Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Nontrawl Lead Level 2 Observers, 61243-61250 [2017-27935]

Download as PDF daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 247 / Wednesday, December 27, 2017 / Proposed Rules hook-and-line vessel landed over 7,000 lb, (3,175 kg) gutted weight, annually. Hook-and-line is the primary gear type used by the commercial sector. The average federally permitted hook-andline vessel landed 7,078 lb (3,211 kg), gutted weight, of vermilion snapper annually with a dockside value of $22,276 (2015 dollars), and those vermilion snapper landings represent approximately 17 percent of that average vessel’s annual dockside revenue from all landings. For RFA purposes, 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 involved in commercial fishing (NAICS 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 its combined annual receipts are not in excess of $11 million for all of its affiliated operations worldwide. Based on the average annual revenue for a federally permitted vessel that lands vermilion snapper, regardless of gear used, it is concluded that most to all of the businesses that harvest vermilion snapper from the Gulf EEZ are small. Amendment 47 would establish an MSY proxy for vermilion snapper and that has no direct impact on any small business. This proposed rule would decrease the stock ACL of vermilion snapper. The stock ACL is currently 3.42 million lb (1.55 million kg), round weight, and has been in place since 2012. This proposed rule would decrease the stock ACL to 3.11 million lb (1.41 million kg), round weight. If combined landings reach or are projected to reach the stock ACL, the commercial and recreational fishing seasons are closed early as a result of accountability measures being triggered. Since 2012, there have been no early closures because combined commercial and recreational landings of vermilion snapper have been less than the stock ACL. From 2012 through 2015, combined landings varied from approximately 2.54 million lb (1.15 million kg) to 3.17 million lb (1.44 million kg), round weight, annually and averaged approximately 2.73 million lb (1.24 million kg). Since 2013, combined landings have been less than 3.00 million lb (1.36 million kg), round weight, every year, and preliminary data for 2016 indicate combined landings of approximately 2.63 million lb (1.19 million kg), round weight. Preliminary landings data for 2016 indicate combined landings of approximately 2.6 VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Dec 26, 2017 Jkt 244001 million lb (1.18 million kg), round weight. Moreover, as of November 27, 2017, for commercial landings and through the third wave for recreational landings, combined landings for 2017 are approximately 2.4 million lb (1.09 million kg), round weight. Based on recent landings data, it is expected that combined landings of vermilion snapper would be less than the proposed stock ACL of 3.11 million lb (1.41 million kg), round weight, and there would be no early closures. Therefore, NMFS expects the reduction of the stock ACL would have no economic impact on small businesses that harvest vermilion snapper from the Gulf EEZ. No new reporting, record-keeping, or other compliance requirements are introduced by this proposed rule. Accordingly, this proposed rule does not implicate the Paperwork Reduction Act. In conclusion, NMFS expects this proposed rule would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, and an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622 Commercial, Fisheries, Fishing, Gulf, Recreational, Vermilion snapper. Dated: December 21, 2017. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is proposed to be amended as follows: PART 622—FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF OF MEXICO, AND SOUTH ATLANTIC 1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 622.41, revise the last sentence of paragraph (j) to read as follows: ■ § 622.41 Annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), and accountability measures (AMs). * * * * * (j) * * * The stock ACL for vermilion snapper is 3.11 million lb (1.41 million kg), round weight. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2017–27934 Filed 12–26–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P PO 00000 Frm 00052 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 61243 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 170621579–7579–01] RIN 0648–BG96 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Nontrawl Lead Level 2 Observers National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes regulations to modify specific provisions of the North Pacific Observer Program. The first two elements of this proposed rule would modify the requirements for an observer to obtain a nontrawl lead level 2 (LL2) deployment endorsement and implement a pre-cruise meeting requirement for vessels required to carry an observer with a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement. These elements are intended to increase the number of observers that qualify for a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement and maintain observer safety and data quality. The third element of this proposed rule would make editorial changes, and modify observer coverage and reporting requirements for vessels when participating in the Western Alaska Community Development Quota (CDQ) Program. This element is intended to promote operational efficiency, and remove unnecessary requirements for specific vessels participating in the CDQ Program. This action is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska, and the FMP for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area, and other applicable law. DATES: Comments must be received no later than January 26, 2018. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2017–0071 by either of the following methods: • Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20170071, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\27DEP1.SGM 27DEP1 61244 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 247 / Wednesday, December 27, 2017 / Proposed Rules • Mail: Submit written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802–1668. Instructions: NMFS may not consider comments if they are sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the comment period ends. All comments received are a part of the public record and NMFS will post the comments for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender is publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Electronic copies of the draft Regulatory Impact Review (RIR) and the Categorical Exclusion prepared for this action are available from www.regulations.gov or from the NMFS Alaska Region website at alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. 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 at the above address; and to OIRA by email to OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov or by fax to 202–395–5806. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Alicia M Miller, 907–586–7228 or alicia.m.miller@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS Authority for Action NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic zone under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska and under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared the FMPs under the authority of the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (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. Background Regulations at subpart E of 50 CFR part 679 require that most vessels fishing for groundfish or halibut must carry an observer onboard their vessel for some, or all, fishing activities to ensure the collection of data necessary VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Dec 26, 2017 Jkt 244001 to manage the groundfish and halibut fisheries. The following sections describe (1) the North Pacific Observer Program, (2) nontrawl lead level 2 observer requirements, (3) the need for this action, and (4) this proposed rule. North Pacific Observer Program The North Pacific Observer Program (Observer Program) is an integral component in the management of North Pacific fisheries. The Observer Program was created with the implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act in the mid1970s and has evolved from primarily observing foreign fleets to observing domestic fleets. Regulations at subpart E of 50 CFR part 679 implement the Observer Program and prescribe how NMFS-certified observers (observers) will be deployed on board vessels and in processing plants to obtain information necessary for the conservation and management of the groundfish and halibut fisheries off Alaska. The information collected by observers contributes to the best available scientific information used to manage the fisheries in furtherance of the purposes and national standards of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Observers collect biological samples and gather information on total catch, including bycatch, and interactions with protected species. Fishery managers use data collected by observers to manage groundfish catch and bycatch limits established in regulation and to document fishery interactions with protected species. Fishery managers also use data collected by observers to inform the development of management measures that minimize bycatch and reduce fishery interactions with protected resources. Scientists use observer-collected data for stock assessments and marine ecosystem research. On January 1, 2013, the Observer Program was restructured to establish two observer coverage categories: Partial and full (77 FR 70062; November 21, 2012). Regulations at 50 CFR 679.50 identify that all vessels and processors that participate in federally managed or parallel groundfish and halibut fisheries off Alaska, except catcher vessels delivering unsorted codends to mothership vessels, are subject to observer coverage in one of these two categories. Regulations at 50 CFR 679.51 require vessels and processors in the full coverage category to carry an observer at all times when fish are caught or processed. Importantly for this proposed rule, the full coverage category includes most catcher/processors (i.e., vessels that catch and process their own catch at-sea), and all motherships (i.e., PO 00000 Frm 00053 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 those vessels that receive unsorted catch from other vessels and process that catch at-sea). Owners of vessels or processors in the full coverage category must contract directly with a permitted observer provider and pay for required observer coverage. Vessels affected by these proposed changes to nontrawl LL2 observer deployment endorsement requirements are in the full coverage category. Regulations at 50 CFR 679.51 describe the vessels and processing plants that are in the partial coverage category. Most catcher vessels using nontrawl gear are in the partial coverage category. NMFS, in consultation with the Council, develops an annual deployment plan for the Observer Program to determine when and where observer coverage is needed for vessels and processors in the partial coverage category. NMFS contracts with an observer provider to deploy observers based on the scientific sampling plan described in the annual deployment plan. Nontrawl Lead Level 2 Observer Requirements Two groups of vessels are required to carry an observer with a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement. The first group of vessels includes vessels named on a License Limitation Program (LLP) license with a Pacific cod catcher/ processor hook-and-line endorsement for the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, or both the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. These vessels are subject to monitoring requirements at 50 CFR 679.100 and are referred to as ‘‘freezer longline vessels’’ throughout this proposed rule. Pursuant to 50 CFR 679.100, a freezer longline vessel must carry an observer with a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement when the vessel (1) operates in either the BSAI or Gulf of Alaska groundfish fisheries and directed fishing for Pacific cod is open in the BSAI, or (2) when the vessel participates in the CDQ groundfish fisheries. These monitoring requirements for freezer longline vessels were implemented in 2012 and require freezer longline vessel owners and operators to select between one of two monitoring options: Either carry two observers so that all catch can be sampled, or carry one observer and use a motion-compensated flow scale to weigh Pacific cod before it is processed. Both monitoring options require the vessel to carry one observer endorsed as a nontrawl LL2 observer. (77 FR 59053; September 26, 2012). The second group of vessels that are required to carry an observer with a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement E:\FR\FM\27DEP1.SGM 27DEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 247 / Wednesday, December 27, 2017 / Proposed Rules includes catcher/processors that use pot gear when participating in the CDQ groundfish fisheries (groundfish CDQ fishing) (77 FR 6492; February 8, 2012). These pot catcher/processors are required to carry an observer with a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement when groundfish CDQ fishing and may participate in other fisheries that do not require a nontrawl LL2 observer. Regulations at 50 CFR 679.32 describe the specific monitoring requirements for vessels when participating in the sablefish CDQ, pollock CDQ, groundfish CDQ, and other CDQ fisheries. Regulations at 50 CFR 679.53 define the requirements for an observer to receive a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement. An observer obtains a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement when the observer meets minimum experience requirements for a level 2 deployment endorsement (has completed 60 days of data collection and met the Observer Program’s performance expectations on their most recent evaluation) and has completed two cruises of at least 10 days each and sampled at least 30 sets on a vessel using nontrawl gear. This means that prior to gaining a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement, an observer must first deploy on a nontrawl vessel that is not required to carry a nontrawl LL2 observer and sample at least 30 sets. daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS Need for This Action In 2014, observer providers and representatives of freezer longline vessels reported shortages of nontrawl LL2 observers for deployment on freezer longline vessels and that, in some cases, shortages delayed fishing operations (See section 3.3.4 of the Analysis). Since 2012, all active freezer longline vessels, except one, have chosen the option to carry one LL2 observer and weigh Pacific cod on a flow scale. This means that only one freezer longline vessel subject to the nontrawl LL2 observer requirement has chosen to carry two observers—one observer with a nontrawl LL2 endorsement, and one observer who will gain sampling experience to count toward the requirements for a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement. In addition, since 2013, there are few other nontrawl vessels in the full observer coverage category that do not require an LL2 observer. Therefore, the few observers deployed in the full coverage category are able to gain the sampling experience necessary to gain the nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement. Observer providers contracted by vessels in the full coverage category have reported that they have been unable to create and VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Dec 26, 2017 Jkt 244001 retain an adequate pool of qualified nontrawl LL2 observers since 2014. In contrast, observers deployed on vessels in the partial coverage category have opportunities to gain nontrawl sampling experience to count toward the requirements for a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement on catcher vessels in the partial coverage category. However, until August 2016, the observer provider contracted to deploy observers in the partial coverage category did not have a permit to deploy observers in the full coverage category pursuant to regulations at 50 CFR 679.52. These conditions from 2013 through August 2016 resulted in a diminishing pool of qualified observers employed by permitted observer providers in the full coverage category (See Tables 11, 12, and 13 in the Analysis). Since 2014, NMFS, observer providers, and freezer longline vessels have undertaken a series of nonregulatory actions designed to build and retain a pool of qualified nontrawl LL2 observers available for the freezer longline vessels. For example, NMFS modified its policy on how sampled sets are credited to observers when determining the number of sampled sets for a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement, and some members of the freezer longline fleet voluntarily deployed a second observer on some freezer longline vessels to allow those observers to gain sampling experience necessary to receive a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement (See Section 3.3.5 of the Analysis for additional detail). However, these non-regulatory actions resulted in additional costs to the freezer longline fleet and did not fully address the industry’s concerns about the limited availability of nontrawl LL2 observers. Between 2014 and 2017, the Council and its Observer Advisory Committee discussed and analyzed potential solutions to address industry concerns about the limited availability of nontrawl LL2 observers in the full coverage category. In June 2017, the Council recommended changes to regulations that would (1) allow trawl sampling experience to count toward a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement and authorize the observer program to require additional training as necessary to adequately prepare observers to perform data collection duties when deployed as a nontrawl LL2 observer, and (2) require the operator or manager of a vessel required to carry an observer with a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement to participate in a precruise meeting with the observer if notified by NMFS to do so. These PO 00000 Frm 00054 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 61245 regulatory changes are intended to minimize additional costs to industry while also maintaining observer safety and data quality. This Proposed Rule This proposed rule includes three elements. The first element of this proposed rule would modify regulations at § 679.53(a)(5)(v)(C) to allow 100 sampled hauls on trawl catcher/ processor or mothership vessel (equivalent to the required sampling experience for an observer to obtain a trawl LL2 deployment endorsement) to count toward a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement and authorize the observer program to require additional training for observers as necessary to adequately prepare them to safely perform data collection duties relevant to the nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement. These changes are intended to reduce the potential for a shortage of nontrawl LL2 observers, because many observers deployed in the full coverage category qualify for a trawl LL2 deployment endorsement. This would allow observers that qualify as a trawl LL2 observer to potentially qualify as a nontrawl LL2 observer (See Table 11 and Section 3.3.3 of the Analysis for more information), and reduce the pressure for freezer longline vessels to voluntarily carry second observers for the purpose of providing opportunities for observers to gain sampling experience to count toward a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement. An observer with sampling experience on a trawl catcher/processor or mothership would be familiar with the pressures of data collection on vessels participating in a catch share program and would also be familiar with the use of a flow scale to weigh catch. These skills are important to successfully performing data collection duties when deployed as a nontrawl LL2 observer. Because these observers may not have nontrawl sampling experience, additional training and a pre-cruise meeting may be necessary to ensure that these observers are adequately prepared to handle the safety and sampling challenges that are unique to nontrawl LL2 deployments (See Section 4.3.2.2 of the Analysis). This proposed rule would implement regulations to authorize the Observer Program to require additional training for observers as necessary to adequately prepare them to perform data collection duties relevant to the nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement. The Observer Program would develop and implement an observer training and also determine when this training would be required prior to receiving a nontrawl LL2 E:\FR\FM\27DEP1.SGM 27DEP1 daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS 61246 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 247 / Wednesday, December 27, 2017 / Proposed Rules deployment endorsement. Potentially, NMFS would require observers without sampling experience on a nontrawl catcher/processor to attend a two or three day training class prior to receiving a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement for the first time. The Observer Program would use this training class to adequately prepare observers with different types of qualifying sampling experience to complete sampling duties when deployed as a nontrawl LL2 observer (See section 4.3.2 of the Analysis for additional detail). The nontrawl LL2 training class would be designed to address common safety and sampling challenges that are unique to nontrawl LL2 observer deployments. This training would prepare observers who do not have sampling experience on nontrawl catcher/processors for deployment on these vessels as a nontrawl LL2 observer. At a minimum, through existing trainings and briefings, the Observer Program would continue to train observers to follow the safety and data collection protocols established in the Observer Sampling Manual. The second element of this proposed rule would require the operator or manager of a vessel that carries nontrawl LL2 observers to participate in a pre-cruise meeting with the observer assigned to the vessel if notified to do so by NMFS. This proposed rule would add a paragraph at §§ 679.32(c)(3)(i)(E) and 679.100(b)(1) and (2) to require freezer longline vessels and pot catcher/ processors when groundfish CDQ fishing to notify the Observer Program prior to embarking on a trip with a nontrawl LL2 observer who has not deployed on that vessel in the past 12 months. The Observer Program may contact the vessel and require the vessel operator or manager and the observer assigned to the vessel to participate in a pre-cruise meeting prior to embarking on a trip. This regulatory change would authorize the Observer Program to require a pre-cruise meeting as needed to address safety or sampling challenges on a specific vessel. Because vessel operations and individual observer’s sampling history will vary, this would give the Observer Program the flexibility necessary to evaluate whether a precruise meeting is necessary on a caseby-case basis between the observer and the vessel operator or manager to ensure the nontrawl LL2 observer is adequately prepared to collect high quality data in a safe manner. The Observer Program may consider the observer’s deployment history or sampling experience, vessel specific information, or other relevant information to determine whether a pre- VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Dec 26, 2017 Jkt 244001 cruise meeting is necessary, and if so, the Observer Program would contact the vessels to arrange the pre-cruise meeting prior to the start of a trip (See section 4.3 of the Analysis for additional detail). This action would impose additional administrative costs for NMFS to process pre-cruise notifications, contact a vessel if a pre-cruise meeting is necessary, and participate in pre-cruise meetings if staff are available. Section 2.3.1 of the Analysis describes that these administrative costs are minimal relative to other alternatives considered. In addition to the two elements recommended by the Council, NMFS proposes the third element of this proposed rule to remove duplicative and unnecessary regulatory reporting requirements and make minor changes to observer coverage requirements for specific vessels participating in the CDQ Program. These proposed revisions are intended to (1) align regulations with Magnuson-Stevens Act section 305(i)(1)(B)(iv), (2) reduce observer coverage costs, (3) improve operational efficiency, and (4) reduce the reporting burden for catcher/processors and motherships when participating in CDQ fisheries (See Section 2.4 in the Analysis). This proposed rule would define the terms ‘‘cruise’’ and ‘‘Observer Program’’ in § 679.2. The term ‘‘cruise’’ is used to describe the minimum experience requirements for an observer to obtain LL2 deployment endorsements in § 679.53. This proposed rule would define a ‘‘cruise’’ to mean an observer deployment with a unique cruise number. This proposed definition would clarify that a cruise begins when an observer receives an endorsement to deploy and ends when the observer completes all debriefing responsibilities. The term ‘‘Observer Program’’ would replace and update the definition of ‘‘Observer Program Office,’’ because that term does not describe the Observer Program. This proposed rule would update corresponding references throughout part 679. This proposed rule would remove provisions at § 679.32(c)(3)(i) that require operators of catcher/processors and motherships to provide observers with prior notification of CDQ catch and CDQ group number associated with the CDQ catch before the CDQ catch is brought on board the vessel. This provision would be removed for all catcher/processors and motherships when participating in the pollock CDQ or groundfish CDQ fisheries. These notification requirements were implemented in 1998 (63 FR 30381; June 4, 1998) when observer sampling methods for CDQ hauls and sets were PO 00000 Frm 00055 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 different than observer sampling methods for non-CDQ hauls and sets. At that time, an observer needed to know if a haul would be designated as a CDQ haul before it was brought on board the vessel so that they could apply the appropriate sampling methods. With implementation of other catch share programs since 1998 and overlap of vessel participation between CDQ and other catch share programs, observer sampling methods have been made consistent between CDQ and non-CDQ hauls and sets. Therefore, these prior notification requirements are unnecessary and duplicative. An observer does not need prior notice of CDQ haul designation to appropriately sample CDQ catch, and other regulations ensure that an observer has access to this information. This proposed rule would modify the heading for subpart E to part 679 from ‘‘Groundfish and Halibut Observer Program’’ to ‘‘North Pacific Observer Program’’ in order to be consistent with the term as used in the new definition of the Observer Program. This proposed rule also would modify § 679.50(a)(2) to clarify that a catcher vessel is not subject to the requirements of subpart E when delivering unsorted codends to a mothership. The existing wording is more restrictive than intended, and this proposed rule would clarify that a catcher vessel which, for some of its fishing activity, delivers unsorted codends to a mothership, would not be subject to the requirements of subpart E only during the fishing activity that results in delivering unsorted codends to a mothership. This proposed rule would modify § 679.51(a)(2)(vi)(A)(5) to update the observer coverage requirement for motherships that receive unsorted codends from catcher vessels groundfish CDQ fishing. This coverage requirement would be modified to no longer require that both observers deployed have a level 2 deployment endorsement. A mothership that receives unsorted codends from catcher vessels groundfish CDQ fishing would be required to carry two observers, one of which must have a LL2 deployment endorsement for a catcher/processor using trawl gear or a mothership. This would make observer coverage requirements for motherships participating in the groundfish CDQ fishery consistent with observer coverage requirements for catcher/ processors participating in the Amendment 80 Program. This proposed rule would update the phone number that is currently provided in §§ 679.84(c)(7) and 679.93(c)(7) for notifying the Observer E:\FR\FM\27DEP1.SGM 27DEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 247 / Wednesday, December 27, 2017 / Proposed Rules Program as required under regulations governing the Rockfish Program and Amendment 80 Program, in order to allow vessel operators or managers to contact the Dutch Harbor or Kodiak field offices directly. To improve clarity and consistency, this proposed rule would remove the term ‘‘certified’’ and replace it with the term ‘‘endorsed’’ when used to describe observer deployment endorsements throughout § 679.51. This proposed rule would also remove the provision at § 679.53(a)(5)(v)(B) that describes sampling experience requirements for an observer to obtain an LL2 deployment endorsement for a catcher vessel using trawl gear. This LL2 deployment endorsement is not required for any vessels that operate in the commercial groundfish or halibut fisheries, which makes this regulation unnecessary. Classification Pursuant to sections 304(b)(1)(A) and 305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is consistent with the FMPs, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration of comments received during the public comment period. This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for the purposes of Executive Order 12866. daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS Regulatory Impact Review (RIR or Analysis) An RIR was prepared to assess the costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives. A copy of this Analysis is available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). The Council and NMFS recommend this action based on those measures that maximize net benefits to the Nation. Specific aspects of the economic analysis related to the impact of the proposed rule on small entities are discussed below in the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis section. Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis This Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) was prepared for this proposed rule, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), to describe the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. An IRFA describes why this action is being proposed; the objectives and legal basis for the proposed rule; the number of small entities to which the proposed rule would apply; any projected reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements of the VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Dec 26, 2017 Jkt 244001 proposed rule; any overlapping, duplicative, or conflicting Federal rules; and any significant alternatives to the proposed rule that would accomplish the stated objectives, consistent with applicable statutes, and that would minimize any significant adverse economic impacts of the proposed rule on small entities. Descriptions of this proposed rule, its purpose, and the legal basis are contained earlier in this preamble and are not repeated here. Number and Description of Small Entities Regulated by This Proposed Rule This proposed rule would directly regulate observers and owners and operators of the following vessels: (1) Freezer longline vessels that participate in the BSAI hook-and-line Pacific cod fishery; and (2) pot catcher/processors, trawl catcher/processors, nontrawl catcher/processors, and motherships when groundfish CDQ fishing. Observer providers are impacted by the limited availability of nontrawl LL2 observers, but the proposed rule would not modify regulations that directly apply to observer provider firms. Observers are individuals and not entities, so they do not meet the Small Business Administration (SBA) definition of a small entity. Therefore, neither observer providers nor observers are considered directly regulated entities in this IRFA. This proposed rule would directly regulate the activities of 29 BSAI freezer longline vessels, two pot catcher/ processors, and 22 trawl catcher/ processors and motherships. Two questions must be considered in classifying catcher/processors under the RFA. First, are the individual vessels independently owned and operated and not dominant in their field of operation, or are these vessels affiliated under the RFA? Second, which industry classification is appropriate to use for vessels that conduct both fish harvesting and fish processing? Freezer longline vessels directly regulated by this action are all members of the Freezer Longline Conservation Cooperative (FLCC), a voluntary fishing cooperative operating through a contract among all parties, whose members have a de facto catch share program because they effectively control fishing for the freezer longline vessel subsector’s allocation of Pacific cod in the BSAI. NMFS has determined that vessels that are members of a fishing cooperative, including members of the FLCC, are affiliated when classifying them for the RFA analyses. In making this determination, NMFS considered SBA’s ‘‘principles of affiliation’’ at 13 CFR 121.103. Specifically, in § 121.103(f), PO 00000 Frm 00056 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 61247 SBA refers to ‘‘[A]ffiliation based on identity of interest,’’ which states ‘‘[A]ffiliation may arise among two or more persons with an identity of interest. Individuals or firms that have identical or substantially identical business or economic interests (such as family members, individuals or firms with common investments, or firms that are economically dependent through contractual or other relationships) may be treated as one party with such interests aggregated.’’ If business entities are affiliated, then the threshold for identifying small entities is applied to the group of affiliated entities rather than on an individual entity basis. In addition, distinct from their affiliation through the FLCC, vessels regulated by this proposed rule also may be affiliated through ownership. NMFS has reviewed cooperative membership and available ownership data to assess ownership and affiliations among vessels. Based on this information, NMFS estimates that the 29 active FLCC vessels and two pot catcher/processors affected by this action are owned and operated by no more than 11 separate entities. Of these 11 entities, 6 entities own 26 freezer longline vessels and one pot catcher/processor vessel. The thresholds applied to determine if an entity or group of entities are ‘‘small’’ under the RFA depend on the industry classification for the entity or entities. Businesses classified as primarily engaged in commercial fishing are considered small entities if they have combined annual gross receipts not in excess of $11.0 million for all affiliated operations worldwide (81 FR 4469; January 26, 2016). Businesses classified as primarily engaged in fish processing are considered small entities if they employ 750 or fewer persons on a full-time, part-time, temporary, or other basis, at all affiliated operations worldwide. Since at least 1993, NMFS Alaska Region has considered catcher/ processors to be predominantly engaged in fish harvesting rather than fish processing. Under this classification, the threshold of $11.0 million in annual gross receipts is appropriate. By applying the $11.0 million annual gross receipts threshold collectively to the vessels affiliated through the FLCC, all of the members of the FLCC are considered large entities under the RFA. The two pot catcher/processors are affiliated with additional vessels that, when interests are aggregated, exceed the $11.0 million threshold and are considered large entities under the RFA. NMFS considered vessel affiliation independent of the FLCC contracts and concluded that if not for FLCC affiliation, five vessels owned by four E:\FR\FM\27DEP1.SGM 27DEP1 daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS 61248 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 247 / Wednesday, December 27, 2017 / Proposed Rules entities would be considered small entities under the SBA. Additional detail about data sources used to prepare this IRFA and the analysis of vessel affiliation independent of FLCC contract are available in Section 4.6 of the RIR prepared for this proposed rule (see ADDRESSES). The proposed regulatory change to modify observer coverage requirements for motherships receiving unsorted codends from catcher vessels groundfish CDQ fishing and to remove prior notification of CDQ catch and CDQ number would affect 19 nontrawl catcher/processors and 22 trawl catcher/ processors, 4 of which also act as a mothership to receive unsorted codends from catcher vessels groundfish CDQ fishing. As described above, the 19 nontrawl catcher/processors are considered large entities under the RFA. All of the trawl catcher/processors and motherships affected by this proposed rule are affiliated as members of either an American Fisheries Act or an Amendment 80 cooperative with a combined average annual gross revenue above the $11.0 million threshold, classifying them as large entities under the RFA. Based on this analysis, NMFS preliminarily determines that there are no small entities that would be affected by this proposed rule. However, due to the complexity of the affiliation among the entities and the overlay of affiliation due to ownership and affiliation based on the contractual relationship among members of cooperatives, NMFS has prepared this IRFA. This provides potentially affected entities an opportunity to provide comments on this IRFA. NMFS will evaluate any comments received on the IRFA and may consider certifying that this action will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities prior to publication of the final rule. To the degree that this proposed rule would increase the pool of available nontrawl LL2 observers, the primary economic impact of this proposed rule would be to reduce costs to vessel owners. Costs would be reduced by the amount vessel owners would otherwise pay to deploy second observers on some freezer longline vessels to allow those observers to gain sampling experience to count toward a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement. In addition, an increase in the number of available nontrawl LL2 observers would reduce the potential costs associated with a shortage of nontrawl LL2 observers. This proposed rule would add new costs for freezer longline vessels and pot catcher/processors to comply with pre- VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Dec 26, 2017 Jkt 244001 cruise meeting requirements. NMFS estimates the cost savings associated with the increase in the pool of qualified nontrawl LL2 observers is expected to exceed the relatively small costs that would be associated with the pre-cruise meeting requirements. The proposed regulatory change to modify observer coverage requirements for motherships receiving unsorted codends from catcher vessels groundfish CDQ fishing could reduce costs by allowing less experienced observers to deploy, and would increase operational flexibility for vessels that operate in the CDQ and non-CDQ fisheries. The proposed regulatory change to remove the prior notification of CDQ catch and CDQ number would reduce costs to the owners of catcher/processors when pollock CDQ fishing, catcher/processors and motherships when groundfish CDQ fishing, and catcher/processors using nontrawl gear when groundfish CDQ fishing. All vessels affected by this action would benefit by reducing recordkeeping and reporting requirements with no negative impacts on affected entities. Recordkeeping, Reporting, and Other Compliance Requirements This proposed rule adds additional reporting, recordkeeping, and other compliance requirements for freezer longline vessels and pot catcher/ processors that are required to carry a nontrawl LL2 observer. Vessel operators would be responsible to ensure that the Observer Program is notified by phone 24 hours prior to departure when a vessel will be carrying a nontrawl LL2 observer that has not previously been deployed on that vessel in the last 12 months. Vessel operators contract directly with permitted observer providers to procure observer coverage. The Observer Program could be notified by anyone with knowledge of the upcoming observer assignment, including the vessel operator, a crew member, or the observer provider. The person notifying the Observer Program would need knowledge of the vessel’s prior observer assignment history and the upcoming observer assignment 24 hours in advance of a trip. 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 operators to comply with any of the reporting and recordkeeping requirements associated with this proposed rule. PO 00000 Frm 00057 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Duplicate, Overlapping, or Conflicting Federal Rules No duplication, overlap, or conflict between this proposed rule and existing Federal rules has been identified. Description of Significant Alternatives That Minimize Adverse Impacts on Small Entities No significant alternatives were identified that would accomplish the stated objectives for placing observers on fishing vessels, are consistent with applicable statutes, and that would reduce costs to potentially affected small entities more than the proposed rule. The Council and NMFS considered three alternatives. Alternative 1, the no action alternative, would not reduce the potential for a shortage of nontrawl LL2 observers and would continue to impose additional costs on the industry. Alternative 2 would create a process to allow a vessel to go fishing without a nontrawl LL2 observer if there were no nontrawl LL2 observers available. Alternative 3 included two options. Option 1 would allow a vessel required to carry one LL2 observer to choose between carrying two level 2 observers or one LL2 observer. Option 2 would modify the training and experience requirements necessary for an observer to obtain the nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement. The preferred alternative, Alternative 3 Option 2 was designed to minimize the impacts to small entities from the status quo requirement by increasing the pool of qualified observers and reducing the need for vessels to voluntarily carry second observers for the purpose of gaining the necessary experience to obtain a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement. Alternative 3 Option 2 includes additional observer training and a pre-cruise meeting as necessary to ensure that observers are adequately prepared to fulfill the data collection responsibilities. Relative to Alternative 1, the preferred alternative would increase the recordkeeping burdens on small entities by requiring the Observer Program be notified prior to a vessel embarking on a trip with an observer who has not previously deployed on that vessel in the past 12 months, and by requiring, if necessary, the vessel operator or manager to participate in a pre-cruise meeting with the observer, which could delay fishing activity by the amount of time necessary to complete a pre-cruise meeting. Collection-of-Information Requirements This proposed rule contains collection-of-information requirements E:\FR\FM\27DEP1.SGM 27DEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 247 / Wednesday, December 27, 2017 / Proposed Rules subject to review and approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). These requirements have been submitted to OMB for approval under OMB control number 0648–0318 (North Pacific Observer Program). The public reporting burden for the collection-of-information requirements in this proposed rule 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 proposed rule would require that the Observer Program be notified by phone at least 24 hours prior to departure when a vessel will carry an observer who had not deployed on that vessel in the past 12 months. Public reporting burden per response to notify the Observer Program by phone is estimated to be five minutes. Public comment is sought regarding (1) whether this proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility; (2) the accuracy of the burden estimate; (3) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (4) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology. Send comments on these or any other aspects of the collection of information to NMFS Alaska Region at the ADDRESSES above, and to OIRA by email to OIRA_ Submission@omb.eop.gov or by fax to (202) 395–5806. Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is required to respond to, and no person shall be subject to 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 in 50 CFR Part 679 daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS Alaska, Fisheries, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Dated: December 21, 2017. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 679 is proposed to be amended as follows: VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Dec 26, 2017 Jkt 244001 PART 679—FISHERIES OF THE EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE OFF ALASKA 1. 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. 2. In § 679.2, a. Remove the definition for ‘‘Observer Program Office’’; and ■ b. Add the definitions for ‘‘Cruise’’ and ‘‘Observer Program’’ in alphabetical order to read as follows: ■ ■ § 679.2 Definitions. * * * * * Cruise means an observer deployment with a unique cruise number. A cruise begins when an observer receives an endorsement to deploy and ends when the observer completes all debriefing responsibilities. * * * * * Observer Program means the administrative office of the North Pacific Observer Program located at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (See § 679.51(c)(3) for contact information). * * * * * ■ 3. In § 679.32, ■ a. Remove and reserve paragraphs (c)(3)(i)(B)(2), (c)(3)(i)(C)(2), and (c)(3)(i)(E)(2); and ■ b. Add paragraph (c)(3)(i)(E)(4) to read as follows: § 679.32 Groundfish and halibut CDQ catch monitoring. * * * * * (c) * * * (3) * * * (i) * * * (E) * * * (4) Notify the Observer Program by phone at 1 (907) 581–2060 (Dutch Harbor, AK) or 1 (907) 481–1770 (Kodiak, AK) at least 24 hours prior to departure when the vessel will be carrying an observer who has not previously been deployed on that vessel within the last 12 months. Subsequent to the vessel’s departure notification, but prior to departure, NMFS may contact the vessel to arrange for a precruise meeting. The pre-cruise meeting must minimally include the vessel operator or manager and any observers assigned to the vessel. * * * * * ■ 4. In part 679, revise subpart E heading to read as follows: Subpart E—North Pacific Observer Program 5. In § 679.50, revise paragraph (a)(2) to read as follows: ■ PO 00000 Frm 00058 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 § 679.50 61249 Applicability. (a) * * * (2) Exceptions. A catcher vessel is not subject to the requirements of this subpart when delivering unsorted codends to a mothership. * * * * * ■ 6. In § 679.51, revise paragraph (a)(2)(vi)(A)(5) to read as follows: § 679.51 Observer and Electronic Monitoring System requirements for vessels and plants. (a) * * * (2) * * * (vi) * * * (A) * * * (5) Motherships. A mothership that receives unsorted codends from catcher vessels groundfish CDQ fishing must have at least two observers aboard the mothership, at least one of whom must be endorsed as a lead level 2 observer. More than two observers must be aboard if the observer workload restriction would otherwise preclude sampling as required. * * * * * ■ 7. In § 679.53, ■ a. Remove and reserve paragraph (a)(5)(v)(B); and ■ b. Revise paragraph (a)(5)(v)(C) to read as follows: § 679.53 Observer certification and responsibilities. (a) * * * (5) * * * (v) * * * (C) A lead level 2 observer on a vessel using nontrawl gear must have completed the following: (1) Two observer cruises (contracts) of at least 10 days each; and (2) Successfully completed training or briefing as prescribed by the Observer Program; and (3) Sampled at least 30 sets on a vessel using nontrawl gear; or (4) Sampled 100 hauls on a catcher/ processor using trawl gear or on a mothership. * * * * * ■ 8. In § 679.84, revise paragraph (c)(7) to read as follows: § 679.84 Rockfish Program Recordkeeping, permits, monitoring, and catch accounting. * * * * * (c) * * * (7) Pre-cruise meeting. The Observer Program is notified by phone at 1 (907) 481–1770 (Kodiak, AK) at least 24 hours prior to departure when the vessel will be carrying an observer who has not previously been deployed on that vessel within the last 12 months. Subsequent to the vessel’s departure notification, E:\FR\FM\27DEP1.SGM 27DEP1 61250 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 247 / Wednesday, December 27, 2017 / Proposed Rules but prior to departure, NMFS may contact the vessel to arrange for a precruise meeting. The pre-cruise meeting must minimally include the vessel operator or manager and any observers assigned to the vessel. * * * * * ■ 9. In § 679.93, revise paragraph (c)(7) to read as follows: § 679.93 Amendment 80 Program recordkeeping, permits, monitoring, and catch accounting. * * * * * (c) * * * (7) Pre-cruise meeting. The Observer Program is notified by phone at 1 (907) 581–2060 (Dutch Harbor, AK) or 1 (907) 481–1770 (Kodiak, AK) at least 24 hours prior to departure when the vessel will be carrying an observer who has not previously been deployed on that vessel within the last 12 months. Subsequent to the vessel’s departure notification, but prior to departure, NMFS may contact the vessel to arrange for a precruise meeting. The pre-cruise meeting must minimally include the vessel operator or manager and any observers assigned to the vessel. * * * * * ■ 10. In § 679.100, add paragraphs (b)(1)(v) and (b)(2)(i)(E) to read as follows: § 679.100 Applicability. * * * * * (b) * * * (1) * * * (v) The Observer Program is notified by phone at 1 (907) 581–2060 (Dutch Harbor, AK) or 1 (907) 481–1770 (Kodiak, AK) at least 24 hours prior to departure when the vessel will be carrying an observer who has not previously been deployed on that vessel within the last 12 months. Subsequent to the vessel’s departure notification, but prior to departure, NMFS may contact the vessel to arrange for a precruise meeting. The pre-cruise meeting must minimally include the vessel operator or manager and any observers assigned to the vessel. (2) * * * (i) * * * (E) The Observer Program is notified by phone at 1 (907) 581–2060 (Dutch Harbor, AK) or 1 (907) 481–1770 (Kodiak, AK) at least 24 hours prior to departure when the vessel will be carrying an observer who has not previously been deployed on that vessel within the last 12 months. Subsequent to the vessel’s departure notification, but prior to departure, NMFS may contact the vessel to arrange for a precruise meeting. The pre-cruise meeting must minimally include the vessel operator or manager and any observers assigned to the vessel. * * * * * ■ 11. In the table below, for each section indicated in the ‘‘Location’’ column, remove the phrase indicated in the ‘‘Remove’’ column and replace it with the phrase indicated in the ‘‘Add’’ column from wherever it appears in the ‘‘Frequency’’ column. Location Remove Add § 679.51(a)(2)(vi)(B)(1), (a)(2)(vi)(B)(3),(a)(2)(vi)(B)(4), (a)(2)(vi)(C), (a)(2)(vi)(D)(1), (a)(2)(vi)(D)(2), and (a)(2)(vi)(E)(1). § 679.51(c)(3), (a)(2), (b)(1)(iii)(A), (b)(2)(iv), (b)(3)(ii)(B), and (b)(8) introductory text. § 679.52(b)(11) introductory text ............................................... § 679.52(b)(11)(i) introductory text, (b)(11)(ii), (b)(11)(iii), and (b)(11)(vi) introductory text. § 679.52(b)(11)(vii) introductory text ......................................... § 679.52(b)(11)(viii) introductory text, (b)(11)(viii)(A), (b)(11)(ix), (b)(11)(x) introductory text, and (b)(12). § 679.53(a)(1) ............................................................................ § 679.53(a)(5)(v) introductory text, and (a)(5)(v)(A) ................. § 679.53(b)(2)(i) ........................................................................ certified ................................... endorsed ................................. 1 Observer Program Office ........ Observer Program .................. 1 Observer Program Office ........ Observer Program Office ........ Observer Program .................. Observer Program .................. 2 1 Observer Program Office ........ Observer Program Office ........ Observer Program .................. Observer Program .................. 3 1 Observer Program Office ........ ‘‘lead’’ ...................................... Observer Program Office ........ Observer Program .................. lead ......................................... Observer Program .................. 1 1 1 [FR Doc. 2017–27935 Filed 12–26–17; 8:45 am] daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Dec 26, 2017 Jkt 244001 PO 00000 Frm 00059 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 E:\FR\FM\27DEP1.SGM 27DEP1 Frequency

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 247 (Wednesday, December 27, 2017)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 61243-61250]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-27935]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

[Docket No. 170621579-7579-01]
RIN 0648-BG96


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Nontrawl 
Lead Level 2 Observers

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes regulations to modify specific provisions of the 
North Pacific Observer Program. The first two elements of this proposed 
rule would modify the requirements for an observer to obtain a nontrawl 
lead level 2 (LL2) deployment endorsement and implement a pre-cruise 
meeting requirement for vessels required to carry an observer with a 
nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement. These elements are intended to 
increase the number of observers that qualify for a nontrawl LL2 
deployment endorsement and maintain observer safety and data quality. 
The third element of this proposed rule would make editorial changes, 
and modify observer coverage and reporting requirements for vessels 
when participating in the Western Alaska Community Development Quota 
(CDQ) Program. This element is intended to promote operational 
efficiency, and remove unnecessary requirements for specific vessels 
participating in the CDQ Program. This action is intended to promote 
the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act, the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Groundfish of 
the Gulf of Alaska, and the FMP for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and 
Aleutian Islands Management Area, and other applicable law.

DATES: Comments must be received no later than January 26, 2018.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2017-0071 by either of the following methods:
     Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2017-0071, click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.

[[Page 61244]]

     Mail: Submit written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant 
Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region 
NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, 
AK 99802-1668.
    Instructions: NMFS may not consider comments if they are sent by 
any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after 
the comment period ends. All comments received are a part of the public 
record and NMFS will post the comments for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address), confidential business information, 
or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender 
is publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ``N/
A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous).
    Electronic copies of the draft Regulatory Impact Review (RIR) and 
the Categorical Exclusion prepared for this action are available from 
www.regulations.gov or from the NMFS Alaska Region website at 
alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.
    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 at the above address; and to OIRA 
by email to [email protected] or by fax to 202-395-5806.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Alicia M Miller, 907-586-7228 or 
[email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Authority for Action

    NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic 
zone under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of 
Alaska and under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the 
Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area. The North Pacific 
Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared the FMPs under the 
authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management 
Act (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.

Background

    Regulations at subpart E of 50 CFR part 679 require that most 
vessels fishing for groundfish or halibut must carry an observer 
onboard their vessel for some, or all, fishing activities to ensure the 
collection of data necessary to manage the groundfish and halibut 
fisheries. The following sections describe (1) the North Pacific 
Observer Program, (2) nontrawl lead level 2 observer requirements, (3) 
the need for this action, and (4) this proposed rule.

North Pacific Observer Program

    The North Pacific Observer Program (Observer Program) is an 
integral component in the management of North Pacific fisheries. The 
Observer Program was created with the implementation of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act in the mid-1970s and has evolved from primarily observing 
foreign fleets to observing domestic fleets. Regulations at subpart E 
of 50 CFR part 679 implement the Observer Program and prescribe how 
NMFS-certified observers (observers) will be deployed on board vessels 
and in processing plants to obtain information necessary for the 
conservation and management of the groundfish and halibut fisheries off 
Alaska. The information collected by observers contributes to the best 
available scientific information used to manage the fisheries in 
furtherance of the purposes and national standards of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act.
    Observers collect biological samples and gather information on 
total catch, including bycatch, and interactions with protected 
species. Fishery managers use data collected by observers to manage 
groundfish catch and bycatch limits established in regulation and to 
document fishery interactions with protected species. Fishery managers 
also use data collected by observers to inform the development of 
management measures that minimize bycatch and reduce fishery 
interactions with protected resources. Scientists use observer-
collected data for stock assessments and marine ecosystem research.
    On January 1, 2013, the Observer Program was restructured to 
establish two observer coverage categories: Partial and full (77 FR 
70062; November 21, 2012). Regulations at 50 CFR 679.50 identify that 
all vessels and processors that participate in federally managed or 
parallel groundfish and halibut fisheries off Alaska, except catcher 
vessels delivering unsorted codends to mothership vessels, are subject 
to observer coverage in one of these two categories. Regulations at 50 
CFR 679.51 require vessels and processors in the full coverage category 
to carry an observer at all times when fish are caught or processed. 
Importantly for this proposed rule, the full coverage category includes 
most catcher/processors (i.e., vessels that catch and process their own 
catch at-sea), and all motherships (i.e., those vessels that receive 
unsorted catch from other vessels and process that catch at-sea). 
Owners of vessels or processors in the full coverage category must 
contract directly with a permitted observer provider and pay for 
required observer coverage. Vessels affected by these proposed changes 
to nontrawl LL2 observer deployment endorsement requirements are in the 
full coverage category.
    Regulations at 50 CFR 679.51 describe the vessels and processing 
plants that are in the partial coverage category. Most catcher vessels 
using nontrawl gear are in the partial coverage category. NMFS, in 
consultation with the Council, develops an annual deployment plan for 
the Observer Program to determine when and where observer coverage is 
needed for vessels and processors in the partial coverage category. 
NMFS contracts with an observer provider to deploy observers based on 
the scientific sampling plan described in the annual deployment plan.

Nontrawl Lead Level 2 Observer Requirements

    Two groups of vessels are required to carry an observer with a 
nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement. The first group of vessels 
includes vessels named on a License Limitation Program (LLP) license 
with a Pacific cod catcher/processor hook-and-line endorsement for the 
Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, or both the Bering Sea and Aleutian 
Islands. These vessels are subject to monitoring requirements at 50 CFR 
679.100 and are referred to as ``freezer longline vessels'' throughout 
this proposed rule. Pursuant to 50 CFR 679.100, a freezer longline 
vessel must carry an observer with a nontrawl LL2 deployment 
endorsement when the vessel (1) operates in either the BSAI or Gulf of 
Alaska groundfish fisheries and directed fishing for Pacific cod is 
open in the BSAI, or (2) when the vessel participates in the CDQ 
groundfish fisheries. These monitoring requirements for freezer 
longline vessels were implemented in 2012 and require freezer longline 
vessel owners and operators to select between one of two monitoring 
options: Either carry two observers so that all catch can be sampled, 
or carry one observer and use a motion-compensated flow scale to weigh 
Pacific cod before it is processed. Both monitoring options require the 
vessel to carry one observer endorsed as a nontrawl LL2 observer. (77 
FR 59053; September 26, 2012).
    The second group of vessels that are required to carry an observer 
with a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement

[[Page 61245]]

includes catcher/processors that use pot gear when participating in the 
CDQ groundfish fisheries (groundfish CDQ fishing) (77 FR 6492; February 
8, 2012). These pot catcher/processors are required to carry an 
observer with a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement when groundfish CDQ 
fishing and may participate in other fisheries that do not require a 
nontrawl LL2 observer. Regulations at 50 CFR 679.32 describe the 
specific monitoring requirements for vessels when participating in the 
sablefish CDQ, pollock CDQ, groundfish CDQ, and other CDQ fisheries.
    Regulations at 50 CFR 679.53 define the requirements for an 
observer to receive a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement. An observer 
obtains a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement when the observer meets 
minimum experience requirements for a level 2 deployment endorsement 
(has completed 60 days of data collection and met the Observer 
Program's performance expectations on their most recent evaluation) and 
has completed two cruises of at least 10 days each and sampled at least 
30 sets on a vessel using nontrawl gear. This means that prior to 
gaining a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement, an observer must first 
deploy on a nontrawl vessel that is not required to carry a nontrawl 
LL2 observer and sample at least 30 sets.

Need for This Action

    In 2014, observer providers and representatives of freezer longline 
vessels reported shortages of nontrawl LL2 observers for deployment on 
freezer longline vessels and that, in some cases, shortages delayed 
fishing operations (See section 3.3.4 of the Analysis). Since 2012, all 
active freezer longline vessels, except one, have chosen the option to 
carry one LL2 observer and weigh Pacific cod on a flow scale. This 
means that only one freezer longline vessel subject to the nontrawl LL2 
observer requirement has chosen to carry two observers--one observer 
with a nontrawl LL2 endorsement, and one observer who will gain 
sampling experience to count toward the requirements for a nontrawl LL2 
deployment endorsement. In addition, since 2013, there are few other 
nontrawl vessels in the full observer coverage category that do not 
require an LL2 observer. Therefore, the few observers deployed in the 
full coverage category are able to gain the sampling experience 
necessary to gain the nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement. Observer 
providers contracted by vessels in the full coverage category have 
reported that they have been unable to create and retain an adequate 
pool of qualified nontrawl LL2 observers since 2014.
    In contrast, observers deployed on vessels in the partial coverage 
category have opportunities to gain nontrawl sampling experience to 
count toward the requirements for a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement 
on catcher vessels in the partial coverage category. However, until 
August 2016, the observer provider contracted to deploy observers in 
the partial coverage category did not have a permit to deploy observers 
in the full coverage category pursuant to regulations at 50 CFR 679.52. 
These conditions from 2013 through August 2016 resulted in a 
diminishing pool of qualified observers employed by permitted observer 
providers in the full coverage category (See Tables 11, 12, and 13 in 
the Analysis).
    Since 2014, NMFS, observer providers, and freezer longline vessels 
have undertaken a series of non-regulatory actions designed to build 
and retain a pool of qualified nontrawl LL2 observers available for the 
freezer longline vessels. For example, NMFS modified its policy on how 
sampled sets are credited to observers when determining the number of 
sampled sets for a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement, and some 
members of the freezer longline fleet voluntarily deployed a second 
observer on some freezer longline vessels to allow those observers to 
gain sampling experience necessary to receive a nontrawl LL2 deployment 
endorsement (See Section 3.3.5 of the Analysis for additional detail). 
However, these non-regulatory actions resulted in additional costs to 
the freezer longline fleet and did not fully address the industry's 
concerns about the limited availability of nontrawl LL2 observers.
    Between 2014 and 2017, the Council and its Observer Advisory 
Committee discussed and analyzed potential solutions to address 
industry concerns about the limited availability of nontrawl LL2 
observers in the full coverage category. In June 2017, the Council 
recommended changes to regulations that would (1) allow trawl sampling 
experience to count toward a nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement and 
authorize the observer program to require additional training as 
necessary to adequately prepare observers to perform data collection 
duties when deployed as a nontrawl LL2 observer, and (2) require the 
operator or manager of a vessel required to carry an observer with a 
nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement to participate in a pre-cruise 
meeting with the observer if notified by NMFS to do so. These 
regulatory changes are intended to minimize additional costs to 
industry while also maintaining observer safety and data quality.

This Proposed Rule

    This proposed rule includes three elements. The first element of 
this proposed rule would modify regulations at Sec.  679.53(a)(5)(v)(C) 
to allow 100 sampled hauls on trawl catcher/processor or mothership 
vessel (equivalent to the required sampling experience for an observer 
to obtain a trawl LL2 deployment endorsement) to count toward a 
nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement and authorize the observer program 
to require additional training for observers as necessary to adequately 
prepare them to safely perform data collection duties relevant to the 
nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement.
    These changes are intended to reduce the potential for a shortage 
of nontrawl LL2 observers, because many observers deployed in the full 
coverage category qualify for a trawl LL2 deployment endorsement. This 
would allow observers that qualify as a trawl LL2 observer to 
potentially qualify as a nontrawl LL2 observer (See Table 11 and 
Section 3.3.3 of the Analysis for more information), and reduce the 
pressure for freezer longline vessels to voluntarily carry second 
observers for the purpose of providing opportunities for observers to 
gain sampling experience to count toward a nontrawl LL2 deployment 
endorsement. An observer with sampling experience on a trawl catcher/
processor or mothership would be familiar with the pressures of data 
collection on vessels participating in a catch share program and would 
also be familiar with the use of a flow scale to weigh catch. These 
skills are important to successfully performing data collection duties 
when deployed as a nontrawl LL2 observer. Because these observers may 
not have nontrawl sampling experience, additional training and a pre-
cruise meeting may be necessary to ensure that these observers are 
adequately prepared to handle the safety and sampling challenges that 
are unique to nontrawl LL2 deployments (See Section 4.3.2.2 of the 
Analysis).
    This proposed rule would implement regulations to authorize the 
Observer Program to require additional training for observers as 
necessary to adequately prepare them to perform data collection duties 
relevant to the nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement. The Observer 
Program would develop and implement an observer training and also 
determine when this training would be required prior to receiving a 
nontrawl LL2

[[Page 61246]]

deployment endorsement. Potentially, NMFS would require observers 
without sampling experience on a nontrawl catcher/processor to attend a 
two or three day training class prior to receiving a nontrawl LL2 
deployment endorsement for the first time.
    The Observer Program would use this training class to adequately 
prepare observers with different types of qualifying sampling 
experience to complete sampling duties when deployed as a nontrawl LL2 
observer (See section 4.3.2 of the Analysis for additional detail). The 
nontrawl LL2 training class would be designed to address common safety 
and sampling challenges that are unique to nontrawl LL2 observer 
deployments. This training would prepare observers who do not have 
sampling experience on nontrawl catcher/processors for deployment on 
these vessels as a nontrawl LL2 observer. At a minimum, through 
existing trainings and briefings, the Observer Program would continue 
to train observers to follow the safety and data collection protocols 
established in the Observer Sampling Manual.
    The second element of this proposed rule would require the operator 
or manager of a vessel that carries nontrawl LL2 observers to 
participate in a pre-cruise meeting with the observer assigned to the 
vessel if notified to do so by NMFS. This proposed rule would add a 
paragraph at Sec. Sec.  679.32(c)(3)(i)(E) and 679.100(b)(1) and (2) to 
require freezer longline vessels and pot catcher/processors when 
groundfish CDQ fishing to notify the Observer Program prior to 
embarking on a trip with a nontrawl LL2 observer who has not deployed 
on that vessel in the past 12 months. The Observer Program may contact 
the vessel and require the vessel operator or manager and the observer 
assigned to the vessel to participate in a pre-cruise meeting prior to 
embarking on a trip.
    This regulatory change would authorize the Observer Program to 
require a pre-cruise meeting as needed to address safety or sampling 
challenges on a specific vessel. Because vessel operations and 
individual observer's sampling history will vary, this would give the 
Observer Program the flexibility necessary to evaluate whether a pre-
cruise meeting is necessary on a case-by-case basis between the 
observer and the vessel operator or manager to ensure the nontrawl LL2 
observer is adequately prepared to collect high quality data in a safe 
manner. The Observer Program may consider the observer's deployment 
history or sampling experience, vessel specific information, or other 
relevant information to determine whether a pre-cruise meeting is 
necessary, and if so, the Observer Program would contact the vessels to 
arrange the pre-cruise meeting prior to the start of a trip (See 
section 4.3 of the Analysis for additional detail). This action would 
impose additional administrative costs for NMFS to process pre-cruise 
notifications, contact a vessel if a pre-cruise meeting is necessary, 
and participate in pre-cruise meetings if staff are available. Section 
2.3.1 of the Analysis describes that these administrative costs are 
minimal relative to other alternatives considered.
    In addition to the two elements recommended by the Council, NMFS 
proposes the third element of this proposed rule to remove duplicative 
and unnecessary regulatory reporting requirements and make minor 
changes to observer coverage requirements for specific vessels 
participating in the CDQ Program. These proposed revisions are intended 
to (1) align regulations with Magnuson-Stevens Act section 
305(i)(1)(B)(iv), (2) reduce observer coverage costs, (3) improve 
operational efficiency, and (4) reduce the reporting burden for 
catcher/processors and motherships when participating in CDQ fisheries 
(See Section 2.4 in the Analysis).
    This proposed rule would define the terms ``cruise'' and ``Observer 
Program'' in Sec.  679.2. The term ``cruise'' is used to describe the 
minimum experience requirements for an observer to obtain LL2 
deployment endorsements in Sec.  679.53. This proposed rule would 
define a ``cruise'' to mean an observer deployment with a unique cruise 
number. This proposed definition would clarify that a cruise begins 
when an observer receives an endorsement to deploy and ends when the 
observer completes all debriefing responsibilities. The term ``Observer 
Program'' would replace and update the definition of ``Observer Program 
Office,'' because that term does not describe the Observer Program. 
This proposed rule would update corresponding references throughout 
part 679.
    This proposed rule would remove provisions at Sec.  679.32(c)(3)(i) 
that require operators of catcher/processors and motherships to provide 
observers with prior notification of CDQ catch and CDQ group number 
associated with the CDQ catch before the CDQ catch is brought on board 
the vessel. This provision would be removed for all catcher/processors 
and motherships when participating in the pollock CDQ or groundfish CDQ 
fisheries. These notification requirements were implemented in 1998 (63 
FR 30381; June 4, 1998) when observer sampling methods for CDQ hauls 
and sets were different than observer sampling methods for non-CDQ 
hauls and sets. At that time, an observer needed to know if a haul 
would be designated as a CDQ haul before it was brought on board the 
vessel so that they could apply the appropriate sampling methods. With 
implementation of other catch share programs since 1998 and overlap of 
vessel participation between CDQ and other catch share programs, 
observer sampling methods have been made consistent between CDQ and 
non-CDQ hauls and sets. Therefore, these prior notification 
requirements are unnecessary and duplicative. An observer does not need 
prior notice of CDQ haul designation to appropriately sample CDQ catch, 
and other regulations ensure that an observer has access to this 
information.
    This proposed rule would modify the heading for subpart E to part 
679 from ``Groundfish and Halibut Observer Program'' to ``North Pacific 
Observer Program'' in order to be consistent with the term as used in 
the new definition of the Observer Program.
    This proposed rule also would modify Sec.  679.50(a)(2) to clarify 
that a catcher vessel is not subject to the requirements of subpart E 
when delivering unsorted codends to a mothership. The existing wording 
is more restrictive than intended, and this proposed rule would clarify 
that a catcher vessel which, for some of its fishing activity, delivers 
unsorted codends to a mothership, would not be subject to the 
requirements of subpart E only during the fishing activity that results 
in delivering unsorted codends to a mothership.
    This proposed rule would modify Sec.  679.51(a)(2)(vi)(A)(5) to 
update the observer coverage requirement for motherships that receive 
unsorted codends from catcher vessels groundfish CDQ fishing. This 
coverage requirement would be modified to no longer require that both 
observers deployed have a level 2 deployment endorsement. A mothership 
that receives unsorted codends from catcher vessels groundfish CDQ 
fishing would be required to carry two observers, one of which must 
have a LL2 deployment endorsement for a catcher/processor using trawl 
gear or a mothership. This would make observer coverage requirements 
for motherships participating in the groundfish CDQ fishery consistent 
with observer coverage requirements for catcher/processors 
participating in the Amendment 80 Program.
    This proposed rule would update the phone number that is currently 
provided in Sec. Sec.  679.84(c)(7) and 679.93(c)(7) for notifying the 
Observer

[[Page 61247]]

Program as required under regulations governing the Rockfish Program 
and Amendment 80 Program, in order to allow vessel operators or 
managers to contact the Dutch Harbor or Kodiak field offices directly.
    To improve clarity and consistency, this proposed rule would remove 
the term ``certified'' and replace it with the term ``endorsed'' when 
used to describe observer deployment endorsements throughout Sec.  
679.51. This proposed rule would also remove the provision at Sec.  
679.53(a)(5)(v)(B) that describes sampling experience requirements for 
an observer to obtain an LL2 deployment endorsement for a catcher 
vessel using trawl gear. This LL2 deployment endorsement is not 
required for any vessels that operate in the commercial groundfish or 
halibut fisheries, which makes this regulation unnecessary.

Classification

    Pursuant to sections 304(b)(1)(A) and 305(d) of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this 
proposed rule is consistent with the FMPs, other provisions of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further 
consideration of comments received during the public comment period.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
the purposes of Executive Order 12866.

Regulatory Impact Review (RIR or Analysis)

    An RIR was prepared to assess the costs and benefits of available 
regulatory alternatives. A copy of this Analysis is available from NMFS 
(see ADDRESSES). The Council and NMFS recommend this action based on 
those measures that maximize net benefits to the Nation. Specific 
aspects of the economic analysis related to the impact of the proposed 
rule on small entities are discussed below in the Initial Regulatory 
Flexibility Analysis section.

Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    This Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) was prepared 
for this proposed rule, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act (RFA), to describe the economic impact this proposed 
rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. An IRFA describes why 
this action is being proposed; the objectives and legal basis for the 
proposed rule; the number of small entities to which the proposed rule 
would apply; any projected reporting, recordkeeping, or other 
compliance requirements of the proposed rule; any overlapping, 
duplicative, or conflicting Federal rules; and any significant 
alternatives to the proposed rule that would accomplish the stated 
objectives, consistent with applicable statutes, and that would 
minimize any significant adverse economic impacts of the proposed rule 
on small entities. Descriptions of this proposed rule, its purpose, and 
the legal basis are contained earlier in this preamble and are not 
repeated here.
Number and Description of Small Entities Regulated by This Proposed 
Rule
    This proposed rule would directly regulate observers and owners and 
operators of the following vessels: (1) Freezer longline vessels that 
participate in the BSAI hook-and-line Pacific cod fishery; and (2) pot 
catcher/processors, trawl catcher/processors, nontrawl catcher/
processors, and motherships when groundfish CDQ fishing. Observer 
providers are impacted by the limited availability of nontrawl LL2 
observers, but the proposed rule would not modify regulations that 
directly apply to observer provider firms. Observers are individuals 
and not entities, so they do not meet the Small Business Administration 
(SBA) definition of a small entity. Therefore, neither observer 
providers nor observers are considered directly regulated entities in 
this IRFA.
    This proposed rule would directly regulate the activities of 29 
BSAI freezer longline vessels, two pot catcher/processors, and 22 trawl 
catcher/processors and motherships. Two questions must be considered in 
classifying catcher/processors under the RFA. First, are the individual 
vessels independently owned and operated and not dominant in their 
field of operation, or are these vessels affiliated under the RFA? 
Second, which industry classification is appropriate to use for vessels 
that conduct both fish harvesting and fish processing?
    Freezer longline vessels directly regulated by this action are all 
members of the Freezer Longline Conservation Cooperative (FLCC), a 
voluntary fishing cooperative operating through a contract among all 
parties, whose members have a de facto catch share program because they 
effectively control fishing for the freezer longline vessel subsector's 
allocation of Pacific cod in the BSAI. NMFS has determined that vessels 
that are members of a fishing cooperative, including members of the 
FLCC, are affiliated when classifying them for the RFA analyses. In 
making this determination, NMFS considered SBA's ``principles of 
affiliation'' at 13 CFR 121.103. Specifically, in Sec.  121.103(f), SBA 
refers to ``[A]ffiliation based on identity of interest,'' which states 
``[A]ffiliation may arise among two or more persons with an identity of 
interest. Individuals or firms that have identical or substantially 
identical business or economic interests (such as family members, 
individuals or firms with common investments, or firms that are 
economically dependent through contractual or other relationships) may 
be treated as one party with such interests aggregated.'' If business 
entities are affiliated, then the threshold for identifying small 
entities is applied to the group of affiliated entities rather than on 
an individual entity basis.
    In addition, distinct from their affiliation through the FLCC, 
vessels regulated by this proposed rule also may be affiliated through 
ownership. NMFS has reviewed cooperative membership and available 
ownership data to assess ownership and affiliations among vessels. 
Based on this information, NMFS estimates that the 29 active FLCC 
vessels and two pot catcher/processors affected by this action are 
owned and operated by no more than 11 separate entities. Of these 11 
entities, 6 entities own 26 freezer longline vessels and one pot 
catcher/processor vessel.
    The thresholds applied to determine if an entity or group of 
entities are ``small'' under the RFA depend on the industry 
classification for the entity or entities. Businesses classified as 
primarily engaged in commercial fishing are considered small entities 
if they have combined annual gross receipts not in excess of $11.0 
million for all affiliated operations worldwide (81 FR 4469; January 
26, 2016). Businesses classified as primarily engaged in fish 
processing are considered small entities if they employ 750 or fewer 
persons on a full-time, part-time, temporary, or other basis, at all 
affiliated operations worldwide. Since at least 1993, NMFS Alaska 
Region has considered catcher/processors to be predominantly engaged in 
fish harvesting rather than fish processing. Under this classification, 
the threshold of $11.0 million in annual gross receipts is appropriate.
    By applying the $11.0 million annual gross receipts threshold 
collectively to the vessels affiliated through the FLCC, all of the 
members of the FLCC are considered large entities under the RFA. The 
two pot catcher/processors are affiliated with additional vessels that, 
when interests are aggregated, exceed the $11.0 million threshold and 
are considered large entities under the RFA. NMFS considered vessel 
affiliation independent of the FLCC contracts and concluded that if not 
for FLCC affiliation, five vessels owned by four

[[Page 61248]]

entities would be considered small entities under the SBA. Additional 
detail about data sources used to prepare this IRFA and the analysis of 
vessel affiliation independent of FLCC contract are available in 
Section 4.6 of the RIR prepared for this proposed rule (see ADDRESSES).
    The proposed regulatory change to modify observer coverage 
requirements for motherships receiving unsorted codends from catcher 
vessels groundfish CDQ fishing and to remove prior notification of CDQ 
catch and CDQ number would affect 19 nontrawl catcher/processors and 22 
trawl catcher/processors, 4 of which also act as a mothership to 
receive unsorted codends from catcher vessels groundfish CDQ fishing. 
As described above, the 19 nontrawl catcher/processors are considered 
large entities under the RFA. All of the trawl catcher/processors and 
motherships affected by this proposed rule are affiliated as members of 
either an American Fisheries Act or an Amendment 80 cooperative with a 
combined average annual gross revenue above the $11.0 million 
threshold, classifying them as large entities under the RFA.
    Based on this analysis, NMFS preliminarily determines that there 
are no small entities that would be affected by this proposed rule. 
However, due to the complexity of the affiliation among the entities 
and the overlay of affiliation due to ownership and affiliation based 
on the contractual relationship among members of cooperatives, NMFS has 
prepared this IRFA. This provides potentially affected entities an 
opportunity to provide comments on this IRFA. NMFS will evaluate any 
comments received on the IRFA and may consider certifying that this 
action will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities prior to publication of the final rule.
    To the degree that this proposed rule would increase the pool of 
available nontrawl LL2 observers, the primary economic impact of this 
proposed rule would be to reduce costs to vessel owners. Costs would be 
reduced by the amount vessel owners would otherwise pay to deploy 
second observers on some freezer longline vessels to allow those 
observers to gain sampling experience to count toward a nontrawl LL2 
deployment endorsement. In addition, an increase in the number of 
available nontrawl LL2 observers would reduce the potential costs 
associated with a shortage of nontrawl LL2 observers. This proposed 
rule would add new costs for freezer longline vessels and pot catcher/
processors to comply with pre-cruise meeting requirements. NMFS 
estimates the cost savings associated with the increase in the pool of 
qualified nontrawl LL2 observers is expected to exceed the relatively 
small costs that would be associated with the pre-cruise meeting 
requirements.
    The proposed regulatory change to modify observer coverage 
requirements for motherships receiving unsorted codends from catcher 
vessels groundfish CDQ fishing could reduce costs by allowing less 
experienced observers to deploy, and would increase operational 
flexibility for vessels that operate in the CDQ and non-CDQ fisheries. 
The proposed regulatory change to remove the prior notification of CDQ 
catch and CDQ number would reduce costs to the owners of catcher/
processors when pollock CDQ fishing, catcher/processors and motherships 
when groundfish CDQ fishing, and catcher/processors using nontrawl gear 
when groundfish CDQ fishing. All vessels affected by this action would 
benefit by reducing recordkeeping and reporting requirements with no 
negative impacts on affected entities.
Recordkeeping, Reporting, and Other Compliance Requirements
    This proposed rule adds additional reporting, recordkeeping, and 
other compliance requirements for freezer longline vessels and pot 
catcher/processors that are required to carry a nontrawl LL2 observer. 
Vessel operators would be responsible to ensure that the Observer 
Program is notified by phone 24 hours prior to departure when a vessel 
will be carrying a nontrawl LL2 observer that has not previously been 
deployed on that vessel in the last 12 months. Vessel operators 
contract directly with permitted observer providers to procure observer 
coverage. The Observer Program could be notified by anyone with 
knowledge of the upcoming observer assignment, including the vessel 
operator, a crew member, or the observer provider. The person notifying 
the Observer Program would need knowledge of the vessel's prior 
observer assignment history and the upcoming observer assignment 24 
hours in advance of a trip.
    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 operators to comply with any of the reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements associated with this proposed rule.
Duplicate, Overlapping, or Conflicting Federal Rules
    No duplication, overlap, or conflict between this proposed rule and 
existing Federal rules has been identified.
Description of Significant Alternatives That Minimize Adverse Impacts 
on Small Entities
    No significant alternatives were identified that would accomplish 
the stated objectives for placing observers on fishing vessels, are 
consistent with applicable statutes, and that would reduce costs to 
potentially affected small entities more than the proposed rule. The 
Council and NMFS considered three alternatives. Alternative 1, the no 
action alternative, would not reduce the potential for a shortage of 
nontrawl LL2 observers and would continue to impose additional costs on 
the industry. Alternative 2 would create a process to allow a vessel to 
go fishing without a nontrawl LL2 observer if there were no nontrawl 
LL2 observers available. Alternative 3 included two options. Option 1 
would allow a vessel required to carry one LL2 observer to choose 
between carrying two level 2 observers or one LL2 observer. Option 2 
would modify the training and experience requirements necessary for an 
observer to obtain the nontrawl LL2 deployment endorsement.
    The preferred alternative, Alternative 3 Option 2 was designed to 
minimize the impacts to small entities from the status quo requirement 
by increasing the pool of qualified observers and reducing the need for 
vessels to voluntarily carry second observers for the purpose of 
gaining the necessary experience to obtain a nontrawl LL2 deployment 
endorsement. Alternative 3 Option 2 includes additional observer 
training and a pre-cruise meeting as necessary to ensure that observers 
are adequately prepared to fulfill the data collection 
responsibilities.
    Relative to Alternative 1, the preferred alternative would increase 
the recordkeeping burdens on small entities by requiring the Observer 
Program be notified prior to a vessel embarking on a trip with an 
observer who has not previously deployed on that vessel in the past 12 
months, and by requiring, if necessary, the vessel operator or manager 
to participate in a pre-cruise meeting with the observer, which could 
delay fishing activity by the amount of time necessary to complete a 
pre-cruise meeting.

Collection-of-Information Requirements

    This proposed rule contains collection-of-information requirements

[[Page 61249]]

subject to review and approval by the Office of Management and Budget 
(OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). These requirements have 
been submitted to OMB for approval under OMB control number 0648-0318 
(North Pacific Observer Program). The public reporting burden for the 
collection-of-information requirements in this proposed rule 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 proposed rule would require that the Observer Program be 
notified by phone at least 24 hours prior to departure when a vessel 
will carry an observer who had not deployed on that vessel in the past 
12 months. Public reporting burden per response to notify the Observer 
Program by phone is estimated to be five minutes.
    Public comment is sought regarding (1) whether this proposed 
collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of 
the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall 
have practical utility; (2) the accuracy of the burden estimate; (3) 
ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to 
be collected; and (4) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of 
information, including through the use of automated collection 
techniques or other forms of information technology. Send comments on 
these or any other aspects of the collection of information to NMFS 
Alaska Region at the ADDRESSES above, and to OIRA by email to 
[email protected] or by fax to (202) 395-5806.
    Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is 
required to respond to, and no person shall be subject to 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 in 50 CFR Part 679

    Alaska, Fisheries, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

    Dated: December 21, 2017.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 679 is 
proposed to be amended as follows:

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

0
1. 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
2. In Sec.  679.2,
0
a. Remove the definition for ``Observer Program Office''; and
0
b. Add the definitions for ``Cruise'' and ``Observer Program'' in 
alphabetical order to read as follows:


Sec.  679.2  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Cruise means an observer deployment with a unique cruise number. A 
cruise begins when an observer receives an endorsement to deploy and 
ends when the observer completes all debriefing responsibilities.
* * * * *
    Observer Program means the administrative office of the North 
Pacific Observer Program located at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center 
(See Sec.  679.51(c)(3) for contact information).
* * * * *
0
3. In Sec.  679.32,
0
a. Remove and reserve paragraphs (c)(3)(i)(B)(2), (c)(3)(i)(C)(2), and 
(c)(3)(i)(E)(2); and
0
b. Add paragraph (c)(3)(i)(E)(4) to read as follows:


Sec.  679.32  Groundfish and halibut CDQ catch monitoring.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (3) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (E) * * *
    (4) Notify the Observer Program by phone at 1 (907) 581-2060 (Dutch 
Harbor, AK) or 1 (907) 481-1770 (Kodiak, AK) at least 24 hours prior to 
departure when the vessel will be carrying an observer who has not 
previously been deployed on that vessel within the last 12 months. 
Subsequent to the vessel's departure notification, but prior to 
departure, NMFS may contact the vessel to arrange for a pre-cruise 
meeting. The pre-cruise meeting must minimally include the vessel 
operator or manager and any observers assigned to the vessel.
* * * * *
0
4. In part 679, revise subpart E heading to read as follows:

Subpart E--North Pacific Observer Program

0
5. In Sec.  679.50, revise paragraph (a)(2) to read as follows:


Sec.  679.50  Applicability.

    (a) * * *
    (2) Exceptions. A catcher vessel is not subject to the requirements 
of this subpart when delivering unsorted codends to a mothership.
* * * * *
0
6. In Sec.  679.51, revise paragraph (a)(2)(vi)(A)(5) to read as 
follows:


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

    (a) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (vi) * * *
    (A) * * *
    (5) Motherships. A mothership that receives unsorted codends from 
catcher vessels groundfish CDQ fishing must have at least two observers 
aboard the mothership, at least one of whom must be endorsed as a lead 
level 2 observer. More than two observers must be aboard if the 
observer workload restriction would otherwise preclude sampling as 
required.
* * * * *
0
7. In Sec.  679.53,
0
a. Remove and reserve paragraph (a)(5)(v)(B); and
0
b. Revise paragraph (a)(5)(v)(C) to read as follows:


Sec.  679.53  Observer certification and responsibilities.

    (a) * * *
    (5) * * *
    (v) * * *
    (C) A lead level 2 observer on a vessel using nontrawl gear must 
have completed the following:
    (1) Two observer cruises (contracts) of at least 10 days each; and
    (2) Successfully completed training or briefing as prescribed by 
the Observer Program; and
    (3) Sampled at least 30 sets on a vessel using nontrawl gear; or
    (4) Sampled 100 hauls on a catcher/processor using trawl gear or on 
a mothership.
* * * * *
0
8. In Sec.  679.84, revise paragraph (c)(7) to read as follows:


Sec.  679.84  Rockfish Program Recordkeeping, permits, monitoring, and 
catch accounting.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (7) Pre-cruise meeting. The Observer Program is notified by phone 
at 1 (907) 481-1770 (Kodiak, AK) at least 24 hours prior to departure 
when the vessel will be carrying an observer who has not previously 
been deployed on that vessel within the last 12 months. Subsequent to 
the vessel's departure notification,

[[Page 61250]]

but prior to departure, NMFS may contact the vessel to arrange for a 
pre-cruise meeting. The pre-cruise meeting must minimally include the 
vessel operator or manager and any observers assigned to the vessel.
* * * * *
0
9. In Sec.  679.93, revise paragraph (c)(7) to read as follows:


Sec.  679.93  Amendment 80 Program recordkeeping, permits, monitoring, 
and catch accounting.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (7) Pre-cruise meeting. The Observer Program is notified by phone 
at 1 (907) 581-2060 (Dutch Harbor, AK) or 1 (907) 481-1770 (Kodiak, AK) 
at least 24 hours prior to departure when the vessel will be carrying 
an observer who has not previously been deployed on that vessel within 
the last 12 months. Subsequent to the vessel's departure notification, 
but prior to departure, NMFS may contact the vessel to arrange for a 
pre-cruise meeting. The pre-cruise meeting must minimally include the 
vessel operator or manager and any observers assigned to the vessel.
* * * * *
0
10. In Sec.  679.100, add paragraphs (b)(1)(v) and (b)(2)(i)(E) to read 
as follows:


Sec.  679.100  Applicability.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (v) The Observer Program is notified by phone at 1 (907) 581-2060 
(Dutch Harbor, AK) or 1 (907) 481-1770 (Kodiak, AK) at least 24 hours 
prior to departure when the vessel will be carrying an observer who has 
not previously been deployed on that vessel within the last 12 months. 
Subsequent to the vessel's departure notification, but prior to 
departure, NMFS may contact the vessel to arrange for a pre-cruise 
meeting. The pre-cruise meeting must minimally include the vessel 
operator or manager and any observers assigned to the vessel.
    (2) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (E) The Observer Program is notified by phone at 1 (907) 581-2060 
(Dutch Harbor, AK) or 1 (907) 481-1770 (Kodiak, AK) at least 24 hours 
prior to departure when the vessel will be carrying an observer who has 
not previously been deployed on that vessel within the last 12 months. 
Subsequent to the vessel's departure notification, but prior to 
departure, NMFS may contact the vessel to arrange for a pre-cruise 
meeting. The pre-cruise meeting must minimally include the vessel 
operator or manager and any observers assigned to the vessel.
* * * * *
0
11. In the table below, for each section indicated in the ``Location'' 
column, remove the phrase indicated in the ``Remove'' column and 
replace it with the phrase indicated in the ``Add'' column from 
wherever it appears in the ``Frequency'' column.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Location                            Remove                        Add                Frequency
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sec.   679.51(a)(2)(vi)(B)(1),            certified.................  endorsed..................               1
 (a)(2)(vi)(B)(3),(a)(2)(vi)(B)(4),
 (a)(2)(vi)(C), (a)(2)(vi)(D)(1),
 (a)(2)(vi)(D)(2), and (a)(2)(vi)(E)(1).
Sec.   679.51(c)(3), (a)(2),              Observer Program Office...  Observer Program..........               1
 (b)(1)(iii)(A), (b)(2)(iv),
 (b)(3)(ii)(B), and (b)(8) introductory
 text.
Sec.   679.52(b)(11) introductory text..  Observer Program Office...  Observer Program..........               2
Sec.   679.52(b)(11)(i) introductory      Observer Program Office...  Observer Program..........               1
 text, (b)(11)(ii), (b)(11)(iii), and
 (b)(11)(vi) introductory text.
Sec.   679.52(b)(11)(vii) introductory    Observer Program Office...  Observer Program..........               3
 text.
Sec.   679.52(b)(11)(viii) introductory   Observer Program Office...  Observer Program..........               1
 text, (b)(11)(viii)(A), (b)(11)(ix),
 (b)(11)(x) introductory text, and
 (b)(12).
Sec.   679.53(a)(1).....................  Observer Program Office...  Observer Program..........               1
Sec.   679.53(a)(5)(v) introductory       ``lead''..................  lead......................               1
 text, and (a)(5)(v)(A).
Sec.   679.53(b)(2)(i)..................  Observer Program Office...  Observer Program..........               1
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[FR Doc. 2017-27935 Filed 12-26-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P