Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; General Provisions for Domestic Fisheries; Application for Exempted Fishing Permits, 17541-17543 [2020-06542]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 61 / Monday, March 30, 2020 / Notices DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XX042] Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; General Provisions for Domestic Fisheries; Application for Exempted Fishing Permits National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; request for comments. AGENCY: The Assistant Regional Administrator for Sustainable Fisheries, Greater Atlantic Region, NMFS, has made a preliminary determination that a proposed exempted fishing permit contains all of the required information and warrants further consideration. This exempted fishing permit would allow midwater trawl Atlantic herring vessels to use electronic monitoring, coupled with portside sampling, in lieu of at-sea monitoring to satisfy their industryfunded monitoring requirements during 2020—2021. Regulations under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act require publication of this notification to provide interested parties the opportunity to comment on applications for proposed exempted fishing permits. DATES: Comments must be received on or before April 14, 2020. ADDRESSES: You may submit written comments by either of the following methods: • Email: nmfs.gar.efp@noaa.gov. Include in the subject line ‘‘HERRING EM EFP.’’ • Mail: Michael Pentony, Regional Administrator, NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope ‘‘HERRING EM EFP.’’ FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Maria Fenton, Fishery Management Specialist, 978–281–9196. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with NOTICES Background At its April 2018 meeting, the New England Fishery Management Council took final action on the New England Industry-Funded Monitoring (IFM) Omnibus Amendment and recommended a 50-percent coverage target for at-sea monitoring (ASM) coverage aboard vessels issued a Category A or B herring permit. This 50percent coverage target includes a combination of Standardized Bycatch VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:05 Mar 27, 2020 Jkt 250001 Reporting Methodology (SBRM) and IFM coverage. IFM coverage requirements may be waived on a tripby-trip basis if monitoring coverage is unavailable, if vessels intend to land less than 50 mt of herring, or if vessels carry no fish on pair trawling trips (i.e., wing vessels). The IFM Amendment also included a provision allowing midwater trawl vessels to purchase observer coverage in order to fish in Groundfish Closed Areas (GCA). The New England Council reviewed the results from a midwater trawl electronic monitoring (EM) pilot study and concluded that a combination of EM and portside sampling was an appropriate substitute for ASM aboard midwater trawl vessels. The purpose of EM is to confirm catch retention and verify compliance with slippage restrictions. The purpose of portside sampling is to collect species composition data along with age and length information. However, rather than including EM and portside requirements in the IFM Amendment, the Council recommended that NMFS administer EM and portside sampling via an exempted fishing permit (EFP) for midwater trawl vessels during the first 2 years of IFM in the herring fishery. Findings from the voluntary EM study, as well as analyses in the Environmental Assessment for the IFM Amendment, suggest that EM and portside sampling may be a more costeffective monitoring option than at-sea monitors or observers for the herring fishery. Developing another permanent monitoring option for the herring fishery would give herring vessels additional flexibility to select the most cost-effective monitoring option for their fishing operations, which would help mitigate the negative economic impacts of recent reductions to the herring annual catch limits (ACL) and associated revenue. The Council is required to evaluate the effectiveness of IFM in the herring fishery 2 years after implementation of the amendment. Data collected through the EFP would provide NMFS and the Council with additional information about how to most effectively and efficiently administer an EM and portside sampling program for the herring fishery. Information learned through this EFP will also help evaluate the utility of EM and portside sampling to monitor fishing in GCAs, or to monitor midwater trawl vessels when they choose to fish with alternate gears (i.e., purse seine, bottom trawl). Project Description The project period for this EFP would cover IFM years 2020–2021 (April 1, PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 17541 2020—March 31, 2022), contingent upon availability of funds. Under this EFP, up to 12 midwater trawl vessels issued Category A or B herring permits would be required to run EM systems (video cameras and gear sensors) on 100 percent of declared herring trips. EM data from 50 percent of EFP trips would be selected for video review. Participating vessels would be required to run EM systems regardless of whether they are carrying an SBRM observer on trips that are selected for SBRM coverage. Participating vessels would be required to adhere to all normal reporting requirements, except as exempted through this EFP, and would also be required to submit electronic vessel trip reports (VTR) in lieu of paper VTRs. Participating vessels would be required to adhere to individual Vessel Monitoring Plans (VMP) when fishing under the EFP. Each vessel’s VMP would outline the catch handling protocols and EM system configurations that the vessel would use while participating in the program. Vessels would not be permitted to fish under the EFP until they hold a NMFSapproved VMP. NMFS contracted Saltwater Inc., as the EM service provider for this EFP during IFM year 2020. Vessels would be required to use Saltwater Inc., as the EM service provider when fishing under this EFP. The EM service provider would be responsible for developing VMPs for participating vessels and establishing standards for approving VMPs and equipment installations. The EM service provider would also be responsible for: Installing, maintaining, and uninstalling EM equipment on participating vessels; reviewing EM video footage; processing and annotating video and sensor data; generating EM data analysis summaries; and working with NMFS personnel to review program performance for refinement. Participating vessels would primarily fish with midwater trawl gear on declared herring trips; however, some vessels may fish with alternate gears (i.e., small-mesh bottom trawl, purse seine) under the EFP during the fishing year. Prior to the start of each year, participating vessels would be required to submit a fishing plan to the Principal Investigator (PI) and NMFS describing which gears they planned to fish with at what points during the year. Participating vessels would also be required to notify the PI and NMFS one month ahead of when they planned to switch gears. Allowing vessels to switch gears during the year will incentivize participation in the EFP by allowing vessels flexibility to maximize fishing E:\FR\FM\30MRN1.SGM 30MRN1 17542 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 61 / Monday, March 30, 2020 / Notices lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with NOTICES opportunities. Additionally, allowing midwater trawl vessels to fish with alternate gears on EFP trips would provide NMFS with preliminary information on using EM and portside sampling aboard herring vessels fishing with bottom trawl and purse seine gear. Participation in the EFP is not expected to lead to any shifts in effort that would not otherwise have occurred in the fishery. Portside Sampling Prior to any declared herring trip, representatives from vessels with Category A or B permits are required to follow the usual notification process for monitoring coverage. NMFS will notify the vessel representative if a trip is selected for SBRM or IFM coverage. Consistent with the Councilrecommended 50-percent IFM coverage target for herring vessels, 50 percent of EFP trips would be selected for coverage. If selected for IFM coverage, participating vessels would be subject to portside sampling on the selected trip in lieu of hiring an at-sea monitor. If NMFS notifies a participating vessel that a trip has been selected for IFM coverage, that vessel would be required to procure portside sampling services from a NMFS-approved service provider. Consistent with the herring monitoring requirements at § 648.11(m)(1)(iv), the vessel would be prohibited from fishing for, taking, possessing, or landing any herring without procuring portside sampling services for that trip. Portside samplers would collect species composition data, along with age and length information. Except as noted in the proposed exemptions below, when a trip is subject to portside sampling (selected for IFM coverage or paying for portside sampling in order to fish in a GCA), participating vessels would be required to comply with slippage prohibitions and consequence measures, and they would need to offload their catch at a NMFS-approved sampling station. Sampling station owners would be responsible for maintaining sampling stations according to NMFS safety standards. Portside samplers would complete a safety inspection upon arrival at each sampling station, prior to the start of an offload. If a station failed to meet all of the requirements outlined in the safety inspection checklist, the participating vessel would be issued a one-time waiver by the portside sampler to continue the offload and an explanation of the safety deficiency refusal. The portside sampler would also report the safety deficiency refusal to NMFS. If the original safety deficiency was not addressed within 48 VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:05 Mar 27, 2020 Jkt 250001 hours of being reported to NMFS, participating vessels would not be permitted to continue offloading at that location on trips selected for portside sampling until the station had been brought into compliance. Slippage Requirements If a participating vessel were to slip catch on a trip selected for portside sampling, that vessel would be subject to all of the following consequence measures: • The vessel operator must move at least 15 nautical miles (nm) (27.78 km) from the location of the slippage event before deploying any gear again, and must stay at least 15 nm (27.78 km) away from the slippage event location for the remainder of the fishing trip; • The vessel operator must complete and sign a Released Catch Affidavit detailing: The vessel name and permit number; the VTR serial number; where, when, and for what reason the catch was released; the estimated weight of each species brought on board or released on that tow. A completed affidavit must be submitted to NMFS within 48 hours of the end of the trip; and • The vessel operator must report slippage events on the herring daily Vessel Monitoring System catch report and indicate the reason for slipping catch. Fishing Inside of Groundfish Closed Areas To comply with the 100-percent monitoring coverage requirement when fishing inside a GCA, participating vessels would be authorized to use EM and portside sampling, in lieu of carrying a human observer, even if not selected for IFM or SBRM coverage. Portside sampling for a GCA trip would not count towards achieving the vessel’s 50-percent coverage rate if the vessel was not selected for IFM or SBRM coverage. Proposed Exemptions General Exemptions for Participating Vessels This EFP would exempt participating vessels from the IFM ASM coverage requirements at § 648.11(m)(1)(ii). This exemption would authorize participating vessels to use EM, coupled with portside sampling, to satisfy their IFM coverage requirements in lieu of carrying a human at-sea monitor. Slippage Exemptions for Participating Vessels Fishing Outside of Groundfish Closed Areas This EFP would also exempt participating vessels from the slippage PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 definition at § 648.2 under certain circumstances. Participating vessels fishing outside of GCAs would be authorized to discard species that are not required to be kept (i.e., does not include river herring, shad, haddock, or other groundfish) at the grate after sorting on a trip selected for portside sampling. These discards would not be considered slippage and would not trigger slippage consequence measures, and vessels would still be required to report them as discards. This exemption would not apply when vessels are fishing inside GCAs. When fishing inside GCAs, fish discarded at the grate after sorting would be considered slippage and would trigger slippage consequence measures. Feedback from industry suggests that only small quantities of fish are handpicked at the grate, so it is unlikely that this exemption would result in high volumes of fish being discarded prior to catch being sampled portside. Vessels with observer or ASM coverage may discard fish at the grate after those fish are made available for sampling, and those discards are not considered slippage. However, fish discarded at the grate after sorting are considered slippage on vessels selected for portside sampling. This exemption would resolve operational differences resulting from the slippage definition and help create equity in vessel operations across gear and monitoring types. Additionally, NMFS is currently conducting a separate study investigating discarding at the grate after sorting on midwater trawl vessels. The vessels participating in that study are permitted to discard certain species at the grate after sorting, and those vessels would likely also participate in this EFP. This exemption would create consistency in catch handling practices between that study and this EFP, which would help minimize confusion for overlapping vessels and decrease the chances for accidental non-compliance with the EFP. Exemptions for Participating Vessels Fishing Inside of Groundfish Closed Areas This EFP would exempt participating vessels from the Northeast multispecies season and area restrictions at § 648.202(b)(1), and from the prohibition against fishing in a Northeast multispecies closed area without an observer on board at § 648.14(r)(2)(v). The EFP would authorize participating vessels to use EM and portside sampling in lieu of carrying a human observer when fishing in a GCA. Purchasing portside sampling coverage to fish in GCAs is expected to E:\FR\FM\30MRN1.SGM 30MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 61 / Monday, March 30, 2020 / Notices be less expensive than purchasing observer coverage to fish in GCAs, so this exemption would provide an incentive for vessels to participate in the EFP. This exemption would also allow NMFS to assess the feasibility of using EM and portside sampling to monitor midwater trawl herring trips fished in GCAs. This EFP would also exempt participating vessels from season and area restrictions at § 648.202(b)(2) and (4) when operationally discarding catch. The EFP would authorize participating vessels to operationally discard catch in GCAs without triggering the consequence measures described at § 648.202(b)(4). Operational discards in the herring fishery are defined as ‘‘small amounts of fish that cannot be pumped on board and remain in the codend or seine at the end of pumping operations.’’ Midwater trawl vessels are permitted to operationally discard outside of GCAs without triggering consequence measures, but not inside GCAs. This exemption would allow participating vessels to maintain operational consistency inside and outside of GCAs. This exemption would also allow NMFS to collect additional information on the frequency of operational discards in GCAs. This exemption would not undermine conservation objectives because participating vessels would be fully monitored on 100 percent of trips and would be fully accountable for their catch in GCAs. If approved, project partners may request minor modifications and extensions to the EFP throughout the year. EFP modifications and extensions may be granted without further notice if they are deemed essential to facilitate completion of the proposed research and have minimal impacts that do not change the scope or impact of the initially approved EFP request. Any fishing activity conducted outside the scope of the exempted fishing activity would be prohibited. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with NOTICES Dated: March 25, 2020. He´le`ne M.N. Scalliet, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–06542 Filed 3–27–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:05 Mar 27, 2020 Jkt 250001 17543 CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION includes cognitive interviews and focus groups. [Docket No. CPSC–2019–0035] A. Consumer Product Risk Reduction Valuation Study CPSC is authorized under section 5(a) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA), 15 U.S.C. 2054(a), to conduct studies and investigations relating to the causes and prevention of deaths, accidents, injuries, illnesses, other health impairments, and economic losses associated with consumer products. Section 5(b) of the CPSA, 15 U.S.C. 2054(b), further provides that CPSC may conduct research, studies, and investigations on the safety of consumer products or test consumer products and develop product safety test methods and testing devices. CPSC issues regulations to reduce the risk of fatal injuries or illnesses associated with the use of consumer products. To value reductions in the risk of fatalities, CPSC and other federal agencies rely on estimates of the value per statistical life (VSL), which are derived from research on individuals’ willingness to pay (WTP), consistent with the conceptual framework for benefit-cost analysis. Most of the studies on which these estimates are based calculate WTP by evaluating tradeoffs made by workers in risky occupations, and thus, concentrate on certain populations (working-age males). However, the type of risks and populations that are addressed by CPSC regulations often involve children. Although there are a few completed studies that address the value of risk reductions that accrue to children, the available literature is limited and largely unrelated to the types of risks addressed by CPSC rulemakings.1 Due to the absence of children from labor markets and the lack of observable market data, the majority of the studies employ stated preference methods. That method asks individuals, usually through questionnaires, the economic value that they attach to a perceived risk, based on constructed or hypothetical markets. Although the existing studies suggest Agency Information Collection Activities; Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request; Consumer Product Risk Reduction Valuation Study: Cognitive Interviews & Focus Groups Consumer Product Safety Commission. ACTION: Notice. AGENCY: As required under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announces that CPSC has submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a new proposed collection of information by the agency to conduct cognitive interviews and focus groups that will assess consumer comprehension of risk associated with consumer products. On December 30, 2019, the CPSC published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the agency’s intent to seek approval of this collection of information. The CPSC received no comments in response to that notice. Therefore, by publication of this notice, the CPSC announces that it has submitted to the OMB a request for approval of this collection of information. SUMMARY: Submit written or electronic comments on the collection of information by May 29, 2020. ADDRESSES: Submit comments about this request by email: OIRA_ submission@omb.eop.gov or fax: 202– 395–6881. Comments by mail should be sent to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Attn: OMB Desk Officer for the CPSC, Office of Management and Budget, Room 10235, 725 17th Street NW, Washington, DC 20503. In addition, written comments that are sent to OMB also should be submitted electronically at http:// www.regulations.gov, under Docket No. CPSC–2019–0035. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Bretford Griffin, Consumer Product Safety Commission, 4330 East West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814; (301) 504–7037, or by email to: BGriffin@ cpsc.gov. DATES: Under the PRA (44 U.S.C. 3501–3520), federal agencies must obtain approval from OMB for each collection of information they conduct or sponsor. ‘‘Collection of information’’ is defined in 44 U.S.C. 3502(3) and 5 CFR 1320.3(c) and SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 ˇ cˇasny´. 2011. 1 See, e.g., Alberini, A. and M. S Context and the VSL: Evidence from a Stated Preference Study in Italy and Czech Republic. Environmental and Resource Economics, 49(4): 511–538; Gerking, S., M. Dickie, and M. Veronesi. 2014. Valuation of Human Health: An Integrated Model of WTP for Mortality and Morbidity Risk Reductions. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 68(1): 20–45; Hammitt, J.K. and K. Haninger. 2010. Valuing Fatal Risk to Children and Adults: Effects of Disease, Latency and Risk Aversion. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 40: 57– 83; Hammitt, J.K. and D. Herrera. 2017. Peeling Back the Onion: Using Latent Class Analysis to Uncover Heterogeneous Responses to Stated Preference Surveys. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, in press. E:\FR\FM\30MRN1.SGM 30MRN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 61 (Monday, March 30, 2020)]
[Notices]
[Pages 17541-17543]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-06542]



[[Page 17541]]

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[RTID 0648-XX042]


Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; General Provisions for Domestic 
Fisheries; Application for Exempted Fishing Permits

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

ACTION: Notice; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: The Assistant Regional Administrator for Sustainable 
Fisheries, Greater Atlantic Region, NMFS, has made a preliminary 
determination that a proposed exempted fishing permit contains all of 
the required information and warrants further consideration. This 
exempted fishing permit would allow midwater trawl Atlantic herring 
vessels to use electronic monitoring, coupled with portside sampling, 
in lieu of at-sea monitoring to satisfy their industry-funded 
monitoring requirements during 2020--2021. Regulations under the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act require 
publication of this notification to provide interested parties the 
opportunity to comment on applications for proposed exempted fishing 
permits.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before April 14, 2020.

ADDRESSES: You may submit written comments by either of the following 
methods:
     Email: [email protected]. Include in the subject line 
``HERRING EM EFP.''
     Mail: Michael Pentony, Regional Administrator, NMFS, 
Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 Great Republic Drive, 
Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope ``HERRING EM 
EFP.''

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Maria Fenton, Fishery Management 
Specialist, 978-281-9196.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    At its April 2018 meeting, the New England Fishery Management 
Council took final action on the New England Industry-Funded Monitoring 
(IFM) Omnibus Amendment and recommended a 50-percent coverage target 
for at-sea monitoring (ASM) coverage aboard vessels issued a Category A 
or B herring permit. This 50-percent coverage target includes a 
combination of Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology (SBRM) and 
IFM coverage. IFM coverage requirements may be waived on a trip-by-trip 
basis if monitoring coverage is unavailable, if vessels intend to land 
less than 50 mt of herring, or if vessels carry no fish on pair 
trawling trips (i.e., wing vessels). The IFM Amendment also included a 
provision allowing midwater trawl vessels to purchase observer coverage 
in order to fish in Groundfish Closed Areas (GCA).
    The New England Council reviewed the results from a midwater trawl 
electronic monitoring (EM) pilot study and concluded that a combination 
of EM and portside sampling was an appropriate substitute for ASM 
aboard midwater trawl vessels. The purpose of EM is to confirm catch 
retention and verify compliance with slippage restrictions. The purpose 
of portside sampling is to collect species composition data along with 
age and length information. However, rather than including EM and 
portside requirements in the IFM Amendment, the Council recommended 
that NMFS administer EM and portside sampling via an exempted fishing 
permit (EFP) for midwater trawl vessels during the first 2 years of IFM 
in the herring fishery.
    Findings from the voluntary EM study, as well as analyses in the 
Environmental Assessment for the IFM Amendment, suggest that EM and 
portside sampling may be a more cost-effective monitoring option than 
at-sea monitors or observers for the herring fishery. Developing 
another permanent monitoring option for the herring fishery would give 
herring vessels additional flexibility to select the most cost-
effective monitoring option for their fishing operations, which would 
help mitigate the negative economic impacts of recent reductions to the 
herring annual catch limits (ACL) and associated revenue. The Council 
is required to evaluate the effectiveness of IFM in the herring fishery 
2 years after implementation of the amendment. Data collected through 
the EFP would provide NMFS and the Council with additional information 
about how to most effectively and efficiently administer an EM and 
portside sampling program for the herring fishery. Information learned 
through this EFP will also help evaluate the utility of EM and portside 
sampling to monitor fishing in GCAs, or to monitor midwater trawl 
vessels when they choose to fish with alternate gears (i.e., purse 
seine, bottom trawl).

Project Description

    The project period for this EFP would cover IFM years 2020-2021 
(April 1, 2020--March 31, 2022), contingent upon availability of funds. 
Under this EFP, up to 12 midwater trawl vessels issued Category A or B 
herring permits would be required to run EM systems (video cameras and 
gear sensors) on 100 percent of declared herring trips. EM data from 50 
percent of EFP trips would be selected for video review. Participating 
vessels would be required to run EM systems regardless of whether they 
are carrying an SBRM observer on trips that are selected for SBRM 
coverage. Participating vessels would be required to adhere to all 
normal reporting requirements, except as exempted through this EFP, and 
would also be required to submit electronic vessel trip reports (VTR) 
in lieu of paper VTRs. Participating vessels would be required to 
adhere to individual Vessel Monitoring Plans (VMP) when fishing under 
the EFP. Each vessel's VMP would outline the catch handling protocols 
and EM system configurations that the vessel would use while 
participating in the program. Vessels would not be permitted to fish 
under the EFP until they hold a NMFS-approved VMP.
    NMFS contracted Saltwater Inc., as the EM service provider for this 
EFP during IFM year 2020. Vessels would be required to use Saltwater 
Inc., as the EM service provider when fishing under this EFP. The EM 
service provider would be responsible for developing VMPs for 
participating vessels and establishing standards for approving VMPs and 
equipment installations. The EM service provider would also be 
responsible for: Installing, maintaining, and uninstalling EM equipment 
on participating vessels; reviewing EM video footage; processing and 
annotating video and sensor data; generating EM data analysis 
summaries; and working with NMFS personnel to review program 
performance for refinement.
    Participating vessels would primarily fish with midwater trawl gear 
on declared herring trips; however, some vessels may fish with 
alternate gears (i.e., small-mesh bottom trawl, purse seine) under the 
EFP during the fishing year. Prior to the start of each year, 
participating vessels would be required to submit a fishing plan to the 
Principal Investigator (PI) and NMFS describing which gears they 
planned to fish with at what points during the year. Participating 
vessels would also be required to notify the PI and NMFS one month 
ahead of when they planned to switch gears. Allowing vessels to switch 
gears during the year will incentivize participation in the EFP by 
allowing vessels flexibility to maximize fishing

[[Page 17542]]

opportunities. Additionally, allowing midwater trawl vessels to fish 
with alternate gears on EFP trips would provide NMFS with preliminary 
information on using EM and portside sampling aboard herring vessels 
fishing with bottom trawl and purse seine gear. Participation in the 
EFP is not expected to lead to any shifts in effort that would not 
otherwise have occurred in the fishery.

Portside Sampling

    Prior to any declared herring trip, representatives from vessels 
with Category A or B permits are required to follow the usual 
notification process for monitoring coverage. NMFS will notify the 
vessel representative if a trip is selected for SBRM or IFM coverage. 
Consistent with the Council-recommended 50-percent IFM coverage target 
for herring vessels, 50 percent of EFP trips would be selected for 
coverage. If selected for IFM coverage, participating vessels would be 
subject to portside sampling on the selected trip in lieu of hiring an 
at-sea monitor. If NMFS notifies a participating vessel that a trip has 
been selected for IFM coverage, that vessel would be required to 
procure portside sampling services from a NMFS-approved service 
provider. Consistent with the herring monitoring requirements at Sec.  
648.11(m)(1)(iv), the vessel would be prohibited from fishing for, 
taking, possessing, or landing any herring without procuring portside 
sampling services for that trip. Portside samplers would collect 
species composition data, along with age and length information.
    Except as noted in the proposed exemptions below, when a trip is 
subject to portside sampling (selected for IFM coverage or paying for 
portside sampling in order to fish in a GCA), participating vessels 
would be required to comply with slippage prohibitions and consequence 
measures, and they would need to offload their catch at a NMFS-approved 
sampling station. Sampling station owners would be responsible for 
maintaining sampling stations according to NMFS safety standards. 
Portside samplers would complete a safety inspection upon arrival at 
each sampling station, prior to the start of an offload. If a station 
failed to meet all of the requirements outlined in the safety 
inspection checklist, the participating vessel would be issued a one-
time waiver by the portside sampler to continue the offload and an 
explanation of the safety deficiency refusal. The portside sampler 
would also report the safety deficiency refusal to NMFS. If the 
original safety deficiency was not addressed within 48 hours of being 
reported to NMFS, participating vessels would not be permitted to 
continue offloading at that location on trips selected for portside 
sampling until the station had been brought into compliance.

Slippage Requirements

    If a participating vessel were to slip catch on a trip selected for 
portside sampling, that vessel would be subject to all of the following 
consequence measures:
     The vessel operator must move at least 15 nautical miles 
(nm) (27.78 km) from the location of the slippage event before 
deploying any gear again, and must stay at least 15 nm (27.78 km) away 
from the slippage event location for the remainder of the fishing trip;
     The vessel operator must complete and sign a Released 
Catch Affidavit detailing: The vessel name and permit number; the VTR 
serial number; where, when, and for what reason the catch was released; 
the estimated weight of each species brought on board or released on 
that tow. A completed affidavit must be submitted to NMFS within 48 
hours of the end of the trip; and
     The vessel operator must report slippage events on the 
herring daily Vessel Monitoring System catch report and indicate the 
reason for slipping catch.

Fishing Inside of Groundfish Closed Areas

    To comply with the 100-percent monitoring coverage requirement when 
fishing inside a GCA, participating vessels would be authorized to use 
EM and portside sampling, in lieu of carrying a human observer, even if 
not selected for IFM or SBRM coverage. Portside sampling for a GCA trip 
would not count towards achieving the vessel's 50-percent coverage rate 
if the vessel was not selected for IFM or SBRM coverage.

Proposed Exemptions

General Exemptions for Participating Vessels

    This EFP would exempt participating vessels from the IFM ASM 
coverage requirements at Sec.  648.11(m)(1)(ii). This exemption would 
authorize participating vessels to use EM, coupled with portside 
sampling, to satisfy their IFM coverage requirements in lieu of 
carrying a human at-sea monitor.

Slippage Exemptions for Participating Vessels Fishing Outside of 
Groundfish Closed Areas

    This EFP would also exempt participating vessels from the slippage 
definition at Sec.  648.2 under certain circumstances. Participating 
vessels fishing outside of GCAs would be authorized to discard species 
that are not required to be kept (i.e., does not include river herring, 
shad, haddock, or other groundfish) at the grate after sorting on a 
trip selected for portside sampling. These discards would not be 
considered slippage and would not trigger slippage consequence 
measures, and vessels would still be required to report them as 
discards. This exemption would not apply when vessels are fishing 
inside GCAs. When fishing inside GCAs, fish discarded at the grate 
after sorting would be considered slippage and would trigger slippage 
consequence measures. Feedback from industry suggests that only small 
quantities of fish are handpicked at the grate, so it is unlikely that 
this exemption would result in high volumes of fish being discarded 
prior to catch being sampled portside.
    Vessels with observer or ASM coverage may discard fish at the grate 
after those fish are made available for sampling, and those discards 
are not considered slippage. However, fish discarded at the grate after 
sorting are considered slippage on vessels selected for portside 
sampling. This exemption would resolve operational differences 
resulting from the slippage definition and help create equity in vessel 
operations across gear and monitoring types. Additionally, NMFS is 
currently conducting a separate study investigating discarding at the 
grate after sorting on midwater trawl vessels. The vessels 
participating in that study are permitted to discard certain species at 
the grate after sorting, and those vessels would likely also 
participate in this EFP. This exemption would create consistency in 
catch handling practices between that study and this EFP, which would 
help minimize confusion for overlapping vessels and decrease the 
chances for accidental non-compliance with the EFP.

Exemptions for Participating Vessels Fishing Inside of Groundfish 
Closed Areas

    This EFP would exempt participating vessels from the Northeast 
multispecies season and area restrictions at Sec.  648.202(b)(1), and 
from the prohibition against fishing in a Northeast multispecies closed 
area without an observer on board at Sec.  648.14(r)(2)(v). The EFP 
would authorize participating vessels to use EM and portside sampling 
in lieu of carrying a human observer when fishing in a GCA. Purchasing 
portside sampling coverage to fish in GCAs is expected to

[[Page 17543]]

be less expensive than purchasing observer coverage to fish in GCAs, so 
this exemption would provide an incentive for vessels to participate in 
the EFP. This exemption would also allow NMFS to assess the feasibility 
of using EM and portside sampling to monitor midwater trawl herring 
trips fished in GCAs.
    This EFP would also exempt participating vessels from season and 
area restrictions at Sec.  648.202(b)(2) and (4) when operationally 
discarding catch. The EFP would authorize participating vessels to 
operationally discard catch in GCAs without triggering the consequence 
measures described at Sec.  648.202(b)(4). Operational discards in the 
herring fishery are defined as ``small amounts of fish that cannot be 
pumped on board and remain in the codend or seine at the end of pumping 
operations.'' Midwater trawl vessels are permitted to operationally 
discard outside of GCAs without triggering consequence measures, but 
not inside GCAs. This exemption would allow participating vessels to 
maintain operational consistency inside and outside of GCAs. This 
exemption would also allow NMFS to collect additional information on 
the frequency of operational discards in GCAs. This exemption would not 
undermine conservation objectives because participating vessels would 
be fully monitored on 100 percent of trips and would be fully 
accountable for their catch in GCAs.
    If approved, project partners may request minor modifications and 
extensions to the EFP throughout the year. EFP modifications and 
extensions may be granted without further notice if they are deemed 
essential to facilitate completion of the proposed research and have 
minimal impacts that do not change the scope or impact of the initially 
approved EFP request. Any fishing activity conducted outside the scope 
of the exempted fishing activity would be prohibited.

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

    Dated: March 25, 2020.
H[eacute]l[egrave]ne M.N. Scalliet,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2020-06542 Filed 3-27-20; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P