Pacific Island Pelagic Fisheries; 2017 U.S. Territorial Longline Bigeye Tuna Catch Limits, 41388-41390 [2017-18452]

Download as PDF 41388 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 168 / Thursday, August 31, 2017 / Proposed Rules affect small governments, as described in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (Pub. L. 104–4); • Does not have Federalism implications as specified in Executive Order 13132 (64 FR 43255, August 10, 1999); • Is not an economically significant regulatory action based on health or safety risks subject to Executive Order 13045 (62 FR 19885, April 23, 1997); • Is not a significant regulatory action subject to Executive Order 13211 (66 FR 28355, May 22, 2001); • Is not subject to requirements of section 12(d) of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 (15 U.S.C. 272 note) because application of those requirements would be inconsistent with the Clean Air Act; and • Does not provide the EPA with the discretionary authority to address disproportionate human health or environmental effects with practical, appropriate, and legally permissible methods under Executive Order 12898 (59 FR 7629, February 16, 1994). In addition, the SIP is not approved to apply on any Indian reservation land or in any other area where the EPA or an Indian tribe has demonstrated that a tribe has jurisdiction. In those areas of Indian country, the rule does not have tribal implications and will not impose substantial direct costs on tribal governments or preempt tribal law as specified by Executive Order 13175 (65 FR 67249, November 9, 2000). List of Subjects in 40 CFR Part 52 Environmental protection, Air pollution control, Carbon monoxide, Incorporation by reference, Intergovernmental relations, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. Authority: 42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq. Dated: August 14, 2017. Deborah Jordan, Acting Regional Administrator, Region IX. [FR Doc. 2017–18499 Filed 8–30–17; 8:45 am] nlaroche on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS BILLING CODE 6560–50–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:12 Aug 30, 2017 Jkt 241001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 665 [Docket No. 170109046–7749–01] RIN 0648–XF156 Pacific Island Pelagic Fisheries; 2017 U.S. Territorial Longline Bigeye Tuna Catch Limits National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed specifications; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes a 2017 limit of 2,000 metric tons (mt) of longlinecaught bigeye tuna for each U.S. Pacific territory (American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands). NMFS would allow each territory to allocate up to 1,000 mt each year to U.S. longline fishing vessels in a specified fishing agreement that meets established criteria. As an accountability measure, NMFS would monitor, attribute, and restrict (if necessary) catches of longline-caught bigeye tuna, including catches made under a specified fishing agreement. The proposed catch limits and accountability measures would support the long-term sustainability of fishery resources of the U.S. Pacific Islands. DATES: NMFS must receive comments by September 15, 2017. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2017–0004, by either of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20170004, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Send written comments to Michael D. Tosatto, Regional Administrator, NMFS Pacific Islands Region (PIR), 1845 Wasp Blvd., Bldg. 176, Honolulu, HI 96818. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/ A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jarad Makaiau, NMFS PIRO Sustainable Fisheries, 808–725–5176. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS proposes to specify a 2017 catch limit of 2,000 mt of longline-caught bigeye tuna for each U.S. Pacific territory. NMFS would also authorize each U.S. Pacific territory to allocate up to 1,000 mt of its 2,000-mt bigeye tuna limit to U.S. longline fishing vessels that are permitted to fish under the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific (FEP). Those vessels must be identified in a specified fishing agreement with the applicable territory. The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council recommended these specifications. The proposed catch and allocation limits and accountability measures are identical to those that NMFS specified for each U.S. territory in 2016 (81 FR 63145, September 14, 2016). NMFS will monitor catches of longline-caught bigeye tuna by the longline fisheries of each U.S Pacific territory, including catches made by U.S. longline vessels operating under specified fishing agreements. The criteria that a specified fishing agreement must meet, and the process for attributing longline-caught bigeye tuna, will follow the procedures in 50 CFR 665.819 (Territorial catch and fishing effort limits). When NMFS projects that a territorial catch or allocation limit will be reached, NMFS would, as an accountability measure, prohibit the catch and retention of longline-caught bigeye tuna by vessels in the applicable territory (if the territorial catch limit is projected to be reached), and/or vessels in a specified fishing agreement (if the allocation limit is projected to be reached). On March 20, 2017, in Territory of American Samoa v. NMFS, et al. (16– cv–95, D. Haw), a Federal judge vacated and set aside a NMFS rule that amended the American Samoa Large Vessel Prohibited Area (LVPA) for eligible longliners. The Court held that the action was inconsistent with the ‘‘other applicable law’’ provision of the Magnuson-Stevens Act by not considering the protection and preservation of cultural fishing rights in American Samoa under the Instruments of Cession. The Instruments of Cession do not specifically mention cultural E:\FR\FM\31AUP1.SGM 31AUP1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 168 / Thursday, August 31, 2017 / Proposed Rules fishing rights, and the Court’s decision, although recognizing the need to protect those rights, does not define them. The Council is currently reevaluating the LVPA rule, including options to define cultural fishing rights in American Samoa that are subject to preservation and protection. NMFS specifically invites public comments on this proposed action that address the impact of this proposed rule on cultural fishing rights in American Samoa. NMFS will consider public comments on the proposed action and will announce the final specifications in the Federal Register. NMFS must receive any comments by the date provided in the DATES heading. NMFS may not consider any comments not postmarked or otherwise transmitted by that date. Regardless of the final specifications, all other management measures will continue to apply in the longline fishery. nlaroche on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator for Fisheries has determined that this proposed specification is consistent with the applicable FEP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable laws, subject to further consideration after public comment. Certification of Finding of No Significant Impact on Substantial Number of Small Entities The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce has certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration that these proposed specifications, if adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. A description of the proposed action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for it are contained in the preamble to this proposed specification. In this action, NMFS proposes a 2017 limit of 2,000 metric tons (mt) of longline-caught bigeye tuna for each U.S. Pacific territory (American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)). Without this catch limit, these U.S territories would not be subject to a limit because, as Participating Territories to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), they do not have a bigeye tuna limit under international measures adopted by the WCPFC. The proposed action would also allow each territory to allocate up to 1,000 mt of its limit to U.S. longline fishing vessels in a specified fishing agreement. Each VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:12 Aug 30, 2017 Jkt 241001 agreement must meet the established criteria in 50 CFR 665.819. As an accountability measure, NMFS would monitor, attribute, and restrict (if necessary) catches of longline-caught bigeye tuna by vessels in the applicable U.S. territory (if the territorial catch limit is projected to be reached), or by vessels operating under the applicable specified fishing agreement (if the allocation limit is projected to be reached). Payments under the specified fishing agreements support fisheries development in the U.S. Pacific territories and the long-term sustainability of fishery resources of the U.S. Pacific Islands. This proposed action would directly apply to longline vessels permitted Federally under the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific (Pelagic FEP). Specifically, this action would apply to Hawaii longline limited entry, American Samoa longline limited entry, and Western Pacific general longline permit holders. As of July 2017, there were 145 vessels with Hawaii permits (out of 164 total) and 44 with American Samoa permits (out of 60 total). There were no Western Pacific general longline permits as of July 2017. Based on logbook data collected by NMFS, Hawaii longline vessels landed approximately 33,401,000 lb of fish valued at $101,582,000 in 2016. With 142 vessels making either a deep- or shallow-set trip in 2016, the ex-vessel value of pelagic fish caught by Hawaiibased longline fisheries averaged about $715,336 per vessel in 2016. Fishery performance data for the American Samoa longline fishery in 2016 is not yet available. In 2015, American Samoabased longline vessels landed approximately 4,756,195 lb of fish, of which 4,662,869 lb was sold, valued at $4,994,004. Albacore made up the largest proportion of longline commercial landings at 3,475,497 lb. With 18 active longline vessels in 2015, the ex-vessel value of pelagic fish caught by American Samoa-based longline fisheries averaged about $277,445 per vessel in 2015. For Regulatory Flexibility Act 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 114111) 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. PO 00000 Frm 00031 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 41389 Based on available information, NMFS has determined that all vessels permitted Federally under the Pelagic FEP are small entities, i.e., they are engaged in the business of fish harvesting (NAICS 114111), are independently owned or operated, are not dominant in their field of operation, and have annual gross receipts not in excess of $11 million. Even though this proposed action would apply to a substantial number of vessels, the implementation of this action would not result in significant adverse economic impacts to individual vessels. The Pelagic FEP established a process by which NMFS could specify catch and/or effort limits for pelagic fisheries in American Samoa, Guam and CNMI, regardless of whether the WCPFC adopts a limit for those entities or not. The Pelagic FEP also allows NMFS to authorize the government of each territory to allocate a portion of their catch and/or effort limits through territorial fishing agreements. Specifically, bigeye tuna landed by vessels included in a fishing agreement are attributed to the U.S territory to which the agreement applies, and not counted towards the U.S. bigeye tuna limit established by NMFS under a separate authority in 50 CFR 300, subpart O. In accordance with Federal regulations at 50 CFR 300, subpart O, vessels that possess both an American Samoa and Hawaii longline permit are not subject to the U.S bigeye tuna limit. Therefore, these vessels may retain bigeye tuna and land fish in Hawaii after the date that NMFS projects the fishery would reach that limit. Further, catches of bigeye tuna made by such vessels are attributed to American Samoa, provided the fish was not caught in the EEZ around Hawaii. In 2016, all dual American Samoa/Hawaii longline permitted vessels were included in the fishing agreement with CNMI. Therefore, NMFS attributed bigeye catches by those vessels to the CNMI. On August 4, 2017, NMFS established a 2017 bigeye tuna catch limit of 3,138 mt applicable to U.S. longline fisheries (82 FR 36341). The 2017 limit is about 12 percent lower than the 2016 limit. It accounts for the planned reduction of the U.S. limit from 3,554 mt in 2016 to 3,345 mt in 2017, and adds a further reduction for exceeding the 2016 limit by 207 mt. Based on preliminary logbook data, NMFS expects the fishery to reach this limit in early September 2017. The proposed action would potentially benefit the Hawaii fishery by allowing participants to fish under specified fishing agreements with one or E:\FR\FM\31AUP1.SGM 31AUP1 41390 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 168 / Thursday, August 31, 2017 / Proposed Rules nlaroche on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS more territories. This could enhance the ability of these vessels to extend fishing effort in the western and central Pacific Ocean after reaching the 2017 U.S. limit and provide more domestic bigeye tuna for markets in Hawaii and elsewhere. Providing an opportunity to land bigeye tuna in Hawaii in the last quarter of the year when market demand is high would result in positive economic benefits for fishery participants and net benefits to the Nation. Allowing participating territories to enter into specified fishing agreements under this action benefits the territories by providing funds for territorial fisheries development projects. Establishing a 2,000 mt longline limit for bigeye tuna catch where territories are not subject to WCPFC longline limits is not likely to adversely affect vessels based in the territories. The historical catch of bigeye tuna by the American Samoa longline fleet has been less than 2,000 mt, even including the catch of vessels based in American Samoa, catch by dual permitted vessels VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:12 Aug 30, 2017 Jkt 241001 that land their catch in Hawaii, and catch attributed to American Samoa from U.S. vessels under specified fishing agreements. No longline fishing has occurred in Guam or the CNMI since 2011. Under the proposed action, longline fisheries managed under the Pelagic FEP are not expected to expand substantially nor change the manner in which they are currently conducted, (i.e., area fished, number of vessels longline fishing, number of trips taken per year, number of hooks set per vessel during a trip, depth of hooks, or deployment techniques in setting longline gear), due to existing operational constraints in the fleet, the limited entry permit programs, and protected species mitigation requirements. The proposed rule does not duplicate, overlap, or conflict with other Federal rules and is not expected to have significant impact on small organizations or government jurisdictions. Furthermore, there would be little, if any, disproportionate adverse economic impacts from the proposed PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 rule based on gear type or relative vessel size. The proposed rule also will not place a substantial number of small entities, or any segment of small entities, at a significant competitive disadvantage to large entities. For the reasons above, NMFS does not expect the proposed action to have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. As such, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared. This action is exempt from review under the procedures of E.O. 12866 because this action contains no implementing regulations. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: August 25, 2017. Chris Oliver, Assistant Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–18452 Filed 8–30–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\31AUP1.SGM 31AUP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 168 (Thursday, August 31, 2017)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 41388-41390]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-18452]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 665

[Docket No. 170109046-7749-01]
RIN 0648-XF156


Pacific Island Pelagic Fisheries; 2017 U.S. Territorial Longline 
Bigeye Tuna Catch Limits

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

ACTION: Proposed specifications; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes a 2017 limit of 2,000 metric tons (mt) of 
longline-caught bigeye tuna for each U.S. Pacific territory (American 
Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands). NMFS would allow each 
territory to allocate up to 1,000 mt each year to U.S. longline fishing 
vessels in a specified fishing agreement that meets established 
criteria. As an accountability measure, NMFS would monitor, attribute, 
and restrict (if necessary) catches of longline-caught bigeye tuna, 
including catches made under a specified fishing agreement. The 
proposed catch limits and accountability measures would support the 
long-term sustainability of fishery resources of the U.S. Pacific 
Islands.

DATES: NMFS must receive comments by September 15, 2017.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2017-0004, by either of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2017-0004, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Send written comments to Michael D. Tosatto, 
Regional Administrator, NMFS Pacific Islands Region (PIR), 1845 Wasp 
Blvd., Bldg. 176, Honolulu, HI 96818.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jarad Makaiau, NMFS PIRO Sustainable 
Fisheries, 808-725-5176.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS proposes to specify a 2017 catch limit 
of 2,000 mt of longline-caught bigeye tuna for each U.S. Pacific 
territory. NMFS would also authorize each U.S. Pacific territory to 
allocate up to 1,000 mt of its 2,000-mt bigeye tuna limit to U.S. 
longline fishing vessels that are permitted to fish under the Fishery 
Ecosystem Plan for Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific (FEP). 
Those vessels must be identified in a specified fishing agreement with 
the applicable territory. The Western Pacific Fishery Management 
Council recommended these specifications. The proposed catch and 
allocation limits and accountability measures are identical to those 
that NMFS specified for each U.S. territory in 2016 (81 FR 63145, 
September 14, 2016).
    NMFS will monitor catches of longline-caught bigeye tuna by the 
longline fisheries of each U.S Pacific territory, including catches 
made by U.S. longline vessels operating under specified fishing 
agreements. The criteria that a specified fishing agreement must meet, 
and the process for attributing longline-caught bigeye tuna, will 
follow the procedures in 50 CFR 665.819 (Territorial catch and fishing 
effort limits). When NMFS projects that a territorial catch or 
allocation limit will be reached, NMFS would, as an accountability 
measure, prohibit the catch and retention of longline-caught bigeye 
tuna by vessels in the applicable territory (if the territorial catch 
limit is projected to be reached), and/or vessels in a specified 
fishing agreement (if the allocation limit is projected to be reached).
    On March 20, 2017, in Territory of American Samoa v. NMFS, et al. 
(16-cv-95, D. Haw), a Federal judge vacated and set aside a NMFS rule 
that amended the American Samoa Large Vessel Prohibited Area (LVPA) for 
eligible longliners. The Court held that the action was inconsistent 
with the ``other applicable law'' provision of the Magnuson-Stevens Act 
by not considering the protection and preservation of cultural fishing 
rights in American Samoa under the Instruments of Cession. The 
Instruments of Cession do not specifically mention cultural

[[Page 41389]]

fishing rights, and the Court's decision, although recognizing the need 
to protect those rights, does not define them. The Council is currently 
reevaluating the LVPA rule, including options to define cultural 
fishing rights in American Samoa that are subject to preservation and 
protection. NMFS specifically invites public comments on this proposed 
action that address the impact of this proposed rule on cultural 
fishing rights in American Samoa.
    NMFS will consider public comments on the proposed action and will 
announce the final specifications in the Federal Register. NMFS must 
receive any comments by the date provided in the DATES heading. NMFS 
may not consider any comments not postmarked or otherwise transmitted 
by that date. Regardless of the final specifications, all other 
management measures will continue to apply in the longline fishery.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator for Fisheries has determined that this 
proposed specification is consistent with the applicable FEP, other 
provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable laws, 
subject to further consideration after public comment.

Certification of Finding of No Significant Impact on Substantial Number 
of Small Entities

    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce has 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration that these proposed specifications, if adopted, would 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. A description of the proposed action, why it is being 
considered, and the legal basis for it are contained in the preamble to 
this proposed specification.
    In this action, NMFS proposes a 2017 limit of 2,000 metric tons 
(mt) of longline-caught bigeye tuna for each U.S. Pacific territory 
(American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana 
Islands (CNMI)). Without this catch limit, these U.S territories would 
not be subject to a limit because, as Participating Territories to the 
Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), they do not 
have a bigeye tuna limit under international measures adopted by the 
WCPFC. The proposed action would also allow each territory to allocate 
up to 1,000 mt of its limit to U.S. longline fishing vessels in a 
specified fishing agreement. Each agreement must meet the established 
criteria in 50 CFR 665.819. As an accountability measure, NMFS would 
monitor, attribute, and restrict (if necessary) catches of longline-
caught bigeye tuna by vessels in the applicable U.S. territory (if the 
territorial catch limit is projected to be reached), or by vessels 
operating under the applicable specified fishing agreement (if the 
allocation limit is projected to be reached). Payments under the 
specified fishing agreements support fisheries development in the U.S. 
Pacific territories and the long-term sustainability of fishery 
resources of the U.S. Pacific Islands.
    This proposed action would directly apply to longline vessels 
permitted Federally under the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pelagic 
Fisheries of the Western Pacific (Pelagic FEP). Specifically, this 
action would apply to Hawaii longline limited entry, American Samoa 
longline limited entry, and Western Pacific general longline permit 
holders.
    As of July 2017, there were 145 vessels with Hawaii permits (out of 
164 total) and 44 with American Samoa permits (out of 60 total). There 
were no Western Pacific general longline permits as of July 2017.
    Based on logbook data collected by NMFS, Hawaii longline vessels 
landed approximately 33,401,000 lb of fish valued at $101,582,000 in 
2016. With 142 vessels making either a deep- or shallow-set trip in 
2016, the ex-vessel value of pelagic fish caught by Hawaii-based 
longline fisheries averaged about $715,336 per vessel in 2016. Fishery 
performance data for the American Samoa longline fishery in 2016 is not 
yet available. In 2015, American Samoa-based longline vessels landed 
approximately 4,756,195 lb of fish, of which 4,662,869 lb was sold, 
valued at $4,994,004. Albacore made up the largest proportion of 
longline commercial landings at 3,475,497 lb. With 18 active longline 
vessels in 2015, the ex-vessel value of pelagic fish caught by American 
Samoa-based longline fisheries averaged about $277,445 per vessel in 
2015.
    For Regulatory Flexibility Act 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 
114111) 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. Based on available 
information, NMFS has determined that all vessels permitted Federally 
under the Pelagic FEP are small entities, i.e., they are engaged in the 
business of fish harvesting (NAICS 114111), are independently owned or 
operated, are not dominant in their field of operation, and have annual 
gross receipts not in excess of $11 million. Even though this proposed 
action would apply to a substantial number of vessels, the 
implementation of this action would not result in significant adverse 
economic impacts to individual vessels.
    The Pelagic FEP established a process by which NMFS could specify 
catch and/or effort limits for pelagic fisheries in American Samoa, 
Guam and CNMI, regardless of whether the WCPFC adopts a limit for those 
entities or not. The Pelagic FEP also allows NMFS to authorize the 
government of each territory to allocate a portion of their catch and/
or effort limits through territorial fishing agreements. Specifically, 
bigeye tuna landed by vessels included in a fishing agreement are 
attributed to the U.S territory to which the agreement applies, and not 
counted towards the U.S. bigeye tuna limit established by NMFS under a 
separate authority in 50 CFR 300, subpart O.
    In accordance with Federal regulations at 50 CFR 300, subpart O, 
vessels that possess both an American Samoa and Hawaii longline permit 
are not subject to the U.S bigeye tuna limit. Therefore, these vessels 
may retain bigeye tuna and land fish in Hawaii after the date that NMFS 
projects the fishery would reach that limit. Further, catches of bigeye 
tuna made by such vessels are attributed to American Samoa, provided 
the fish was not caught in the EEZ around Hawaii. In 2016, all dual 
American Samoa/Hawaii longline permitted vessels were included in the 
fishing agreement with CNMI. Therefore, NMFS attributed bigeye catches 
by those vessels to the CNMI.
    On August 4, 2017, NMFS established a 2017 bigeye tuna catch limit 
of 3,138 mt applicable to U.S. longline fisheries (82 FR 36341). The 
2017 limit is about 12 percent lower than the 2016 limit. It accounts 
for the planned reduction of the U.S. limit from 3,554 mt in 2016 to 
3,345 mt in 2017, and adds a further reduction for exceeding the 2016 
limit by 207 mt. Based on preliminary logbook data, NMFS expects the 
fishery to reach this limit in early September 2017.
    The proposed action would potentially benefit the Hawaii fishery by 
allowing participants to fish under specified fishing agreements with 
one or

[[Page 41390]]

more territories. This could enhance the ability of these vessels to 
extend fishing effort in the western and central Pacific Ocean after 
reaching the 2017 U.S. limit and provide more domestic bigeye tuna for 
markets in Hawaii and elsewhere. Providing an opportunity to land 
bigeye tuna in Hawaii in the last quarter of the year when market 
demand is high would result in positive economic benefits for fishery 
participants and net benefits to the Nation. Allowing participating 
territories to enter into specified fishing agreements under this 
action benefits the territories by providing funds for territorial 
fisheries development projects. Establishing a 2,000 mt longline limit 
for bigeye tuna catch where territories are not subject to WCPFC 
longline limits is not likely to adversely affect vessels based in the 
territories.
    The historical catch of bigeye tuna by the American Samoa longline 
fleet has been less than 2,000 mt, even including the catch of vessels 
based in American Samoa, catch by dual permitted vessels that land 
their catch in Hawaii, and catch attributed to American Samoa from U.S. 
vessels under specified fishing agreements. No longline fishing has 
occurred in Guam or the CNMI since 2011.
    Under the proposed action, longline fisheries managed under the 
Pelagic FEP are not expected to expand substantially nor change the 
manner in which they are currently conducted, (i.e., area fished, 
number of vessels longline fishing, number of trips taken per year, 
number of hooks set per vessel during a trip, depth of hooks, or 
deployment techniques in setting longline gear), due to existing 
operational constraints in the fleet, the limited entry permit 
programs, and protected species mitigation requirements. The proposed 
rule does not duplicate, overlap, or conflict with other Federal rules 
and is not expected to have significant impact on small organizations 
or government jurisdictions. Furthermore, there would be little, if 
any, disproportionate adverse economic impacts from the proposed rule 
based on gear type or relative vessel size. The proposed rule also will 
not place a substantial number of small entities, or any segment of 
small entities, at a significant competitive disadvantage to large 
entities.
    For the reasons above, NMFS does not expect the proposed action to 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. As such, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not 
required and none has been prepared.
    This action is exempt from review under the procedures of E.O. 
12866 because this action contains no implementing regulations.

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

    Dated: August 25, 2017.
Chris Oliver,
Assistant Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-18452 Filed 8-30-17; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P