployment for that year. The vessel owner or operator will have the opportunity to volunteer for the EM selection pool in the following year. Comment 7: Electronic monitoring must be accompanied by a plan to detect fraud and other abuse of the EM system. Misuse of the EM system should carry significant penalties designed to proactively discourage fraud and misuse. The EM program should (1) be designed to prevent fraud or tampering with the EM system; (2) carefully consider vessel logistics, including consideration of the placement of cameras, lighting, and camera quality; (3) ensure that the EM system can detect the same violations that an observer may uncover; (4) provide sufficient time and training for analysts to review EM data; (5) ensure adequate protocols to back up EM data in the event of technical failures; (6) ensure protection of the integrity of fishery data; and (7) potential costs savings should not be primary consideration when weighing decisions to use an EM system or an observer. Response: The Analysis provides detailed discussions of the issues raised in this comment. This final rule includes regulations to prevent fraud or tampering with the EM systems, as described in response to comment 9. NMFS, the Council, and the fishing industry spent four years on the careful implementation of EM, called ‘‘preimplementation.’’ This work is discussed in detail in the Analysis, is reflected in this final rule, and will be reflected in the EM service provider contract and in the VMP prepared for each vessel. In 2014, the Council appointed the EM Workgroup to develop an EM program to integrate into the Observer Program. The EM Workgroup provides a forum for stakeholders, including the commercial fishery participants, NMFS, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and EM service providers to cooperatively and collaboratively design, test, and develop EM systems, and to identify key decision points related to operationalizing and integrating EM systems into the Observer Program in a strategic manner. The EM Workgroup developed a cooperative research program to inform evaluation of multiple EM program design options and consider various EM integration approaches to achieve management needs. The cooperative research includes analytical and fieldwork components to address the following four elements: deployment of EM systems for operational testing, research and development of EM E:\FR\FM\08AUR1.SGM 08AUR1 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with RULES 36996 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 151 / Tuesday, August 8, 2017 / Rules and Regulations technologies, development of infrastructure to support EM implementation, and analyses to support EM implementation. This approach enabled the EM Workgroup to identify and resolve implementation issues associated with integrating EM into the Observer Program. Data and analysis produced on costs, data quality, risks, operational procedures, and vessel compatibility informed decisions on implementation phases, future investments in technology, and the tools that will best meet NMFS, Council, and stakeholder management objectives. The cooperative research program was implemented through research projects and pre-implementation plans in 2015, 2016, and 2017. The cooperative research to date has shown that data from EM systems can effectively identify almost all of the species or species groupings required for management, that the systems are sufficiently reliable, and that image quality is generally high. Additional information on the work of the EM Workgroup is provided in the Analysis (see ADDRESSES). An important part of preimplementation was determining the types of compliance actions that can be detected by the EM system, including compliance with seabird avoidance regulations. Also during preimplementation, NMFS worked with the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission on the video review and extracting the necessary data from the video. All the work done during preimplementation and to integrate EM into the Observer Program protects the integrity of fishery data. Additionally, the ADP analysis will identify and evaluate gaps in observer data when a portion of the partial coverage vessels participates in the EM selection pool. Appendix 1 of the Analysis (see ADDRESSES) provides an example of the type of analysis that will be conducted annually to ensure that sufficient observers are deployed to maintain representative data (such as biological samples and average weights) that cannot be collected with an EM system. Comment 8: The proposed rule at § 679.2, includes the definition of a ‘‘fishing trip.’’ Paragraph (3)(iv) of that definition defines a fishing trip for a vessel in the EM selection pool as beginning and ending in a shore-based port. This means that if a vessel participates in the EM selection pool, a ‘‘fishing trip’’ could include multiple deliveries to a tender vessel. The proposed definition of a fishing trip for purposes of the EM selection pool appears to mirror the definition of a VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:34 Aug 07, 2017 Jkt 241001 fishing trip for vessels in the observer pool. However, the same conditions that apply to observers do not apply to EM systems. NMFS has indicated that transferring observers to a tender vessel to begin or end a fishing trip was a potential safety concern. Change the definition of a ‘‘fishing trip’’ for vessels in the EM selection pool so that a fishing trip begins when the vessel leaves a port or tender vessel with an empty hold and ends when the vessel returns to a port or tender vessel and all fish are delivered. When the vessel is delivering to a tender, the vessel operator can provide the video storage device to crew on the tender that can then submit the storage device. This change would result in more timely submission of EM data. The safety concerns of transferring a person do not apply to video storage devices. Response: Based on this comment, NMFS revised the definition of a fishing trip for a vessel in the EM selection pool of the partial coverage category. NMFS revised the definition of ‘‘fishing trip’’ at § 679.2, paragraph (3)(iv) to state that fishing trip means the period of time that begins when the vessel leaves a shore-based port or tender vessel with an empty hold until the vessel returns to a shore-based port or tender vessel and all fish are delivered. A vessel operator delivering to a tender vessel will still need to close the trip in ODDS and will be responsible for ensuring the video storage device is submitted to NMFS, even when a tender vessel operator is mailing the device on the vessel’s behalf. Vessels participating in the preimplementation program that delivered to tender vessels were required to submit their video storage devices when they returned to a shore-based port. Most of these vessels fished for the duration of the season without returning to a shore-based port. The season was closed before these vessels submitted their video storage devices. This decreased the timeliness and value of the data collected for inseason management. Additionally, the EM video reviewers were challenged with long hours of review and were unable to provide vessels or the EM service providers with timely feedback to modify the EM system to improve data quality. Changing the definition of a fishing trip to allow vessels in the EM selection pool to begin or end a trip at a tender vessel could increase the timeliness of data collection data for in-season management, provide the opportunity for timely feedback to vessels to reconfigure the EM system to improve data quality, and potentially decrease PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 costs by reducing the length of the trip to be reviewed. As the commenter states, there are no safety concerns with transferring a video storage device between a vessel and a tender vessel. There is the potential for a video storage device to be lost during a transfer, but transferring mail, groceries, and other goods to and from a tender is a common practice, and the potential to lose a video storage device is low. Comment 9: The proposed rule at § 679.7(j)(9) states that a person may not tamper with, bias, disconnect, damage, destroy, alter, or in any other way distort, render useless, inoperative, ineffective, or inaccurate any component of the EM system, associated equipment, or data recorded by the EM system. Add a provision in the regulations or the VMP to allow a vessel owner or operator to reconfigure the vessel’s deck (for example, for participation in salmon fisheries) or make vessel repairs without triggering a violation. Response: NMFS agrees that a vessel owner or operator may need to disconnect or change the EM system configuration during the fishing season as the commenter states. However, these changes will be limited to when a vessel operator is reconfiguring the vessel to enter a fishery that is not subject to EM coverage, such as salmon fisheries; or when directed to make changes by the EM service provider, NMFS, or as directed in the troubleshooting guide of the VMP. Based on this comment, NMFS revised § 679.7(j)(9) to state that a vessel operator may not tamper with, bias, disconnect, damage, destroy, alter, or in any other way distort, render useless, inoperative, ineffective, or inaccurate any component of the EM system, associated equipment, or data recorded by the EM system when the vessel is directed fishing in a fishery subject to EM coverage, unless the vessel operator is directed to make changes to the EM system by NMFS, the EM service provider, or as directed in the troubleshooting guide of the VMP. Comment 10: The proposed rule at § 679.7(j)(2) and § 679.51(f)(5)(iii) states that to use an EM system, the vessel owner or operator must maintain a copy of a NMFS-approved VMP on board the vessel at all times when the vessel is fishing. Clarify that the VMP is only required on board when the vessel is fishing in fisheries that are subject to observer regulations, and not, for example, when fishing in State of Alaska fisheries. A vessel owner or operator may reconfigure their vessel, for operations in salmon fisheries or E:\FR\FM\08AUR1.SGM 08AUR1 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 151 / Tuesday, August 8, 2017 / Rules and Regulations other fisheries that do not require the use of an EM system, in which case it could be out of compliance with the VMP. Response: The intent of requiring a VMP aboard the vessel is to ensure the vessel owner and operator understand the requirements and procedures to follow when an EM system is required aboard the vessel. In cases where an EM system is not required, such as when the vessel is not directed fishing for halibut with hook-and-line gear or directed fishing in a federally managed or parallel groundfish fishery, requiring a VMP aboard the vessel is not needed. Based on this comment, NMFS revised § 679.7(j)(2) to prohibit vessels from fishing without an approved VMP when directed fishing in a fishery subject to EM coverage. NMFS also revised § 679.51(f)(5)(iii) to clarify that a VMP must be aboard while the vessel is directed fishing in a fishery subject to EM coverage. Comment 11: The proposed rule at § 679.51(f)(1)(x) establishes a November 1 deadline each year for vessel owners or operators to notify NMFS of their intent to leave the EM pool and be returned to the observer selection pool. Major considerations in the decision to stay or leave the EM pool are the selection rate in the ADP and the catch handling requirements that will be contained in the VMP. The draft ADP is released early October each year providing sufficient time for a vessel operator to review proposed changes to the selection rate and make a decision by the November 1 deadline. NMFS did not identify a similar timeline for changes to the VMP template and catch handling procedures. In order for a vessel operator to make an informed decision about remaining in the EM pool, NMFS must make the major catch handling procedures for EM vessels public with sufficient time for vessel operators to evaluate them prior to the November 1 opt-out date. NMFS should not make major changes to the VMP template after November 1 because the vessel operator will no longer have the opportunity to evaluate them and opt-out if needed. It is NMFS’ responsibility to finalize major provisions of the VMP template with sufficient advance notice for vessel operators to make an informed decision by the November 1 deadline. Response: NMFS intends to provide the public with a final VMP template in early October of each year when the draft ADP for the upcoming year is available. Vessel operators will be able to review both documents to inform their decision on whether to participate in the EM selection pool for the VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:34 Aug 07, 2017 Jkt 241001 upcoming fishing year. NMFS will also inform the public of the agency’s recommendations for potential changes to the VMP template for the upcoming year in the annual report presented to the Council each June. NMFS agrees that it is important to allow vessel owners and EM service providers the opportunity to review the provisions required in the VMP for the upcoming year. As stated by the commenter, vessel owners may wish to review the requirements of the VMP template prior to determining if they will participate in the EM selection pool. EM service providers will want to review the requirements of the VMP template and the draft ADP to plan their equipment and installation services for the upcoming year. Comment 12: The proposed rule at § 679.51(f)(2)(i) states that the operator of a vessel must register their anticipated trip in ODDS a minimum of 72 hours prior to embarking on the fishing trip. The proposed regulations separately specify the conditions that must be met for EM vessels to leave on an EM selected trip, and as long as these are clear, the additional 72-hour notice requirement seems unnecessary and onerous. Response: NMFS revised § 679.51(f)(2)(i) to remove the requirement to register a fishing trip a minimum of 72 hours prior to embarking on each fishing trip. A vessel will not be required to wait 72 hours to embark on a fishing trip after registering the fishing trip in ODDS. For EM, the vessel will be unable to log a trip in ODDS unless the vessel has allowed the EM service provider to install the EM system and the vessel owner or operator has reviewed, signed, and received the NMFS-approved VMP. The EM system consists of cameras, recording devices, sensors, and associated wiring. All these components must be installed and functioning prior to disembarking on a fishing trip. The vessel operator is required to complete a system function test prior to departing on a fishing trip to ensure the system is functioning properly. If a high priority malfunction is detected, the vessel operator will be required to remain in port for up to 72 hours to allow an EM service provider time to conduct repairs. Comment 13: The proposed rule at § 679.51(f)(3)(ii) requires a vessel operator to close the EM selected trip in ODDS within 24 hours of the end of the fishing trip. This is a new requirement that was not analyzed in the Analysis and has not been field tested to determine if it is feasible. Discussions with NMFS staff indicate that there may be future video review sampling PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 36997 methods that need a rapid trip closure provision to work best, but these video review methods are speculative and have not been recommended by the EM workgroup, the Council, or considered in the Analysis. If a future video review methodology requires rapid trip closure in ODDS, that requirement could be included in the VMP. The proposed 24-hour requirement would also create different standards for trip closure on EM vessels vs. observed vessels. If the need for timely trip closing in ODDS applies to both observed and EM vessels, NMFS should address the issue and find a solution for both observed vessels and EM vessels. Response: Based on this comment, NMFS removed the requirement for fishing trips to be closed within 24 hours of the end of a trip. Instead, as suggested by the commenter, NMFS revised § 679.51(f)(3)(ii) to state that at the end of a fishing trip selected for EM coverage, the vessel operator must use ODDS to close the fishing trip following the instructions in the VMP. For the first year of EM, NMFS anticipates that the VMP would specify that vessel operators are required to close their trips prior to logging another trip or within 2 weeks of the end of the trip, whichever is sooner. This modification to the regulation retains the requirement to close the trip but allows flexibility in the time limit to be determined in the VMP. There is currently no requirement for an operator of a vessel carrying an observer to close the fishing trip in ODDS. However, there are inherent differences between the EM pool and the observer pool, and it is reasonable that there are regulatory requirements that are specific to each monitoring approach. The requirement to close a trip in ODDS is unique to EM and provides the ability to instruct the vessel to send the video storage device after the trip to ensure the timeliness of EM data for inseason management. Also, requiring a vessel operator to close the trip will give NMFS a mechanism to avoid monitoring bias by allowing NMFS to require 100 percent recording of trips and use a post-trip selection process through ODDS to randomly select trips for video review. If NMFS, in consultation with the Council, modifies the timeframe for closing a trip when using an EM system, NMFS would make the change through the ADP process and in the annual VMP template. The overall burden on a vessel operator to close a trip when using an EM system would be minimal. Section 5.5 of the Analysis describes the demographics of fixed-gear vessels and E:\FR\FM\08AUR1.SGM 08AUR1 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with RULES 36998 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 151 / Tuesday, August 8, 2017 / Rules and Regulations found that over 70 percent of the vessels operating out of the 10 largest ports take less than 6 fishing trips per year, and the average number of fishing trips per year is 5.8. Using this information, NMFS calculated the burden of requiring a vessel to log into ODDS to close a fishing trip under the Paperwork Reduction Act (see the Classification heading in this preamble). NMFS estimated that it will take 5 minutes for a vessel to close the trip, thus the average burden for a vessel to close all fishing trips in ODDS will be less than 30 minutes per year. Comment 14: Remove the requirement in the proposed rule at § 679.51(f)(4)(i) which states that a vessel owner or operator is required to sign and submit the VMP to NMFS each year. We anticipate that after a short initial period, a vessel’s VMP will remain largely unchanged from year to year once workable procedures and camera views have been established. The requirement for an annual signature for an unchanging document for 100 to 200 vessels each year has the potential to add unnecessary costs and administrative burden to NMFS, vessel operators, and EM service providers. If NMFS modifies the VMP template, then and only then should the vessel owner or operator be required to sign and submit a new VMP. A more streamlined approach would be to have the EM service provider submit to NMFS an electronic copy of all current VMPs by November 15 each year. NMFS could then review and approve them prior to the start of the season on January 1. The fisherman could then review and digitally sign an electronic copy when logging the first trip into ODDS to certify that he or she has read the VMP and it is consistent with the VMP carried on the vessel per the proposed rule at § 679.51(f)(5)(iii) and § 679.7(j)(2). This provision would apply only to renewing an existing VMP as a new vessel would go through the VMP process upon initial install. Response: NMFS disagrees. Annual submission of a VMP is essential to ensure vessel owners or operators understand and comply with the requirements for the upcoming year. The VMP template may be adjusted annually, and it will be important for vessels to understand and agree to these changes, even if they are only minor modifications. If the VMP template modifications are minor, the vessel owner or operator may electronically submit a signed copy of the VMP as early as the commenter suggests. Section 679.51(f)(4) allows the vessel owner or operator to work with the EM service provider to develop the VMP VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:34 Aug 07, 2017 Jkt 241001 once the vessel is in the EM selection pool. Digital signatures are currently accepted by NMFS. NMFS currently does not have the ability to create digital signatures on its Web site. However, digital signatures created from an outside Web site or other program, like Adobe, can be accepted. NMFS envisions that the EM service provider could email the vessel owner or operator an electronic copy of the vessel’s VMP that could be digitally signed. The vessel owner or operator could email this digitally signed VMP to NMFS for approval. Once NMFS approves the VMP, the approval will be sent via email to the vessel owner or operator. This will reduce the need for an EM service provider to physically visit each boat to provide copies of VMPs and obtain signatures. NMFS agrees that the process should be streamlined in the future to increase efficiency and is actively pursuing electronic solutions to streamline the process that would meet the needs of the vessel operator and minimize the administrative burden for NMFS and the EM service provider, but these solutions may not be available in the first year of the program. Once these electronic solutions have been developed, changing the method for submitting a VMP would not require a regulatory change. NMFS would notify the public as part of the ADP process and provide updated instructions in the annual VMP template. Comment 15: The proposed rule at § 679.51(f)(5)(vii) requires the video data storage device from an EM selected trip to be postmarked no later than 2 business days after the end of the fishing trip. We understand the principle that data needs to get to NMFS as quickly as possible for in-season management, but we are concerned about the burden it would place on vessels operating in areas with very limited post office hours, no resident postmaster, or delivering to tender vessels. For example, some communities only have postal service a few days per week when the mail plane flies. Tender vessels may stay on the grounds for two to three days buying fish before returning to port. Also, the proposed rule covers a broad range of fisheries and fixed-gear vessels. Some new applications of EM may not require a 2-day data submission, and the inclusion of this as a regulation will drive up costs unnecessarily. The video data storage device submission requirement is better addressed as a provision of the VMP rather than in regulation. The VMP can consider the specifics of a vessel’s PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 delivery pattern, local infrastructure, and the need for data timeliness to develop specific procedures for each vessel that meets management needs. Response: NMFS understands that there may delays in postmarking a video storage device when a vessel ends a fishing trip in a remote port, such as limited post office hours, the availability of a postmaster, or when a trip ends at a tender vessel. However, timely data is essential and extensive delays could result in delayed fishery closures and openings. Delays in submitting video storage devices could also result in lost or overwritten data, if the vessel does not send in a video storage device prior to embarking on another fishing trip selected for EM coverage and forgets to replace the video storage device. Moving this requirement to the VMP would not be appropriate because requiring a vessel owner or operator to record each location the vessel may deliver to during the year would be onerous. Also, tracking and verifying the location of delivery and whether the time frame for submission was appropriate for that location, would be a large administrative burden to NMFS. Therefore, NMFS will continue to require submission of video storage devices no later than 2 business days after the end of a fishing trip, but will provide flexibility for circumstances outside the vessel owner’s or operator’s control that do not allow for postmarking the video storage devices within the time frame. NMFS revised § 679.51(f)(5)(vii) to add that, if the fishing trip ends in a remote port with limited postal service or at a tender vessel, the vessel operator must ensure the video data storage device and associated documentation is postmarked as soon as possible but no later than two weeks after the end of the fishing trip. Comment 16: The proposed rule at § 679.51(f)(6)(iv) states that when a vessel is fishing IFQ in multiple areas, the vessel must cease fishing and contact the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) immediately if an EM system malfunction occurs during that fishing trip. Clarify in the regulations or the VMP that (1) if the vessel operator is unable to contact OLE (for example, because they are not in range of communication), the vessel operator is not required to abandon gear before proceeding to a location from which they can contact OLE; and (2) vessel operators are prohibited from deploying any additional fishing gear until they contact OLE, but would be allowed to retrieve deployed gear before proceeding to a location from which E:\FR\FM\08AUR1.SGM 08AUR1 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 151 / Tuesday, August 8, 2017 / Rules and Regulations they can contact OLE for further instructions. Include information on the ways to contact OLE in the VMP template. Response: NMFS requires the vessel operator to cease fishing immediately and to contact OLE when an EM system malfunction occurs that does not allow recording of essential information about where the vessel was fishing and what amount of halibut or sablefish catch was coming aboard in this final rule at § 679.51(f)(6)(iv). This requirement is necessary because information about the location of fishing and the amount caught in each area is paramount to allowing vessels to fish in multiple areas using the exception at § 679.7(f)(4). However, these regulations do not require that a vessel abandon its gear to contact OLE. The VMP template will provide instructions about how and when to contact OLE as well as the procedures to follow if the vessel is unable to contact OLE if an EM system malfunction occurs that does not allow the recording of essential information about catch and fishing location. The VMP template will also provide guidance on what type of malfunctions will require the vessel operator to cease fishing and contact OLE. For example, failure of a camera that showed catch coming aboard will require a vessel operator to cease fishing and contact OLE. Conversely, failure of a camera that showed the streamer line being set will not require the vessel operator to cease fishing and contact OLE. The VMP template will also include methods to troubleshoot the EM system while at sea that may repair the problem and allow the vessel to continue fishing without the need to contact OLE. If an EM system malfunction occurs that does not allow the recording of catch and fishing location information and the vessel operator has used the troubleshooting guide in the VMP but the problem persists, the vessel operator must cease fishing and contact OLE immediately. There are several methods a vessel operator could use to contact OLE while at sea. The vessel operator could use a cell phone or satellite phone. The vessel operator could also contact the U.S. Coast Guard via VHF or single side band radio to request the Coast Guard to contact OLE. The vessel operator should make every effort available to contact OLE, but if the vessel operator is unable to reach OLE while at sea, NMFS will not require a vessel operator to abandon fishing gear to return to port to contact OLE. The vessel operator must not set additional gear once an EM system malfunction is detected and must return VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:34 Aug 07, 2017 Jkt 241001 to port immediately if unable to contact OLE at sea. Comment 17: Please do not change any regulations that have been written to protect our fragile environment. Response: This final rule will not change any regulations that protect the environment. NMFS analyzed the environmental impacts of this action to integrate EM into the Observer Program in the Analysis (see ADDRESSES). Comment 18: Weather is a major factor in a fishing vessel being able fish. Weather can change with very little notice, creating safety issues for the observer if NMFS is requiring a human observer on every vessel and every fishing trip. Response: NMFS does not require an observer on every vessel and every fishing trip in the partial coverage category. NMFS uses a random selection process to select which fishing trips will carry an observer. Per section 313(b)(1)(D) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Council and NMFS have taken into consideration the operating requirements of the fisheries and the safety of observers and fishermen in developing this action to integrate EM into the Observer Program. Classification The Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, has determined that Amendments 114/104 to the FMPs and this rule are necessary for the conservation and management of the groundfish fishery and that they are consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable law. This rule has been determined to be not significant for the purposes of Executive Order (E.O.) 12866. Small Entity Compliance Guide Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for which an agency is required to prepare a final regulatory flexibility analysis, the agency shall publish one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, and shall designate such publications as ‘‘small entity compliance guides.’’ The preambles to the proposed rule and this final rule serve as the small entity compliance guide. This action does not require any additional compliance from small entities that is not described in the preambles. Copies of the proposed rule and this final rule are available from the NMFS Web site at http:// alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 36999 Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) This FRFA incorporates the initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA), a summary of the significant issues raised by the public comments, NMFS’ responses to those comments, and a summary of the analyses completed to support this action. Section 604 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) requires that, when an agency promulgates a final rule under section 553 of Title 5 of the U.S. Code, after being required by that section or any other law to publish a general notice of proposed rulemaking, the agency shall prepare a FRFA. Section 604 describes the required contents of a FRFA: (1) A statement of the need for, and objectives of, the rule; (2) a statement of the significant issues raised by the public comments in response to the initial regulatory flexibility analysis, a statement of the assessment of the agency of such issues, and a statement of any changes made in the proposed rule as a result of such comments; (3) the response of the agency to any comments filed by the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration (SBA) in response to the proposed rule, and a detailed statement of any change made to the proposed rule in the final rule as a result of the comments; (4) a description of and an estimate of the number of small entities to which the rule will apply or an explanation of why no such estimate is available; (5) a description of the projected reporting, recordkeeping and other compliance requirements of the rule, including an estimate of the classes of small entities which will be subject to the requirement and the type of professional skills necessary for preparation of the report or record; and (6) a description of the steps the agency has taken to minimize the significant economic impact on small entities consistent with the stated objectives of applicable statutes, including a statement of the factual, policy, and legal reasons for selecting the alternative adopted in the final rule and why each one of the other significant alternatives to the rule considered by the agency which affect the impact on small entities was rejected. Descriptions of this action, its purpose, and the legal basis are contained in the preamble to the proposed rule (82 FR 14853, March 23, 2017) and are not repeated here. E:\FR\FM\08AUR1.SGM 08AUR1 37000 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 151 / Tuesday, August 8, 2017 / Rules and Regulations Public and Chief Counsel for Advocacy Comments on the Proposed Rule NMFS published the proposed rule on March 23, 2017 (82 FR 14853). An IRFA was prepared and summarized in the ‘‘Classification’’ section of the preamble to the proposed rule. The comment period closed on May 22, 2017. NMFS received 7 letters of public comment on the proposed rule and Amendments 114/1104. The Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the SBA did not file any comments on the proposed rule. Summary of Significant Issues Raised During Public Comment NMFS received no comments on the IRFA. Number and Description of Small Entities Regulated by Action This action directly regulates those entities that harvest groundfish and halibut using nontrawl gear and are subject to observer coverage in the partial coverage category of the Observer Program. These directly regulated entities include vessels that fish with nontrawl gear in State waters only if those vessels have a Federal Fisheries Permit (FFP), which makes them subject to Federal observer regulations. Since participation in the EM selection pool is voluntary, only those vessels that choose to participate in the EM selection pool will be directly regulated by this rule. For RFA purposes only, NMFS has established a small business size standard for businesses, including their affiliates, whose primary industry is commercial fishing (see 50 CFR 200.2). A business primarily engaged in commercial fishing (NAICS code 11411) is classified as a small business if it is independently owned and operated, is not dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and has combined annual receipts not in excess of $11 million for all its affiliated operations worldwide. The estimated number of vessels that use nontrawl gear in the partial coverage category that are small entities might be overstated. Conversely, the number of non-small entities might be understated. The RFA requires a consideration of affiliations between entities for the purpose of assessing whether an entity is classified as small. The estimates below do not take into account all affiliations between entities. There is not a strict one-to-one correlation between vessels and entities; many persons and firms are known to have ownership interests in more than one vessel, and many of these vessels with different ownership are otherwise affiliated with each other. Vessels that have types of affiliation that are not tracked in available data (i.e., ownership of multiple vessels or affiliation with processors) may be misclassified as a small entity. In 2015, the most recent data available at the time of the analysis, 981 vessels (i.e., harvesting entities) participated in the groundfish and halibut fisheries directly regulated by this action. Those 981 catcher vessels include 255 vessels that only operated in State waters and possessed an FFP; all of those 255 vessels are classified as small entities. According to data provided by the Alaska Fisheries Information Network, the analysts estimate that 950 of the 981 harvesting entities are classified as small entities. All 31 vessels that are classified as non-small entities were members of harvesting cooperatives whose combined gross receipts were greater than $11.0 million in 2015, the most recent year for which complete revenue data is available. Each of the 31 vessels classified as non-small entities is affiliated with a crab cooperative, six are affiliated with a Central Gulf of Alaska Rockfish Program cooperative, two are affiliated with an American Fisheries Act cooperative, and one is affiliated through ownership with the freezer longline cooperative (some entities are affiliated with more than one cooperative across different North Pacific fisheries). Table 1 provides a count of small and non-small entities (i.e., vessels). The first row shows all vessels with FFPs that fished with nontrawl gear in 2015. The second row is limited to vessels that fished in Federal waters. Rows three through six show the number of entities by gear type and area fished. Those rows should not be summed vertically to avoid double counting vessels that fished with both gear types or in both management areas. No vessel less than 40 ft LOA is classified as a non-small entity, and only one vessel less than 57.5 ft LOA is classified as a non-small entity. TABLE 1—COUNT OF SMALL AND NON-SMALL ENTITIES IN THE UNIVERSE OF DIRECTLY REGULATED VESSELS IN 2015 Small entity Nontrawl catcher vessels (Federal and State waters) ................................................................ Nontrawl catcher vessels (Federal waters only) ......................................................................... Hook-and-line catcher vessels in Federal waters in the Gulf of Alaska ..................................... Hook-and-line catcher vessels in Federal waters in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands ............... Pot catcher vessels in Federal waters in the Gulf of Alaska ...................................................... Pot catcher vessels in Federal waters in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands ................................ asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with RULES Recordkeeping, Reporting, and Other Compliance Requirements This final rule adds additional reporting, recordkeeping, and other compliance requirements for vessels that request to participate in the EM selection pool and vessels that use the exemption in § 679.7(f)(4) to harvest IFQ or CDQ halibut and sablefish. No small entity is subject to reporting requirements that are in addition to or different from the requirements that apply to all directly regulated entities. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:34 Aug 07, 2017 Jkt 241001 No unique professional skills are needed for the vessel owners or operators to comply with the reporting and recordkeeping requirements associated with this final rule. Vessel owners or operators will request to be placed in the EM selection pool using ODDS, a tool already used by directly regulated small entities. If they choose to participate in the EM selection pool, vessel owners and operators will be required to assist with the installation of the EM system and conduct basic maintenance to ensure the EM PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 950 695 584 114 86 22 Non-small entity Total 31 31 7 7 4 21 981 726 591 121 90 43 equipment remains functional. Vessel operators would meet with the EM service provider to develop a VMP for their vessel, in which the operator’s responsibilities will be clearly defined. These responsibilities can generally be fulfilled by a crewmember of the vessel who already is fulfilling similar functions during fishing activity. The vessel owner or operator will be required to submit the VMP to NMFS for approval. Vessel owners or operators in the EM selection pool that choose to use the E:\FR\FM\08AUR1.SGM 08AUR1 37001 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 151 / Tuesday, August 8, 2017 / Rules and Regulations exemption in § 679.7(f)(4) will need to notify NMFS using ODDS when they intend to fish in multiple areas and commit to using a functioning EM system on the whole trip, even if the vessel was not selected for EM coverage. The vessel owner or operator will be required to meet the same responsibilities as if the vessel had been selected for EM system coverage for that trip in ODDS. Because the EM system in this instance will be used as a compliance monitoring tool, some additional requirements will apply. If an EM system malfunction occurs during a fishing trip in a manner that does not allow essential information about where the vessel was fishing and what amount of IFQ or CDQ catch was coming aboard to be recorded, the vessel operator will be required to cease fishing immediately and to contact NOAA OLE. Information about the locations fished and the amount caught in each area is paramount to allowing vessels to fish in multiple areas using this exception; therefore, such a requirement is necessary. asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with RULES Description of Significant Alternatives Considered to the Final Action That Minimize Adverse Impacts on Small Entities No significant alternatives were identified that would accomplish the stated objectives, are consistent with applicable statutes, and that would minimize any significant economic impact of this rule on small entities. Collection-of-Information Requirements This rule contains collection-ofinformation requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) and which have been approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under OMB control number 0648–0318 (North Pacific Observer Program). The public reporting burden for these collection-of-information requirements includes the time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information. This rule will allow vessel owners or operators to use the existing ODDS to submit a request to be placed in the EM selection pool. In addition, this rule will allow vessel owners or operators in the EM selection pool to submit a request to be removed from the EM selection pool. Public reporting burden per response for these new options in ODDS is estimated to average 5 minutes. If NMFS denies a request to place a vessel in the EM selection pool, the vessel owner may submit an administrative appeal to NMFS. Public reporting burden per VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:34 Aug 07, 2017 Jkt 241001 response for an administrative appeal is estimated to average 4 hours. This rule will require all vessel owners or operators in the EM selection pool to register a fishing trip in ODDS. Public reporting burden per response to register a fishing trip in ODDS if a vessel is assigned to the EM selection pool is estimated to average 15 minutes. This rule will require vessel owners or operators who request to be placed in the EM selection pool to submit a VMP to NMFS. Public reporting burden per response for the VMP is estimated to average 48 hours. This rule will require a vessel operator in the EM selection pool to close the fishing trip in ODDS. Public reporting burden per response to close a fishing trip in ODDS is estimated to average 5 minutes. This rule will require vessel owners or operators selected to carry EM to submit video data storage devices and associated documentation to the EM data reviewer within 2 business days of the end of the fishing trip. Public reporting burden per response is estimated to average 1 hour. Vessel owners or operators wanting to use EM to fish under the exception in § 679.7(f)(4) will be required to notify NMFS through ODDS under § 679.51(f)(6). Public reporting burden per response to register a fishing trip in ODDS is estimated to average 15 minutes. The addition of the option to indicate that the vessel will use EM to fish under the exception in § 679.7(f)(4) during an upcoming fishing trip is not expected to increase the average response time to register a trip in ODDS. Send comments on this data collection, including suggestions for reducing the burden, to NMFS Alaska Region (see ADDRESSES), or by email to OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov, or fax to (202) 395–5806. Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is required to respond to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the requirements of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays a currently valid OMB control number. All currently approved NOAA collections of information may be viewed at http://www.cio.noaa.gov/ services_programs/prasubs.html. List of Subjects 15 CFR Part 902 Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. 50 CFR Part 679 Alaska, Fisheries, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements. PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Dated: August 3, 2017. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS amends 15 CFR part 902 and 50 CFR part 679 as follows: Title 15—Commerce and Foreign Trade PART 902—NOAA INFORMATION COLLECTION REQUIREMENTS UNDER THE PAPERWORK REDUCTION ACT: OMB CONTROL NUMBERS 1. The authority citation for part 902 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq. 2. In § 902.1, in the table in paragraph (b), under the entry ‘‘50 CFR,’’ revise the entry for ‘‘679.51’’ to read as follows: ■ § 902.1 OMB control numbers assigned pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act. * * * (b) * * * CFR part or section where the information collection requirement is located * 50 CFR: * * Current OMB control number (all numbers begin with 0648–) * * * * * * * * * 679.51 .... –0206, –0269, –0272, –0318, –0401, –0513, –0545, –0565. * * * * * Title 50—Wildlife and Fisheries PART 679—FISHERIES OF THE EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE OFF ALASKA 3. The authority citation for 50 CFR part 679 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.; 1801 et seq.; 3631 et seq.; Pub. L. 108–447; Pub. L. 111–281. 4. In § 679.2: a. Add in alphabetical order definitions for ‘‘Electronic Monitoring system or EM system,’’ ‘‘EM selection pool,’’ and ‘‘EM service provider’’; ■ a. In the definition of ‘‘Fishing trip,’’ revise paragraph (3) heading and add paragraph (3)(iv); and ■ b. Add in alphabetical order a definitions for ‘‘Vessel Monitoring Plan (VMP)’’. The additions and revsion read as follows: ■ ■ E:\FR\FM\08AUR1.SGM 08AUR1 37002 § 679.2 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 151 / Tuesday, August 8, 2017 / Rules and Regulations Definitions. * * * * * Electronic Monitoring system or EM system means a network of equipment that uses a software operating system connected to one or more technology components, including, but not limited to, cameras and recording devices to collect data on catch and vessel operations. * * * * * EM selection pool means the defined group of vessels from which NMFS will randomly select the vessels required to use an EM system under § 679.51(f). EM service provider means any person, including their employees or agents, that NMFS contracts with to provide EM services, or to review, interpret, or analyze EM data, as required under § 679.51(f). * * * * * Fishing trip means: * * * * * * * * (3) North Pacific Observer Program. * * * * * * * * (iv) For a vessel in the EM selection pool of the partial coverage category, the period of time that begins when the vessel leaves a shore-based port or tender vessel with an empty hold until the vessel returns to a shore-based port or tender vessel and all fish are delivered. * * * * * Vessel Monitoring Plan (VMP) means the document that describes how fishing operations on the vessel will be conducted and how the EM system and associated equipment will be configured to meet the data collection objectives and purpose of the EM program. VMPs are required under § 679.51(f). * * * * * ■ 5. In § 679.7, revise paragraph (f)(4), the paragraph (g) heading, and paragraph (j) to read as follows: § 679.7 Prohibitions. asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with RULES * * * * * (f) * * * (4) Except as provided in § 679.40(d), retain IFQ or CDQ halibut or IFQ or CDQ sablefish on a vessel in excess of the total amount of unharvested IFQ or CDQ, applicable to the vessel category and IFQ or CDQ regulatory area(s) in which the vessel is deploying fixed gear, and that is currently held by all IFQ or CDQ permit holders aboard the vessel, unless the vessel has an observer aboard under subpart E of this part or the vessel participates in the EM selection pool and complies with the requirements at § 679.51(f), and maintains the applicable daily fishing log prescribed in the VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:34 Aug 07, 2017 Jkt 241001 annual management measures published in the Federal Register pursuant to § 300.62 of this title and § 679.5. * * * * * (g) North Pacific Observer Program— Observers. * * * * * * * * (j) North Pacific Observer Program— EM Systems. (1) Fish without an EM system when a vessel is required to carry an EM system under § 679.51(f). (2) Fish with an EM system without a copy of a valid NMFS-approved VMP on board when directed fishing in a fishery subject to EM coverage. (3) Fail to comply with a NMFSapproved VMP. (4) Fail to conduct a function test prior to departing port on a fishing trip as required at § 679.51(f)(5)(vi)(A). (5) Depart on a fishing trip selected for EM coverage without a functional EM system, unless procedures at § 679.51(f)(5)(vi)(A)(1) and § 679.51(f)(5)(vi)(A)(2) have been followed. (6) Fail to follow procedures at § 679.51(f)(5)(vi)(B) prior to each set on a fishing trip selected for EM coverage. (7) Fail to make the EM system, associated equipment, logbooks, and other records available for inspection upon request by NMFS, OLE, or other NMFS-authorized officer. (8) Fail to submit a video data storage device as specified under § 679.51(f)(5)(vii). (9) Tamper with, bias, disconnect, damage, destroy, alter, or in any other way distort, render useless, inoperative, ineffective, or inaccurate any component of the EM system, associated equipment, or data recorded by the EM system when the vessel is directed fishing in a fishery subject to EM coverage, unless the vessel operator is directed to make changes to the EM system by NMFS, the EM service provider, or as directed in the troubleshooting guide of the VMP. (10) Assault, impede, intimidate, harass, sexually harass, bribe, or interfere with an EM service provider. (11) Interfere or bias the sampling procedure employed in the EM selection pool, including either mechanically or manually sorting or discarding catch outside of the camera view or inconsistent with the NMFS-approved VMP. (12) Fail to meet vessel owner and operator responsibilities specified at § 679.51(f)(5). * * * * * ■ 6. In § 679.21, revise paragraphs (a)(2)(ii) and (a)(3) to read as follows: PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 § 679.21 Prohibited species bycatch management. (a) * * * (2) * * * (ii) After allowing for sampling by an observer, if an observer is aboard, sort its catch immediately after retrieval of the gear and, except for salmon prohibited species catch in the BS pollock fisheries and GOA groundfish fisheries under paragraph (f) or (h) of this section, or any prohibited species catch as provided (in permits issued) under the PSD program at § 679.26, return all prohibited species, or parts thereof, to the sea immediately, with a minimum of injury, regardless of its condition. (3) Rebuttable presumption. Except as provided under paragraphs (f) and (h) of this section and § 679.26, there will be a rebuttable presumption that any prohibited species retained on board a fishing vessel regulated under this part was caught and retained in violation of this section. * * * * * § 679.23 [Amended] 7. In § 679.23 remove paragraphs (d)(4) and (5). ■ 8. In § 679.51: ■ a. Revise the section heading, the paragraph (a)(1) heading, and paragraphs (a)(1)(i) introductory text, (a)(1)(i)(C), (a)(1)(ii) introductory text, (a)(1)(ii)(B), (a)(1)(ii)(D), and (a)(4)(iii); and ■ b. Add paragraph (f). The revisions and addition read as follows: ■ § 679.51 Observer and Electronic Monitoring System requirements for vessels and plants. (a) * * * (1) Groundfish and halibut fishery partial coverage category—(i) Vessel classes in partial coverage category. Unless otherwise specified in paragraph (a)(2) of this section, the following catcher vessels and catcher/processors are in the partial coverage category when fishing for halibut with hook-andline gear or when directed fishing for groundfish in a federally managed or parallel groundfish fishery, as defined at § 679.2: * * * * * (C) A catcher/processor placed in the partial coverage category under paragraph (a)(3) of this section; or * * * * * (ii) Registration and notification of observer deployment. The Observer Declare and Deploy System (ODDS) is the communication platform for the partial coverage category by which NMFS receives information about E:\FR\FM\08AUR1.SGM 08AUR1 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 151 / Tuesday, August 8, 2017 / Rules and Regulations fishing plans subject to randomized observer deployment. Vessel operators provide fishing plan and contact information to NMFS and receive instructions through ODDS for coordinating with an observer provider for any required observer coverage. Access to ODDS is available through the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http:// alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. * * * * * (B) Notification. Upon entry into ODDS, NMFS will notify the owner or operator of his or her vessel’s selection pool. Owners and operators must comply with all further instructions set forth by ODDS. * * * * * (D) Vessel selection pool. A vessel selected for observer coverage is required to have an observer on board for all groundfish and halibut fishing trips specified at paragraph (a)(1)(i) of this section for the time period indicated by ODDS. * * * * * (4) * * * (iii) Deadline to request full observer coverage. A full observer coverage request must be submitted by October 15 of the year prior to the calendar year in which the catcher vessel would be placed in the full observer coverage category. * * * * * (f) Electronic monitoring system requirements for vessels that use nontrawl gear. Vessels that use nontrawl gear in the partial coverage category in paragraph (a)(1)(i) of this section may be eligible for EM coverage instead of observer coverage. (1) Vessel placement in the EM selection pool—(i) Applicability. The owner or operator of a vessel that uses nontrawl gear in the partial coverage category under paragraph (a)(1)(i) of this section may request to be placed in the EM selection pool. (ii) How to request placement in the EM selection pool. A vessel owner or operator must complete an EM request and submit it to NMFS using ODDS. Access to ODDS is available through the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http:// alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. ODDS is described in paragraph (a)(1)(ii) of this section. (iii) Deadline to submit an EM request. A vessel owner or operator must submit an EM request in ODDS by November 1 of the year prior to the calendar year in which the catcher vessel would be placed in the EM selection pool. (iv) Approval for placement in the EM selection pool. NMFS will approve a nontrawl gear vessel for placement in VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:34 Aug 07, 2017 Jkt 241001 the EM selection pool based on criteria specified in NMFS’ Annual Deployment Plan, available through the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http:// alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. Criteria may include, but are not limited to, availability of EM systems, vessel gear type, vessel length, area fished, number of trips or total catch, sector, target fishery, and home or landing port. (v) Notification of approval for placement in the EM selection pool. (A) NMFS will notify the vessel owner or operator through ODDS of approval for the EM selection pool for the next calendar year. The vessel remains subject to observer coverage under paragraph (a)(1)(i) of this section unless NMFS approves the request for placement of the vessel in the EM selection pool. (B) Once the vessel owner or operator receives notification of approval from NMFS, the vessel owner or operator must comply with the vessel owner or operator responsibilities in paragraphs (f)(4) and (5) of this section and all further instructions set forth by ODDS. (vi) Initial Administrative Determination (IAD). If NMFS denies a request to place a vessel in the EM selection pool, NMFS will provide an IAD to the vessel owner, which will explain the basis for the denial. (vii) Appeal. If the vessel owner wishes to appeal NMFS’ denial of a request to place the vessel in the EM selection pool, the owner may appeal the determination under the appeals procedure set out at 15 CFR part 906. (viii) Duration. Once NMFS approves a vessel for the EM selection pool, that vessel will remain in the EM selection pool until— (A) NMFS disapproves the VMP under paragraph (f)(4) of this section; (B) The vessel owner or operator notifies NMFS that the vessel intends to leave the EM selection pool in the following fishing year under paragraph (f)(1)(ix) of this section; or (C) The vessel no longer meets the EM selection pool criteria specified by NMFS. (ix) How to leave the EM selection pool. A vessel owner must complete a request to leave the EM selection pool and submit it to NMFS using ODDS. ODDS is described in paragraph (a)(1)(ii) of this section. (x) Deadline to submit a request to leave the EM selection pool. A vessel owner or operator must submit a request to leave the EM selection pool by November 1 of the year prior to the calendar year in which the vessel would be placed in observer coverage. (2) Notification of EM selection—(i) Prior to embarking on each fishing trip, PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 37003 the operator of a vessel in the EM selection pool with a NMFS-approved VMP must register the anticipated trip with ODDS. (ii) ODDS will notify the vessel operator whether the trip is selected for EM coverage and provide a receipt number corresponding to this notification. Trip registration is complete when the vessel operator receives the receipt number. (iii) An operator may embark on a fishing trip registered with ODDS: (A) Not selected trip. At any time if ODDS indicates that the fishing trip is not selected for EM coverage. (B) Selected trip. After the vessel operator follows the instructions in ODDS and complies with the responsibilities under paragraphs (f)(4) and (5) of this section, if ODDS indicates that the fishing trip is selected for EM coverage. (3) EM coverage duration. If selected, a vessel is required to use the EM system for the entire fishing trip. (i) A fishing trip selected for EM coverage may not begin until all previously harvested fish have been offloaded. (ii) At the end of the fishing trip selected for EM coverage, the vessel operator must use ODDS to close the fishing trip following the instructions in the VMP and submit the video data storage devices and associated documentation as outlined in paragraph (f)(5)(vii) of this section. (4) Vessel Monitoring Plan (VMP). Once approved for the EM selection pool and prior to registering a fishing trip in ODDS under paragraph (f)(2) of this section, the vessel owner or operator must develop a VMP with the EM service provider following the VMP template available through the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at https:// alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/. (i) The vessel owner or operator must sign and submit the VMP to NMFS each calendar year. (ii) NMFS will approve the VMP for the calendar year if it meets all the requirements specified in the VMP template available through the NMFS Alaska Region Web site https:// alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/. (iii) If the VMP does not meet all the requirements specified in the VMP template, NMFS will provide the vessel owner or operator the opportunity to submit a revised VMP that meets all the requirements specified in the VMP template. (iv) If NMFS does not approve the revised VMP, NMFS will issue an IAD to the vessel owner or operator that will explain the basis for the disapproval. The vessel owner or operator may file E:\FR\FM\08AUR1.SGM 08AUR1 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with RULES 37004 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 151 / Tuesday, August 8, 2017 / Rules and Regulations an administrative appeal under the administrative appeals procedures set out at 15 CFR part 906. (v) If changes are required to the VMP to improve the data collection of the EM system or address fishing operation changes, the vessel owner or operator must work with NMFS and the EM service provider to alter the VMP. The vessel owner or operator must sign the updated VMP and submit these changes to the VMP to NMFS prior to departing on the next fishing trip selected for EM coverage. (5) Vessel owner or operator responsibilities. To use an EM system under this section, the vessel owner or operator must: (i) Make the vessel available for the installation of EM equipment by an EM service provider. (ii) Provide access to the vessel’s systems and reasonable assistance to the EM service provider. (iii) Maintain a copy of a NMFSapproved VMP aboard the vessel at all times when the vessel is directed fishing in a fishery subject to EM coverage. (iv) Comply with all elements of the VMP when selected for EM coverage in ODDS. (v) Maintain the EM system, including the following: (A) Ensure power is maintained to the EM system at all times when the vessel is underway. (B) Ensure the system is functioning for the entire fishing trip, camera views are unobstructed and clear in quality, and catch and discards may be completely viewed, identified, and quantified. (C) Ensure EM system components are not tampered with, disabled, destroyed, or operated or maintained improperly. (vi) Complete pre-departure function test and daily verification of EM system. (A) Prior to departing port, the vessel operator must conduct a system function test following the instructions from the EM service provider. The vessel operator must verify that the EM system has adequate memory to record the entire fishing trip. (1) If the EM system function test detects a malfunction identified as a high priority in the vessel’s VMP or does not allow the data collection objectives to be achieved, the vessel must remain in port for up to 72 hours to allow an EM service provider time to conduct repairs. If the repairs cannot be completed within the 72-hour time frame, the vessel is released from EM coverage for that fishing trip and may depart on the scheduled fishing trip. A malfunction must be repaired prior to departing on a subsequent fishing trip. The vessel will automatically be VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:34 Aug 07, 2017 Jkt 241001 selected for EM coverage for the subsequent fishing trip after the malfunction has been repaired. (2) If the EM system function test detects a malfunction identified as a low priority in the vessel’s VMP, the vessel operator may depart on the scheduled fishing trip following the procedures for low priority malfunctions described in the vessel’s VMP. At the end of the trip the vessel operator must work with the EM service provider to repair the malfunction. The vessel operator may not depart on another fishing trip selected for EM coverage with this system malfunction unless the vessel operator has contacted the EM service provider. (B) During a fishing trip selected for EM coverage, before each set is retrieved the vessel operator must verify all cameras are recording and all sensors and other required EM system components are functioning as instructed in the vessel’s VMP. (1) If a malfunction is detected, prior to retrieving the set the vessel operator must attempt to correct the problem using the instructions in the vessel’s VMP. (2) If the malfunction cannot be repaired at sea, the vessel operator must notify the EM service provider of the malfunction at the end of the fishing trip. The malfunction must be repaired prior to departing on a subsequent fishing trip selected for EM coverage. (vii) At the end of a fishing trip selected for EM coverage, the vessel operator must submit the video data storage device and associated documentation identified in the vessel’s VMP to NMFS using a method that requires a signature for delivery and provides a return receipt or delivery notification to the sender. The vessel operator must postmark the video data storage device and associated documentation no later than 2 business days after the end of the fishing trip. If the fishing trip ends in a remote port with limited postal service or at a tender vessel, the vessel operator must ensure the video data storage device and associated documentation is postmarked as soon as possible but no later than two weeks after the end of the fishing trip. (viii) Make the EM system and associated equipment available for inspection upon request by OLE, a NMFS-authorized officer, or other NMFS-authorized personnel. (6) EM for fishing in multiple regulatory areas. If a vessel owner or operator intends to fish in multiple regulatory areas using an EM system under the exception provided at § 679.7(f)(4), the vessel owner or operator must: PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 (i) Meet the requirements described in paragraph (f) of this section. (ii) Register in ODDS that he or she intends to fish in multiple regulatory areas using the exception in § 679.7(f)(4). (iii) Ensure the EM system is powered continuously during the fishing trip. If the EM system is powered down during periods of non-fishing, the VMP must describe alternate methods to ensure location information about the vessel is available for the entire fishing trip, as specified in the VMP template available through the NMFS Alaska Region Web site https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/. (iv) If an EM system malfunction occurs during a fishing trip that does not allow the recording of retrieval location information and imagery of catch as described in the vessel’s VMP, the vessel operator must cease fishing and contact OLE immediately. [FR Doc. 2017–16703 Filed 8–7–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION 16 CFR Part 1015 [Docket No. CPSC–2016–0030] Procedures for Disclosure or Production of Information Under the Freedom of Information Act Consumer Product Safety Commission. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: The Consumer Product Safety Commission (Commission, CPSC, or we) is issuing a final rule to update its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) rule. The final rule revises the rule to conform to the amendments of the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 (the 2016 FOIA) to the FOIA. The final rule is also updated to reflect changes in Commission procedures; updates Commission contact information, including current methods of submitting requests for records to the Commission; revises employee titles; and makes various technical changes and corrections. SUMMARY: The rule is effective on September 7, 2017. DATES: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Renee McCune, Office of the General Counsel, Consumer Product Safety Commission, 4330 East West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814, (301) 504–7673; or Todd A. Stevenson, Chief Freedom of Information Officer, Consumer Product Safety Commission, 4330 East West E:\FR\FM\08AUR1.SGM 08AUR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 151 (Tuesday, August 8, 2017)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 36991-37004]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-16703]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

15 CFR Part 902

50 CFR Part 679

[Docket No. 161219999-7708-02]
RIN 0648-BG54


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Integrating 
Electronic Monitoring Into the North Pacific Observer Program

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS hereby issues regulations to implement Amendment 114 to 
the Fishery Management Plan for

[[Page 36992]]

Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area and 
Amendment 104 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf 
of Alaska (collectively referred to as the FMPs). Amendments 114/104 
and this final rule integrate electronic monitoring (EM) into the North 
Pacific Observer Program (Observer Program). This final rule 
establishes a process for owners or operators of vessels using nontrawl 
gear to request to participate in the EM selection pool and the 
requirements for vessel owners or operators while in the EM selection 
pool. This action is necessary to improve the collection of data needed 
for the conservation, management, and scientific understanding of 
managed fisheries. Amendments 114/104 are intended to promote the goals 
and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the FMPs, and other applicable 
laws.

DATES: Effective September 7, 2017.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of Amendments 114/104 and the 
Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review prepared for this 
action (collectively the ``Analysis'') may be obtained from 
www.regulations.gov or from the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. All public comment letters submitted during 
the comment periods may be obtained from www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0154.
    Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other 
aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this 
rule may be submitted by mail to NMFS Alaska Region, P.O. Box 21668, 
Juneau, AK 99802-1668, Attn: Ellen Sebastian, Records Officer; in 
person at NMFS Alaska Region, 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, 
AK; by email to OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov; or by fax to 202-395-5806.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gretchen Harrington or Jennifer 
Watson, 907-586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries in the 
exclusive economic zone under the FMPs. The North Pacific Fishery 
Management Council (Council) prepared the FMPs under the authority of 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Regulations governing 
U.S. fisheries and implementing the FMPs appear at 50 CFR parts 600 and 
679.
    Management of the Pacific halibut fisheries in and off Alaska is 
governed by an international agreement, the Convention Between the 
United States of America and Canada for the Preservation of the Halibut 
Fishery of the Northern Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea (Convention), 
which was signed in Ottawa, Canada, on March 2, 1953, and was amended 
by the Protocol Amending the Convention, signed in Washington, DC, on 
March 29, 1979. The Convention is implemented in the United States by 
the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982.
    This final rule implements Amendments 114/104 to the FMPs. The 
Council submitted Amendments 114/104 for review by the Secretary of 
Commerce, and NMFS published the Notice of Availability of these 
amendments in the Federal Register on March 10, 2017, with comments 
invited through May 9, 2017 (82 FR 13302). The Secretary of Commerce 
approved Amendments 114/104 on June 5, 2017.
    NMFS published the proposed rule to implement Amendments 114/104 on 
March 23, 2017 (82 FR 14853), with comments invited through May 22, 
2017. The proposed rule and Amendments 114/104 to the FMPs amend the 
Council's fisheries research plan prepared under the authority of 
section 313 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The Secretary implemented the 
fisheries research plan through the North Pacific Observer Program. Its 
purpose is to collect data necessary for the conservation, management, 
and scientific understanding of the groundfish and halibut fisheries 
off Alaska. Magnuson-Stevens Act section 313 requires NMFS to provide a 
60-day public comment period on the proposed rule and conduct a public 
hearing in each state represented on the Council for the purpose of 
receiving public comment on the proposed regulations. The states 
represented on the Council are Alaska, Oregon, and Washington.
    Per section 313 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS conducted public 
hearings to accept oral and written comments on the proposed rule in 
Oregon, Washington, and Alaska during the public comment period. The 
first public hearing was held in conjunction with the April meeting of 
the Council on April 6, 2017, in Anchorage, AK. The second public 
hearing was on April 18, 2017, in Seattle, WA. The third public hearing 
was held on April 19, 2017, in Newport, OR.
    NMFS received seven unique relevant comment letters. NMFS received 
one comment that was outside the scope of this action. NMFS considered 
18 unique relevant written and oral comments received by the end of the 
applicable comment period or at a public hearing, whether specifically 
directed to the FMP amendments, this proposed rule, or both, in the 
approval decision for Amendments 114/104 and in this final rule. NMFS 
summarizes and responds to each comment under the heading Response to 
Comments below.
    A detailed review of the provisions of Amendments 114/104, the 
proposed regulations to implement Amendments 114/104, and the rationale 
for these regulations is provided in the preamble to the proposed rule 
(82 FR 14853, March 23, 2017) and are briefly summarized in this final 
rule.

Integrating Electronic Monitoring Into the North Pacific Observer 
Program

    The Observer Program is an integral component in the management of 
North Pacific fisheries. In 2013, the Council and NMFS restructured the 
Observer Program to address longstanding concerns about statistical 
bias of observer-collected data and cost inequality among fishery 
participants with the funding and deployment structure under the 
previous Observer Program (77 FR 70062, November 21, 2012). The 
restructured Observer Program established two observer coverage 
categories: Partial and full. This final rule applies to the partial 
coverage category and will not change the full coverage category.
    The partial coverage category includes fishing sectors (vessels and 
processors) that are not required to have an observer at all times. The 
partial coverage category includes catcher vessels, shoreside 
processors, and stationary floating processors when they are not 
participating in a catch share program with a transferrable bycatch 
limit, referred to in regulations as a prohibited species catch limit. 
Small catcher/processors that meet certain criteria may also be 
assigned to the partial coverage category.
    The restructured Observer Program expanded the vessels subject to 
observer coverage to include groundfish vessels less than 60 ft in 
length overall (LOA) and halibut vessels that had not been previously 
required to carry an observer. Expanding observer coverage to the 
approximately 950 previously unobserved vessels improved NMFS' ability 
to estimate total catch in all Federal fisheries in the North Pacific.
    The restructured Observer Program created a new system of fees to 
pay for the cost of implementing observer coverage in the partial 
coverage category. Vessels and processors included in the partial 
coverage category pay a fee of 1.25 percent of the ex-vessel value of 
fishery landings to NMFS to fund the deployment of observers in the 
partial coverage category. Under section 313 of the

[[Page 36993]]

Magnuson-Stevens Act, the fees shall not exceed 2 percent of the 
fishery ex-vessel value.
    Even before implementing the restructured Observer Program, many 
vessel owners and operators new to the Observer Program were opposed to 
carrying an observer (77 FR 70062, November 21, 2012). Vessel owners 
and operators explained that there is limited space on board for an 
additional person or limited space in the vessel's life raft. Some 
vessel owners, operators, and industry representatives, particularly 
those active in nontrawl fisheries (i.e., hook-and-line and pot 
fisheries), advocated for the use of EM instead of having an observer 
on board their vessels (77 FR 70062, November 21, 2012).
    To address their concerns, the Council and NMFS have been actively 
engaged in developing EM as a tool to collect fishery data in the 
nontrawl fisheries. Over the past several years, NMFS and industry 
participants have undertaken cooperative research to test the 
applicability and reliability of EM systems. An EM system uses cameras, 
video storage devices, and associated sensors to record and monitor 
fishing activities.
    This final rule establishes the process and structure for owners 
and operators of vessels using nontrawl gear in the partial coverage 
category of the Observer Program to choose to be in the EM selection 
pool and to use an EM system to monitor catch and bycatch. EM data will 
supplement observer data from other nontrawl gear vessels. Some data 
necessary for catch estimation, fishery management, and stock 
assessment that observers collect cannot be collected from EM systems. 
NMFS will obtain this data from observers on board other nontrawl gear 
vessels that are fishing in similar areas and at similar time periods.
    To implement EM, NMFS will contract with one or multiple EM service 
providers to install and service EM equipment, and to collect and 
review EM data. The contract will specify hardware and field service 
specifications, EM data review requirements, and data and archiving 
requirements. ``EM service provider'' means any person, including their 
employees or agents, that NMFS contracts with to provide EM services, 
or to review, interpret, or analyze EM data.

Annual Deployment Plan and Annual Report

    Each year, NMFS develops an annual deployment plan (ADP) that 
describes how NMFS plans to deploy observers to vessels and processors 
in the partial coverage category in the upcoming year. The ADP 
describes the scientific sampling design NMFS uses to randomly deploy 
observers to generate unbiased estimates of total and retained catch, 
and catch composition in the groundfish and halibut fisheries. The ADP 
provides flexibility to improve deployment to meet scientifically based 
estimation needs while accommodating the realities of a dynamic fiscal 
environment. Each year, NMFS conducts a scientific evaluation of 
observer data collected to understand the impact of changes in observer 
deployment and to identify areas where improvements are needed to 
collect the data necessary to conserve and manage the groundfish and 
halibut fisheries. NMFS adjusts the ADP in response to this evaluation.
    After consultation with the Council, NMFS will make EM system and 
observer deployment decisions following the sampling design in the ADP. 
Through this scientific process for EM system deployment, NMFS will 
gather reliable data necessary for the conservation, management, and 
scientific understanding of the fisheries covered by the fisheries 
research plan.
    In the ADP, NMFS and the Council will define the criteria for 
vessels to be eligible to participate in EM. The criteria for placement 
in the EM selection pool may include, but are not limited to, gear 
type, vessel length, area fished, number of fishing trips or total 
catch, sector, target fishery, home or landing port, and availability 
of EM systems. The ADP will specify the EM selection rate--the portion 
of trips that are sampled--for each calendar year. NMFS and the Council 
may change the EM selection rate from one calendar year to the next to 
achieve efficiency, cost savings, and data collection goals. NMFS may 
adjust the EM selection rate set in the ADP to respond to new 
information inseason. NMFS posts the ADP on the NMFS Alaska Region Web 
site (http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov).
    NMFS will use the fees collected under section 313 of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act to deploy EM systems. The amount of fee revenues NMFS 
collects will determine the level of costs that NMFS could incur to 
deploy EM systems and to deploy observers. In consultation with the 
Council, NMFS will allocate funds between EM and observers to achieve 
the most precision for the least cost. Since the fee is based on the 
ex-vessel value of harvested fish, which fluctuates annually, the 
amount of funding available for deploying observers and EM systems will 
also fluctuate. NMFS will need to adjust observer coverage and EM 
coverage levels to align anticipated annual costs with available fee 
revenues.
    The Analysis provides a detailed discussion of the potential costs 
of EM system deployment (see ADDRESSES). NMFS, in consultation with the 
Council, may also modify the criteria for participating or limit the 
number of participants in the EM selection pool to control costs. The 
specific deployment decisions, including the eligibility criteria for 
vessels to participate in EM, could vary from year to year based on the 
analysis conducted through the ADP process.
    An important part of the ADP analysis will be identifying and 
understanding gaps in observer data when a portion of the partial 
coverage vessels participates in the EM selection pool. Appendix 1 of 
the Analysis (see ADDRESSES) provides an example of the type of 
analysis that will be conducted annually to ensure that sufficient 
observers are deployed to maintain representative data (such as 
biological samples and average weights) that cannot be collected with 
an EM system.
    Each year, NMFS also develops an annual report that evaluates how 
well various aspects of the program are achieving program goals, 
identifies areas where improvements are needed, and includes 
preliminary recommendations regarding the upcoming ADP. The Council and 
its Scientific and Statistical Committee review the annual report in 
June. This timing allows NMFS and the Council to consider the results 
of past performance in developing the ADP for the following year. NMFS 
posts the annual report on the NMFS Alaska Region Web site (http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov).

New Requirements for EM Participants

    This final rule implements the requirements to allow an owner or 
operator of a vessel using nontrawl gear to choose to use an EM system 
in place of an observer.
    Participation in the EM program and entry into the EM selection 
pool will be voluntary. Any owner or operator of a vessel that meets 
the EM selection pool criteria could annually request to be in the EM 
selection pool using the process established in this rule if they are 
willing to comply with the provisions established under this rule. 
While there are additional responsibilities for the owner or operator 
of a vessel in the EM selection pool to install and maintain the EM 
system, NMFS' intent is to allow the vessel to continue its normal 
fishing practice and allow the cameras to capture data observations 
that an EM

[[Page 36994]]

service provider then extracts onshore through video review.
    The vessel owner or operator will work with the EM service provider 
to develop a vessel monitoring plan (VMP). The VMP will describe how 
fishing operations on the vessel are conducted, including how gear is 
set, how catch is brought on board, and where catch is retained and 
discarded. The VMP will also describe how the EM system and associated 
equipment will be configured to meet the data collection objectives and 
purpose of the EM program, including camera locations to cover all 
fishing activities, any sensors to detect fishing activities, and any 
special catch handling requirements to ensure the data collection 
objectives can be met. The VMP will also include methods to 
troubleshoot the EM system and instructions for ensuring the EM system 
is functioning properly. These required components of the VMP will be 
detailed in the VMP template and in the contract between NMFS and the 
EM service provider. Once the VMP is complete and the vessel owner or 
operator agrees to comply with the components of the VMP, the vessel 
owner or operator must sign and submit the VMP to NMFS for approval.
    NMFS will provide a VMP template for guidance to the EM service 
provider and the vessel owner or operator on the elements NMFS will 
require in the final approved VMP. NMFS will make this VMP template 
available on the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/ to allow vessel owners and operators an 
opportunity to review the VMP requirements and components for the 
upcoming year.
    Once in the EM selection pool and after the vessel has an approved 
VMP, the vessel operator will register fishing trips in the Observer 
Declare and Deploy System (ODDS). ODDS will notify the vessel operator 
when the vessel is selected to use the EM system and guide the vessel 
operator to the requirements for using an EM system.
    Vessel owners or operators will be required to maintain the EM 
system in working order, including ensuring the EM system is powered 
and functioning throughout the trip, keeping cameras clean and 
unobstructed, and ensuring the system is not tampered with. The vessel 
owner or operator will also need to ensure that power is maintained to 
the EM system at all times when the vessel is underway or the engine is 
operating. The vessel operator will also be required to conduct a 
system function test before each trip to ensure the EM system is 
working properly before departing.
    At the end of the fishing trip selected for EM coverage, the vessel 
operator will close the trip in ODDS and submit the video data storage 
device to NMFS.
    Previously, a vessel was prohibited from retaining halibut or 
sablefish in excess of the total amount of unharvested individual 
fishing quota (IFQ) or community development quota (CDQ) applicable to 
that vessel for the IFQ regulatory area in which the vessel was 
operating and that was currently held by all IFQ or CDQ permit holders 
aboard the vessel, unless that vessel had an observer aboard and 
maintained the applicable daily logbook. This final rule expands this 
exception to the prohibition to include when a vessel is in the EM 
selection pool and complies with the applicable requirements. This 
final rule provides that the owner or operator of a vessel in the EM 
selection pool, who complies with the regulations and maintains the 
applicable daily logbook, can retain halibut or sablefish in excess of 
the total amount of unharvested IFQ or CDQ applicable to that vessel 
for the IFQ regulatory area in which the vessel is operating and that 
is currently held by all IFQ or CDQ permit holders aboard the vessel. 
If a vessel is not part of the EM selection pool and is not selected 
for observer coverage for that fishing trip, the vessel owner or 
operator will continue to be prohibited from retaining halibut or 
sablefish in excess of the total amount of unharvested IFQ or CDQ 
applicable to that vessel for the IFQ regulatory area in which the 
vessel is operating.
    If a vessel owner or operator in the EM selection pool intends to 
use this expanded exception to fish in multiple IFQ/CDQ areas, the 
vessel owner or operator will use ODDS to identify when he or she 
intends to fish in multiple areas and to commit to using a functioning 
EM system on the whole trip, even if the vessel was not selected for EM 
coverage. The vessel owner or operator will be required to meet all the 
same responsibilities as if the vessel's fishing trip had been selected 
for EM coverage in ODDS. These include having a copy of a valid NMFS-
approved VMP on board before the vessel starts a fishing trip, 
maintaining the EM system in working order, and submitting the required 
information at the end of the trip. Because the EM system in this 
instance will be used as a compliance monitoring tool, some additional 
regulatory requirements will also apply to the vessel owner and 
operator (see Sec.  679.51(f)(6)).

Changes From Proposed to Final Rule

    NMFS made the following changes to this final rule in response to 
comments received on the proposed rule. All of the specific regulation 
changes, and the reasons for making these changes, are explained under 
Response to Comments, below. NMFS revised:
     The definition of a fishing trip at Sec.  679.2, paragraph 
(3)(iv), for a vessel in the EM selection pool of the partial coverage 
category to include delivery to a tender vessel;
     Sec.  679.7(j)(2) and Sec.  679.51(f)(5)(iii) to clarify 
that these paragraphs only apply to vessels when directed fishing in a 
fishery subject to EM coverage;
     Sec.  679.7(j)(9) to clarify that it applies only to 
vessels when directed fishing in a fishery subject to EM coverage, and 
it applies unless the vessel operator is directed to make changes to 
the EM system by NMFS, the EM service provider, or as directed in the 
troubleshooting guide of the VMP;
     Sec.  679.51(f)(2)(i) to remove the 72-hour requirement to 
register each fishing trip in ODDS;
     Sec.  679.51(f)(3)(ii) to remove the requirement for 
fishing trips to be closed within 24 hours of the end of a trip and add 
the requirement that, at the end of a fishing trip selected for EM 
coverage, the vessel operator must use ODDS to close the fishing trip 
following the instructions in the VMP; and
     Sec.  679.51(f)(5)(vii) to add that, if the fishing trip 
ends in a remote port with limited postal service or at a tender 
vessel, the vessel operator must ensure the video data storage device 
and associated documentation is postmarked as soon as possible but no 
later than two weeks after the end of the fishing trip.

Response to Comments

    NMFS received 18 unique substantive comments, which are summarized 
and responded to below. The commenters consisted of individuals, 
representatives of vessels using hook-and-line and pot gear, and the 
Council.
    Comment 1: We support integrating electronic monitoring into the 
Observer Program. This action provides flexibility to the Observer 
Program particularly for the small boats that for a variety of reasons 
have difficulty in carrying an observer.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment.
    Comment 2: We appreciate the provisions of the proposed rule to 
accommodate a vessel with an existing EM system. A vessel that already 
has an EM system from another NMFS EM program should not have the added 
burden of installing a new, substantially similar system for use in 
Alaska, nor should the Observer Program purchase a new EM system for a 
vessel if its

[[Page 36995]]

existing EM system meets management needs.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment.
    Comment 3: The proposed rule preamble states that a vessel can use 
an EM system it already has on board or it could modify that EM system 
as necessary to meet the specifications in the VMP. To ensure that 
management needs are met, clarify that the EM system must also meet the 
specifications for data quality and data output required in the EM 
service provider contract.
    Response: NMFS agrees that all EM systems must meet the required 
specifications for data quality and data output in the EM service 
provider contract. NMFS will provide these EM specifications to fishery 
participants on our Web site (http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov). The EM 
specifications will contain the same specifications for an EM system as 
the EM service provider contract.
    Comment 4: Clarify (1) how the development and vetting process 
outlined in the Analysis will be integrated into the contracting 
process to ensure that any EM equipment installed on a vessel has been 
properly tested and vetted, (2) how existing EM systems that have not 
undergone this vetting process will be vetted and integrated into the 
EM program, and (3) how future research and development work on EM 
systems will be integrated into the program.
    The Analysis identified a clear process for EM technology 
development, maturation, and vetting prior to being deployed in the 
operational EM program. This process is necessary to ensure that the EM 
hardware and software meet reliability standards, are compatible with 
normal operating procedures on board fishing vessels, and provide data 
of sufficient reliability, quality, and formats capable of meeting 
management needs.
    From an industry perspective, it is critical that any EM system be 
thoroughly vetted prior to being installed on a vessel in the EM 
program. During pre-implementation, several volunteer vessels 
experienced costly damage to hydraulic systems, VHF radio interference, 
and significant delays due to EM systems under development. The 
proposed rule preamble indicates the EM service provider, not the 
vessel owner, determines which EM hardware to install on a vessel. 
However, the vessel operator bears the cost of malfunctioning EM 
systems because a malfunction may require trips to be delayed for up to 
72 hours, a malfunction may cause damage to the vessel systems, or a 
vessel operator may be required to terminate a fishing trip if that 
vessel is fishing IFQ in multiple areas. This proposed EM service 
provider based approach is only workable if the EM systems have 
undergone a thorough vetting process.
    Response: The EM service provider will install an EM system that 
meets the EM specifications that NMFS includes in the contract. NMFS 
will follow the process for EM technology development, maturation, and 
vetting described in Section 3.5 of the Analysis for substantive 
changes in EM technology. Once the specifications and requirements for 
new technology are developed and vetted, these changes will be included 
in the EM service provider contract and in the EM specifications 
provided to EM participants.
    Comment 5: Clearly articulate how NMFS envisions funding future 
research and development work for EM systems. The cost of new EM system 
research and development should not be paid for through the use of 
fees. The allocation of fees between EM deployment and observer 
deployment should be focused on maximizing data quality and meeting 
management objectives.
    Response: As explained in Section 3.5 of the Analysis, NMFS will 
not use fees to fund EM system development. The Council did not 
explicitly include EM development as a component of its research plan 
when it recommended this action to integrate EM into the Observer 
Program.
    Future EM development may be funded with NMFS funds or through 
grants, such as from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, similar 
to how the EM system development under pre-implementation has been 
funded since 2014.
    Comment 6: Consider allowing a vessel that enters a fishery in the 
partial coverage category for the first time mid-year to join the EM 
selection pool if it meets the criteria and does not have sufficient 
raft space or bunk space on board for an observer.
    Response: NMFS will place a vessel entering a nontrawl fishery mid-
year in the observer selection pool for the remainder of that year. A 
vessel cannot enter the EM selection pool mid-year because prior to the 
fishing year NMFS needs to have an accurate count of the number of new 
vessels in the EM selection pool to determine the budget and number of 
vessels that will be equipped with EM systems. It is expensive to equip 
a vessel with an EM system for the first time and that money would not 
be available mid-year because it would have already been allocated to 
EM deployment for that year. The vessel owner or operator will have the 
opportunity to volunteer for the EM selection pool in the following 
year.
    Comment 7: Electronic monitoring must be accompanied by a plan to 
detect fraud and other abuse of the EM system. Misuse of the EM system 
should carry significant penalties designed to proactively discourage 
fraud and misuse. The EM program should (1) be designed to prevent 
fraud or tampering with the EM system; (2) carefully consider vessel 
logistics, including consideration of the placement of cameras, 
lighting, and camera quality; (3) ensure that the EM system can detect 
the same violations that an observer may uncover; (4) provide 
sufficient time and training for analysts to review EM data; (5) ensure 
adequate protocols to back up EM data in the event of technical 
failures; (6) ensure protection of the integrity of fishery data; and 
(7) potential costs savings should not be primary consideration when 
weighing decisions to use an EM system or an observer.
    Response: The Analysis provides detailed discussions of the issues 
raised in this comment. This final rule includes regulations to prevent 
fraud or tampering with the EM systems, as described in response to 
comment 9.
    NMFS, the Council, and the fishing industry spent four years on the 
careful implementation of EM, called ``pre-implementation.'' This work 
is discussed in detail in the Analysis, is reflected in this final 
rule, and will be reflected in the EM service provider contract and in 
the VMP prepared for each vessel.
    In 2014, the Council appointed the EM Workgroup to develop an EM 
program to integrate into the Observer Program. The EM Workgroup 
provides a forum for stakeholders, including the commercial fishery 
participants, NMFS, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and EM service 
providers to cooperatively and collaboratively design, test, and 
develop EM systems, and to identify key decision points related to 
operationalizing and integrating EM systems into the Observer Program 
in a strategic manner.
    The EM Workgroup developed a cooperative research program to inform 
evaluation of multiple EM program design options and consider various 
EM integration approaches to achieve management needs. The cooperative 
research includes analytical and fieldwork components to address the 
following four elements: deployment of EM systems for operational 
testing, research and development of EM

[[Page 36996]]

technologies, development of infrastructure to support EM 
implementation, and analyses to support EM implementation. This 
approach enabled the EM Workgroup to identify and resolve 
implementation issues associated with integrating EM into the Observer 
Program. Data and analysis produced on costs, data quality, risks, 
operational procedures, and vessel compatibility informed decisions on 
implementation phases, future investments in technology, and the tools 
that will best meet NMFS, Council, and stakeholder management 
objectives. The cooperative research program was implemented through 
research projects and pre-implementation plans in 2015, 2016, and 2017. 
The cooperative research to date has shown that data from EM systems 
can effectively identify almost all of the species or species groupings 
required for management, that the systems are sufficiently reliable, 
and that image quality is generally high. Additional information on the 
work of the EM Workgroup is provided in the Analysis (see ADDRESSES).
    An important part of pre-implementation was determining the types 
of compliance actions that can be detected by the EM system, including 
compliance with seabird avoidance regulations. Also during pre-
implementation, NMFS worked with the Pacific States Marine Fisheries 
Commission on the video review and extracting the necessary data from 
the video. All the work done during pre-implementation and to integrate 
EM into the Observer Program protects the integrity of fishery data.
    Additionally, the ADP analysis will identify and evaluate gaps in 
observer data when a portion of the partial coverage vessels 
participates in the EM selection pool. Appendix 1 of the Analysis (see 
ADDRESSES) provides an example of the type of analysis that will be 
conducted annually to ensure that sufficient observers are deployed to 
maintain representative data (such as biological samples and average 
weights) that cannot be collected with an EM system.
    Comment 8: The proposed rule at Sec.  679.2, includes the 
definition of a ``fishing trip.'' Paragraph (3)(iv) of that definition 
defines a fishing trip for a vessel in the EM selection pool as 
beginning and ending in a shore-based port. This means that if a vessel 
participates in the EM selection pool, a ``fishing trip'' could include 
multiple deliveries to a tender vessel. The proposed definition of a 
fishing trip for purposes of the EM selection pool appears to mirror 
the definition of a fishing trip for vessels in the observer pool. 
However, the same conditions that apply to observers do not apply to EM 
systems. NMFS has indicated that transferring observers to a tender 
vessel to begin or end a fishing trip was a potential safety concern.
    Change the definition of a ``fishing trip'' for vessels in the EM 
selection pool so that a fishing trip begins when the vessel leaves a 
port or tender vessel with an empty hold and ends when the vessel 
returns to a port or tender vessel and all fish are delivered. When the 
vessel is delivering to a tender, the vessel operator can provide the 
video storage device to crew on the tender that can then submit the 
storage device. This change would result in more timely submission of 
EM data. The safety concerns of transferring a person do not apply to 
video storage devices.
    Response: Based on this comment, NMFS revised the definition of a 
fishing trip for a vessel in the EM selection pool of the partial 
coverage category. NMFS revised the definition of ``fishing trip'' at 
Sec.  679.2, paragraph (3)(iv) to state that fishing trip means the 
period of time that begins when the vessel leaves a shore-based port or 
tender vessel with an empty hold until the vessel returns to a shore-
based port or tender vessel and all fish are delivered. A vessel 
operator delivering to a tender vessel will still need to close the 
trip in ODDS and will be responsible for ensuring the video storage 
device is submitted to NMFS, even when a tender vessel operator is 
mailing the device on the vessel's behalf.
    Vessels participating in the pre-implementation program that 
delivered to tender vessels were required to submit their video storage 
devices when they returned to a shore-based port. Most of these vessels 
fished for the duration of the season without returning to a shore-
based port. The season was closed before these vessels submitted their 
video storage devices. This decreased the timeliness and value of the 
data collected for inseason management. Additionally, the EM video 
reviewers were challenged with long hours of review and were unable to 
provide vessels or the EM service providers with timely feedback to 
modify the EM system to improve data quality.
    Changing the definition of a fishing trip to allow vessels in the 
EM selection pool to begin or end a trip at a tender vessel could 
increase the timeliness of data collection data for in-season 
management, provide the opportunity for timely feedback to vessels to 
reconfigure the EM system to improve data quality, and potentially 
decrease costs by reducing the length of the trip to be reviewed.
    As the commenter states, there are no safety concerns with 
transferring a video storage device between a vessel and a tender 
vessel. There is the potential for a video storage device to be lost 
during a transfer, but transferring mail, groceries, and other goods to 
and from a tender is a common practice, and the potential to lose a 
video storage device is low.
    Comment 9: The proposed rule at Sec.  679.7(j)(9) states that a 
person may not tamper with, bias, disconnect, damage, destroy, alter, 
or in any other way distort, render useless, inoperative, ineffective, 
or inaccurate any component of the EM system, associated equipment, or 
data recorded by the EM system. Add a provision in the regulations or 
the VMP to allow a vessel owner or operator to reconfigure the vessel's 
deck (for example, for participation in salmon fisheries) or make 
vessel repairs without triggering a violation.
    Response: NMFS agrees that a vessel owner or operator may need to 
disconnect or change the EM system configuration during the fishing 
season as the commenter states. However, these changes will be limited 
to when a vessel operator is reconfiguring the vessel to enter a 
fishery that is not subject to EM coverage, such as salmon fisheries; 
or when directed to make changes by the EM service provider, NMFS, or 
as directed in the troubleshooting guide of the VMP.
    Based on this comment, NMFS revised Sec.  679.7(j)(9) to state that 
a vessel operator may not tamper with, bias, disconnect, damage, 
destroy, alter, or in any other way distort, render useless, 
inoperative, ineffective, or inaccurate any component of the EM system, 
associated equipment, or data recorded by the EM system when the vessel 
is directed fishing in a fishery subject to EM coverage, unless the 
vessel operator is directed to make changes to the EM system by NMFS, 
the EM service provider, or as directed in the troubleshooting guide of 
the VMP.
    Comment 10: The proposed rule at Sec.  679.7(j)(2) and Sec.  
679.51(f)(5)(iii) states that to use an EM system, the vessel owner or 
operator must maintain a copy of a NMFS-approved VMP on board the 
vessel at all times when the vessel is fishing. Clarify that the VMP is 
only required on board when the vessel is fishing in fisheries that are 
subject to observer regulations, and not, for example, when fishing in 
State of Alaska fisheries. A vessel owner or operator may reconfigure 
their vessel, for operations in salmon fisheries or

[[Page 36997]]

other fisheries that do not require the use of an EM system, in which 
case it could be out of compliance with the VMP.
    Response: The intent of requiring a VMP aboard the vessel is to 
ensure the vessel owner and operator understand the requirements and 
procedures to follow when an EM system is required aboard the vessel. 
In cases where an EM system is not required, such as when the vessel is 
not directed fishing for halibut with hook-and-line gear or directed 
fishing in a federally managed or parallel groundfish fishery, 
requiring a VMP aboard the vessel is not needed.
    Based on this comment, NMFS revised Sec.  679.7(j)(2) to prohibit 
vessels from fishing without an approved VMP when directed fishing in a 
fishery subject to EM coverage. NMFS also revised Sec.  
679.51(f)(5)(iii) to clarify that a VMP must be aboard while the vessel 
is directed fishing in a fishery subject to EM coverage.
    Comment 11: The proposed rule at Sec.  679.51(f)(1)(x) establishes 
a November 1 deadline each year for vessel owners or operators to 
notify NMFS of their intent to leave the EM pool and be returned to the 
observer selection pool. Major considerations in the decision to stay 
or leave the EM pool are the selection rate in the ADP and the catch 
handling requirements that will be contained in the VMP. The draft ADP 
is released early October each year providing sufficient time for a 
vessel operator to review proposed changes to the selection rate and 
make a decision by the November 1 deadline.
    NMFS did not identify a similar timeline for changes to the VMP 
template and catch handling procedures. In order for a vessel operator 
to make an informed decision about remaining in the EM pool, NMFS must 
make the major catch handling procedures for EM vessels public with 
sufficient time for vessel operators to evaluate them prior to the 
November 1 opt-out date. NMFS should not make major changes to the VMP 
template after November 1 because the vessel operator will no longer 
have the opportunity to evaluate them and opt-out if needed. It is 
NMFS' responsibility to finalize major provisions of the VMP template 
with sufficient advance notice for vessel operators to make an informed 
decision by the November 1 deadline.
    Response: NMFS intends to provide the public with a final VMP 
template in early October of each year when the draft ADP for the 
upcoming year is available. Vessel operators will be able to review 
both documents to inform their decision on whether to participate in 
the EM selection pool for the upcoming fishing year. NMFS will also 
inform the public of the agency's recommendations for potential changes 
to the VMP template for the upcoming year in the annual report 
presented to the Council each June.
    NMFS agrees that it is important to allow vessel owners and EM 
service providers the opportunity to review the provisions required in 
the VMP for the upcoming year. As stated by the commenter, vessel 
owners may wish to review the requirements of the VMP template prior to 
determining if they will participate in the EM selection pool. EM 
service providers will want to review the requirements of the VMP 
template and the draft ADP to plan their equipment and installation 
services for the upcoming year.
    Comment 12: The proposed rule at Sec.  679.51(f)(2)(i) states that 
the operator of a vessel must register their anticipated trip in ODDS a 
minimum of 72 hours prior to embarking on the fishing trip. The 
proposed regulations separately specify the conditions that must be met 
for EM vessels to leave on an EM selected trip, and as long as these 
are clear, the additional 72-hour notice requirement seems unnecessary 
and onerous.
    Response: NMFS revised Sec.  679.51(f)(2)(i) to remove the 
requirement to register a fishing trip a minimum of 72 hours prior to 
embarking on each fishing trip. A vessel will not be required to wait 
72 hours to embark on a fishing trip after registering the fishing trip 
in ODDS. For EM, the vessel will be unable to log a trip in ODDS unless 
the vessel has allowed the EM service provider to install the EM system 
and the vessel owner or operator has reviewed, signed, and received the 
NMFS-approved VMP. The EM system consists of cameras, recording 
devices, sensors, and associated wiring. All these components must be 
installed and functioning prior to disembarking on a fishing trip. The 
vessel operator is required to complete a system function test prior to 
departing on a fishing trip to ensure the system is functioning 
properly. If a high priority malfunction is detected, the vessel 
operator will be required to remain in port for up to 72 hours to allow 
an EM service provider time to conduct repairs.
    Comment 13: The proposed rule at Sec.  679.51(f)(3)(ii) requires a 
vessel operator to close the EM selected trip in ODDS within 24 hours 
of the end of the fishing trip. This is a new requirement that was not 
analyzed in the Analysis and has not been field tested to determine if 
it is feasible. Discussions with NMFS staff indicate that there may be 
future video review sampling methods that need a rapid trip closure 
provision to work best, but these video review methods are speculative 
and have not been recommended by the EM workgroup, the Council, or 
considered in the Analysis. If a future video review methodology 
requires rapid trip closure in ODDS, that requirement could be included 
in the VMP.
    The proposed 24-hour requirement would also create different 
standards for trip closure on EM vessels vs. observed vessels. If the 
need for timely trip closing in ODDS applies to both observed and EM 
vessels, NMFS should address the issue and find a solution for both 
observed vessels and EM vessels.
    Response: Based on this comment, NMFS removed the requirement for 
fishing trips to be closed within 24 hours of the end of a trip. 
Instead, as suggested by the commenter, NMFS revised Sec.  
679.51(f)(3)(ii) to state that at the end of a fishing trip selected 
for EM coverage, the vessel operator must use ODDS to close the fishing 
trip following the instructions in the VMP. For the first year of EM, 
NMFS anticipates that the VMP would specify that vessel operators are 
required to close their trips prior to logging another trip or within 2 
weeks of the end of the trip, whichever is sooner. This modification to 
the regulation retains the requirement to close the trip but allows 
flexibility in the time limit to be determined in the VMP.
    There is currently no requirement for an operator of a vessel 
carrying an observer to close the fishing trip in ODDS. However, there 
are inherent differences between the EM pool and the observer pool, and 
it is reasonable that there are regulatory requirements that are 
specific to each monitoring approach.
    The requirement to close a trip in ODDS is unique to EM and 
provides the ability to instruct the vessel to send the video storage 
device after the trip to ensure the timeliness of EM data for inseason 
management. Also, requiring a vessel operator to close the trip will 
give NMFS a mechanism to avoid monitoring bias by allowing NMFS to 
require 100 percent recording of trips and use a post-trip selection 
process through ODDS to randomly select trips for video review. If 
NMFS, in consultation with the Council, modifies the timeframe for 
closing a trip when using an EM system, NMFS would make the change 
through the ADP process and in the annual VMP template.
    The overall burden on a vessel operator to close a trip when using 
an EM system would be minimal. Section 5.5 of the Analysis describes 
the demographics of fixed-gear vessels and

[[Page 36998]]

found that over 70 percent of the vessels operating out of the 10 
largest ports take less than 6 fishing trips per year, and the average 
number of fishing trips per year is 5.8. Using this information, NMFS 
calculated the burden of requiring a vessel to log into ODDS to close a 
fishing trip under the Paperwork Reduction Act (see the Classification 
heading in this preamble). NMFS estimated that it will take 5 minutes 
for a vessel to close the trip, thus the average burden for a vessel to 
close all fishing trips in ODDS will be less than 30 minutes per year.
    Comment 14: Remove the requirement in the proposed rule at Sec.  
679.51(f)(4)(i) which states that a vessel owner or operator is 
required to sign and submit the VMP to NMFS each year. We anticipate 
that after a short initial period, a vessel's VMP will remain largely 
unchanged from year to year once workable procedures and camera views 
have been established. The requirement for an annual signature for an 
unchanging document for 100 to 200 vessels each year has the potential 
to add unnecessary costs and administrative burden to NMFS, vessel 
operators, and EM service providers. If NMFS modifies the VMP template, 
then and only then should the vessel owner or operator be required to 
sign and submit a new VMP.
    A more streamlined approach would be to have the EM service 
provider submit to NMFS an electronic copy of all current VMPs by 
November 15 each year. NMFS could then review and approve them prior to 
the start of the season on January 1. The fisherman could then review 
and digitally sign an electronic copy when logging the first trip into 
ODDS to certify that he or she has read the VMP and it is consistent 
with the VMP carried on the vessel per the proposed rule at Sec.  
679.51(f)(5)(iii) and Sec.  679.7(j)(2). This provision would apply 
only to renewing an existing VMP as a new vessel would go through the 
VMP process upon initial install.
    Response: NMFS disagrees. Annual submission of a VMP is essential 
to ensure vessel owners or operators understand and comply with the 
requirements for the upcoming year. The VMP template may be adjusted 
annually, and it will be important for vessels to understand and agree 
to these changes, even if they are only minor modifications. If the VMP 
template modifications are minor, the vessel owner or operator may 
electronically submit a signed copy of the VMP as early as the 
commenter suggests. Section 679.51(f)(4) allows the vessel owner or 
operator to work with the EM service provider to develop the VMP once 
the vessel is in the EM selection pool.
    Digital signatures are currently accepted by NMFS. NMFS currently 
does not have the ability to create digital signatures on its Web site. 
However, digital signatures created from an outside Web site or other 
program, like Adobe, can be accepted. NMFS envisions that the EM 
service provider could email the vessel owner or operator an electronic 
copy of the vessel's VMP that could be digitally signed. The vessel 
owner or operator could email this digitally signed VMP to NMFS for 
approval. Once NMFS approves the VMP, the approval will be sent via 
email to the vessel owner or operator. This will reduce the need for an 
EM service provider to physically visit each boat to provide copies of 
VMPs and obtain signatures.
    NMFS agrees that the process should be streamlined in the future to 
increase efficiency and is actively pursuing electronic solutions to 
streamline the process that would meet the needs of the vessel operator 
and minimize the administrative burden for NMFS and the EM service 
provider, but these solutions may not be available in the first year of 
the program. Once these electronic solutions have been developed, 
changing the method for submitting a VMP would not require a regulatory 
change. NMFS would notify the public as part of the ADP process and 
provide updated instructions in the annual VMP template.
    Comment 15: The proposed rule at Sec.  679.51(f)(5)(vii) requires 
the video data storage device from an EM selected trip to be postmarked 
no later than 2 business days after the end of the fishing trip. We 
understand the principle that data needs to get to NMFS as quickly as 
possible for in-season management, but we are concerned about the 
burden it would place on vessels operating in areas with very limited 
post office hours, no resident postmaster, or delivering to tender 
vessels. For example, some communities only have postal service a few 
days per week when the mail plane flies. Tender vessels may stay on the 
grounds for two to three days buying fish before returning to port. 
Also, the proposed rule covers a broad range of fisheries and fixed-
gear vessels. Some new applications of EM may not require a 2-day data 
submission, and the inclusion of this as a regulation will drive up 
costs unnecessarily.
    The video data storage device submission requirement is better 
addressed as a provision of the VMP rather than in regulation. The VMP 
can consider the specifics of a vessel's delivery pattern, local 
infrastructure, and the need for data timeliness to develop specific 
procedures for each vessel that meets management needs.
    Response: NMFS understands that there may delays in postmarking a 
video storage device when a vessel ends a fishing trip in a remote 
port, such as limited post office hours, the availability of a 
postmaster, or when a trip ends at a tender vessel. However, timely 
data is essential and extensive delays could result in delayed fishery 
closures and openings. Delays in submitting video storage devices could 
also result in lost or overwritten data, if the vessel does not send in 
a video storage device prior to embarking on another fishing trip 
selected for EM coverage and forgets to replace the video storage 
device.
    Moving this requirement to the VMP would not be appropriate because 
requiring a vessel owner or operator to record each location the vessel 
may deliver to during the year would be onerous. Also, tracking and 
verifying the location of delivery and whether the time frame for 
submission was appropriate for that location, would be a large 
administrative burden to NMFS.
    Therefore, NMFS will continue to require submission of video 
storage devices no later than 2 business days after the end of a 
fishing trip, but will provide flexibility for circumstances outside 
the vessel owner's or operator's control that do not allow for 
postmarking the video storage devices within the time frame. NMFS 
revised Sec.  679.51(f)(5)(vii) to add that, if the fishing trip ends 
in a remote port with limited postal service or at a tender vessel, the 
vessel operator must ensure the video data storage device and 
associated documentation is postmarked as soon as possible but no later 
than two weeks after the end of the fishing trip.
    Comment 16: The proposed rule at Sec.  679.51(f)(6)(iv) states that 
when a vessel is fishing IFQ in multiple areas, the vessel must cease 
fishing and contact the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) 
immediately if an EM system malfunction occurs during that fishing 
trip.
    Clarify in the regulations or the VMP that (1) if the vessel 
operator is unable to contact OLE (for example, because they are not in 
range of communication), the vessel operator is not required to abandon 
gear before proceeding to a location from which they can contact OLE; 
and (2) vessel operators are prohibited from deploying any additional 
fishing gear until they contact OLE, but would be allowed to retrieve 
deployed gear before proceeding to a location from which

[[Page 36999]]

they can contact OLE for further instructions. Include information on 
the ways to contact OLE in the VMP template.
    Response: NMFS requires the vessel operator to cease fishing 
immediately and to contact OLE when an EM system malfunction occurs 
that does not allow recording of essential information about where the 
vessel was fishing and what amount of halibut or sablefish catch was 
coming aboard in this final rule at Sec.  679.51(f)(6)(iv). This 
requirement is necessary because information about the location of 
fishing and the amount caught in each area is paramount to allowing 
vessels to fish in multiple areas using the exception at Sec.  
679.7(f)(4). However, these regulations do not require that a vessel 
abandon its gear to contact OLE.
    The VMP template will provide instructions about how and when to 
contact OLE as well as the procedures to follow if the vessel is unable 
to contact OLE if an EM system malfunction occurs that does not allow 
the recording of essential information about catch and fishing 
location. The VMP template will also provide guidance on what type of 
malfunctions will require the vessel operator to cease fishing and 
contact OLE. For example, failure of a camera that showed catch coming 
aboard will require a vessel operator to cease fishing and contact OLE. 
Conversely, failure of a camera that showed the streamer line being set 
will not require the vessel operator to cease fishing and contact OLE.
    The VMP template will also include methods to troubleshoot the EM 
system while at sea that may repair the problem and allow the vessel to 
continue fishing without the need to contact OLE. If an EM system 
malfunction occurs that does not allow the recording of catch and 
fishing location information and the vessel operator has used the 
troubleshooting guide in the VMP but the problem persists, the vessel 
operator must cease fishing and contact OLE immediately.
    There are several methods a vessel operator could use to contact 
OLE while at sea. The vessel operator could use a cell phone or 
satellite phone. The vessel operator could also contact the U.S. Coast 
Guard via VHF or single side band radio to request the Coast Guard to 
contact OLE. The vessel operator should make every effort available to 
contact OLE, but if the vessel operator is unable to reach OLE while at 
sea, NMFS will not require a vessel operator to abandon fishing gear to 
return to port to contact OLE. The vessel operator must not set 
additional gear once an EM system malfunction is detected and must 
return to port immediately if unable to contact OLE at sea.
    Comment 17: Please do not change any regulations that have been 
written to protect our fragile environment.
    Response: This final rule will not change any regulations that 
protect the environment. NMFS analyzed the environmental impacts of 
this action to integrate EM into the Observer Program in the Analysis 
(see ADDRESSES).
    Comment 18: Weather is a major factor in a fishing vessel being 
able fish. Weather can change with very little notice, creating safety 
issues for the observer if NMFS is requiring a human observer on every 
vessel and every fishing trip.
    Response: NMFS does not require an observer on every vessel and 
every fishing trip in the partial coverage category. NMFS uses a random 
selection process to select which fishing trips will carry an observer. 
Per section 313(b)(1)(D) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Council and 
NMFS have taken into consideration the operating requirements of the 
fisheries and the safety of observers and fishermen in developing this 
action to integrate EM into the Observer Program.

Classification

    The Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, has determined that 
Amendments 114/104 to the FMPs and this rule are necessary for the 
conservation and management of the groundfish fishery and that they are 
consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable law.
    This rule has been determined to be not significant for the 
purposes of Executive Order (E.O.) 12866.

Small Entity Compliance Guide

    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness 
Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for 
which an agency is required to prepare a final regulatory flexibility 
analysis, the agency shall publish one or more guides to assist small 
entities in complying with the rule, and shall designate such 
publications as ``small entity compliance guides.'' The preambles to 
the proposed rule and this final rule serve as the small entity 
compliance guide. This action does not require any additional 
compliance from small entities that is not described in the preambles. 
Copies of the proposed rule and this final rule are available from the 
NMFS Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.

Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA)

    This FRFA incorporates the initial regulatory flexibility analysis 
(IRFA), a summary of the significant issues raised by the public 
comments, NMFS' responses to those comments, and a summary of the 
analyses completed to support this action.
    Section 604 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) requires that, 
when an agency promulgates a final rule under section 553 of Title 5 of 
the U.S. Code, after being required by that section or any other law to 
publish a general notice of proposed rulemaking, the agency shall 
prepare a FRFA. Section 604 describes the required contents of a FRFA: 
(1) A statement of the need for, and objectives of, the rule; (2) a 
statement of the significant issues raised by the public comments in 
response to the initial regulatory flexibility analysis, a statement of 
the assessment of the agency of such issues, and a statement of any 
changes made in the proposed rule as a result of such comments; (3) the 
response of the agency to any comments filed by the Chief Counsel for 
Advocacy of the Small Business Administration (SBA) in response to the 
proposed rule, and a detailed statement of any change made to the 
proposed rule in the final rule as a result of the comments; (4) a 
description of and an estimate of the number of small entities to which 
the rule will apply or an explanation of why no such estimate is 
available; (5) a description of the projected reporting, recordkeeping 
and other compliance requirements of the rule, including an estimate of 
the classes of small entities which will be subject to the requirement 
and the type of professional skills necessary for preparation of the 
report or record; and (6) a description of the steps the agency has 
taken to minimize the significant economic impact on small entities 
consistent with the stated objectives of applicable statutes, including 
a statement of the factual, policy, and legal reasons for selecting the 
alternative adopted in the final rule and why each one of the other 
significant alternatives to the rule considered by the agency which 
affect the impact on small entities was rejected.
    Descriptions of this action, its purpose, and the legal basis are 
contained in the preamble to the proposed rule (82 FR 14853, March 23, 
2017) and are not repeated here.

[[Page 37000]]

Public and Chief Counsel for Advocacy Comments on the Proposed Rule
    NMFS published the proposed rule on March 23, 2017 (82 FR 14853). 
An IRFA was prepared and summarized in the ``Classification'' section 
of the preamble to the proposed rule. The comment period closed on May 
22, 2017. NMFS received 7 letters of public comment on the proposed 
rule and Amendments 114/1104. The Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the SBA 
did not file any comments on the proposed rule.
Summary of Significant Issues Raised During Public Comment
    NMFS received no comments on the IRFA.
Number and Description of Small Entities Regulated by Action
    This action directly regulates those entities that harvest 
groundfish and halibut using nontrawl gear and are subject to observer 
coverage in the partial coverage category of the Observer Program. 
These directly regulated entities include vessels that fish with 
nontrawl gear in State waters only if those vessels have a Federal 
Fisheries Permit (FFP), which makes them subject to Federal observer 
regulations. Since participation in the EM selection pool is voluntary, 
only those vessels that choose to participate in the EM selection pool 
will be directly regulated by this rule.
    For RFA purposes only, NMFS has established a small business size 
standard for businesses, including their affiliates, whose primary 
industry is commercial fishing (see 50 CFR 200.2). A business primarily 
engaged in commercial fishing (NAICS code 11411) is classified as a 
small business if it is independently owned and operated, is not 
dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and has 
combined annual receipts not in excess of $11 million for all its 
affiliated operations worldwide.
    The estimated number of vessels that use nontrawl gear in the 
partial coverage category that are small entities might be overstated. 
Conversely, the number of non-small entities might be understated. The 
RFA requires a consideration of affiliations between entities for the 
purpose of assessing whether an entity is classified as small. The 
estimates below do not take into account all affiliations between 
entities. There is not a strict one-to-one correlation between vessels 
and entities; many persons and firms are known to have ownership 
interests in more than one vessel, and many of these vessels with 
different ownership are otherwise affiliated with each other. Vessels 
that have types of affiliation that are not tracked in available data 
(i.e., ownership of multiple vessels or affiliation with processors) 
may be misclassified as a small entity.
    In 2015, the most recent data available at the time of the 
analysis, 981 vessels (i.e., harvesting entities) participated in the 
groundfish and halibut fisheries directly regulated by this action. 
Those 981 catcher vessels include 255 vessels that only operated in 
State waters and possessed an FFP; all of those 255 vessels are 
classified as small entities. According to data provided by the Alaska 
Fisheries Information Network, the analysts estimate that 950 of the 
981 harvesting entities are classified as small entities. All 31 
vessels that are classified as non-small entities were members of 
harvesting cooperatives whose combined gross receipts were greater than 
$11.0 million in 2015, the most recent year for which complete revenue 
data is available. Each of the 31 vessels classified as non-small 
entities is affiliated with a crab cooperative, six are affiliated with 
a Central Gulf of Alaska Rockfish Program cooperative, two are 
affiliated with an American Fisheries Act cooperative, and one is 
affiliated through ownership with the freezer longline cooperative 
(some entities are affiliated with more than one cooperative across 
different North Pacific fisheries).
    Table 1 provides a count of small and non-small entities (i.e., 
vessels). The first row shows all vessels with FFPs that fished with 
nontrawl gear in 2015. The second row is limited to vessels that fished 
in Federal waters. Rows three through six show the number of entities 
by gear type and area fished. Those rows should not be summed 
vertically to avoid double counting vessels that fished with both gear 
types or in both management areas. No vessel less than 40 ft LOA is 
classified as a non-small entity, and only one vessel less than 57.5 ft 
LOA is classified as a non-small entity.

      Table 1--Count of Small and Non-Small Entities in the Universe of Directly Regulated Vessels in 2015
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                     Non-small
                                                                   Small entity       entity           Total
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nontrawl catcher vessels (Federal and State waters).............             950              31             981
Nontrawl catcher vessels (Federal waters only)..................             695              31             726
Hook-and-line catcher vessels in Federal waters in the Gulf of               584               7             591
 Alaska.........................................................
Hook-and-line catcher vessels in Federal waters in the Bering                114               7             121
 Sea/Aleutian Islands...........................................
Pot catcher vessels in Federal waters in the Gulf of Alaska.....              86               4              90
Pot catcher vessels in Federal waters in the Bering Sea/Aleutian              22              21              43
 Islands........................................................
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Recordkeeping, Reporting, and Other Compliance Requirements
    This final rule adds additional reporting, recordkeeping, and other 
compliance requirements for vessels that request to participate in the 
EM selection pool and vessels that use the exemption in Sec.  
679.7(f)(4) to harvest IFQ or CDQ halibut and sablefish. No small 
entity is subject to reporting requirements that are in addition to or 
different from the requirements that apply to all directly regulated 
entities.
    No unique professional skills are needed for the vessel owners or 
operators to comply with the reporting and recordkeeping requirements 
associated with this final rule. Vessel owners or operators will 
request to be placed in the EM selection pool using ODDS, a tool 
already used by directly regulated small entities. If they choose to 
participate in the EM selection pool, vessel owners and operators will 
be required to assist with the installation of the EM system and 
conduct basic maintenance to ensure the EM equipment remains 
functional. Vessel operators would meet with the EM service provider to 
develop a VMP for their vessel, in which the operator's 
responsibilities will be clearly defined. These responsibilities can 
generally be fulfilled by a crewmember of the vessel who already is 
fulfilling similar functions during fishing activity. The vessel owner 
or operator will be required to submit the VMP to NMFS for approval.
    Vessel owners or operators in the EM selection pool that choose to 
use the

[[Page 37001]]

exemption in Sec.  679.7(f)(4) will need to notify NMFS using ODDS when 
they intend to fish in multiple areas and commit to using a functioning 
EM system on the whole trip, even if the vessel was not selected for EM 
coverage. The vessel owner or operator will be required to meet the 
same responsibilities as if the vessel had been selected for EM system 
coverage for that trip in ODDS. Because the EM system in this instance 
will be used as a compliance monitoring tool, some additional 
requirements will apply. If an EM system malfunction occurs during a 
fishing trip in a manner that does not allow essential information 
about where the vessel was fishing and what amount of IFQ or CDQ catch 
was coming aboard to be recorded, the vessel operator will be required 
to cease fishing immediately and to contact NOAA OLE. Information about 
the locations fished and the amount caught in each area is paramount to 
allowing vessels to fish in multiple areas using this exception; 
therefore, such a requirement is necessary.
Description of Significant Alternatives Considered to the Final Action 
That Minimize Adverse Impacts on Small Entities
    No significant alternatives were identified that would accomplish 
the stated objectives, are consistent with applicable statutes, and 
that would minimize any significant economic impact of this rule on 
small entities.

Collection-of-Information Requirements

    This rule contains collection-of-information requirements subject 
to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) and which have been approved by 
the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under OMB control number 
0648-0318 (North Pacific Observer Program).
    The public reporting burden for these collection-of-information 
requirements includes the time for reviewing instructions, searching 
existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and 
completing and reviewing the collection of information.
    This rule will allow vessel owners or operators to use the existing 
ODDS to submit a request to be placed in the EM selection pool. In 
addition, this rule will allow vessel owners or operators in the EM 
selection pool to submit a request to be removed from the EM selection 
pool. Public reporting burden per response for these new options in 
ODDS is estimated to average 5 minutes. If NMFS denies a request to 
place a vessel in the EM selection pool, the vessel owner may submit an 
administrative appeal to NMFS. Public reporting burden per response for 
an administrative appeal is estimated to average 4 hours.
    This rule will require all vessel owners or operators in the EM 
selection pool to register a fishing trip in ODDS. Public reporting 
burden per response to register a fishing trip in ODDS if a vessel is 
assigned to the EM selection pool is estimated to average 15 minutes.
    This rule will require vessel owners or operators who request to be 
placed in the EM selection pool to submit a VMP to NMFS. Public 
reporting burden per response for the VMP is estimated to average 48 
hours.
    This rule will require a vessel operator in the EM selection pool 
to close the fishing trip in ODDS. Public reporting burden per response 
to close a fishing trip in ODDS is estimated to average 5 minutes.
    This rule will require vessel owners or operators selected to carry 
EM to submit video data storage devices and associated documentation to 
the EM data reviewer within 2 business days of the end of the fishing 
trip. Public reporting burden per response is estimated to average 1 
hour.
    Vessel owners or operators wanting to use EM to fish under the 
exception in Sec.  679.7(f)(4) will be required to notify NMFS through 
ODDS under Sec.  679.51(f)(6). Public reporting burden per response to 
register a fishing trip in ODDS is estimated to average 15 minutes. The 
addition of the option to indicate that the vessel will use EM to fish 
under the exception in Sec.  679.7(f)(4) during an upcoming fishing 
trip is not expected to increase the average response time to register 
a trip in ODDS.
    Send comments on this data collection, including suggestions for 
reducing the burden, to NMFS Alaska Region (see ADDRESSES), or by email 
to OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov, or fax to (202) 395-5806.
    Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is 
required to respond to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty 
for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the 
requirements of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays 
a currently valid OMB control number. All currently approved NOAA 
collections of information may be viewed at http://www.cio.noaa.gov/services_programs/prasubs.html.

List of Subjects

15 CFR Part 902

    Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

50 CFR Part 679

    Alaska, Fisheries, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

    Dated: August 3, 2017.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
    For the reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS amends 15 CFR part 
902 and 50 CFR part 679 as follows:

Title 15--Commerce and Foreign Trade

PART 902--NOAA INFORMATION COLLECTION REQUIREMENTS UNDER THE 
PAPERWORK REDUCTION ACT: OMB CONTROL NUMBERS

0
1. The authority citation for part 902 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.


0
2. In Sec.  902.1, in the table in paragraph (b), under the entry ``50 
CFR,'' revise the entry for ``679.51'' to read as follows:


Sec.  902.1  OMB control numbers assigned pursuant to the Paperwork 
Reduction Act.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *

------------------------------------------------------------------------
   CFR part or section where the
 information collection requirement    Current OMB control number (all
             is located                   numbers begin with 0648-)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                                * * * * *
50 CFR:
 
                                * * * * *
  679.51...........................  -0206, -0269, -0272, -0318, -0401,
                                      0513, -0545, -0565.
 
                                * * * * *
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title 50--Wildlife and Fisheries

PART 679--FISHERIES OF THE EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE OFF ALASKA

0
3. The authority citation for 50 CFR part 679 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.; 1801 et seq.; 3631 et seq.; 
Pub. L. 108-447; Pub. L. 111-281.

0
4. In Sec.  679.2:
0
a. Add in alphabetical order definitions for ``Electronic Monitoring 
system or EM system,'' ``EM selection pool,'' and ``EM service 
provider'';
0
a. In the definition of ``Fishing trip,'' revise paragraph (3) heading 
and add paragraph (3)(iv); and
0
b. Add in alphabetical order a definitions for ``Vessel Monitoring Plan 
(VMP)''.
    The additions and revsion read as follows:

[[Page 37002]]

Sec.  679.2  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Electronic Monitoring system or EM system means a network of 
equipment that uses a software operating system connected to one or 
more technology components, including, but not limited to, cameras and 
recording devices to collect data on catch and vessel operations.
* * * * *
    EM selection pool means the defined group of vessels from which 
NMFS will randomly select the vessels required to use an EM system 
under Sec.  679.51(f).
    EM service provider means any person, including their employees or 
agents, that NMFS contracts with to provide EM services, or to review, 
interpret, or analyze EM data, as required under Sec.  679.51(f).
* * * * *
    Fishing trip means: * * *
* * * * *
    (3) North Pacific Observer Program. * * *
* * * * *
    (iv) For a vessel in the EM selection pool of the partial coverage 
category, the period of time that begins when the vessel leaves a 
shore-based port or tender vessel with an empty hold until the vessel 
returns to a shore-based port or tender vessel and all fish are 
delivered.
* * * * *
    Vessel Monitoring Plan (VMP) means the document that describes how 
fishing operations on the vessel will be conducted and how the EM 
system and associated equipment will be configured to meet the data 
collection objectives and purpose of the EM program. VMPs are required 
under Sec.  679.51(f).
* * * * *

0
5. In Sec.  679.7, revise paragraph (f)(4), the paragraph (g) heading, 
and paragraph (j) to read as follows:


Sec.  679.7  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (f) * * *
    (4) Except as provided in Sec.  679.40(d), retain IFQ or CDQ 
halibut or IFQ or CDQ sablefish on a vessel in excess of the total 
amount of unharvested IFQ or CDQ, applicable to the vessel category and 
IFQ or CDQ regulatory area(s) in which the vessel is deploying fixed 
gear, and that is currently held by all IFQ or CDQ permit holders 
aboard the vessel, unless the vessel has an observer aboard under 
subpart E of this part or the vessel participates in the EM selection 
pool and complies with the requirements at Sec.  679.51(f), and 
maintains the applicable daily fishing log prescribed in the annual 
management measures published in the Federal Register pursuant to Sec.  
300.62 of this title and Sec.  679.5.
* * * * *
    (g) North Pacific Observer Program--Observers. * * *
* * * * *
    (j) North Pacific Observer Program--EM Systems. (1) Fish without an 
EM system when a vessel is required to carry an EM system under Sec.  
679.51(f).
    (2) Fish with an EM system without a copy of a valid NMFS-approved 
VMP on board when directed fishing in a fishery subject to EM coverage.
    (3) Fail to comply with a NMFS-approved VMP.
    (4) Fail to conduct a function test prior to departing port on a 
fishing trip as required at Sec.  679.51(f)(5)(vi)(A).
    (5) Depart on a fishing trip selected for EM coverage without a 
functional EM system, unless procedures at Sec.  679.51(f)(5)(vi)(A)(1) 
and Sec.  679.51(f)(5)(vi)(A)(2) have been followed.
    (6) Fail to follow procedures at Sec.  679.51(f)(5)(vi)(B) prior to 
each set on a fishing trip selected for EM coverage.
    (7) Fail to make the EM system, associated equipment, logbooks, and 
other records available for inspection upon request by NMFS, OLE, or 
other NMFS-authorized officer.
    (8) Fail to submit a video data storage device as specified under 
Sec.  679.51(f)(5)(vii).
    (9) Tamper with, bias, disconnect, damage, destroy, alter, or in 
any other way distort, render useless, inoperative, ineffective, or 
inaccurate any component of the EM system, associated equipment, or 
data recorded by the EM system when the vessel is directed fishing in a 
fishery subject to EM coverage, unless the vessel operator is directed 
to make changes to the EM system by NMFS, the EM service provider, or 
as directed in the troubleshooting guide of the VMP.
    (10) Assault, impede, intimidate, harass, sexually harass, bribe, 
or interfere with an EM service provider.
    (11) Interfere or bias the sampling procedure employed in the EM 
selection pool, including either mechanically or manually sorting or 
discarding catch outside of the camera view or inconsistent with the 
NMFS-approved VMP.
    (12) Fail to meet vessel owner and operator responsibilities 
specified at Sec.  679.51(f)(5).
* * * * *
0
6. In Sec.  679.21, revise paragraphs (a)(2)(ii) and (a)(3) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  679.21  Prohibited species bycatch management.

    (a) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (ii) After allowing for sampling by an observer, if an observer is 
aboard, sort its catch immediately after retrieval of the gear and, 
except for salmon prohibited species catch in the BS pollock fisheries 
and GOA groundfish fisheries under paragraph (f) or (h) of this 
section, or any prohibited species catch as provided (in permits 
issued) under the PSD program at Sec.  679.26, return all prohibited 
species, or parts thereof, to the sea immediately, with a minimum of 
injury, regardless of its condition.
    (3) Rebuttable presumption. Except as provided under paragraphs (f) 
and (h) of this section and Sec.  679.26, there will be a rebuttable 
presumption that any prohibited species retained on board a fishing 
vessel regulated under this part was caught and retained in violation 
of this section.
* * * * *


Sec.  679.23  [Amended]

0
7. In Sec.  679.23 remove paragraphs (d)(4) and (5).
0
8. In Sec.  679.51:
0
a. Revise the section heading, the paragraph (a)(1) heading, and 
paragraphs (a)(1)(i) introductory text, (a)(1)(i)(C), (a)(1)(ii) 
introductory text, (a)(1)(ii)(B), (a)(1)(ii)(D), and (a)(4)(iii); and
0
b. Add paragraph (f).
    The revisions and addition read as follows:


Sec.  679.51  Observer and Electronic Monitoring System requirements 
for vessels and plants.

    (a) * * *
    (1) Groundfish and halibut fishery partial coverage category--(i) 
Vessel classes in partial coverage category. Unless otherwise specified 
in paragraph (a)(2) of this section, the following catcher vessels and 
catcher/processors are in the partial coverage category when fishing 
for halibut with hook-and-line gear or when directed fishing for 
groundfish in a federally managed or parallel groundfish fishery, as 
defined at Sec.  679.2:
* * * * *
    (C) A catcher/processor placed in the partial coverage category 
under paragraph (a)(3) of this section; or
* * * * *
    (ii) Registration and notification of observer deployment. The 
Observer Declare and Deploy System (ODDS) is the communication platform 
for the partial coverage category by which NMFS receives information 
about

[[Page 37003]]

fishing plans subject to randomized observer deployment. Vessel 
operators provide fishing plan and contact information to NMFS and 
receive instructions through ODDS for coordinating with an observer 
provider for any required observer coverage. Access to ODDS is 
available through the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.
* * * * *
    (B) Notification. Upon entry into ODDS, NMFS will notify the owner 
or operator of his or her vessel's selection pool. Owners and operators 
must comply with all further instructions set forth by ODDS.
* * * * *
    (D) Vessel selection pool. A vessel selected for observer coverage 
is required to have an observer on board for all groundfish and halibut 
fishing trips specified at paragraph (a)(1)(i) of this section for the 
time period indicated by ODDS.
* * * * *
    (4) * * *
    (iii) Deadline to request full observer coverage. A full observer 
coverage request must be submitted by October 15 of the year prior to 
the calendar year in which the catcher vessel would be placed in the 
full observer coverage category.
* * * * *
    (f) Electronic monitoring system requirements for vessels that use 
nontrawl gear. Vessels that use nontrawl gear in the partial coverage 
category in paragraph (a)(1)(i) of this section may be eligible for EM 
coverage instead of observer coverage.
    (1) Vessel placement in the EM selection pool--(i) Applicability. 
The owner or operator of a vessel that uses nontrawl gear in the 
partial coverage category under paragraph (a)(1)(i) of this section may 
request to be placed in the EM selection pool.
    (ii) How to request placement in the EM selection pool. A vessel 
owner or operator must complete an EM request and submit it to NMFS 
using ODDS. Access to ODDS is available through the NMFS Alaska Region 
Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. ODDS is described in 
paragraph (a)(1)(ii) of this section.
    (iii) Deadline to submit an EM request. A vessel owner or operator 
must submit an EM request in ODDS by November 1 of the year prior to 
the calendar year in which the catcher vessel would be placed in the EM 
selection pool.
    (iv) Approval for placement in the EM selection pool. NMFS will 
approve a nontrawl gear vessel for placement in the EM selection pool 
based on criteria specified in NMFS' Annual Deployment Plan, available 
through the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. Criteria may include, but are not limited to, 
availability of EM systems, vessel gear type, vessel length, area 
fished, number of trips or total catch, sector, target fishery, and 
home or landing port.
    (v) Notification of approval for placement in the EM selection 
pool. (A) NMFS will notify the vessel owner or operator through ODDS of 
approval for the EM selection pool for the next calendar year. The 
vessel remains subject to observer coverage under paragraph (a)(1)(i) 
of this section unless NMFS approves the request for placement of the 
vessel in the EM selection pool.
    (B) Once the vessel owner or operator receives notification of 
approval from NMFS, the vessel owner or operator must comply with the 
vessel owner or operator responsibilities in paragraphs (f)(4) and (5) 
of this section and all further instructions set forth by ODDS.
    (vi) Initial Administrative Determination (IAD). If NMFS denies a 
request to place a vessel in the EM selection pool, NMFS will provide 
an IAD to the vessel owner, which will explain the basis for the 
denial.
    (vii) Appeal. If the vessel owner wishes to appeal NMFS' denial of 
a request to place the vessel in the EM selection pool, the owner may 
appeal the determination under the appeals procedure set out at 15 CFR 
part 906.
    (viii) Duration. Once NMFS approves a vessel for the EM selection 
pool, that vessel will remain in the EM selection pool until--
    (A) NMFS disapproves the VMP under paragraph (f)(4) of this 
section;
    (B) The vessel owner or operator notifies NMFS that the vessel 
intends to leave the EM selection pool in the following fishing year 
under paragraph (f)(1)(ix) of this section; or
    (C) The vessel no longer meets the EM selection pool criteria 
specified by NMFS.
    (ix) How to leave the EM selection pool. A vessel owner must 
complete a request to leave the EM selection pool and submit it to NMFS 
using ODDS. ODDS is described in paragraph (a)(1)(ii) of this section.
    (x) Deadline to submit a request to leave the EM selection pool. A 
vessel owner or operator must submit a request to leave the EM 
selection pool by November 1 of the year prior to the calendar year in 
which the vessel would be placed in observer coverage.
    (2) Notification of EM selection--(i) Prior to embarking on each 
fishing trip, the operator of a vessel in the EM selection pool with a 
NMFS-approved VMP must register the anticipated trip with ODDS.
    (ii) ODDS will notify the vessel operator whether the trip is 
selected for EM coverage and provide a receipt number corresponding to 
this notification. Trip registration is complete when the vessel 
operator receives the receipt number.
    (iii) An operator may embark on a fishing trip registered with 
ODDS:
    (A) Not selected trip. At any time if ODDS indicates that the 
fishing trip is not selected for EM coverage.
    (B) Selected trip. After the vessel operator follows the 
instructions in ODDS and complies with the responsibilities under 
paragraphs (f)(4) and (5) of this section, if ODDS indicates that the 
fishing trip is selected for EM coverage.
    (3) EM coverage duration. If selected, a vessel is required to use 
the EM system for the entire fishing trip.
    (i) A fishing trip selected for EM coverage may not begin until all 
previously harvested fish have been offloaded.
    (ii) At the end of the fishing trip selected for EM coverage, the 
vessel operator must use ODDS to close the fishing trip following the 
instructions in the VMP and submit the video data storage devices and 
associated documentation as outlined in paragraph (f)(5)(vii) of this 
section.
    (4) Vessel Monitoring Plan (VMP). Once approved for the EM 
selection pool and prior to registering a fishing trip in ODDS under 
paragraph (f)(2) of this section, the vessel owner or operator must 
develop a VMP with the EM service provider following the VMP template 
available through the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/.
    (i) The vessel owner or operator must sign and submit the VMP to 
NMFS each calendar year.
    (ii) NMFS will approve the VMP for the calendar year if it meets 
all the requirements specified in the VMP template available through 
the NMFS Alaska Region Web site https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/.
    (iii) If the VMP does not meet all the requirements specified in 
the VMP template, NMFS will provide the vessel owner or operator the 
opportunity to submit a revised VMP that meets all the requirements 
specified in the VMP template.
    (iv) If NMFS does not approve the revised VMP, NMFS will issue an 
IAD to the vessel owner or operator that will explain the basis for the 
disapproval. The vessel owner or operator may file

[[Page 37004]]

an administrative appeal under the administrative appeals procedures 
set out at 15 CFR part 906.
    (v) If changes are required to the VMP to improve the data 
collection of the EM system or address fishing operation changes, the 
vessel owner or operator must work with NMFS and the EM service 
provider to alter the VMP. The vessel owner or operator must sign the 
updated VMP and submit these changes to the VMP to NMFS prior to 
departing on the next fishing trip selected for EM coverage.
    (5) Vessel owner or operator responsibilities. To use an EM system 
under this section, the vessel owner or operator must:
    (i) Make the vessel available for the installation of EM equipment 
by an EM service provider.
    (ii) Provide access to the vessel's systems and reasonable 
assistance to the EM service provider.
    (iii) Maintain a copy of a NMFS-approved VMP aboard the vessel at 
all times when the vessel is directed fishing in a fishery subject to 
EM coverage.
    (iv) Comply with all elements of the VMP when selected for EM 
coverage in ODDS.
    (v) Maintain the EM system, including the following:
    (A) Ensure power is maintained to the EM system at all times when 
the vessel is underway.
    (B) Ensure the system is functioning for the entire fishing trip, 
camera views are unobstructed and clear in quality, and catch and 
discards may be completely viewed, identified, and quantified.
    (C) Ensure EM system components are not tampered with, disabled, 
destroyed, or operated or maintained improperly.
    (vi) Complete pre-departure function test and daily verification of 
EM system.
    (A) Prior to departing port, the vessel operator must conduct a 
system function test following the instructions from the EM service 
provider. The vessel operator must verify that the EM system has 
adequate memory to record the entire fishing trip.
    (1) If the EM system function test detects a malfunction identified 
as a high priority in the vessel's VMP or does not allow the data 
collection objectives to be achieved, the vessel must remain in port 
for up to 72 hours to allow an EM service provider time to conduct 
repairs. If the repairs cannot be completed within the 72-hour time 
frame, the vessel is released from EM coverage for that fishing trip 
and may depart on the scheduled fishing trip. A malfunction must be 
repaired prior to departing on a subsequent fishing trip. The vessel 
will automatically be selected for EM coverage for the subsequent 
fishing trip after the malfunction has been repaired.
    (2) If the EM system function test detects a malfunction identified 
as a low priority in the vessel's VMP, the vessel operator may depart 
on the scheduled fishing trip following the procedures for low priority 
malfunctions described in the vessel's VMP. At the end of the trip the 
vessel operator must work with the EM service provider to repair the 
malfunction. The vessel operator may not depart on another fishing trip 
selected for EM coverage with this system malfunction unless the vessel 
operator has contacted the EM service provider.
    (B) During a fishing trip selected for EM coverage, before each set 
is retrieved the vessel operator must verify all cameras are recording 
and all sensors and other required EM system components are functioning 
as instructed in the vessel's VMP.
    (1) If a malfunction is detected, prior to retrieving the set the 
vessel operator must attempt to correct the problem using the 
instructions in the vessel's VMP.
    (2) If the malfunction cannot be repaired at sea, the vessel 
operator must notify the EM service provider of the malfunction at the 
end of the fishing trip. The malfunction must be repaired prior to 
departing on a subsequent fishing trip selected for EM coverage.
    (vii) At the end of a fishing trip selected for EM coverage, the 
vessel operator must submit the video data storage device and 
associated documentation identified in the vessel's VMP to NMFS using a 
method that requires a signature for delivery and provides a return 
receipt or delivery notification to the sender. The vessel operator 
must postmark the video data storage device and associated 
documentation no later than 2 business days after the end of the 
fishing trip. If the fishing trip ends in a remote port with limited 
postal service or at a tender vessel, the vessel operator must ensure 
the video data storage device and associated documentation is 
postmarked as soon as possible but no later than two weeks after the 
end of the fishing trip.
    (viii) Make the EM system and associated equipment available for 
inspection upon request by OLE, a NMFS-authorized officer, or other 
NMFS-authorized personnel.
    (6) EM for fishing in multiple regulatory areas. If a vessel owner 
or operator intends to fish in multiple regulatory areas using an EM 
system under the exception provided at Sec.  679.7(f)(4), the vessel 
owner or operator must:
    (i) Meet the requirements described in paragraph (f) of this 
section.
    (ii) Register in ODDS that he or she intends to fish in multiple 
regulatory areas using the exception in Sec.  679.7(f)(4).
    (iii) Ensure the EM system is powered continuously during the 
fishing trip. If the EM system is powered down during periods of non-
fishing, the VMP must describe alternate methods to ensure location 
information about the vessel is available for the entire fishing trip, 
as specified in the VMP template available through the NMFS Alaska 
Region Web site https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/.
    (iv) If an EM system malfunction occurs during a fishing trip that 
does not allow the recording of retrieval location information and 
imagery of catch as described in the vessel's VMP, the vessel operator 
must cease fishing and contact OLE immediately.

[FR Doc. 2017-16703 Filed 8-7-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P