Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Multispecies Fishery; Amendment 23, 11014-11037 [2022-03572]

Download as PDF 11014 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules DPS if we conclude it is appropriate in light of comments and new information received. For example, we may expand the prohibitions in the proposed 4(d) rule for the North Feather or Central FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Coast DPS to include prohibiting Michael Fris, Field Supervisor, additional activities if we conclude that Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, those additional activities are not 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA compatible with conservation of either 95825; telephone 916–414–6700. Individuals in the United States who are DPS. 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South Sierra and South Coast DPSs of Comments should be as specific as the foothill yellow-legged frog as possible. Please include sufficient endangered and the North Feather and information with your submission (such Central Coast DPSs of the foothill as scientific journal articles or other yellow-legged frog as threatened with publications) to allow us to verify any rules issued under section 4(d) of the scientific or commercial information Act. The proposed rule opened a 60-day you assert. comment period, ending February 28, Please note that submissions merely 2022. On January 31, 2022, we received stating support for, or opposition to, the a request to extend the public comment action under consideration without period. 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We intend that any final action submit information via https:// resulting from the proposal will be www.regulations.gov, your entire based on the best scientific and submission—including your personal commercial data available. Our final identifying information—will be posted determination will take into on the website. If your submission is consideration all comments and any made via a hardcopy that includes additional information we receive personal identifying information, you during the open comment period on the may request at the top of your document proposed rule. that we withhold this information from Because we will consider all public review. However, we cannot comments and information we receive guarantee that we will be able to do so. during the open comment period, our final determinations may differ from our We will post all hardcopy submissions on https://www.regulations.gov. December 28, 2021, proposed rule (86 Comments and materials we receive, FR 73914). In addition, we may change the parameters of the prohibitions or the as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing the proposed rule, exceptions to those prohibitions in the proposed rule issued under section 4(d) will be available for public inspection of the Act (i.e., the ‘‘proposed 4(d) rule’’) on https://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–R8–ES–2021–0108. for the North Feather or Central Coast khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see Public Comments, below, for more information). VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Authors The primary authors of this document are the staff members of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Species Assessment Team and the California Great Basin Regional Office (Interior Region 10). Authority The Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), is the authority for this action. Martha Williams, Principal Deputy Director, Exercising the Delegated Authority of the Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [FR Doc. 2022–04257 Filed 2–25–22; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No.: 220214–0046] RIN 0648–BK17 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Multispecies Fishery; Amendment 23 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes to approve, and implement through regulations, measures included in Amendment 23 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, which the New England Fishery Management Council adopted and submitted to NMFS for approval. This action would adjust the existing industry-funded at-sea monitoring program for groundfish sectors to improve the accuracy of collected catch data (landings and discards) and catch accounting. The measures selected by the New England Fishery Management Council in Amendment 23 are intended to ensure there is a precise and accurate representation of catch to set catch limit levels that prevent overfishing and determine when catch limits are exceeded. SUMMARY: Comments must be received by March 30, 2022. ADDRESSES: The New England Fishery Management Council (Council) has prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for this action that describes the proposed measures in DATES: E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules Amendment 23 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and other considered alternatives, and analyzes the impacts of the proposed measures and alternatives. The Council submitted the amendment to NMFS, including the EIS, a description of the Council’s preferred alternatives, the Council’s rationale for selecting each alternative, and a Regulatory Impact Review (RIR). Copies of supporting documents used by the Council, including the EIS and RIR, are available from: Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Newburyport, MA 01950 and accessible via the internet in documents available at: https://www.nefmc.org/ library/amendment-23. You may submit comments, identified by NOAA–NMFS–2020–0144, by the following method: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov and enter NOAA– NMFS–2020–0144 in the Search box. Click the ‘‘Comment’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/ A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this proposed rule may be submitted to www.reginfo.gov/public/ do/PRAMain. Find this particular information collection by selecting ‘‘Currently under 30-day Review—Open for Public Comments’’ or by using the search function. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark Grant, Fishery Policy Analyst, (978) 281–9145. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Amendment 23 Summary The Council initiated Amendment 23 to consider changes to the groundfish monitoring and reporting system to ensure it is providing accurate catch information necessary to manage the VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 fishery effectively. The alternatives considered in this action focus on measures that adjust the existing industry-funded sector monitoring program to improve the accuracy of collected catch data (landings and discards) and catch accounting. To address these issues, the Council adopted Amendment 23 to make a number of changes to the industryfunded sector monitoring program in order to: • Replace the current process for calculating an annual monitoring coverage target for at-sea monitoring (ASM) with a fixed monitoring coverage target as a percentage of trips, dependent on Federal funding. The coverage target would be 100 percent of trips for 4 years, but could be set at less than 100 percent at the maximum level for which there are sufficient Federal funds to support all agency and industry costs. Beginning in year 5, the ASM coverage target would be 40 percent of trips but NMFS could increase ASM coverage above the 40-percent target when Federal funding is available to support all industry costs. For years with a 40-percent coverage target, Federal funding would be used to first pay NMFS costs and then support as much of industry costs as possible. Sectors would be responsible for paying only the industry costs above the portion supported by Federal funding. • Approve additional electronic monitoring (EM) technologies as an alternative to human at-sea monitors; • Exclude from the monitoring requirement all trips in geographic areas with low groundfish catch; • Require periodic evaluation of the monitoring program and exclusions from the monitoring requirement; • Remove the management uncertainty buffer from the portion of the ABC allocated to the sector catch share when the monitoring coverage target is 100 percent; and • Grant authority to the Northeast Regional Administrator to revise sector reporting requirements to streamline reporting for the industry. The proposed measures are discussed in detail below under Discussion of Proposed Rule Measures. Under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), we are required to publish proposed rules for comment after preliminarily determining that they are consistent with applicable law. The MagnusonStevens Act allows us to approve, partially approve, or disapprove measures proposed by the Council based only on whether the measures are consistent with the fishery management PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 11015 plan, plan amendment, the MagnusonStevens Act and its National Standards, and other applicable law. Otherwise, we must defer to the Council’s policy choices. We are seeking comment on the Council’s proposed measures in Amendment 23 and whether they are consistent with the Northeast Multispecies FMP, the MagnusonStevens Act and its National Standards, and other applicable law. Discussion of Proposed Rule Measures ASM Coverage Target Amendment 23 would replace the current method for determining the ASM coverage target for deploying human at-sea monitors, including the coefficient of variation (CV) standard, stock status criteria, and the need for an annual determination by NMFS, with a fixed coverage target as a percentage of trips, dependent on Federal funding. Currently, NMFS is required to determine an ASM coverage target that at least meets the 30-percent CV specified in the Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology at the overall stock level for each stock of regulated species and ocean pout; and to monitor sector operations, to the extent practicable, in order to reliably estimate overall catch by sector vessels. Analyses included in the Amendment 23 EIS (see ADDRESSES) demonstrated the CV standard was no longer an effective basis for determining coverage due to bias that results from differences between trips that are monitored and trips that are not monitored. To address bias, the coverage target would be 100 percent of trips for 4 years, provided Federal funding can support agency and industry costs. The ASM coverage target in years 1–4 could be less than 100 percent, and would be set at the maximum level for which there are sufficient Federal funds to support all agency and industry costs. The at-sea monitoring coverage target would default to 40 percent in years 1– 4 if Federal funding cannot completely support all industry costs for a coverage target greater than 40 percent. In year 5 and beyond, the coverage target would be 40 percent unless replaced by a subsequent Council action. However, Amendment 23 would also allow for increased coverage in year 5 and beyond, when Federal funding is available to support industry costs. For years with a 40-percent ASM coverage target, Federal funding would be used to first pay NMFS costs and then support as much of industry costs as possible. The current method used to set ASM target coverage levels is not effective to estimate catch because observed trips E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 11016 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules are not representative of unobserved trips. As a result, biased catch data undermines management of the fishery. It is not possible at this time to calculate an ASM coverage target less than 100 percent that would eliminate or minimize bias sufficiently to ensure catch accountability because the current catch data are not representative of the entirety of the sector fishery. The Council chose a fixed ASM coverage target of 100 percent to address bias by establishing a baseline of accurate and precise catch information for the fishery. The 100-percent coverage target would increase the accuracy of catch estimates and reduce the potential for bias more than any other coverage target considered. Setting the coverage target at 100 percent also simplifies compliance and enforceability of the monitoring program by removing a complex system of stratified random sampling. In addition, while improved monitoring would not solve all of the issues facing the fishery, a 100-percent coverage target is expected to provide more information to support better management of this fishery. Making the coverage target contingent on Federal funding for industry costs balances the need for improved monitoring with the economic effects to the fishery. Combined with the option for vessels to use EM (see ‘‘Electronic Monitoring’’ below) and removing the management uncertainty buffers from the sector portion of the annual catch limit (ACL) (see ‘‘Elimination of Management Uncertainty Buffer for Sector ACLs’’ below), the increased cost to industry is reduced. ASM coverage targets of at least 40-percent on a consistent basis would be an increase from attained coverage levels to date. Higher ASM coverage, even for a limited time, along with data from EM, could improve the cost-effectiveness of the monitoring system by providing a baseline of accurate and precise catch information to be used in the evaluation of the program that is planned (see ‘‘Review Process for Monitoring Coverage Rates’’ below). The Council also selected a minimum ASM coverage target of 40 percent in the event that Federal funds are not available in a given year in order to ensure accurate catch information is still provided while addressing concerns about industry costs. The minimum target level of 40 percent will be funded either by sectors (if no Federal funds are available) or a combination of sectors and Federal funds. The availability of EM also provides a potential option for sector monitoring programs to ensure catch accountability. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 The EM models address bias by requiring cameras to monitor fishing activity during the entirety of all sector groundfish trips. The availability and use of EM will also provide additional data to compare to ASM coverage and inform NMFS and the Council on the Amendment 23 coverage target’s performance. NMFS proposes several administrative procedural changes to implement the revised ASM coverage target, but would retain other aspects of the current requirements. All vessels would continue to provide advanced notice to NMFS through the pre-trip notification systems (PTNS) for the purposes of selecting vessels for ASM and observer deployment. The agency would continue to issue waivers from ASM for selected trips in specific circumstances, including if an observer or at-sea monitor is not available to cover the trip, or for other logistical reasons (e.g., late observer, safety), consistent with its current practice. Each year, NMFS would evaluate available Federal funding. Consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws, NMFS would determine how much Federal funding is available for the groundfish sector monitoring program and then use that in conjunction with other available information (e.g., recent monitoring costs, estimate of the number of vessels choosing EM) to calculate the ASM coverage target between 40 and 100 percent for the coming fishing year. This funding-based determination would replace the current annual process for determining the ASM coverage target for the sector monitoring program. NMFS would announce the ASM coverage target at least 3 weeks before the annual sector enrollment deadline set by NMFS, if Federal funding information is available (see ‘‘Determining Total Monitoring Coverage at a Time Certain’’ below). NMFS currently anticipates that existing available Federal funding would be sufficient to fund at least 2 years with a 100-percent ASM coverage target. Electronic Monitoring Amendment 23 would approve the Audit Model and the maximized retention model of EM (MREM) for sector vessels to use, in place of ASM, to satisfy the sector monitoring requirement. EM is expected to provide important information for NMFS and the Council to consider during the first 4 years and to provide a suitable basis for sector monitoring programs to ensure catch accountability. A vessel using EM would still be subject to Northeast Fishery Observer Program (NEFOP) coverage, which is set at a PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 level to meet the standardized bycatch reporting methodology requirements of the FMP and the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Amendment 23 does not remove or alter the existing authority for the Regional Administrator to deem types of EM technology sufficient to be used in place of human at-sea monitors. However, the two EM models in Amendment 23 would be available for sectors to include in their operations plans without requiring a separate determination by the Regional Administrator. Additional forms of EM would still be subject to approval or disapproval by NMFS. The audit model is one of the EM models included in Amendment 23. NMFS previously determined the EM audit model is sufficient to verify a vessel’s submission of information on groundfish discards and other relevant information (e.g., date and time, gear category, location) for the purpose of catch accounting, provided that the vessel’s captain and crew adhere to catch handling and reporting requirements as described in the vesselspecific monitoring plan (VMP) (86 FR 16686; March 31, 2021). The VMP details specific fish handling protocols, policies, and procedures; as well as the number and location of cameras. VMPs are reviewed and approved by NMFS prior to a vessel enrolling in EM to ensure the set-up is adequate to support data collection needs and requirements. Under the audit model, the vessel operator and crew hold groundfish discards on a measuring board and under a camera prior to discarding, and discard other species in view of cameras at designated discard control points. The vessel operator estimates the total weight of groundfish discards on an electronic vessel trip report (eVTR), and submits the video footage to the EM service provider. The EM service provider reviews trips selected for audit and develops an independent estimate of groundfish discards for the trip. The EM data are compared to verify the eVTR-reported catch and discards. NMFS sets the video review rates for audit model trips and conducts a secondary review of some trips to evaluate EM provider performance. NMFS may revise audit rates to ensure accurate reporting and minimize costs. For instance, vessels that demonstrate higher performance in terms of compliance with the VMP and accuracy of discard reporting could have lower review rates than vessels that do not perform as well. Additional detail of the audit model requirements are contained in the Fishing Years 2021–2022 Sector Operations Plan, Contract, and E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules Environmental Assessment Requirements guide (https://bit.ly/ 3pdau1L). Amendment 23 would also approve the MREM model. The goal of MREM is to verify compliance with catch retention requirements and use dockside monitoring (DSM) to collect information on allocated groundfish discards at the dock that otherwise would be collected at sea. Under the MREM model, on all sector EM trips, the vessel operator and crew are required to retain and land all catch of allocated groundfish, including fish below the minimum size, specified at 50 CFR § 648.83, that they would otherwise be required to discard. Unallocated regulated species, ocean pout, and nongroundfish species must be handled in accordance with standard commercial fishing operations. Any allowable discards must occur at designated discard control points on the vessel, described in the vessel’s VMP. EM data from the trip would be reviewed by the EM service provider to verify that the vessel operator and crew complied with the catch retention requirements. A human dockside monitor would meet the vessel at port upon its return from each trip to observe the offload and collect information on the catch (particularly fish below the minimum size). Landings of all fish by MREM vessels, including fish below the minimum size in the regulations, would be reported to NMFS by the dealer. Approving EM models as alternatives to human ASM provides each sector the flexibility to choose the monitoring options (ASM, audit model EM, MREM) that best meet the needs of its members and ensure catch accountability. Through their operations plans, sectors would develop monitoring plans that describe how the sector would use the chosen monitoring tools. The intent of implementing the audit model and MREM through Amendment 23 is to make alternatives to human ASM available now while also retaining authority for the Regional Administrator to approve additional tools in the future. The goal is to provide sectors with additional tools to monitor catch that ensure precise and accurate catch estimation and minimize the potential for bias because EM is active on 100 percent of sector groundfish trips. These EM options are expected to eliminate bias and eliminate the coordination of human logistics for trips not assigned NEFOP coverage. Both EM models increase flexibility for sectors and their vessels to choose the monitoring option that best suits their business and operational needs while offering potential reductions in monitoring VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 costs. The audit model may be most suitable for lower volume groundfish trips because it requires extra catch handling. MREM may be better suited for larger volume vessels where the catch handling protocols of the audit model present logistical challenges. DSM is a required component of MREM and may be easier to facilitate at dealers that are prepared to handle large volume offloads. The economic analyses in the EIS suggest that when both the audit model and MREM are available to vessels, as alternatives to ASM, the costs of 100-percent monitoring may be reduced for individual vessels and the fishery as a whole. A vessel may only use the audit model or MREM to meet the sector monitoring requirement if its sector includes that EM model in its approved operations plan. A vessel must opt into an EM program for an entire fishing year, with two exceptions. First, a sector may allow a vessel a single opportunity to opt in/out of EM at any time during a fishing year if the sector operations plan includes both an approved ASM and EM plan. Second, if a vessel changes to a gear type not covered in the VMP, the vessel may temporarily become an ASM vessel until the VMP authorizing the use of the new gear type is approved. Vessels using EM must have their EM system operational and running on every sector groundfish trip, including trips that would be excluded from the ASM requirement (see ‘‘Exclusion from Monitoring Requirements for Certain Vessel Under Certain Conditions’’ below), unless issued a waiver by NMFS or assigned an ASM. During each sector EM trip taken by a vessel, the EM system records all fishing activity onboard the vessel. The vessel operator and crew sort fish and make any allowable discards within view of the cameras in accordance with the catch handling protocols described in the VMP. NMFS proposes to implement the audit model consistent with the operational program implemented in fishing year 2021. Amendment 23 specified that vessels using audit model EM in place of ASM would be required to report discards at the haul level. However, the current operational audit model allows vessels to report discards at the sub-trip level, rather than the haul level. Haul-level reporting would require the vessel to fill out a new eVTR for each haulback of a trawl net, each haul of a string of gillnets, and each haul of fixed hook gear while sub-triplevel reporting requires a new eVTR only when a vessel changes gear type or mesh size, or physically changes location to a different statistical area. As PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 11017 part of implementing Amendment 23, NMFS proposes to allow vessels using the audit model to continue reporting discards at the sub-trip level, rather than the haul level, and is soliciting comment on this proposal (see ‘‘Sector Reporting’’ below). NMFS proposes to implement MREM consistent with the NOAA Fisheries MREM program detailed in the draft Sector Operations Plan, Contract, and Environmental Assessment Requirements guide for fishing year 2022 available at: https:// media.fisheries.noaa.gov/2022-01/ 210826_SectorOpsEAGuidanceFY2021_ 2022_Revised.pdf. Under MREM, the vessel operator and crew must adhere to the following catch handling requirements: Retain and land all catch of allocated groundfish, including any sublegal-size catch and unmarketable fish; discard unallocated groundfish stocks (i.e., windowpane flounder, ocean pout, wolffish, Atlantic halibut) at designated discard control points; handle all other species in accordance with standard commercial fishing operations, including adhering to possession limits for halibut and nongroundfish species; and sort unmarketable fish separately from fish below the minimum legal size. MREM vessels must also participate in a DSM program. NMFS proposes to initially continue to operate a DSM program for MREM vessels while working with partners to pilot a thirdparty DSM program. Subsequently, an industry-funded DSM model would be implemented and sectors would be required to contract with approved DSM providers to cover their MREM vessels. The vessel operator must notify the DSM program of its intention to sail prior to beginning a sector EM trip. Either the vessel operator or dealer must provide an offload time to the DSM program in advance of landing. The advance notice of landing and offload schedule will be dependent on the nature of the vessel’s activity (e.g., day boat vs trip boat vessels) and will be defined in the vessel’s VMP. The vessel operator, crew, and dealer must offload all allocated groundfish in the presence of the dockside monitor. The vessel operator and crew may not begin offloading unless a dockside monitor is present or they have received a waiver from the DSM program. The vessel operator must allow the dockside monitor access to the fish hold immediately following the offload in order to confirm all allocated groundfish were offloaded. The vessel operator and crew or dealer personnel must separate sublegal allocated groundfish catch by species, except in instances where the E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 11018 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules sublegal component of a high-volume target species (i.e., redfish, haddock, and pollock) is combined with fish in the terminal legal-sized market category. The vessel operator and crew or dealer personnel must also separate unmarketable fish from fish below the minimum size. NMFS also proposes requirements for Northeast multispecies dealers to facilitate DSM for MREM vessels. Federally permitted Northeast multispecies dealers would be required to allow dockside monitors access to their premises, scales, and any fish received from vessels participating in the MREM program for the purpose of collecting fish species and weights of fish received by the dealer, fish length measurements, and the collection of age structures such as otoliths or scales. The primary dealer would be required to retain all sublegal allocated groundfish catch in order to be weighed and sampled by the dockside monitor. Dealers would be required to clearly mark all containers containing sublegal catch to facilitate tracking, and would be required to provide settlement documents to the DSM program for any allocated groundfish forwarded to secondary dealers. This is intended to provide a ready means for dealers to show when they possess undersized fish landed from MREM vessels. The implementing regulations deemed by the Council inadvertently omitted this requirement, but it is included in the regulations proposed in this rule. We highlight this change from the deeming requirements to ensure the Council and the public have an opportunity to comment on this addition to the implementing regulations. Dealers would also be required to provide dockside monitors with access to facilities equivalent to what is provided to the dealer’s staff, including: A safe sampling station, with shelter from weather, for dockside monitors to conduct their duties and process catch; access to bathrooms; and access to facilities for washing equipment with fresh water. The intent of the dealer requirements is not to require dealers to create or provide facilities that do not already exist, but to ensure dockside monitors have access to facilities equivalent to what is available to the dealer’s staff. The proposed EM programs raise several implementation issues that NMFS is highlighting for comment. First, as noted above, NMFS proposes that vessels using EM must have their EM system operational and running on every sector groundfish trip, including trips that would be excluded from the ASM requirement, unless issued a VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 waiver by NMFS or assigned an ASM. Throughout the development of EM, we have found that vessels are most successful at complying with their VMP when it is followed on all groundfish trips. Further, this requirement is consistent with the Council’s intent that EM tools meet or exceed the ASM coverage target to ensure catch accountability. Vessels that are interested in fishing in ways that would be excluded from ASM (see ‘‘Exclusion from Monitoring Requirements for Certain Vessel Under Certain Conditions’’ below) may choose to use ASM, rather than adopting EM, and be excluded from the sector monitoring requirement on trips with low groundfish catch. Second, some discards of allocated groundfish occur on MREM trips and the Council should consider how to account for those fish. This would include operational discards (fish that drop out of the gear into the ocean, fish taken by birds), accidental discards, and intentional discards. These discards cannot always be estimated using EM technology. Third, vessels must discard any red hake in excess of the possession limit, but those fish cannot be distinguished from white hake using cameras. The Council may want to consider this interaction between the NE Multispecies FMP and the small-mesh fishery and potential methods for fully accounting for catch of these two stocks by MREM vessels. Determining Total Monitoring Coverage at a Time Certain Amendment 23 would require the Regional Administrator to determine the ASM coverage target at least 3 weeks prior to the annual sector enrollment deadline set by NMFS. The date NMFS announces the annual ASM coverage target in past years has varied from January 25 to March 26 and has sometimes been later than the sector roster deadline for that fishing year (see Table 65 in the EIS, see ADDRESSES). This action sets a fixed ASM coverage target; however, the monitoring coverage target is dependent on available Federal funding (see ‘‘ASM Coverage Target’’ above and ‘‘Higher Monitoring Coverage Levels if NMFS Funds Are Available’’ below). The Council identified the importance for industry to know the ASM coverage target at a time certain in advance of the start of the fishing year because the ASM coverage target may have industry costs when Federal funding cannot at least support NMFS and industry costs for a 40-percent ASM coverage target. Therefore, this rule proposes NMFS will announce the ASM coverage target at least 3 weeks before the annual sector PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 enrollment deadline set by NMFS, if Federal funding information is available. In years when Federal funding information is not available prior to the sector enrollment deadline, the ASM coverage target will be announced as soon as practicable. Review Process for Monitoring Coverage Rates As part of the revisions to the groundfish sector monitoring program, Amendment 23 includes a Council review process to evaluate the effectiveness of the increased ASM coverage target. The Council would undertake the review once two full fishing years of data are available (likely in year 3 following implementation), and periodically thereafter. The Council review process is intended to be flexible and somewhat general, but would include establishing metrics and indicators of how well the monitoring program improved accuracy while maximizing value and minimizing costs. As a priority for 2021, the Council recommended that the Groundfish Plan Development Team develop the review process metrics based on the Council’s final preferred alternatives in Amendment 23. The Council discussed that the scope of the review would be different if 100 percent coverage levels are selected compared to lower coverage levels. The Council selected a fixed ASM coverage target 100 percent of trips, but also selected a default ASM coverage target of 40-percent coverage in the event that Federal funds are not available to support industry costs for higher monitoring coverage. The review process if the ASM coverage target is 100 percent could include metrics such as discard estimate CVs and a measure of how catch (discards and landings) changed following implementation of comprehensive monitoring. For lower ASM coverage targets, the review may include additional metrics to ensure monitoring targets were met and were effective, and might include analyses of whether the program is operating in a way the Council intended, whether catch is being measured accurately, or whether there is evidence of bias. The intent of the review process is to evaluate whether the revised groundfish sector monitoring program, and particularly the increased ASM coverage target, is meeting the Council’s goal of improved accuracy of catch data and catch monitoring while maximizing the value of the data collected and minimizing the costs of the monitoring program. The Council would be responsible for the review and the results would support potential future Council action to refine the groundfish E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules sector monitoring program or revise the ASM coverage target. NMFS may also review the sector monitoring program to assist the Council in its review and to ensure the sector monitoring program meets requirements of the MagnusonStevens Act, particularly the requirement to specify ACLs at a level that prevents overfishing, including measures to ensure accountability. khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Waivers From Monitoring Requirements Amendment 23 includes a provision to allow waivers exempting individual vessels from industry-funded monitoring requirements, for either a trip or the fishing year, if coverage would be unavailable due to insufficient funding for NMFS administrative costs to meet the ASM coverage target. The waivers would include coverage for ASM and EM, including DSM for MREM vessels. Allowing the potential to issue these waivers preserves the Council’s intent to increase monitoring in the groundfish fishery without creating a requirement that could prevent vessels from participating in the groundfish fishery if monitoring coverage was not available. As described above, NMFS would evaluate available Federal funding each year (see ‘‘ASM Coverage Target’’ above). If NMFS determines that there is insufficient funding to pay for its cost responsibilities, as defined in § 648.11(g)(3), for an ASM coverage target of at least 40 percent, then vessels would continue to be required to notify NMFS of all trips through the PTNS, but NMFS would issue a waiver for a sector trip exempting the vessel from the sector monitoring program coverage requirements. If NMFS waives monitoring requirements due to insufficient funding, as part of its review the Council would consider whether changes to the FMP were necessary to ensure effective management if the ASM coverage target was less than 40 percent. Exclusion From Monitoring Requirements for Certain Vessel Under Certain Conditions Amendment 23 excludes sector fishing trips fished in their entirety west of 71°30′ W Longitude from the ASM requirement. The Council included this provision to minimize the costs of the overall increase in monitoring because the majority of groundfish are caught in waters east of this boundary. The catch composition includes little to no catch of many groundfish stocks, with substantial catch of a few groundfish stocks, for sector vessels fishing exclusively west of 71°30′ W Longitude (see Table 73 of the EIS). However, the VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 proportion of commercial catches for some stocks (Southern New England yellowtail flounder and winter flounder, southern windowpane flounder, and ocean pout) caught in this area has been over 25 percent in recent years. Vessels would continue to be required to notify NMFS of all trips through the PTNS, but NMFS would issue a waiver for a sector trip exempting the vessel from ASM on a trip fishing exclusively west of 71°30′ W Longitude. Vessels on a trip excluded from the ASM requirement under this provision would be required to comply with the VMS declaration requirements at § 648.10(g)(3), and the transiting requirements at § 648.81(e) when east of 71°30′ W Longitude. Vessels using EM to satisfy the sector monitoring requirement would be required to have their system turned on and comply with their vessel monitoring plan on all trips, including trips fishing exclusively west 71°30′ W Longitude. This proposed exclusion from the ASM requirements raises several implementation issues and concerns that NMFS is highlighting for comment and future Council consideration. First, as discussed in more detail above (see ‘‘Electronic Monitoring’’ above), NMFS proposes that vessels using EM must have their EM system operational and running on every sector groundfish trip, including trips that would otherwise be excluded from the ASM requirement under this provision, unless issued a waiver by NMFS or assigned an ASM. Therefore, this exclusion would not apply to EM vessels. Second, any catch of groundfish on these trips would not be monitored and because the 71°30′ W Longitude line splits three statistical areas (533, 537, and 539), some trips in those statistical areas will have ASM coverage and others will not, complicating any attempt to use observed trips to estimate catch on unobserved trips in those areas, including during the Council’s review (see ‘‘Review Process for Monitoring Coverage Rates’’ above). The Council should consider these issues when considering uncertainty buffers in future actions setting specifications. Review Process for Vessels Excluded Exempted From Commercial Groundfish Monitoring Program Requirements The monitoring revisions in Amendment 23 establish a process for reviewing measures that exclude certain vessels from the groundfish monitoring program requirements based on catch composition. This includes the existing gear-based exclusion from the ASM requirement, implemented by Framework 55, for sector trips that PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 11019 exclusively fish using gillnets of 10-inch (24.5-cm) or larger mesh in the Inshore Georges Bank and/or the Southern New England Broad Stock Areas; and the Amendment 23 provision excluding sector fishing trips taken in their entirety west of 71°30′ W Longitude (see ‘‘Exclusion from Monitoring Requirements for Certain Vessel Under Certain Conditions’’ above). The Council will conduct this review after two years of fishing data are available and every three years after that. The intent of the review process is to evaluate whether the trips excluded from the ASM requirement continue to catch small amounts of groundfish. The Council raised a concern that it did not want vessels to change their fishing behavior and target groundfish on trips excluded from the ASM requirement. The review would also be important to evaluate whether exclusions from the ASM requirement undermine the monitoring program or other measures of the FMP. The Council would be responsible for the review and the results would support potential future Council action. Higher Monitoring Coverage Levels if NMFS Funds Are Available Amendment 23 would allow for ASM at higher coverage levels than the ASM coverage target selected by the Council, up to 100 percent, if NMFS determines funding is available to cover the additional administrative costs to NMFS and sampling costs to industry in a given year. This measure would apply to year 5 and later, when the ASM coverage target would otherwise be 40 percent of sector trips. Monitoring coverage of 100 percent of trips, or as close to 100 percent as achievable increases the accuracy of catch estimates and at least reduces, if not eliminates, the potential for bias. Higher coverage levels, even for a limited time, could inform understanding of the magnitude of bias, and inform future actions on the value of higher monitoring coverage levels. ASM coverage of 100 percent of trips is currently considered to remove or reduce bias to the greatest extent practicable; however, it may be impracticable for industry or NMFS to fund costs associated with complete ASM coverage, resulting in a lower ASM coverage level. Higher levels of ASM coverage would substantially increase costs to NMFS and sectors. Making the ASM coverage target contingent on Federal funding for industry costs balances the need for improved monitoring with the economic impacts on the fishery. E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 11020 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Each year, NMFS would evaluate available Federal funding and determine how much Federal funding is available for the groundfish sector monitoring program and then use that in conjunction with other available information (e.g., recent monitoring costs, estimate of the number of vessels choosing EM) to calculate the ASM coverage target for the coming fishing year. Elimination of Management Uncertainty Buffer for Sector ACLs Amendment 23 includes an option to revise the management uncertainty buffer for the sector portion of the ACL for each allocated groundfish stock to be set to zero. The NE Multispecies includes a process for setting an overfishing limit (OFL) for groundfish stocks. The OFL represents the maximum amount of fish that can be caught in a year without resulting in overfishing. The Council typically recommends an acceptable biological catch (ABC) for a groundfish stock that is lower than the OFL to account for scientific uncertainty. The Council sets an ACL at a level below the ABC to account for management uncertainty, and this serves as a buffer to prevent the fishery from exceeding the ABC. The management uncertainty buffer accounts for the possibility that management measures will result in a level of catch greater than expected. The Council evaluates the management uncertainty buffers in each specification-setting action. The revised management uncertainty buffers would apply only to sectors, and not to the common pool component of the fishery, or other sub-ACLs or subcomponents for any stocks. The management uncertainty buffer may be removed only in years in which the ASM coverage target is 100 percent. The process by which the Council evaluates and sets management uncertainty buffers remains unchanged and the Council could adjust management uncertainty buffers in future actions. The need for a management uncertainty buffer for the sector sub-ACL would continue to be evaluated as part of each specification action. Monitoring adequacy, precision, and enforceability of management measures are three of the elements considered in setting the management uncertainty buffer. An ASM coverage target of 100 percent could minimize all of those sources of management uncertainty for the sector fishery. The full accountability associated with comprehensive monitoring could remove uncertainty about whether management measures successfully VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 restrain catch by sector vessels to the sector quotas. Eliminating uncertainty in quantifying true sector catch could make the management uncertainty buffer unnecessary for the sector program. Removing the buffer provides direct benefits to the fishery by providing opportunity for additional catch and revenue. Increased catch and revenue may reduce the net costs of increased monitoring. NMFS would make an annual determination prior to the start of the fishing year as to whether the buffers would be eliminated based on the ASM coverage target set for the fishing year. If Federal funds are not available for 100 percent ASM coverage and a lower target coverage level is set, the management uncertainty buffers would be in place for that fishing year, subject to the Council’s review as part of each specification action. If 100-percent monitoring coverage is determined not to be effective, or if any additional elements evaluated when setting the management uncertainty buffers have the potential to result in catches that could exceed ACLs, the PDT would recommend an appropriate management uncertainty buffer for the sector subACLs as part of actions setting specifications. This proposed elimination of the uncertainty buffer for sectors raises several issues that NMFS is highlighting for comment and future Council consideration. First, as discussed above, Amendment 23 excludes sector fishing trips taken in their entirety west of 71°30′ W Longitude from the ASM requirement, but for some stocks (southern New England yellowtail flounder and winter flounder, southern windowpane flounder, and ocean pout) catch in this area has been over 25 percent in recent years. Further, 71°30′ W Longitude splits three statistical areas (533, 537, and 539), making estimation of catch on those trips more complicated. Second, some operational discards (e.g., fish fall from the net, birds steal fish) of allocated groundfish occur on MREM trips and the Council should consider how to account for those fish. Third, eliminating the uncertainty buffer from the sector allocations would result in negligible sector carryover because sector carryover from one year to the next is limited by the management uncertainty buffer between the ACL and ABC in year 2. These issues arose after the Council made its final decision on Amendment 23. We highlight these issues to ensure the Council and the public have an opportunity to comment on how NMFS proposes to address these issues. PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Sector Reporting Amendment 23 would authorize the Regional Administrator to modify the sector monitoring requirements at § 648.87(b)(1)(v) and the sector reporting requirements at § 648.87(b)(1)(vi) to streamline the sector reporting process. Each week, each sector must submit to NMFS a summary catch report, including quota balances; a detailed catch report with catch for each trip; and a trip issue report detailing any enforcement or reporting compliance issues, violations of sector operations and regulations, and general problems with monitoring or sector operations. When a sector has caught 90 percent of any quota, that sector must submit daily catch reports. Each sector must also submit an annual report that summarizes the fishing activities of participating vessels. More efficient methods might be developed that would still involve timely monitoring and reconciliation of data sources between sectors and NMFS. For example, NMFS could eliminate the requirement for sectors to submit weekly and daily reports and instead provide monitoring summaries for the sectors to use for catch accounting and managing annual catch entitlements, while continuing the process where NMFS and sectors reconcile catch data to confirm accuracy. Authorizing the Regional Administrator to streamline the sector reporting process could help to reduce reporting redundancies, provide flexibility to sectors and sector managers, and improve timeliness of data processing. As discussed above (see ‘‘Electronic Monitoring’’), Amendment 23 specified that vessels using Audit Model EM in place of ASM would be required to report discards at the haul level. However, the current operational Audit Model allows vessels to report discards at the sub-trip level, rather than the haul level. As part of implementing Amendment 23, NMFS proposes using the authority to streamline sector reporting requirements to allow vessels using the Audit Model to continue reporting discards at the sub-trip level, rather than the haul level, and is soliciting comment on this proposal. Addition to List of Framework Items The regulations at § 648.90 list management measures that may be changed or implemented through specifications or framework actions. During the development of Amendment 23, the Council identified a list of specific issues that may be addressed through future specifications actions or E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules framework adjustments. All alternatives considered in Amendment 23 would be added to the list of FMP items that may be considered in a future framework. Specifically, this includes: • The addition of new sector monitoring tools (e.g., EM, other technologies or approaches) that meet or exceed the Council’s selected monitoring standard; • Setting vessel-specific coverage targets instead of coverage targets applicable at the sector level; and • All the Amendment 23 measures discussed in detail above. Amendment 23 includes two options for electronic monitoring that would be available for sectors to include in their operations plans without requiring a separate determination of sufficiency by NMFS. Further evolution of technology or development of analytical methods could lead to additional or better tools for achieving the goals of the monitoring program. It is not possible to forecast technology changes, but it is expected that in the future there may be additional technologies that would benefit the monitoring program that the Council could adopt through a framework. A vessel-specific coverage level would require each vessel to meet the target coverage level, rather than evaluating the target at the sector level. The intent would be to reduce the variation in the amount of industryfunded monitoring coverage applicable to each vessel. The intent of adding all alternatives considered in Amendment 23 to the list of framework items is to allow adjustments to groundfish monitoring program to be considered in a framework action. This would support a Council response to the new review requirements that would be implemented as part of Amendment 23. The regulations at § 648.90(a)(2)(iii) would be revised to specify that the Council could consider these items in a future framework adjustment. Regulatory Adjustments and Corrections Under Regional Administrator Authority NMFS is proposing several changes to the regulations consistent with section 305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which provides that the Secretary of Commerce may promulgate regulations necessary to ensure that amendments to an FMP are carried out in accordance with the FMP and the MagnusonStevens Act. These adjustments do not make any substantive changes to the 11021 current regulations, but are intended to improve the clarity of the regulations. First, NMFS would revise § 648.2 to add definitions of terms related to EM that are used in the implementing regulations for Amendment 23 and clarify and consolidate definitions related to individuals that collect data for NMFS. Second, NMFS would move the sector monitoring program regulations from § 648.87 to § 648.11. Third, NMFS would revise § 648.11 to update the names of divisions within NMFS. Fourth, NMFS would revise §§ 648.2, 648.10, 648.11, 648.14, 648.51, 648.80, 648.86, and 648.202 to clarify that individuals undergoing observer training are included in regulatory provisions that apply to certified observers. Finally, NMFS would revise § 648.14(k) to correct a typographical error where text is missing and to clarify application of the prohibitions to EM. Finally, due to the extensive regulatory changes in this action, we are updating references throughout the groundfish regulations that will change based on the proposed regulatory adjustments. We have included a summary of all of the proposed regulatory changes in this rule in Table 1. TABLE 1—SUMMARY OF PROPOSED REGULATORY CHANGES TO 50 CFR PART 648 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Section Authority Summary of proposed changes § 648.2 ................... Amendment 23 and 305(d). § 648.10 ................. § 648.11 ................. 305(d) ................... Amendment 23 and 305(d). § 648.14 ................. Amendment 23 and 305(d). § 648.51 ................. § 648.80 ................. § 648.83(a)(1) ........ 305(d) ................... 305(d) ................... Amendment 23 ..... § 648.85 ................. § 648.86 ................. Amendment 23 and 305(d). Amendment 23 ..... § 648.87 ................. Amendment 23 ..... § 648.90 ................. Amendment 23 ..... VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 The existing definition of ‘‘electronic monitoring’’ is revised and new definitions for ‘‘electronic monitoring audit model’’ and ‘‘electronic monitoring maximized retention model’’ are added to address the EM models included in Amendment 23. A new definition for ‘‘electronic monitoring provider staff’’ is added to accommodate monitoring staff that are not involved in at-sea or dockside monitoring tasks. The existing definition of ‘‘observer/sea sampler’’ is deleted and the existing definition of ‘‘observer or monitor’’ is revised to cover any person, including trainees, who collects observer information, operational fishing data, biological data, or economic data for conservation and management purposes, whether they work on a vessel or on shore. The definitions of ‘‘slippage in the Atlantic herring fishery,’’ ‘‘slip(s) or slipping catch in the Atlantic herring fishery,’’ and ‘‘video reviewer’’ are revised to include staff in training. Paragraph (f)(4)(i) is revised to include staff in training. The monitoring coverage regulations are revised to include the groundfish sector monitoring program regulations currently codified in § 648.87. The newly added groundfish sector monitoring program regulations include revisions and additions to the text formerly codified in § 648.87 to incorporate the proposed measures to implement Amendment 23. This section is also revised to clarify the insurance requirements for monitoring providers, to clarify that individuals undergoing observer training are included in regulatory provisions that apply to certified observers, and to update the names of divisions within NMFS. The prohibitions are revised to address new regulations implementing Amendment 23 and to revise citations associated with moving the groundfish sector monitoring program regulations currently codified in § 648.87 to § 648.11. The prohibitions are also revised to address changes to the definitions in § 648.2 that include monitoring staff that are not involved in at-sea or dockside monitoring tasks and trainees. Prohibitions are added to address the dockside monitoring requirements applicable to dealers at § 648.11 that implement Amendment 23. Section 648.14(k)(3) is revised to incorporate missing text stating it is prohibited to engage in the behaviors listed in sub-paragraphs. Sections 648.14(i)(1)(ix)(B) and (r)(2)(iv) are also revised to include staff in training. §§ 648.51(c)(4) and (e)(3)(iii) are revised to include staff in training. §§ 648.80(d)(3) and (e)(2)(ii) are revised to include staff in training. The text regarding minimum fish sizes for commercial vessels is revised to exclude fish landed by MREM vessels from the minimum sizes to implement Amendment 23. Section 648.85(e)(1)(viii)(C) is revised to address the participation of MREM vessels in the universal sector exemption for targeting redfish. The text regarding NE multispecies possession limits for commercial vessels is revised to exclude fish landed by MREM vessels to implement Amendment 23. Section 648.86(a)(3)(ii)(A)(1) is also revised to include staff in training. Section 648.87 is revised by removing the groundfish sector monitoring program regulations that are being moved to § 648.11, redesignating the remaining paragraphs, and updating citations to the new locations of the monitoring regulations. Section 648.90 is revised to include all Amendment 23 measures as frameworkable items. The potential to implement vessel-specific ASM coverage targets was also added to the list of frameworkable items consistent with Amendment 23. New regulatory text was added specifying that the sector portion of the management uncertainty buffer for allocated stocks would be set to zero when the coverage target is 100 percent, unless the Council chooses to incorporate a different amount of management uncertainty for sectors. Jkt 256001 PO 00000 Frm 00031 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 11022 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS TABLE 1—SUMMARY OF PROPOSED REGULATORY CHANGES TO 50 CFR PART 648—Continued Section Authority § 648.202 ............... 305(d) ................... Summary of proposed changes Section 648.202(b)(1) is revised to include staff in training. Classification NMFS is issuing this rule pursuant to sections 304(b)(1)(A) and 305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which provide specific authority for implementing this action. Pursuant to Magnuson-Stevens Act section 305(d), this action is necessary to carry out the NE Multispecies FMP, through administrative changes revising the existing implementing regulations for the groundfish sector monitoring program to be consistent with the industry-funded monitoring program regulations, moving the groundfish monitoring program implementing regulations to the same chapter as other industry-funded monitoring programs, and improving the clarity of the existing regulations. Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has made a preliminary determination that this proposed rule is consistent with the NE Multispecies FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. The New England Fishery Management Council prepared a final environmental impact statement for Amendment 23 to the NE Multispecies FMP; a notice of availability was published on January 21, 2022 (87 FR 3298). A target ASM coverage rate of 100 percent, higher than past and current coverage levels, will be in place, if sufficient Federal funds are available, which should result in more accurate information on catch (landings and discards) of target and non-target species, and fully account for discard mortality. In the short term, improved catch accounting is expected to reduce fishing effort and fishing mortality, which in the long term should allow for rebuilding of overfished stocks. In the longer-term analytical assessments should improve with better catch data. If the proposed coverage level target of 100 percent results in reduced groundfish fishing activity, then it may provide some minor short-term benefits to habitat. Over the long term, if 100percent coverage contributes to higher catch limits, fishing effort could increase in the future, which could have negative impacts to habitat. The modifications in management measures may indirectly affect protected resources, but are not expected to have VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 substantial impacts on protected resources. This action is expected to have a range of potential socioeconomic impacts, depending on the availability of Federal funding for monitoring and the ultimate ASM coverage target. A target at-sea monitoring coverage rate of 100 percent will be in place, if sufficient Federal funds are available, which will result in relatively neutral impacts on operating costs compared to those under past and current coverage levels. However, if no Federal funding is available, the ASM coverage rate target would be 40 percent, which would increase fleet wide operating costs by an estimated $2.09 million per year. Economic effects could be lower if any subsidy is available to offset the cost of monitoring, or depending on the number of vessels that use electronic monitoring (EM) in lieu of human at-sea monitoring. Initial costs of installing and purchasing EM equipment may be high which may have negative impacts in the short term, if not subsidized, but over the long term EM may be more cost effective than human at-sea monitors. EM is expected to be more cost effective for vessels who fish more in the groundfish fishery (i.e., greater than 20 days per year). Based on the amount of available funds that have been allocated to reimburse sectors for monitoring as of 2021, there appears to be sufficient funds for at least 2 years of 100-percent monitoring starting in fishing year 2022. In addition, 100-percent at-sea monitoring coverage may be seen as overly burdensome by fishing communities. However, under 100percent monitoring coverage the enforceability of the FMP and the risk of non-compliance both improve, which should improve the fairness and equitability of management measures. In the short term, economic impacts of 100-percent at-sea monitoring coverage on human communities would be reduced while Federal reimbursements for monitoring costs are available. Impacts over the long term will vary depending on whether Federal reimbursements of monitoring costs continue into the future. This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. An initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A copy of the IRFA, contained in the Environmental Impact Statement, is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). A description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for this action are contained at the beginning of this section in the preamble and in the SUMMARY section of the preamble. No relevant Federal rules duplicate, overlap, or conflict with this proposed rule. A summary of the analysis follows. Description of the Reasons Why Action by the Agency Is Being Considered and Statement of the Objectives of, and Legal Basis for, This Proposed Rule This action is taken under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and regulations at 50 CFR part 648. The primary purpose of this action is to improve accounting of landings and discards in the commercial groundfish fishery, while also taking into account the costs of such monitoring. Catch of commercial groundfish in the sector component of the fishery is managed via a quota system, where pounds of each groundfish species are allocated annually to sectors (essentially cooperatives) and all fish caught, including discards, must be accounted against these shares of quota. Quota shares (pounds) are ‘‘leased’’ (traded) among sectors, with each sector agreeing to a lease price prior to executing the trade. Catch that is discarded or landed without accounting would save sectors and the businesses that comprise those sectors the value of the leased quota pounds. To ensure that all sectors are accountable to their annual allocations, various monitoring methods were considered in Amendment 23. Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities to Which This Proposed Rule Would Apply This action would regulate all commercial fishing businesses issued a Federal limited access NE multispecies vessel permit and/or a NE multispecies dealer permit. As of June 1, 2020, NMFS had issued 828 commercial limited access groundfish permits associated with vessels and 148 permits associated with dealers. Therefore, 976 permits are regulated by this action. Each vessel or dealer may be individually owned or part of a larger corporate ownership E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules structure, and for RFA purposes, it is the ownership entity that ultimately would be regulated by the proposed action. Ownership entities are identified on June 1 of each year, based on the list of all permit numbers, for the most recent complete calendar year, that have applied for any type of Northeast Federal fishing permit. The current ownership data set is based on calendar year 2019 permits and contains gross sales associated with those permits for calendar years 2017 through 2019. For RFA purposes only, NMFS has established a small business size standard for businesses, including their affiliates, whose primary industry is commercial fishing (see 50 CFR 200.2). A business primarily engaged in commercial fishing (NAICS code 11411) is classified as a small business if it is independently owned and operated, is not dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and has combined annual receipts not in excess of $11 million for all its affiliated operations worldwide. The determination as to whether the entity is large or small is based on the average annual revenue for the three years from 2017 through 2019. Ownership data collected from vessel permit holders indicate that there are 667 distinct business entities that hold at least one vessel permit regulated by the proposed action. Of these, all are engaged primarily in commercial fishing, and 80 did not have any revenues (were inactive) in 2019. Of these distinct business entities, 661 are categorized as small entities and 6 are categorized as large entities, per the NMFS guidelines. Ownership data collected from dealer permit holders indicate there are 148 distinct business entities that hold at least one dealer permit regulated by this action. Of these, 135 distinct businesses are categorized as small entities and 13 are categorized as large entities, per the NMFS guidelines. khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Rules Which May Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With This Proposed Rule The proposed action does not duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any other Federal rules. Description of Significant Alternatives to the Proposed Action Which Accomplish the Stated Objectives of Applicable Statutes and Which Minimize Any Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities The New England Fishery Management Council selected all alternatives that met the objectives of the action, and minimized costs, to provide regulated businesses the ability VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 to choose the monitoring options that best suit their operations while meeting the catch accounting requirements. Description of the Projected Reporting, Record-Keeping, and Other Compliance Requirements of This Proposed Rule A description of the projected reporting, recordkeeping, and other compliance requirements of this proposed action, including an estimate of the classes of small entities that will be subject to the requirements is contained in the Notice of Information Collection published December 17, 2021 (86 FR 71624), and summarized below. This proposed rule contains a collection-of-information requirement subject to review and approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). This rule revises, and renews, the existing requirements for the collection of information 0648– 0605, titled ‘‘Northeast Multispecies Amendment 16.’’ These revisions are due to an increased monitoring and reporting burden from higher ASM coverage targets; additional reporting and data collection through voluntary options for sector monitoring tools (audit model EM and MREM); potential for increases or decreases in monitoring and reporting burden as a result of coverage level changes from funding provisions; and an additional VMS declaration required for vessels fishing on a trip exclusively west of 71°30′ W longitude to be excluded from the ASM requirement. In 2010, we implemented a new suite of regulations for the NE multispecies fishery through Amendment 16 to the NE Multispecies FMP. Amendment 16 required sectors to develop and fund an independent third-party ASM program. Amendment 16 allowed sectors to use EM instead of human monitors to meet ASM requirements, provided that the Greater Atlantic Regional Administrator deemed EM sufficient. Using the authority and process granted to it in Amendment 16, NMFS announced its determination that sectors may use EM to meet monitoring requirements (86 FR 16686; March 31, 2021). To implement this change, we are proposing to collect additional data elements necessary to support an EM program. Specifically, we propose to require the development and submission of VMPs and trip-level feedback reports, both of which are critical for accurate catch data and management of ACLs. We also propose to require the collection of information related to the purchase and installation of EM equipment. This is necessary for NMFS to reimburse industry’s ASM PO 00000 Frm 00033 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 11023 costs as directed and funded by Congressional appropriations. We estimate 1,309 entities will be subject to the existing and new elements of the information collection. The estimated total annual burden hours are 73,198. The estimated total annual cost to the public is $10,632,454 in recordkeeping and reporting costs. These estimates include the time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information. The estimated time per response varies by item within the suite of information collected, as follows: Sector operations plan and membership list updates, 110 hours; monitoring service provider initial application, 10 hours; monitoring service provider response to application disapproval, 10 hours; data entry for sector discard monitoring system, 3 minutes; sector weekly catch report, 4 hours; sector annual report, 10 hours; notification of expulsion from a sector, 30 minutes; request to transfer sector annual catch entitlement, 5 minutes; request to lease DAS, 5 minutes; request to downgrade DAS baseline, 5 minutes; VMS area and DAS declaration, 5 minutes; VMS triplevel catch report; VMS daily catch reports when fishing in multiple broad stock areas, 15 minutes; daily VMS catch reports when fishing in the U.S./ Canada Management Area and Closed Area II Special Access Programs, 15 minutes; daily VMS catch reports when fishing in the Regular B DAS Program, 15 minutes; pre-trip hail report, 2 minutes; trip-end hail report, 15 minutes; pre-trip notification system notification, 2 minutes; vessel notification of selection for ASM coverage, 5 minutes; at-sea monitor deployment report, 10 minutes; ASM and EM service provider catch report to NMFS upon request, 5 minutes; at-sea monitor or EM staff report of harassment, safety concerns, and other issues, 30 minutes; ASM and EM service provider contracts upon request, 30 minutes; ASM and EM service provider information materials upon request, 30 minutes; EM VMP development and submission, 2 hours; EM vessel feedback letters, 30 minutes; EM equipment installation, 16 hours; EM equipment purchase and installation reimbursement form, 30 minutes; Office of Law Enforcement debriefing of at-sea monitors and EM staff, 2 hours; ASM database and data entry requirements, 0 minutes; DAS Transfer Program, 5minutes; submission of proposed special access programs, 20 hours; and E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 11024 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules NAFO Reporting Requirements, 23 hours. Public comment is sought regarding: 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; the accuracy of the burden estimate; ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology. Submit comments on these or any other aspects of the collection of information at www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAMain. Notwithstanding any other provisions of the law, no person is required to respond to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the requirements of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays a currently valid OMB Control Number. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648 Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Dated: February 14, 2022. 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 648 is proposed to be amended as follows: PART 648—FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES 1. The authority citation for part 648 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. Section 648.2 is amended by: a. Revising the definition for ‘‘Electronic monitoring’’; ■ b. Adding the definition for ‘‘Electronic monitoring audit model’’; ■ c. Adding the definition for ‘‘Electronic monitoring maximized retention model’’; ■ d. Adding the definition for ‘‘Electronic monitoring provider staff’’; ■ e. Revising the definition for ‘‘Observer or monitor’’; ■ f. Removing the definition for ‘‘Observer/sea sampler’’; ■ g. Republishing in alphabetical order the definition of ‘‘Ocean quahog’’. ■ h. Revising the definition for ‘‘Slippage in the Atlantic herring fishery’’; ■ i. Revising the definition for ‘‘Slip(s) or slipping catch in the Atlantic herring fishery’’; and khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS ■ ■ VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 j. Revising the definition for ‘‘Video reviewer’’. The revisions and additions read as follows: ■ § 648.2 Definitions. * * * * * Electronic monitoring means a network of equipment that uses a software operating system connected to one or more technology components, including, but not limited to, cameras and recording devices to collect data on catch and vessel operations. With respect to the groundfish sector monitoring program, electronic monitoring means any equipment that is used to meet sector monitoring requirements in lieu of at-sea monitors as part of an approved sector at-sea monitoring program, including the audit model and maximized retention model. Electronic monitoring audit model with respect to the groundfish sector monitoring program means a program in which all eligible trips must be electronically monitored; discards are reported at the haul level; fish must be handled in view of cameras; species identification and length must be collected for regulated species and ocean pout discards for catch estimation; allowed discarding must occur at controlled points in view of cameras; and electronic monitoring data are compared to the area fished, regulated species and ocean pout discards, and other information reported on the vessel trip report on a subset of trips for validation. * * * * * Electronic monitoring maximized retention model with respect to the groundfish sector monitoring program, means a program in which all eligible trips are electronically monitored; fish must be handled in view of cameras; allowed discarding must occur at controlled points in view of cameras; all allocated regulated species stocks must be retained; electronic monitoring is used to verify compliance; and offloads are subject to observation by dockside monitors. * * * * * Electronic monitoring provider staff means any video reviewer, or any person employed or contracted by an electronic monitoring service provider to provide electronic monitoring services to vessels. * * * * * Observer or monitor means any person authorized by NMFS to collect observer information, operational fishing data, biological data, or economic data for conservation and management purposes on or from PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 fishing vessels or federally permitted dealers as required by the regulations, including, but not limited to, observers, at-sea monitors, observer/sea samplers, portside samplers, or dockside monitors. Ocean quahog means the species Arctica islandica. * * * * * Slippage in the Atlantic herring fishery means discarded catch from a vessel issued an Atlantic herring permit that is carrying an observer or monitor prior to the catch being brought on board or prior to the catch being made available for sampling and inspection by an observer or monitor after the catch is on board. Slippage also means any catch that is discarded during a trip prior to it being sampled portside by a portside sampler on a trip selected for portside sampling coverage by NMFS. Slippage includes releasing catch from a codend or seine prior to the completion of pumping the catch aboard and the release of catch from a codend or seine while the codend or seine is in the water. Fish that cannot be pumped and remain in the codend or seine at the end of pumping operations are not considered slippage. Discards that occur after the catch is brought on board and made available for sampling and inspection by an observer or monitor are also not considered slippage. * * * * * Slip(s) or slipping catch in the Atlantic herring fishery means discarded catch from a vessel issued an Atlantic herring permit that is carrying an observer or monitor prior to the catch being brought on board or prior to the catch being made available for sampling and inspection by an observer or monitor after the catch is on board. Slip(s) or slipping catch also means any catch that is discarded during a trip prior to it being sampled portside by a portside sampler on a trip selected for portside sampling coverage by NMFS. Slip(s) or slipping catch includes releasing fish from a codend or seine prior to the completion of pumping the fish on board and the release of fish from a codend or seine while the codend or seine is in the water. Slippage or slipped catch refers to fish that are slipped. Slippage or slipped catch does not include operational discards, discards that occur after the catch is brought on board and made available for sampling and inspection by an observer or monitor, or fish that inadvertently fall out of or off fishing gear as gear is being brought on board the vessel. * * * * * Video reviewer means any electronic monitoring service provider staff E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules approved/certified or training to be approved/certified by NMFS for providing electronic monitoring video review services consistent with electronic monitoring program requirements. * * * * * ■ 3. Section 648.10 is amended by revising paragraph (f)(4)(i) to read as follows: § 648.10 VMS and DAS requirements for vessel owners/operators. * * * * * (f) * * * (4) * * * (i) For trips greater than 24 hours, the owner or operator of a limited access or LAGC scallop vessel with an IFQ permit that fishes for, possesses, or retains scallops, and is not fishing under a NE Multispecies DAS or sector allocation, must submit reports through the VMS, in accordance with instructions to be provided by the Regional Administrator, for each day fished, including open area trips, access area trips as described in § 648.59(b)(9), Northern Gulf of Maine RSA trips, and trips accompanied by an observer. The reports must be submitted for each day (beginning at 0000 hr and ending at 2400 hr) and not later than 0900 hr of the following day. Such reports must include the following information: (A) VTR serial number; (B) Date fish were caught; (C) Total pounds of scallop meats kept; and (D) Total pounds of all fish kept. * * * * * ■ 4. Section 648.11 is amended by: ■ a. Revising paragraphs (a), (b), (d), (h)(1), (h)(3)(vii), (h)(3)(ix) and (x), (h)(5)(i) through (iv), (h)(5)(vi) and (vii), (h)(7), (i)(1) and (2), (i)(3)(i), (i)(4)(ii), (i)(5) and (6); ■ b. Adding paragraph (i)(7); and ■ c. Revising paragraphs (j), (k)(4)(i) and (ii), (l), (m)(1)(i) and (v), (m)(2)(iii)(A), (m)(4)(i), (m)(6) introductory text, and (n)(2) introductory text. The revisions and addition read as follows: khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS § 648.11 Monitoring coverage. (a) Coverage. The Regional Administrator may request any vessel holding a permit for Atlantic sea scallops, NE multispecies, monkfish, skates, Atlantic mackerel, squid, butterfish, scup, black sea bass, bluefish, spiny dogfish, Atlantic herring, tilefish, Atlantic surfclam, ocean quahog, or Atlantic deep-sea red crab; or a moratorium permit for summer flounder; to carry a fisheries observer. A vessel holding a permit for Atlantic sea scallops is subject to the additional VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 requirements specific in paragraph (g) of this section. Also, any vessel or vessel owner/operator that fishes for, catches or lands hagfish, or intends to fish for, catch, or land hagfish in or from the exclusive economic zone must carry a fisheries observer when requested by the Regional Administrator in accordance with the requirements of this section. The requirements of this section do not apply to vessels with only a Federal private recreational tilefish permit. (b) Facilitating coverage. If requested by the Regional Administrator or their designees, including observers, monitors, and NMFS staff, to be sampled by an observer or monitor, it is the responsibility of the vessel owner or vessel operator to arrange for and facilitate observer or monitor placement. Owners or operators of vessels selected for observer or monitor coverage must notify the appropriate monitoring service provider before commencing any fishing trip that may result in the harvest of resources of the respective fishery. Notification procedures will be specified in selection letters to vessel owners or permit holder letters. * * * * * (d) Vessel requirements associated with coverage. An owner or operator of a vessel on which an observer or monitor is embarked must: (1) Provide accommodations and food that are equivalent to those provided to the crew. (2) Allow the observer or monitor access to and use of the vessel’s communications equipment and personnel upon request for the transmission and receipt of messages related to the observer’s or monitor’s duties. (3) Provide true vessel locations, by latitude and longitude or loran coordinates, as requested by the observer or monitor, and allow the observer or monitor access to and use of the vessel’s navigation equipment and personnel upon request to determine the vessel’s position. (4) Notify the observer or monitor in a timely fashion of when fishing operations are to begin and end. (5) Allow for the embarking and debarking of the observer or monitor, as specified by the Regional Administrator, ensuring that transfers of observers or monitors at sea are accomplished in a safe manner, via small boat or raft, during daylight hours as weather and sea conditions allow, and with the agreement of the observers or monitors involved. (6) Allow the observer or monitor free and unobstructed access to the vessel’s PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 11025 bridge, working decks, holding bins, weight scales, holds, and any other space used to hold, process, weigh, or store fish. (7) Allow the observer or monitor to inspect and copy any the vessel’s log, communications log, and records associated with the catch and distribution of fish for that trip. * * * * * (h) * * * (1) General. An entity seeking to provide monitoring services, including services for IFM Programs described in paragraph (g) of this section, must apply for and obtain approval from NMFS following submission of a complete application. Monitoring services include providing observers, monitors (at-sea monitors and portside samplers), and/or electronic monitoring. A list of approved monitoring service providers shall be distributed to vessel owners and shall be posted on the NMFS Fisheries Sampling Branch (FSB) website: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ resource/data/observer-providersnortheast-and-mid-atlantic-programs. * * * * * (3) * * * (vii) Evidence of holding adequate insurance to cover injury, liability, and accidental death for any observers, monitors (at-sea or dockside/roving monitors), or electronic monitoring provider staff who provide electronic monitoring services onboard vessels, whether contracted or directly employed by the service provider, during their period of employment (including during training). (A) A monitoring service provider must hold Workers’ Compensation and Maritime Employer’s Liability for observers, monitors, vessel owners, and their operations. The minimum combined coverage required is $5 million. (B) An electronic monitoring service provider must hold Worker’s Compensation and commercial general liability coverage for electronic monitoring provider staff. The minimum combined coverage required is $1 million. (C) Upon request by a vessel owner, operator, or vessel manager, a monitoring service provider must provide a certificate of insurance, or other evidence, that demonstrates they have the required coverages under (A) and (B) of this paragraph as appropriate. * * * * * (ix) The names of its fully equipped certified observers, monitors, or video reviewers on staff; or a list of its training candidates (with resumes) and a request for an appropriate NMFS-certified E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 11026 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules Training class. All training classes have a minimum class size of eight individuals, which may be split among multiple vendors requesting training. Requests for training classes with fewer than eight individuals will be delayed until further requests make up the full training class size. (x) An Emergency Action Plan (EAP) describing its response to an emergency with an observer, monitor, or electronic monitoring provider staff on a vessel at sea or in port, including, but not limited to, personal injury, death, harassment, or intimidation. The EAP shall include communications protocol and appropriate contact information in an emergency. * * * * * (5) Responsibilities of monitoring service providers. To maintain an approved monitoring service provider status, a monitoring service provider, including electronic monitoring service providers, must demonstrate an ability to provide or support the following monitoring services: (i) Certified observers or monitors. Provide observers or monitors that have passed a NMFS-certified Observer or Monitor Training class pursuant to paragraph (i) of this section for deployment in a fishery when contacted and contracted by the owner, operator, or vessel manager of a fishing vessel, unless the monitoring service provider refuses to deploy an observer or monitor on a requesting vessel for any of the reasons specified at paragraph (h)(5)(viii) of this section. (ii) Support for observers, monitors, or electronic monitoring provider staff. Ensure that each of its observers, monitors, or electronic monitoring provider staff procures or is provided with the following: (A) All necessary transportation, lodging costs and support for arrangements and logistics of travel for observers, monitors, or electronic monitoring provider staff to and from the initial location of deployment, to all subsequent vessel assignments, to any debriefing locations, and for appearances in Court for monitoringrelated trials as necessary; (B) Lodging, per diem, and any other services necessary for observers, monitors, or electronic monitoring provider staff assigned to a fishing vessel or to attend an appropriate NMFS training class; (C) The required observer, monitor, or electronic monitoring equipment, in accordance with equipment requirements, prior to any deployment and/or prior to certification training; and VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 (D) Individually assigned communication equipment, in working order, such as a mobile phone, for all necessary communication. A monitoring service provider may alternatively compensate observers or monitors for the use of the observer’s or monitor’s personal mobile phone, or other device, for communications made in support of, or necessary for, the observer’s or monitor’s duties. (iii) Deployment logistics. (A) Assign an available observer or monitor to a vessel upon request. For service providers contracted to meet the requirements of the NE multispecies monitoring program in paragraph (l) of this section, assign available at-sea monitors, electronic monitoring provider staff, and other approved at-sea monitoring mechanisms fairly and equitably in a manner that represents fishing activities within each sector throughout the fishing year without regard to any sector manager or vessel representative preference. (B) Enable an owner, operator, or manager of a vessel to secure monitoring coverage or electronic monitoring technical support when requested, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week via a telephone or other notification system that is monitored a minimum of four times daily to ensure rapid response to industry requests. (iv) Observer deployment limitations. (A) A candidate observer’s first several deployments and the resulting data shall be immediately edited and approved after each trip by NMFS prior to any further deployments by that observer. If data quality is considered acceptable, the observer would be certified. (B) For the purpose of coverage to meet SBRM requirements, unless alternative arrangements are approved by NMFS, a monitoring service provider must not deploy any observer on the same vessel for more than two consecutive multi-day trips, and not more than twice in any given month for multi-day deployments. (C) For the purpose of coverage to meet IFM requirements, a monitoring service provider may deploy any observer or monitor on the same vessel for more than two consecutive multiday trips and more than twice in any given month for multi-day deployments. * * * * * (vi) Observer and monitor training requirements. Ensure all observers and monitors attend and complete a NMFScertified Observer or Monitor Training class. Requests for training must be submitted to NMFS 45 calendar days in advance of the requested training. The PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 following information must be submitted to NMFS at least 15 business days prior to the beginning of the proposed training: A list of observer or monitor candidates; candidate resumes, cover letters and academic transcripts; and a statement signed by the candidate, under penalty of perjury, that discloses the candidate’s criminal convictions, if any. A medical report certified by a physician for each candidate is required 7 business days prior to the first day of training. CPR/First Aid certificates and a final list of training candidates with candidate contact information (email, phone, number, mailing address and emergency contact information) are due 7 business days prior to the first day of training. NMFS may reject a candidate for training if the candidate does not meet the minimum qualification requirements as outlined by NMFS minimum eligibility standards for observers or monitors as described on the National Observer Program website: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/ fishery-observers#become-an-observer. (vii) Reports and Requirements. (A) Deployment reports. (1) Report to NMFS when, where, to whom, and to what vessel an observer or monitor has been deployed, as soon as practicable, and according to requirements outlined by NMFS. The deployment report must be available and accessible to NMFS electronically 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. (2) Ensure that the raw (unedited) data collected by the observer or monitor is provided to NMFS at the specified time per program. Electronic data submission protocols will be outlined in training and may include accessing government websites via personal computers/devices or submitting data through government issued electronics. (B) Safety refusals. Report to NMFS any trip or landing that has been refused due to safety issues (e.g., failure to hold a valid USCG Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Examination Decal or to meet the safety requirements of the observer’s or monitor’s safety checklist) within 12 hours of the refusal. (C) Biological samples. Ensure that biological samples, including whole marine mammals, sea turtles, sea birds, and fin clips or other DNA samples, are stored/handled properly and transported to NMFS within 5 days of landing. If transport to NMFS Observer Training Facility is not immediately available then whole animals requiring freezing shall be received by the nearest NMFS freezer facility within 24 hours of vessel landing. (D) Debriefing. Ensure that the observer, monitor, or electronic E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules monitoring provider staff remains available to NMFS, either in-person or via phone, at NMFS’ discretion, including NMFS Office of Law Enforcement, for debriefing for at least 2 weeks following any monitored trip/ offload or electronic monitoring trip report submission. If requested by NMFS, an observer or monitor that is at sea during the 2-week period must contact NMFS upon his or her return. Monitoring service providers must pay for travel and land hours for any requested debriefings. (E) Availability report. The monitoring service provider must report to NMFS any inability to respond to an industry request for observer or monitor coverage due to the lack of available observers or monitors as soon as practicable. Availability report must be available and accessible to NMFS electronically 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. (F) Incident reports. Report possible observer, monitor, or electronic monitoring provider staff harassment, discrimination, concerns about vessel safety, or marine casualty; concerns with possible electronic monitoring system tampering, data loss, or catch handling protocols; or observer or monitor illness or injury; or other events as specified by the Regional Administrator; and any information, allegations, or reports regarding observer, monitor, or electronic monitoring provider staff conflict of interest or breach of the standards of behavior, to NMFS within 12 hours of the event or within 12 hours of learning of the event. (G) Status report. (1) Provide NMFS with an updated list of contact information for all observers or monitors that includes the identification number, name, mailing address, email address, phone numbers, homeports or fisheries/ trip types assigned, and must include whether or not the observer or monitor is ‘‘in service,’’ indicating when the observer or monitor has requested leave and/or is not currently working for an industry-funded program. (2) Place any Federally contracted observer not actively deployed on a vessel for 30 days on Leave of Absence (LOA) status (or as specified by NMFS) according to most recent Information Technology Security Guidelines. (3) Ensure Federally contracted observers on LOA for 90 days or more conduct an exit interview with NMFS and return any NMFS issued gear and Common Access Card (CAC), unless alternative arrangements are approved by NMFS. NMFS requires 2-week advance notification when a Federally contracted observer is leaving the VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 program so that an exit interview may be arranged and gear returned. (H) Vessel contract. Submit to NMFS, if requested, a copy of each type of signed and valid contract (including all attachments, appendices, addendums, and exhibits incorporated into the contract) between the monitoring service provider and those entities requiring monitoring services. (I) Observer, monitor, or video reviewer contract. Submit to NMFS, if requested, a copy of each type of signed and valid contract (including all attachments, appendices, addendums, and exhibits incorporated into the contract) between the monitoring service provider and specific observers, monitors, or video reviewers. (J) Additional information. Submit to NMFS, if requested, copies of any information developed and/or used by the monitoring service provider and distributed to vessels, observers, monitors, or electronic monitoring provider staff such as informational pamphlets, payment notification, daily rate of monitoring or review services, description of observer or monitor duties, etc. (K) Discard estimates. Estimate discards for each trip and provide such information to the sector manager and NMFS when providing monitoring services to meet catch estimation and/or at-sea or electronic monitoring service requirements in paragraph (l) of this section. (L) Data system. If contracted to meet the groundfish sector monitoring program in paragraph (l) of this section, maintain an electronic monitoring system to record, retain, and distribute to NMFS upon request for a minimum of 12 months after receiving notice from NMFS that catch data are finalized for the fishing year, the following information: (1) The number of at-sea monitor deployments and other approved monitoring equipment deployments or video reviews, including any refusal to provide service when requested and reasons for such refusals; (2) Incident/non-compliance reports (e.g., failure to offload catch); (3) Vessel hail reports and landings records; (4) Electronic monitoring data and reports; and (5) A means to protect the confidentiality and privacy of data submitted by vessels, as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act. (M) Data retention. Ensure that electronic monitoring data and reports are retained for a minimum of 12 months after catch data are finalized for the fishing year. NMFS will notify PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 11027 monitoring service providers of the catch data finalization date each year. The electronic monitoring service provider must provide NMFS access to electronic monitoring data or reports upon request. (N) Software requirements. Provide NMFS with all software necessary for accessing, viewing, and interpreting the data generated by the electronic monitoring system, including submitting the agency’s secondary review data to the application programming interface and maintenance releases to correct errors in the software or enhance software functionality. The software must: (1) Support a ‘‘dual user’’ system that allows NMFS to complete and submit secondary reviews to the application programming interface. (2) Allow for the export or download of electronic monitoring data in order for the agency to make a copy if necessary. (O) Software training. Provide software training for NMFS staff. (P) Facilitation. Provide the following to NMFS upon request: (1) Assistance in electronic monitoring system operations, diagnosing/resolving technical issues, and recovering lost or corrupted data; (2) Responses to inquiries related to data summaries, analyses, reports, and operational issues; (3) Access to video reviewers for debriefing sessions; (Q) Litigation support. Provide technical and expert information substantiating electronic monitoring system data, testing procedures, error rates, peer review or other issues raised in litigation, including but not limited to, a brief summary of the litigation and any court findings on the reliability of the technology. * * * * * (7) Removal of monitoring service provider from the list of approved service providers. A monitoring service provider that fails to meet the requirements, conditions, and responsibilities specified in paragraphs (h)(5) and (6) of this section shall be notified by NMFS, in writing, that it is subject to removal from the list of approved monitoring service providers. Such notification shall specify the reasons for the pending removal. A monitoring service provider that has received notification that it is subject to removal from the list of approved monitoring service providers may submit written information to rebut the reasons for removal from the list. Such rebuttal must be submitted within 30 days of notification received by the E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 11028 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules monitoring service provider that the monitoring service provider is subject to removal and must be accompanied by written evidence rebutting the basis for removal. NMFS shall review information rebutting the pending removal and shall notify the monitoring service provider within 15 days of receipt of the rebuttal whether or not the removal is warranted. If no response to a pending removal is received by NMFS, the monitoring service provider shall be automatically removed from the list of approved monitoring service providers. The decision to remove the monitoring service provider from the list, either after reviewing a rebuttal, or if no rebuttal is submitted, shall be the final decision of NMFS and the Department of Commerce. Removal from the list of approved monitoring service providers does not necessarily prevent such monitoring service provider from obtaining an approval in the future if a new application is submitted that demonstrates that the reasons for removal are remedied. Observers and monitors under contract with observer monitoring service provider that has been removed from the list of approved service providers must complete their assigned duties for any fishing trips on which the observers or monitors are deployed at the time the monitoring service provider is removed from the list of approved monitoring service providers. A monitoring service provider removed from the list of approved monitoring service providers is responsible for providing NMFS with the information required in paragraph (h)(5)(vii) of this section following completion of the trip. NMFS may consider, but is not limited to, the following in determining if a monitoring service provider may remain on the list of approved monitoring service providers: (i) Failure to meet the requirements, conditions, and responsibilities of monitoring service providers specified in paragraphs (h)(5) and (6) of this section; (ii) Evidence of conflict of interest as defined under paragraph (h)(6) of this section; (iii) Evidence of criminal convictions related to: (A) Embezzlement, theft, forgery, bribery, falsification or destruction of records, making false statements, or receiving stolen property; or (B) The commission of any other crimes of dishonesty, as defined by state law or Federal law, that would seriously and directly affect the fitness of an applicant in providing monitoring services under this section; and VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 (iv) Unsatisfactory performance ratings on any Federal contracts held by the applicant; and (v) Evidence of any history of decertification as either an observer, monitor, or monitoring service provider. (i) Observer, monitor, or video reviewer certification. (1) Requirements. To be certified as an observer, or monitor, or video reviewer, a monitoring service provider employee or contractor must meet the criteria in paragraphs (i)(1) through (3) of this section for observers, or paragraphs (i)(1), (2), and (4) of this section for monitors, and paragraphs (i)(1), (2), and (5) of this section for video reviewers, respectively. In addition, observers must meet NMFS National Minimum Eligibility Standards for observers specified at the National Observer Program website: https://www.fisheries. noaa.gov/topic/fisheryobservers#become-an-observer. (2) Training. In order to provide observer or monitor services and be deployed on any fishing vessel, a candidate observer or monitor must have passed an appropriate NMFScertified Observer or Monitor Training course and must adhere to all NMFS program standards and policies. In order to perform electronic monitoring video review, a candidate video reviewer must have passed an appropriate NMFScertified Video Review Training course and must adhere to all NMFS program standards and policies. NMFS will immediately notify any candidate that fails training and the monitoring service provider. Observer or monitor training may include an observer training trip, as part of the observer’s training, aboard a fishing vessel with a trainer. Contact NMFS for the required number of program specific observer and monitor training certification trips for full certification following training. (3) * * * (i) Have a valid NMFS fisheries observer certification pursuant to paragraph (i)(1) of this section; * * * * * (4) * * * (ii) Have a valid NMFS certification pursuant to paragraph (i)(1) of this section; * * * * * (5) Video reviewer requirements. All video reviewers must: (i) Hold a high school diploma or legal equivalent; (ii) Have a valid NMFS certification pursuant to paragraph (i)(1) of this section; and (iii) Accurately record sampling data, write complete reports, and report accurately any observations relevant to PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 conservation of marine resources or their environment. (6) Probation and decertification. NMFS may review observer, monitor, and video reviewer certifications and issue observer, monitor, and video reviewer certification probations and/or decertifications as described in NMFS policy. (7) Issuance of decertification. Upon determination that decertification is warranted under paragraph (i)(6) of this section, NMFS shall issue a written decision to decertify the observer, monitor, or video reviewer to the observer, monitor, or video reviewer and approved monitoring service provider via certified mail at the observer’s, monitor’s, or video reviewer’s most current address provided to NMFS. The decision shall identify whether a certification is revoked and shall identify the specific reasons for the action taken. Decertification is effective immediately as of the date of issuance, unless the decertification official notes a compelling reason for maintaining certification for a specified period and under specified conditions. Decertification is the final decision of NMFS and the Department of Commerce and may not be appealed. (j) Coverage. In the event that a vessel is requested by the Regional Administrator to carry a fisheries observer pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section and is also selected to carry an at-sea monitor as part of an approved sector at-sea monitoring program specified in paragraph (l) of this section for the same trip, only the fisheries observer is required to go on that particular trip. Vessels using electronic monitoring to satisfy the groundfish sector monitoring program requirement must comply with their vessel monitoring plan on all trips, including a trip that has been selected to carry, or a trip that carries, a fisheries observer. (k) * * * (4) * * * (i) An owner of a scallop vessel required to carry an observer under paragraph (k)(3) of this section must arrange for carrying an observer that has passed a NMFS-certified Observer Training class certified by NMFS from an observer service provider approved by NMFS under paragraph (h) of this section. The owner, operator, or vessel manager of a vessel selected to carry an observer must contact the observer service provider and must provide at least 48-hr notice in advance of the fishing trip for the provider to arrange for observer deployment for the specified trip. The observer service provider will notify the vessel owner, E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules operator, or manager within 18 hr whether they have an available observer. A list of approved observer service providers shall be posted on the NMFS/FSB website: https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/resource/data/ observer-providers-northeast-and-midatlantic-programs. The observer service provider may take up to 48 hr to arrange for observer deployment for the specified scallop trip. (ii) An owner, operator, or vessel manager of a vessel that cannot procure an observer within 48 hr of the advance notification to the provider due to the unavailability of an observer may request a waiver from NMFS from the requirement for observer coverage for that trip, but only if the owner, operator, or vessel manager has contacted all of the available observer service providers to secure observer coverage and no observer is available. NMFS shall issue such a waiver within 24 hr, if the conditions of this paragraph (k)(4)(ii) are met. A vessel may not begin the trip without being issued a waiver. * * * * * (l) * * * (1) Groundfish sector monitoring program goals and objectives. The primary goal of the at-sea/electronic monitoring program is to verify area fished, as well as catch and discards by species and gear type, in the most costeffective means practicable. The following goals and objectives of groundfish monitoring programs are equally-weighted secondary goals by which monitoring programs established for the NE multispecies are to be designed to be consistent with: (i) Improve documentation of catch: (A) Determine total catch and effort, for each sector and common pool, of target or regulated species and ocean pout; and (B) Achieve coverage level sufficient to minimize effects of potential monitoring bias to the extent possible while maintaining as much flexibility as possible to enhance fleet viability. (ii) Reduce the cost of monitoring: (A) Streamline data management and eliminate redundancy; (B) Explore options for cost-sharing and deferment of cost to industry; and (C) Recognize opportunity costs of insufficient monitoring. (iii) Incentivize reducing discards: (A) Determine discard rate by smallest possible strata while maintaining costeffectiveness; and (B) Collect information by gear type to accurately calculate discard rates. (iv) Provide additional data streams for stock assessments: (A) Reduce management and/or biological uncertainty; and VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 (B) Perform biological sampling if it may be used to enhance accuracy of mortality or recruitment calculations. (v) Enhance safety of monitoring program. (vi) Perform periodic review of monitoring program for effectiveness. (2) Sector monitoring programs. A sector must develop and implement an at-sea and/or electronic monitoring program that may be approved by NMFS as both sufficient to monitor catch, discards, and use of sector ACE; and as consistent with the sector monitoring program goals and objectives. The details of any at-sea or electronic monitoring program must be specified in the sector’s operations plan, pursuant to paragraph § 648.87(b)(2)(xi), and must meet the operational standards specified in paragraph (l)(10) of this section. Maximized retention electronic monitoring and audit electronic monitoring models, meeting the requirements in paragraph (l)(10) of this section, may be used in place of at-sea monitoring to ensure a sector’s monitoring programs may be approved. Other types of electronic monitoring may be used in place of at-sea monitors if the technology is deemed sufficient by NMFS, in a manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act, for a specific trip type based on gear type and area fished. The Regional Administrator will approve or disapprove at-sea/ electronic programs, including vessel monitoring plans, as part of a sector’s operations plans in a manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. (3) Pre-trip notification. For the purpose of selecting vessels for observer or at-sea monitor deployment, as instructed by the Regional Administrator, the owner, operator, or manager of a vessel (i.e., vessel manager or sector manager) issued a limited access NE multispecies permit that is fishing under a NE multispecies DAS or on a sector trip, as defined in this part, must provide advance notice to NMFS at least 48 hr prior to departing port on any trip declared into the NE multispecies fishery pursuant to § 648.10 or § 648.85 of the following: The vessel name, permit number, and sector to which the vessel belongs, if applicable; contact name and telephone number for coordination of observer or at-sea monitor deployment; date, time, and port of departure; and the vessel’s trip plan, including area to be fished, whether a monkfish DAS will be used, and gear type to be used, unless otherwise specified in this paragraph (l) or notified by the Regional Administrator. For trips lasting 48 hr or less in duration from the time the vessel leaves port to begin a fishing trip until PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 11029 the time the vessel returns to port upon the completion of the fishing trip, the vessel owner, operator, or manager may make a weekly notification rather than trip-by-trip calls. For weekly pre-trip notification, a vessel must notify NMFS by 0001 hr of the Friday preceding the week (Sunday through Saturday) that it intends to complete at least one NE multispecies DAS or sector trip during the following week and provide the vessel’s trip-plans for that week, including each trip’s date, time, port of departure, area to be fished, whether a monkfish DAS will be used, and gear type to be used. Pre-trip notification calls must be made no more than 10 days in advance of each fishing trip. The vessel owner, operator, or manager must notify NMFS of any trip plan changes at least 24 hr prior to vessel departure from port. A vessel may not begin the trip without being issued either an observer notification, an at-sea monitor notification, or a waiver by NMFS. (4) Vessel selection for observer or atsea monitor coverage. NMFS shall notify the vessel owner, operator, or manager whether the vessel must carry an observer or at-sea monitor for the specified trip within 24 hr of the vessel owner’s, operator’s or manager’s pre-trip notification of the prospective trip, as specified in paragraph (l)(2) of this section. All pre-trip notifications shall be issued a unique confirmation number. A vessel may not fish on a NE multispecies DAS or sector trip with an observer waiver confirmation number that does not match the vessel’s trip plan that was called in to NMFS. Confirmation numbers and the vessel’s observer or observer waiver status for pre-trip notification calls remain valid for 48 hr from the intended sail date. After a trip begins, that trip’s confirmation number and observer or observer waiver status remains valid until the trip ends. If a trip is interrupted and the vessel returns to port due to bad weather or other circumstance beyond the operator’s control, the vessel’s observer or observer waiver status and confirmation number for the interrupted trip remains the same if the vessel departs within 48 hr from the vessel’s return to port. If the layover time is greater than 48 hr, the vessel owner, operator, or manager must provide a new pre-trip notification. If an observer or at-sea monitor is assigned to a particular trip, a vessel may not leave port without the at-sea monitor on board, unless NMFS issues a waiver. If a vessel is using electronic monitoring to comply with the monitoring requirements of this part, it may not leave port without an operational E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 11030 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules electronic monitoring system on board, unless NMFS issues a waiver, or assigned other at-sea monitoring coverage. (5) Sector monitoring coverage levels. Coverage levels for an at-sea or electronic monitoring program, including video review requirements, shall be specified by NMFS, pursuant to paragraph (l)(5)(i) of this section. (i) At-sea monitoring coverage target. The at-sea monitoring coverage target for the sector monitoring program will be set as a percentage of all eligible sector trips based on available federal funding for NMFS and industry cost responsibilities as defined in paragraph (g)(3) of this section. Sectors are responsible for industry costs for at-sea monitoring coverage up to the coverage target for all trips not observed by a Northeast Fishery Observer Program observer. In fishing years 2022, 2023, 2024, and 2025, the ASM coverage target will be set at the highest level that available federal funding for NMFS and industry cost responsibilities supports, up to 100 percent of trips. Beginning in fishing year 2026, the target coverage will be set at 40 percent of trips, unless replaced by the Council after a review, as detailed in paragraph (l)(5)(v) of this section. In the absence of available federal funds sufficient to fund both NMFS costs and industry costs associated with a coverage target of at least 40 percent of all sector trips, sectors must pay the industry’s costs for coverage necessary to achieve a 40percent coverage target. As an example, if, after paying NMFS costs, available federal funding is sufficient only to fund industry costs for 15-percent coverage, sectors must pay the industry costs for the remaining 25-percent coverage to achieve a 40-percent coverage target. Any coverage provided by the Northeast Fisheries Observer Program through deployment of an observer would be deducted from the industry’s cost responsibility. To ensure coverage is both sufficient to monitor sector catch, discards, and sector ACE; and consistent with sector monitoring goals and objectives, at-sea monitoring coverage may be higher than the at-sea monitoring coverage target, up to 100 percent of all eligible trips, if available federal funding is sufficient for NMFS and industry cost responsibilities, respectively. NMFS will announce the coverage target at least 3 weeks before the annual sector enrollment deadline set by NMFS, if federal funding information is available. (ii) Gear-based exclusion from the atsea monitoring program. A sector vessel that notifies NMFS of its intent to exclusively fish using gillnets with a VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 mesh size of 10-inch (25.4-cm) or greater in either the Inshore GB Stock Area, as defined at § 648.10(k)(3)(ii), and/or the SNE Broad Stock Area, as defined at § 648.10(k)(3)(iv), is not subject to the coverage level for at-sea monitoring specified in § 648.11(l)(5)(i) provided that the trip is limited to the Inshore GB and/or SNE Broad Stock Areas and that the vessel only uses gillnets with a mesh size of 10-inches (25.4-cm) or greater. When on such a trip, other gear may be on board provided that it is stowed and not available for immediate use as defined in § 648.2. A sector trip fishing with 10-inch (25.4-cm) mesh or larger gillnets will still be subject to at-sea monitoring coverage if the trip declares its intent to fish in any part of the trip in the GOM Stock area, as defined at § 648.10(k)(3)(i), or the Offshore GB Stock Area, as defined at § 648.10(k)(3)(iii). Vessels using electronic monitoring to satisfy the sector monitoring requirement must have their system turned on and comply with their vessel monitoring plan on all trips, including a trip that is limited to the Inshore GB and/or SNE Broad Stock Areas where the vessel only uses gillnets with a mesh size of 10-inches (25.4-cm) or greater. (iii) Geographic exclusion from the atsea monitoring program. Vessels fishing exclusively west of 71 degrees 30 minutes west longitude on a sector trip are excluded from the requirement to carry an at-sea monitor. Vessels on a trip excluded from the at-sea monitoring requirement under this provision must comply with the VMS declaration requirements at § 648.10(g)(3), and the transiting requirements at § 648.81(e) when east of 71 degrees 30 minutes. Vessels using electronic monitoring to satisfy the sector monitoring requirement must have their system turned on and comply with their vessel monitoring plan on all trips, including trips fishing exclusively west of 71 degrees 30 minutes west longitude. (iv) Waivers. In addition to the safety waivers in § 648.11(c), NMFS may issue a waiver for a sector trip exempting the vessel from the sector monitoring program coverage requirements for the following reasons. (A) Funding waivers. NMFS will issue a waiver for a sector trip exempting the vessel from the sector monitoring program coverage requirements if coverage is unavailable due to insufficient funding for NMFS cost responsibilities as defined in paragraph (g)(3) of this section. (B) Logistics waivers. NMFS may issue a waiver for a sector trip exempting the vessel from the sector monitoring program coverage requirements for PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 logistical and technical reasons, including, but not limited to: No monitor is available; the assigned observer is unable to make the trip; the trip will have no fishing effort; and electronic monitoring system technical problems. (C) Set-only trip waivers. Vessels on a set-only trip, as defined at § 648.2, are excluded from the groundfish sector monitoring program requirements in § 648.11(l). If a vessel is using electronic monitoring to comply with the monitoring requirements of this part, that vessel may turn off its cameras on a set-only trip. (v) Review of exclusions from the atsea monitoring program. A Council review of the exclusions from the at-sea monitoring program in § 648.11(l)(5)(ii) and (iii) will evaluate whether the exclusions continue to meet the intent of the Council to exclude trips with little catch of regulated species and ocean pout. The review will be conducted using complete data from 2 fishing years once the data are available (fishing years 2022 and 2023) and every 3 years after the initial review. (6) Groundfish sector monitoring program review. A Council review of the NE multispecies monitoring program will evaluate whether the monitoring program is meeting the goal of improved accuracy of catch data, while maximizing value and minimizing costs of the program, using complete data from 2 fishing years once the data are available (fishing years 2022 and 2023) and periodically after the initial review. The review process should be flexible and general, and include establishing metrics and indicators of how well the monitoring program improved accuracy while maximizing value and minimizing costs. (7) Hail reports. For the purposes of the monitoring requirements specified in paragraph (l)(2) of this section, sector vessels must submit all hail reports for a sector trip in which the NE multispecies catch applies against the ACE allocated to a sector, as specified in this part, to their respective contracted monitoring service providers. The mechanism and timing of the transmission of such hail reports must be consistent with instructions provided by the Regional Administrator for any at-sea or electronic monitoring program required by paragraph (l)(2) of this section, or specified in the annual sector operations plan, consistent with § 648.87(b)(5). (8) Notification of monitoring service provider change. If, for any reason, a sector decides to change approved service providers used to provide at-sea or electronic monitoring services E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules required in paragraph (l)(2) of this section, the sector manager must first inform NMFS in writing in advance of the effective date of the change in approved monitoring service providers in conjunction with the submission of the next weekly sector catch report specified in § 648.87(b)(1)(v)(B). A sector may use more than one monitoring service provider at any time, provided any monitoring service provider employed by or contracted with a sector meets the standards specified in paragraph (b)(4) of this section. (9) Discards. A sector vessel may not discard any legal-sized regulated species or ocean pout allocated to sectors pursuant to § 648.87(b)(1)(i), unless otherwise required pursuant to § 648.86(l). Discards of undersized regulated species or ocean pout by a sector vessel must be reported to NMFS consistent with the reporting requirements specified in § 648.87(b)(1)(v). Discards shall not be included in the information used to calculate a vessel’s PSC, as described in § 648.87(b)(1)(i)(E), but shall be counted against a sector’s ACE for each regulated species allocated to a sector. (10) Sector monitoring program operational standards. In addition to the monitoring service provider standards specified in paragraph (h)(5) of this section, any at-sea/electronic monitoring program developed as part of a sector’s yearly operations plan pursuant to paragraph (l)(2) of this section must meet the following operational standards to be approved by NMFS: (i) Vessel requirements. (A) Electronic monitoring system requirements. A vessel owner or operator using electronic monitoring to meet sector monitoring requirements must do the following: (1) Ensure that the electronic monitoring system is fully operational for every sector trip, which means it is operating, recording, and retaining the recording for the duration of every trip. A vessel may not fish without a fully operational electronic monitoring system, unless issued a waiver by NMFS for that trip; (2) Conduct a system check of the electronic monitoring system prior to departing on a fishing trip. An electronic monitoring system check must show that the electronic monitoring system is fully operational and there is sufficient video storage capacity to retain the recording of the entire fishing trip; (3) Maintain clear and unobstructed camera views at all times. Ensure lighting is sufficient in all VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 circumstances to illuminate catch so that catch and discards are visible and may be identified and quantified as required; and (4) Ensure no person tampers with, disconnects, or destroys any part of the electronic monitoring system, associated equipment, or recorded data. (B) Vessel monitoring plan requirements for electronic monitoring vessels. A vessel must have a NMFSapproved vessel monitoring plan to use electronic monitoring to meet sector monitoring requirements. The vessel monitoring plan describes how an electronic monitoring system is configured on a particular vessel and how fishing operations must be conducted to effectively monitor catch. (1) The vessel monitoring plan must be onboard the vessel at all times. (2) The vessel owner, operator and crew must comply with all catch handling protocols and other requirements described in the vessel monitoring plan, including sorting catch and processing any discards within view of the cameras and consistent with the vessel monitoring plan. (3) Modifications to any vessel monitoring plan must be approved by NMFS prior to such vessel fishing under the conditions of the new vessel monitoring plan. (4) A vessel owner or operator using electronic monitoring to meet sector monitoring requirements must submit all electronic monitoring data to the monitoring service provider in accordance with the electronic monitoring program requirements in § 648.11, or as otherwise instructed by the Regional Administrator. (5) A vessel owner or operator must make the electronic monitoring system, associated equipment, electronic monitoring data, or vessel monitoring plan available to NMFS for inspection, upon request. (6) A vessel owner or operator using electronic monitoring to meet sector monitoring requirements must turn on its camera for 100 percent of sector trips. (7) A vessel owner or operator using electronic monitoring to meet sector monitoring requirements must comply with the requirements in § 648.11(l)(10)(ii)(B) or the Regional Administrator may withdraw approval for the vessel to use electronic monitoring. (8) The Regional Administrator may revise vessel monitoring plan requirements and approval standards consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. Any revisions will be published on the agency’s website. PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 11031 (C) Safety hazards. The operator of a sector vessel must detail and identify any safety hazards to any at-sea monitor assigned pursuant to paragraph (b)(5)(iii)(B)(1) of this section prior to leaving port. A vessel may not begin a trip if it has failed a review of safety issues pursuant to paragraph (b)(5)(iv)(B) of this section, until the identified safety deficiency has been resolved, pursuant to § 600.746(i). (D) Dockside monitoring. Vessels using maximized retention electronic monitoring must participate in either an independent third party dockside monitoring program approved by NMFS, or the dockside monitoring program operated by NMFS, as instructed by NMFS. (E) Retention of fish. Vessels using maximized retention electronic monitoring must retain all fish from each allocated regulated species, regardless of length. (ii) Sector monitoring plan monitoring service provider requirements. In addition to the monitoring service provider standards in paragraph (h) of this section, sector monitoring plans must include the following operational requirements for any monitoring provider contracted to meet sector monitoring program requirements in this paragraph (l): (A) At-sea monitoring report. Within 48 hours of the completion of a trip, or as otherwise instructed by the Regional Administrator, electronic submission to NMFS and the sector a report detailing the area fished and the amount of each species kept and discarded. A standard format for submission shall be specified by NMFS and distributed to all monitoring service providers and sectors. NMFS will accept only monitoring data that passes automated NMFS data quality checks. (B) Electronic monitoring report. A report detailing area fished and the amount of each species discarded must be submitted electronically in a standard acceptable form to the appropriate sector and NMFS within 10 business days of a trip being selected for video review, or as otherwise instructed by the Regional Administrator. The format for submission shall be specified by NMFS and distributed to all monitoring service providers and sectors. NMFS will accept only monitoring data that passes automated NMFS data quality checks. (C) Vessel feedback report. A report must be submitted to the vessel owner following a trip with detailed feedback on the vessel operator’s and crew’s catch handling, camera maintenance, and vessel monitoring plan compliance. E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 11032 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules A copy must be submitted to NMFS upon request. (D) Safety hazards. Completion by an at-sea monitor of a pre-trip vessel safety checklist provided by NMFS before an at-sea monitor can leave port onboard a vessel on a sector trip. If the vessel fails a review of safety issues pursuant to this paragraph (l)(10)(ii)(E), an at-sea monitor cannot be deployed on that vessel for that trip. (E) Gear. Provision of all equipment specified by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center to each at-sea monitor before the at-sea monitor may be deployed on a vessel. A list of such equipment is available from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center upon request. This gear shall be inspected by NMFS upon the completion of training required pursuant to paragraph (i)(2) of this section. (F) Adjustment to service provider requirements and approval standards. The Regional Administrator may revise monitoring service provider requirements and approval standards consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. (iii) Sector requirements. Each sector shall monitor catch by participating sector vessels to ensure that ACEs are not exceeded during the fishing year, as specified in this paragraph (l)(10)(iii). The sector shall summarize trips validated by dealer reports; oversee the use of electronic monitoring equipment and review of associated data; maintain a database of VTR, dealer, observer, and electronic monitoring reports; determine all species landings by stock areas; apply discard estimates to landings; deduct catch from ACEs allocated to sectors; and report sector catch on a weekly basis to NMFS, as required in paragraph (b)(1)(v) of this section. Unless otherwise specified in this paragraph (l)(10), all catches of stocks allocated to sectors by vessels on a sector trip shall be deducted from the sector’s ACE for each regulated species stock regardless of the fishery the vessel was participating in when the fish was caught. For the purposes of this paragraph (l)(10), any regulated species or ocean pout caught using gear capable of catching NE multispecies (i.e., gear not listed as exempted gear under this part) would be deducted from a sector’s ACE if such catch contributed to the specification of PSC, as described in § 648.87(b)(1)(i)(E), and would not apply to another ACL sub-component pursuant to § 648.90(a)(4). For example, any regulated species or ocean pout landed while fishing for or catching skates or monkfish pursuant to the regulations for those fisheries would be deducted from the sector’s ACE for each VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 stock because such regulated species or ocean pout were caught while also operating under a NE multispecies DAS. However, for example, if a sector vessel is issued a limited access General Category Atlantic Sea Scallop permit and fishes for scallops under the provisions specific to that permit, any yellowtail flounder caught by the vessel on such trips would be deducted from the appropriate non-groundfish component, such as the other subcomponent or the appropriate yellowtail flounder stock’s ACL specified for the Atlantic Sea Scallop fishery and not from the yellowtail flounder ACE for the sector. (iv) Dealer requirements. Federally permitted NE multispecies dealers must allow dockside monitors access to their premises, scales, and any fish received from vessels participating in the maximized retention electronic monitoring program for the purpose of collecting fish species and weights of fish received by the dealer, fish length measurements, and the collection of age structures such as otoliths or scales. (A) Facilitation. Federally permitted NE multispecies dealers must facilitate dockside monitoring for vessels participating in a maximized retention electronic monitoring program, including, but not limited to, the following requirements: (1) Provide a safe sampling station, including shelter from weather, for dockside monitors to conduct their duties and process catch, that is equivalent to the accommodations provided to the dealer’s staff. (2) Allow dockside monitors access to bathrooms equivalent to the accommodations provided to the dealer’s staff. (3) Allow dockside monitors access to any facilities for washing equipment with fresh water that are provided to the dealer’s staff. (B) Processing, sorting, labeling, and reporting. Federally permitted NE multispecies dealers must process fish for vessels participating in a maximized retention electronic monitoring program consistent with and including, but not limited to, the following requirements: (1) Offload from vessels participating in the maximized retention monitoring program all fish below the minimum size specified at § 648.83 before other fish that meet the minimum size, sort the undersized fish by species, and provide the dockside monitor access to those at the safe sampling station. (2) Sort by species all redfish, haddock, and pollock, except that fish of the same species below the minimum size specified at § 648.83 may be mixed PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 with the same species of fish in the smallest market category. (3) Sort by species all unmarketable fish from other fish, when identifiable to species. (4) Clearly identify, mark, or label all containers with fish below the minimum size specified in § 648.83 as containing undersized fish, the fishing vessel from which they were offloaded, and the date of offloading. (5) Report all fish below the minimum size specified in § 648.83, and all unmarketable fish, as instructed by NMFS. (v) Adjustment to operational standards. The at-sea/electronic monitoring operational standards specified in paragraph (l)(10) of this section may be revised by the Regional Administrator in a manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. (m) * * * (1) * * * (i) In addition to the requirement for any vessel holding an Atlantic herring permit to carry an observer described in paragraph (a) of this section, vessels issued a Category A or B Herring Permit are subject to industry-funded monitoring (IFM) requirements on declared Atlantic herring trips, unless the vessel is carrying an observer to fulfill Standard Bycatch Reporting Methodology requirements. An owner of a midwater trawl vessel, required to carry an observer when fishing in Northeast Multispecies Closed Areas at § 648.202(b), may purchase an IFM high volume fisheries (HVF) observer to access Closed Areas on a trip-by-trip basis. General requirements for IFM programs in New England Council FMPs are specified in paragraph (g) of this section. Possible IFM monitoring for the Atlantic herring fishery includes observers, at-sea monitors, and electronic monitoring and portside samplers, as defined in § 648.2. * * * * * (v) To provide the required IFM coverage aboard declared Atlantic herring trips, observers and monitors must hold a high volume fisheries certification from NMFS. (2) * * * (iii) * * * (A) For IFM observer coverage aboard vessels fishing with midwater trawl gear to access the Northeast Multispecies Closed Areas, consistent with requirements at § 648.202(b), at any point during the trip; * * * * * (4) * * * (i) An owner of an Atlantic herring vessel required to have monitoring under paragraph (m)(3) of this section E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules must arrange for monitoring by an observer from a monitoring service provider approved by NMFS under paragraph (h) of this section. The owner, operator, or vessel manager of a vessel selected for monitoring must contact a monitoring service provider prior to the beginning of the trip and the monitoring service provider will notify the vessel owner, operator, or manager whether monitoring is available. A list of approved monitoring service providers shall be posted on the NMFS website: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ resource/data/observer-providersnortheast-and-mid-atlantic-programs. * * * * * (6) Sampling requirements for observers and monitors. In addition to the requirements at § 648.11(d)(1) through (7), an owner or operator of a vessel issued a limited access herring permit on which an observer or monitor is embarked must provide observers or monitors: * * * * * (n) * * * (2) Sampling requirements for limited access Atlantic mackerel and longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permit holders. In addition to the requirements in paragraphs (d)(1) through (7) of this section, an owner or operator of a vessel issued a limited access Atlantic mackerel or longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permit on which an observer is embarked must provide observers: * * * * * ■ 5. Section 648.14 is amended by: ■ a. Revising paragraphs (a)(7), (e), and (i)(1)(ix)(B); ■ b. Adding paragraph (k)(2)(vii); and ■ c. Revising paragraphs (k)(3), (k)(14)(ix) through (xiii), and (r)(2)(v). The revisions and addition read as follows: khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS § 648.14 Prohibitions. (a) * * * (7) Possess, import, export, transfer, land, or have custody or control of any species of fish regulated pursuant to this part that do not meet the minimum size provisions in this part, unless such species were harvested exclusively within state waters by a vessel that does not hold a valid permit under this part, or are species included in the NE Multispecies Fishery Management Plan that were either harvested by a vessel participating in the maximized retention electronic monitoring program consistent with § 648.11(l)(10)(i)(E) or harvested by a vessel issued a valid High Seas Fishing Compliance permit that fished exclusively in the NAFO Regulatory Area. * * * * * VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 (e) Observer program. It is unlawful for any person to do any of the following: (1) Assault, resist, oppose, impede, harass, intimidate, or interfere with or bar by command, impediment, threat, or coercion any observer or monitor conducting his or her duties; any electronic monitoring provider staff who collects data required under this part; any authorized officer conducting any search, inspection, investigation, or seizure in connection with enforcement of this part; any official designee of the Regional Administrator conducting his or her duties, including those duties authorized in §§ 648.7(g) and 648.11(l)(10)(v). (2) Refuse monitoring coverage by an observer or monitor if selected for monitoring coverage by the Regional Administrator or the Regional Administrator’s designee. (3) Fail to provide information, notification, accommodations, access, or reasonable assistance to either an observer, monitor, or electronic monitoring provider staff conducting his or her duties as specified in § 648.11. (4) Submit false or inaccurate data, statements, or reports. * * * * * (i) * * * (1) * * * (ix) * * * (B) Fail to provide information, notification, accommodations, access, or reasonable assistance to an observer conducting his or her duties aboard a vessel, as specified in § 648.11. * * * * * (k) * * * (2) * * * (vii) Fish under a waiver from the groundfish sector monitoring program issued under § 648.11(l)(5)(ii) or (iii) without complying with the VMS declaration requirements at § 648.10(g)(3) and the pre-trip notification requirements at § 648.11(l)(1). (3) Dealer requirements. It is unlawful for any person to: (i) Purchase, possess, import, export, or receive as a dealer, or in the capacity of a dealer, regulated species or ocean pout in excess of the possession limits specified in §§ 648.82, 648.85, 648.86, or 648.87 applicable to a vessel issued a NE multispecies permit, unless otherwise specified in § 648.17, or unless the regulated species or ocean pout are purchased or received from a vessel that caught them on a sector trip and such species are exempt from such possession limits in accordance with an approved sector operations plan, as specified in § 648.87(c). PO 00000 Frm 00043 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 11033 (ii) Sell or transfer to another person for a commercial purpose, other than solely for transport on land, any NE multispecies harvested from the EEZ by a vessel issued a Federal NE multispecies permit, unless the transferee has a valid NE multispecies dealer permit. (iii) Purchase, possess, import, export, or receive as a dealer, or in the capacity of a dealer, regulated species or ocean pout from a vessel participating in the maximized retention electronic monitoring program in § 648.11(l) unless the offload of catch was observed by a dockside monitor or NMFS issued a waiver from dockside monitoring for the trip. (iv) Assault, resist, oppose, impede, harass, intimidate, or interfere with or bar by command, impediment, threat, or coercion any observer or monitor conducting his or her duties or any electronic monitoring provider staff who collects data required under this part. (v) Impede a dockside monitors’ access to their premises, scales, and any fish received from vessels participating in the maximized retention electronic monitoring program; fail to facilitate dockside monitoring for vessels participating in a maximized retention electronic monitoring program; or fail to process, sort, label, and report fish from vessels participating in the maximized retention monitoring program, as required in § 648.11(l)(10)(iv). * * * * * (14) * * * (ix) Fail to comply with the reporting requirements specified in § 648.11(l)(10)(iii) and § 648.87(b)(1)(v). (x) Leave port to begin a trip before an at-sea monitor has arrived and boarded the vessel if assigned to carry an at-sea monitor for that trip, or without an operational electronic monitoring system installed on board, as specified in §§ 648.11(l)(3) and (l)(10)(i). (xi) Leave port to begin a trip if a vessel has failed a review of safety issues by an at-sea monitor and has not successfully resolved any identified safety deficiencies, as prohibited by § 648.11(l)(10)(i)(C). (xii) Fail to comply with the electronic monitoring system requirements as specified in § 648.11(l)(10)(i)(A), including, but not limited to: Ensuring the electronic monitoring system is fully operational; conducting a system check of the electronic monitoring system; ensuring camera views are unobstructed and clear; and ensuring that no person tampers with the electronic monitoring system. (xiii) Fail to comply with the vessel monitoring plan requirements as E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 11034 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules specified in § 648.11(l)(10)(i)(B), including, but not limited to: Carrying the vessel monitoring plan onboard the vessel at all times; complying with all catch handling protocols and other requirements in the vessel monitoring plan; submitting electronic monitoring data as required; and making the electronic monitoring system available to NMFS for inspection upon request. * * * * * (r) * * * (2) * * * (v) Fish with midwater trawl gear in any Northeast Multispecies Closed Area, as defined in § 648.81(a)(3) through (5) and (c)(3) and (4), without an observer on board, if the vessel has been issued an Atlantic herring permit. * * * * * ■ 6. Section 648.51 is amended by revising paragraphs (c)(4) and (e)(3)(iii) to read as follows: § 648.51 Gear and crew restrictions. * * * * * (c) * * * (4) An at-sea observer is on board, as required by § 648.11(k). * * * * * (e) * * * (3) * * * (iii) An at-sea observer is on board, as required by § 648.11(k). * * * * * ■ 7. Section 648.80 is amended by revising paragraphs (d)(3) and (e)(2)(ii) to read as follows: § 648.80 NE Multispecies regulated mesh areas and restrictions on gear and methods of fishing. * * * * * (d) * * * (3) The vessel carries an observer, if requested by the Regional Administrator; * * * * * (e) * * * (2) * * * (ii) The vessel carries an observer, if requested by the Regional Administrator; * * * * * ■ 8. Section 648.83 is amended by revising paragraph (a)(1) to read as follows: khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS § 648.83 Multispecies minimum fish sizes. (a) * * * (1) Minimum fish sizes for recreational vessels and charter/party vessels that are not fishing under a NE multispecies DAS are specified in § 648.89. Except as provided in § 648.11(l)(10)(i)(E) and § 648.17, all other vessels are subject to the following minimum fish sizes, determined by total length (TL): VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 MINIMUM FISH SIZES (TL) FOR COMMERCIAL VESSELS Species Size in inches Cod ........................................ Haddock ................................ Pollock ................................... Witch flounder (gray sole) ..... Yellowtail flounder ................. American plaice (dab) ........... Atlantic halibut ....................... Winter flounder (blackback) .. Redfish .................................. 19 (48.3 cm). 16 (40.6 cm). 19 (48.3 cm). 13 (33 cm). 12 (30.5 cm). 12 (30.5 cm). 41 (104.1 cm). 12 (30.5 cm). 7 (17.8 cm). * * * * * 9. Section 648.85 is amended by revising paragraph (e)(1)(viii)(C) to read as follows: ■ § 648.85 Special management programs. * * * * * (e) * * * (1) * * * (viii) * * * (C) Administration of Thresholds. (1) For the purpose of determining a sector’s monthly redfish landings threshold performance described in paragraph (e)(1)(viii)(A)(1) of this section and the annual redfish landings threshold described in paragraph (e)(1)(viii)(B)(1) of this section, landings of allocated regulated species by vessels participating in a maximized retention electronic monitoring program consistent with § 648.11(l), including landings of allocated stocks below the minimum size at § 648.83(a)(1), will be counted as landings and not discards. (2) For the purpose of determining a sector’s monthly discards threshold performance described in paragraph (e)(1)(viii)(A)(2) of this section, a trip by a vessel participating in a maximized retention electronic monitoring program consistent with § 648.11(l) will be excluded from evaluation of the monthly discard threshold. (3) If a sector fails to meet the monthly redfish landings threshold or the monthly discards threshold described in paragraphs (e)(1)(viii)(A)(1) and (2) of this section for four or more months total, or three or more consecutive months, in a fishing year, the Regional Administrator shall prohibit all vessels in that sector from fishing under the provisions of the Redfish Exemption Program for the remainder of the fishing year, and place the sector and its vessels in a probationary status for one fishing year beginning the following fishing year. (4) If a sector fails to meet the annual redfish landings threshold described in paragraph (e)(1)(viii)(B)(1) of this section in a fishing year, the Regional Administrator shall place the sector and its vessels in a probationary status for PO 00000 Frm 00044 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 one fishing year beginning the following fishing year. (5) While in probationary status as described in paragraph (e)(1)(viii)(C)(3) or (4) of this section, if the sector fails to meet the monthly redfish landings threshold or the monthly discards threshold described in paragraphs (e)(1)(viii)(A)(1) and (2) of this section for four or more months total, or three or more consecutive months, in that fishing year, the Regional Administrator shall prohibit all vessels in that sector from fishing under the provisions of the Redfish Exemption Program for the remainder of the fishing year and the following fishing year. (6) If a sector fails to meet the annual redfish landings threshold in (e)(1)(viii)(B)(1) of this section for any fishing year during which the sector is in a probationary status as described in paragraph (e)(1)(viii)(C)(3) or (4) of this section, the Regional Administrator shall prohibit all vessels in that sector from fishing under the provisions of the Redfish Exemption Program for the following fishing year. (7) The Regional Administrator may determine a sector has failed to meet required monthly or annual thresholds described in paragraphs (e)(1)(viii)(A) and (B) of this section using available information including, but not limited to, vessel declarations and notifications, vessel trip reports, dealer reports, and observer and electronic monitoring records. (8) The Regional Administrator shall notify a sector of a failure to meet the required monthly or annual thresholds and the sector’s vessels prohibition or probation status consistent with the provisions in paragraphs (e)(1)(viii)(C)(1) through (7) of this section. The Regional Administrator shall also make administrative amendments to the approved sector operations plan and issue sector vessel letters of authorization consistent with the provisions in paragraphs (e)(1)(viii)(C)(1) through (7) of this section. These administrative amendments may be made during a fishing year or during the sector operations plan and sector contract approval process. (9) A sector may request in writing that the Regional Administrator review and reverse a determination made under the provisions of this section within 30 days of the date of the Regional Administrator’s determination. Any such request must be based on information showing the sector complied with the required thresholds, including, but not limited to, landing, discard, observer or electronic monitoring records. The Regional E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules Administrator will review and maintain or reverse the determination and notify the sector of this decision in writing. Any determination resulting from a review conducted under this provision is final and may not be reviewed further. * * * * * ■ 10. Section 648.86 is amended by revising the introductory text and paragraph (a)(3)(ii)(A)(1) to read as follows: khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS § 648.86 NE Multispecies possession restrictions. Except as provided in § 648.11(l), § 648.17, or elsewhere in this part, the following possession restrictions apply: (a) * * * (3) * * * (ii) * * * (A) * * * (1) Haddock incidental catch cap. When the Regional Administrator has determined that the incidental catch allowance for a given haddock stock, as specified in § 648.90(a)(4)(iii)(D), has been caught, no vessel issued an Atlantic herring permit and fishing with midwater trawl gear in the applicable stock area, i.e., the Herring GOM Haddock Accountability Measure (AM) Area or Herring GB Haddock AM Area, as defined in paragraphs (a)(3)(ii)(A)(2) and (3) of this section, may fish for, possess, or land herring in excess of 2,000 lb (907.2 kg) per trip in or from that area, unless all herring possessed and landed by the vessel were caught outside the applicable AM Area and the vessel’s gear is stowed and not available for immediate use as defined in § 648.2 while transiting the AM Area. Upon this determination, the haddock possession limit is reduced to 0 lb (0 kg) for a vessel issued a Federal Atlantic herring permit and fishing with midwater trawl gear or for a vessel issued a Category A or B Herring Permit fishing on a declared herring trip, regardless of area fished or gear used, in the applicable AM area, unless the vessel also possesses a NE multispecies permit and is operating on a declared (consistent with § 648.10(g)) NE multispecies trip. In making this determination, the Regional Administrator shall use haddock catches observed by observers or monitors by herring vessel trips using midwater trawl gear in Management Areas 1A, 1B, and/or 3, as defined in § 648.200(f)(1) and (3), expanded to an estimate of total haddock catch for all such trips in a given haddock stock area. * * * * * ■ 11. Section 648.87 is amended by: ■ a. Revising paragraph (b)(1) introductory text, and (b)(1)(v) through (viii); VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 b. Removing paragraph (b)(1)(ix); c. Revising paragraph (b)(2) and (3); and ■ d. Removing paragraphs (b)(4) and (5). The revisions read as follows: ■ ■ § 648.87 Sector allocation. * * * * * (b) * * * (1) All sectors approved under the provisions of paragraph (a) of this section must submit the documents specified in paragraphs (a)(1), (b)(2), and (3) of this section, comply with the conditions and restrictions of this paragraph (b)(1), and comply with the groundfish sector monitoring program in § 648.11(l). * * * * * (v) Sector reporting requirements. In addition to the other reporting/ recordkeeping requirements specified in this part, a sector’s vessels must comply with the reporting requirements specified in this paragraph (b)(1)(v). (A) VMS declarations and trip-level catch reports. Prior to each sector trip, a sector vessel must declare into broad stock areas in which the vessel fishes and submit the VTR serial number associated with that trip pursuant to § 648.10(k). The sector vessel must also submit a VMS catch report detailing regulated species and ocean pout catch by statistical area when fishing in multiple broad stock areas on the same trip, pursuant to § 648.10(k). (B) Weekly catch report. Each sector must submit weekly reports to NMFS stating the remaining balance of ACE allocated to each sector based upon regulated species and ocean pout landings and discards of vessels participating in that sector and any compliance/enforcement concerns. These reports must include at least the following information, as instructed by the Regional Administrator: Week ending date; species, stock area, gear, number of trips, reported landings (landed pounds and live pounds), discards (live pounds), total catch (live pounds), status of the sector’s ACE (pounds remaining and percent remaining), and whether this is a new or updated record of sector catch for each regulated species stock allocated to that particular sector; sector enforcement issues; and a list of vessels landing for that reporting week. These weekly catch reports must be submitted no later than 0700 hr on the second Monday after the reporting week, as defined in this part. The frequency of these reports must be increased to more than a weekly submission when the balance of remaining ACE is low, as specified in the sector operations plan and approved by NMFS. If requested, PO 00000 Frm 00045 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 11035 sectors must provide detailed trip-bytrip catch data to NMFS for the purposes of auditing sector catch monitoring data based upon guidance provided by the Regional Administrator. (C) Year-end report. An approved sector must submit an annual year-end report to NMFS and the Council, no later than 60 days after the end of the fishing year, that summarizes the fishing activities of participating permits/ vessels, which must include at least the following information: Catch, including landings and discards, of all species by sector vessels; the permit number of each sector vessel that fished for regulated species or ocean pout; the number of vessels that fished for nonregulated species or ocean pout; the method used to estimate discards by sector vessels; the landing port used by sector vessels; enforcement actions; and other relevant information required to evaluate the biological, economic, and social impacts of sectors and their fishing operations consistent with confidentiality requirements of applicable law. (D) Streamlining sector reporting requirements. The reporting/ recordkeeping requirements specified in § 648.11(l) and this paragraph (b)(1)(v) may be revised by the Regional Administrator in a manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. (vi) Interaction with other fisheries. (A) Use of DAS. A sector vessel must comply with all measures specified for another fishery pursuant to this part, including any requirement to use a NE multispecies DAS. If the regulations of another fishery require the use of a NE multispecies DAS, the DAS allocation and accrual provisions specified in § 648.82(d) and (e), respectively, apply to each trip by a sector vessel, as applicable. For example, if a sector vessel is also issued a limited access monkfish Category C permit and is required to use a NE multispecies DAS concurrent with a monkfish DAS under this part, any NE multispecies DAS used by the sector vessel accrues, as specified in § 648.82(e)(1)(ii) based upon the vessel’s NE multispecies DAS allocation calculated pursuant to § 648.82(d)(1)(iv)(B). (B) Availability of ACE. Notwithstanding the requirements in paragraph (b)(1)(vi)(A) of this section, if a sector has not been allocated or does not acquire sufficient ACE available to cover the catch of a particular stock of regulated species while participating in another fishery in which such catch would apply to the ACE allocated to a sector, vessels participating in that sector cannot participate in those other fisheries unless NMFS has approved a E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 11036 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules sector operations plan that ensures that regulated species or ocean pout will not be caught while participating in these other fisheries. (vii) ACE transfers. All or a portion of a sector’s ACE for any NE multispecies stock may be transferred to another sector at any time during the fishing year and up to 2 weeks into the following fishing year (i.e., through May 14), unless otherwise instructed by NMFS, to cover any overages during the previous fishing year. A sector is not required to transfer ACE to another sector. An ACE transfer only becomes effective upon approval by NMFS, as specified in paragraph (b)(1)(vii)(B) of this section. (A) Application to transfer ACE. ACE may be transferred from one sector to another through written request to the Regional Administrator. This request must include the name of the sectors involved, the amount of each ACE to be transferred, the fishing year in which the ACE transfer applies, and the amount of compensation received for any ACE transferred, as instructed by the Regional Administrator. (B) Approval of an ACE transfer request. NMFS shall approve/ disapprove a request to transfer ACE based upon compliance by each sector and its participating vessels with the reporting requirements specified in this part. The Regional Administrator shall inform both sectors in writing whether the ACE transfer request has been approved within 2 weeks of the receipt of the ACE transfer request. (C) Duration of transfer. Notwithstanding ACE carried over into the next fishing year pursuant to paragraph (b)(1)(i)(C) of this section, ACE transferred pursuant to this paragraph (b)(1)(vii) is only valid for the fishing year in which the transfer is approved, with the exception of ACE transfer requests that are submitted up to 2 weeks into the subsequent fishing year to address any potential ACE overages from the previous fishing year, as provided in paragraph (b)(1)(iii) of this section, unless otherwise instructed by NMFS. (viii) Trip limits. With the exception of stocks listed in § 648.86(1) and the Atlantic halibut trip limit at § 648.86(c), a sector vessel is not limited in the amount of allocated NE multispecies stocks that can be harvested on a particular fishing trip, unless otherwise specified in the operations plan. (2) Operations plan and sector contract. To be approved to operate, each sector must submit an operations plan and preliminary sector contract to the Regional Administrator no later than September 1 prior to the fishing year in VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 which the sector intends to begin operations, unless otherwise instructed by NMFS. A final roster, sector contract, and list of Federal and state permits held by participating vessels for each sector must be submitted by December 1 prior to the fishing year in which the sector intends to begin operations, unless otherwise instructed by NMFS. The operations plan may cover a 1- or 2-year period, provided the analysis required in paragraph (b)(3) of this section is sufficient to assess the impacts of sector operations during the 2-year period and that sector membership, or any other parameter that may affect sector operations during the second year of the approved operations plan, does not differ to the point where the impacts analyzed by the supporting NEPA document are compromised. Each vessel and vessel operator and/or vessel owner participating in a sector must agree to and comply with all applicable requirements and conditions of the operations plan specified in this paragraph (b)(2) and the letter of authorization issued pursuant to paragraph (c)(2) of this section. It shall be unlawful to violate any such conditions and requirements unless such conditions or restrictions are identified in an approved operations plan as administrative only. If a proposed sector does not comply with the requirements of this paragraph (b)(2), NMFS may decline to propose for approval such sector operations plans, even if the Council has approved such sector. At least the following elements must be contained in either the final operations plan or sector contract submitted to NMFS: (i) A list of all parties, vessels, and vessel owners who will participate in the sector; (ii) A list of all Federal and state permits held by persons participating in the sector, including an indication for each permit whether it is enrolled and will actively fish in a sector, or will be subject to the provisions of the common pool; (iii) A contract signed by all sector participants indicating their agreement to abide by the operations plan; (iv) The name of a designated representative or agent of the sector for service of process; (v) If applicable, a plan for consolidation or redistribution of ACE detailing the quantity and duration of such consolidation or redistribution within the sector; (vi) A list of the specific management rules the sector participants will agree to abide by in order to avoid exceeding the allocated ACE for each stock, PO 00000 Frm 00046 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 including a plan of operations or cessation of operations once the ACEs of one or more stocks are harvested and detailed plans for enforcement of the sector rules; (vii) A plan that defines the procedures by which members of the sector that do not abide by the rules of the sector will be disciplined or removed from the sector, and a procedure for notifying NMFS of such expulsions from the sector; (viii) If applicable, a plan of how the ACE allocated to the sector is assigned to each vessel; (ix) If the operations plan is inconsistent with, or outside the scope of the NEPA analysis associated with the sector proposal/framework adjustment as specified in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, a supplemental NEPA analysis may be required with the operations plan; (x) Detailed information about overage penalties or other actions that will be taken if a sector exceeds its ACE for any stock; (xi) Detailed plans for the monitoring and reporting of landings and discards by sector participants, including, but not limited to, detailed information describing the sector’s at-sea/electronic monitoring program for monitoring utilization of ACE allocated to that sector; identification of the independent third-party service providers employed by the sector to provide at-sea/electronic monitoring services; the mechanism and timing of any hail reports; a list of specific ports where participating vessels will land fish, with specific exemptions noted for safety, weather, etc., allowed, provided the sector provides reasonable notification to NMFS concerning a deviation from the listed ports; and any other information about such a program required by NMFS; (xii) ACE thresholds that may trigger revisions to sector operations to ensure allocated ACE is not exceeded, and details regarding the sector’s plans for notifying NMFS once the specified ACE threshold has been reached; (xiii) Identification of any potential redirection of effort into other fisheries expected as a result of sector operations, and, if necessary, proposed limitations to eliminate any adverse effects expected from such redirection of effort; (xiv) If applicable, description of how regulated species and ocean pout will be avoided while participating in other fisheries that have a bycatch of regulated species or ocean pout if the sector does not have sufficient ACE for stocks of regulated species or ocean pout caught as bycatch in those E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 39 / Monday, February 28, 2022 / Proposed Rules fisheries, as specified in paragraph (b)(1)(vi)(B) of this section; and (xv) A list of existing regulations that the sector is requesting exemption from during the following fishing year pursuant to paragraph (c)(2) of this section. (3) NEPA analysis. In addition to the documents required by paragraphs (a)(1) and (b)(2) of this section, before NMFS can approve a sector to operate during a particular fishing year, each sector must develop and submit to NMFS, in conjunction with the yearly operations plan and sector contract, an appropriate NEPA analysis assessing the impacts of forming the sector and operating under the measures described in the sector operations plan. * * * * * ■ 12. In § 648.90, revise paragraphs (a)(2)(iii) and (4)(i)(B) to read as follows: § 648.90 NE multispecies assessment, framework procedures and specifications, and flexible area action system. khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS * * * * * (a) * * * (2) * * * (iii) In addition, the PDT may develop ranges of options for any of the management measures in the FMP and the following conditions that may be adjusted through a framework adjustment to achieve FMP goals and objectives including, but not limited to: (A) Revisions to DAS measures, including DAS allocations (such as the distribution of DAS among the four categories of DAS), future uses for Category C DAS, and DAS baselines, adjustments for steaming time, etc.; (B) Accumulation limits due to a permit buyout or buyback; (C) Modifications to capacity measures, such as changes to the DAS transfer or DAS leasing measures; (D) Calculation of area-specific ACLs (including sub-ACLs for specific stocks and areas (e.g., Gulf of Maine cod)), area management boundaries, and adoption of area-specific management measures including the delineation of inshore/ offshore fishing practices, gear restrictions, declaration time periods; (E) Sector allocation requirements and specifications, including the establishment of a new sector, the disapproval of an existing sector, the allowable percent of ACL available to a sector through a sector allocation, an optional sub-ACL specific to Handgear A permitted vessels, management VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:29 Feb 25, 2022 Jkt 256001 uncertainty buffers, and the calculation of PSCs; (F) Sector administration provisions, including at-sea, electronic, dockside, and other monitoring tools, coverage requirements and processes, monitoring program review, or other measures; sector reporting requirements; vesselspecific coverage levels; (G) State-operated permit bank administrative provisions; (H) Measures to implement the U.S./ Canada Resource Sharing Understanding, including any specified TACs (hard or target); (I) Changes to administrative measures; (J) Additional uses for Regular B DAS; (K) Reporting requirements; (L) Declaration requirements pertaining to when and what time period a vessel must declare into or out of a fishery management area; (M) The GOM Inshore Conservation and Management Stewardship Plan; (N) Adjustments to the Handgear A or B permits; (O) Gear requirements to improve selectivity, reduce bycatch, and/or reduce impacts of the fishery on EFH; (P) SAP modifications; (Q) Revisions to the ABC control rule and status determination criteria, including, but not limited to, changes in the target fishing mortality rates, minimum biomass thresholds, numerical estimates of parameter values, and the use of a proxy for biomass may be made either through a biennial adjustment or framework adjustment; (R) Changes to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer seaday allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs; and (S) Any other measures currently included in the FMP. * * * * * (4) * * * (i) * * * (B) ACL recommendations. The PDT shall develop ACL recommendations based upon ABCs recommended by the SSC and the pertinent recommendations of the Transboundary Management Guidance Committee (TMGC). The ACL recommendations of the PDT shall be specified based upon total catch for each stock (including both landings and PO 00000 Frm 00047 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 11037 discards), if that information is available. The PDT shall describe the steps involved with the calculation of the recommended ACLs and uncertainties and risks considered when developing these recommendations, including whether different levels of uncertainties were used for different sub-components of the fishery and whether ACLs have been exceeded in recent years. Based upon the ABC recommendations of the SSC and the ACL recommendations of the PDT, the Council shall adopt ACLs that are equal to or lower than the ABC recommended by the SSC to account for management uncertainty in the fishery. In years that the coverage target for the groundfish sector monitoring program specified in § 648.11(l) is set at 100 percent, the management uncertainty buffer will default to zero for the sector sub-ACL for the allocated regulated species stocks specified at § 648.87(b)(1)(i)(A), but the need for a management uncertainty buffer for the sector subACL will continue to be evaluated as part of each specification action. The PDT will recommend an appropriate management uncertainty buffer for the sector sub-ACLs if 100-percent monitoring coverage is determined not to be effective, or if any additional elements evaluated when setting the management uncertainty buffers have the potential to result in catches that could exceed ACLs. * * * * * ■ 13. Section 648.202 is amended by revising paragraph (b)(1) to read as follows: § 648.202 Season and area restrictions. * * * * * (b) * * * (1) No vessel issued an Atlantic herring permit and fishing with midwater trawl gear, may fish for, possess or land fish in or from the Closed Areas, including Cashes Ledge Closure Area, Western GOM Closure Area, Closed Area I North (February 1– April 15), and Closed Area II, as defined in § 648.81(a)(3), (4), and (5) and (c)(3) and (4), respectively, unless it has declared first its intent to fish in the Closed Areas as required by § 648.11(m)(1), and is carrying onboard an observer. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2022–03572 Filed 2–25–22; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\28FEP1.SGM 28FEP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 87, Number 39 (Monday, February 28, 2022)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 11014-11037]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2022-03572]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No.: 220214-0046]
RIN 0648-BK17


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast 
Multispecies Fishery; Amendment 23

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 to approve, and implement through regulations, 
measures included in Amendment 23 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery 
Management Plan, which the New England Fishery Management Council 
adopted and submitted to NMFS for approval. This action would adjust 
the existing industry-funded at-sea monitoring program for groundfish 
sectors to improve the accuracy of collected catch data (landings and 
discards) and catch accounting. The measures selected by the New 
England Fishery Management Council in Amendment 23 are intended to 
ensure there is a precise and accurate representation of catch to set 
catch limit levels that prevent overfishing and determine when catch 
limits are exceeded.

DATES: Comments must be received by March 30, 2022.

ADDRESSES: The New England Fishery Management Council (Council) has 
prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for this action that 
describes the proposed measures in

[[Page 11015]]

Amendment 23 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan 
(FMP) and other considered alternatives, and analyzes the impacts of 
the proposed measures and alternatives. The Council submitted the 
amendment to NMFS, including the EIS, a description of the Council's 
preferred alternatives, the Council's rationale for selecting each 
alternative, and a Regulatory Impact Review (RIR). Copies of supporting 
documents used by the Council, including the EIS and RIR, are available 
from: Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery 
Management Council, 50 Water Street, Newburyport, MA 01950 and 
accessible via the internet in documents available at: https://www.nefmc.org/library/amendment-23.
    You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2020-0144, by the 
following method:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov 
and enter NOAA-NMFS-2020-0144 in the Search box. Click the ``Comment'' 
icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method or received after 
the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All 
comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be 
posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All 
personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), 
confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information 
submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS 
will accept anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if 
you wish to remain anonymous).
    Comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other aspects of 
the collection-of-information requirements contained in this proposed 
rule may be submitted to www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAMain. Find this 
particular information collection by selecting ``Currently under 30-day 
Review--Open for Public Comments'' or by using the search function.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark Grant, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
(978) 281-9145.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Amendment 23 Summary

    The Council initiated Amendment 23 to consider changes to the 
groundfish monitoring and reporting system to ensure it is providing 
accurate catch information necessary to manage the fishery effectively. 
The alternatives considered in this action focus on measures that 
adjust the existing industry-funded sector monitoring program to 
improve the accuracy of collected catch data (landings and discards) 
and catch accounting. To address these issues, the Council adopted 
Amendment 23 to make a number of changes to the industry-funded sector 
monitoring program in order to:
     Replace the current process for calculating an annual 
monitoring coverage target for at-sea monitoring (ASM) with a fixed 
monitoring coverage target as a percentage of trips, dependent on 
Federal funding. The coverage target would be 100 percent of trips for 
4 years, but could be set at less than 100 percent at the maximum level 
for which there are sufficient Federal funds to support all agency and 
industry costs. Beginning in year 5, the ASM coverage target would be 
40 percent of trips but NMFS could increase ASM coverage above the 40-
percent target when Federal funding is available to support all 
industry costs. For years with a 40-percent coverage target, Federal 
funding would be used to first pay NMFS costs and then support as much 
of industry costs as possible. Sectors would be responsible for paying 
only the industry costs above the portion supported by Federal funding.
     Approve additional electronic monitoring (EM) technologies 
as an alternative to human at-sea monitors;
     Exclude from the monitoring requirement all trips in 
geographic areas with low groundfish catch;
     Require periodic evaluation of the monitoring program and 
exclusions from the monitoring requirement;
     Remove the management uncertainty buffer from the portion 
of the ABC allocated to the sector catch share when the monitoring 
coverage target is 100 percent; and
     Grant authority to the Northeast Regional Administrator to 
revise sector reporting requirements to streamline reporting for the 
industry.
    The proposed measures are discussed in detail below under 
Discussion of Proposed Rule Measures. Under the Magnuson-Stevens 
Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), we are 
required to publish proposed rules for comment after preliminarily 
determining that they are consistent with applicable law. The Magnuson-
Stevens Act allows us to approve, partially approve, or disapprove 
measures proposed by the Council based only on whether the measures are 
consistent with the fishery management plan, plan amendment, the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act and its National Standards, and other applicable 
law. Otherwise, we must defer to the Council's policy choices. We are 
seeking comment on the Council's proposed measures in Amendment 23 and 
whether they are consistent with the Northeast Multispecies FMP, the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act and its National Standards, and other applicable 
law.

Discussion of Proposed Rule Measures

ASM Coverage Target

    Amendment 23 would replace the current method for determining the 
ASM coverage target for deploying human at-sea monitors, including the 
coefficient of variation (CV) standard, stock status criteria, and the 
need for an annual determination by NMFS, with a fixed coverage target 
as a percentage of trips, dependent on Federal funding. Currently, NMFS 
is required to determine an ASM coverage target that at least meets the 
30-percent CV specified in the Standardized Bycatch Reporting 
Methodology at the overall stock level for each stock of regulated 
species and ocean pout; and to monitor sector operations, to the extent 
practicable, in order to reliably estimate overall catch by sector 
vessels. Analyses included in the Amendment 23 EIS (see ADDRESSES) 
demonstrated the CV standard was no longer an effective basis for 
determining coverage due to bias that results from differences between 
trips that are monitored and trips that are not monitored.
    To address bias, the coverage target would be 100 percent of trips 
for 4 years, provided Federal funding can support agency and industry 
costs. The ASM coverage target in years 1-4 could be less than 100 
percent, and would be set at the maximum level for which there are 
sufficient Federal funds to support all agency and industry costs. The 
at-sea monitoring coverage target would default to 40 percent in years 
1-4 if Federal funding cannot completely support all industry costs for 
a coverage target greater than 40 percent. In year 5 and beyond, the 
coverage target would be 40 percent unless replaced by a subsequent 
Council action. However, Amendment 23 would also allow for increased 
coverage in year 5 and beyond, when Federal funding is available to 
support industry costs. For years with a 40-percent ASM coverage 
target, Federal funding would be used to first pay NMFS costs and then 
support as much of industry costs as possible. The current method used 
to set ASM target coverage levels is not effective to estimate catch 
because observed trips

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are not representative of unobserved trips. As a result, biased catch 
data undermines management of the fishery. It is not possible at this 
time to calculate an ASM coverage target less than 100 percent that 
would eliminate or minimize bias sufficiently to ensure catch 
accountability because the current catch data are not representative of 
the entirety of the sector fishery. The Council chose a fixed ASM 
coverage target of 100 percent to address bias by establishing a 
baseline of accurate and precise catch information for the fishery. The 
100-percent coverage target would increase the accuracy of catch 
estimates and reduce the potential for bias more than any other 
coverage target considered. Setting the coverage target at 100 percent 
also simplifies compliance and enforceability of the monitoring program 
by removing a complex system of stratified random sampling. In 
addition, while improved monitoring would not solve all of the issues 
facing the fishery, a 100-percent coverage target is expected to 
provide more information to support better management of this fishery. 
Making the coverage target contingent on Federal funding for industry 
costs balances the need for improved monitoring with the economic 
effects to the fishery. Combined with the option for vessels to use EM 
(see ``Electronic Monitoring'' below) and removing the management 
uncertainty buffers from the sector portion of the annual catch limit 
(ACL) (see ``Elimination of Management Uncertainty Buffer for Sector 
ACLs'' below), the increased cost to industry is reduced. ASM coverage 
targets of at least 40-percent on a consistent basis would be an 
increase from attained coverage levels to date. Higher ASM coverage, 
even for a limited time, along with data from EM, could improve the 
cost-effectiveness of the monitoring system by providing a baseline of 
accurate and precise catch information to be used in the evaluation of 
the program that is planned (see ``Review Process for Monitoring 
Coverage Rates'' below).
    The Council also selected a minimum ASM coverage target of 40 
percent in the event that Federal funds are not available in a given 
year in order to ensure accurate catch information is still provided 
while addressing concerns about industry costs. The minimum target 
level of 40 percent will be funded either by sectors (if no Federal 
funds are available) or a combination of sectors and Federal funds.
    The availability of EM also provides a potential option for sector 
monitoring programs to ensure catch accountability. The EM models 
address bias by requiring cameras to monitor fishing activity during 
the entirety of all sector groundfish trips. The availability and use 
of EM will also provide additional data to compare to ASM coverage and 
inform NMFS and the Council on the Amendment 23 coverage target's 
performance. NMFS proposes several administrative procedural changes to 
implement the revised ASM coverage target, but would retain other 
aspects of the current requirements. All vessels would continue to 
provide advanced notice to NMFS through the pre-trip notification 
systems (PTNS) for the purposes of selecting vessels for ASM and 
observer deployment. The agency would continue to issue waivers from 
ASM for selected trips in specific circumstances, including if an 
observer or at-sea monitor is not available to cover the trip, or for 
other logistical reasons (e.g., late observer, safety), consistent with 
its current practice.
    Each year, NMFS would evaluate available Federal funding. 
Consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws, 
NMFS would determine how much Federal funding is available for the 
groundfish sector monitoring program and then use that in conjunction 
with other available information (e.g., recent monitoring costs, 
estimate of the number of vessels choosing EM) to calculate the ASM 
coverage target between 40 and 100 percent for the coming fishing year. 
This funding-based determination would replace the current annual 
process for determining the ASM coverage target for the sector 
monitoring program.
    NMFS would announce the ASM coverage target at least 3 weeks before 
the annual sector enrollment deadline set by NMFS, if Federal funding 
information is available (see ``Determining Total Monitoring Coverage 
at a Time Certain'' below). NMFS currently anticipates that existing 
available Federal funding would be sufficient to fund at least 2 years 
with a 100-percent ASM coverage target.

Electronic Monitoring

    Amendment 23 would approve the Audit Model and the maximized 
retention model of EM (MREM) for sector vessels to use, in place of 
ASM, to satisfy the sector monitoring requirement. EM is expected to 
provide important information for NMFS and the Council to consider 
during the first 4 years and to provide a suitable basis for sector 
monitoring programs to ensure catch accountability. A vessel using EM 
would still be subject to Northeast Fishery Observer Program (NEFOP) 
coverage, which is set at a level to meet the standardized bycatch 
reporting methodology requirements of the FMP and the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act. Amendment 23 does not remove or alter the existing authority for 
the Regional Administrator to deem types of EM technology sufficient to 
be used in place of human at-sea monitors. However, the two EM models 
in Amendment 23 would be available for sectors to include in their 
operations plans without requiring a separate determination by the 
Regional Administrator. Additional forms of EM would still be subject 
to approval or disapproval by NMFS.
    The audit model is one of the EM models included in Amendment 23. 
NMFS previously determined the EM audit model is sufficient to verify a 
vessel's submission of information on groundfish discards and other 
relevant information (e.g., date and time, gear category, location) for 
the purpose of catch accounting, provided that the vessel's captain and 
crew adhere to catch handling and reporting requirements as described 
in the vessel-specific monitoring plan (VMP) (86 FR 16686; March 31, 
2021). The VMP details specific fish handling protocols, policies, and 
procedures; as well as the number and location of cameras. VMPs are 
reviewed and approved by NMFS prior to a vessel enrolling in EM to 
ensure the set-up is adequate to support data collection needs and 
requirements. Under the audit model, the vessel operator and crew hold 
groundfish discards on a measuring board and under a camera prior to 
discarding, and discard other species in view of cameras at designated 
discard control points. The vessel operator estimates the total weight 
of groundfish discards on an electronic vessel trip report (eVTR), and 
submits the video footage to the EM service provider. The EM service 
provider reviews trips selected for audit and develops an independent 
estimate of groundfish discards for the trip. The EM data are compared 
to verify the eVTR-reported catch and discards. NMFS sets the video 
review rates for audit model trips and conducts a secondary review of 
some trips to evaluate EM provider performance. NMFS may revise audit 
rates to ensure accurate reporting and minimize costs. For instance, 
vessels that demonstrate higher performance in terms of compliance with 
the VMP and accuracy of discard reporting could have lower review rates 
than vessels that do not perform as well. Additional detail of the 
audit model requirements are contained in the Fishing Years 2021-2022 
Sector Operations Plan, Contract, and

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Environmental Assessment Requirements guide (https://bit.ly/3pdau1L).
    Amendment 23 would also approve the MREM model. The goal of MREM is 
to verify compliance with catch retention requirements and use dockside 
monitoring (DSM) to collect information on allocated groundfish 
discards at the dock that otherwise would be collected at sea. Under 
the MREM model, on all sector EM trips, the vessel operator and crew 
are required to retain and land all catch of allocated groundfish, 
including fish below the minimum size, specified at 50 CFR Sec.  
648.83, that they would otherwise be required to discard. Unallocated 
regulated species, ocean pout, and non-groundfish species must be 
handled in accordance with standard commercial fishing operations. Any 
allowable discards must occur at designated discard control points on 
the vessel, described in the vessel's VMP. EM data from the trip would 
be reviewed by the EM service provider to verify that the vessel 
operator and crew complied with the catch retention requirements. A 
human dockside monitor would meet the vessel at port upon its return 
from each trip to observe the offload and collect information on the 
catch (particularly fish below the minimum size). Landings of all fish 
by MREM vessels, including fish below the minimum size in the 
regulations, would be reported to NMFS by the dealer.
    Approving EM models as alternatives to human ASM provides each 
sector the flexibility to choose the monitoring options (ASM, audit 
model EM, MREM) that best meet the needs of its members and ensure 
catch accountability. Through their operations plans, sectors would 
develop monitoring plans that describe how the sector would use the 
chosen monitoring tools. The intent of implementing the audit model and 
MREM through Amendment 23 is to make alternatives to human ASM 
available now while also retaining authority for the Regional 
Administrator to approve additional tools in the future. The goal is to 
provide sectors with additional tools to monitor catch that ensure 
precise and accurate catch estimation and minimize the potential for 
bias because EM is active on 100 percent of sector groundfish trips. 
These EM options are expected to eliminate bias and eliminate the 
coordination of human logistics for trips not assigned NEFOP coverage. 
Both EM models increase flexibility for sectors and their vessels to 
choose the monitoring option that best suits their business and 
operational needs while offering potential reductions in monitoring 
costs. The audit model may be most suitable for lower volume groundfish 
trips because it requires extra catch handling. MREM may be better 
suited for larger volume vessels where the catch handling protocols of 
the audit model present logistical challenges. DSM is a required 
component of MREM and may be easier to facilitate at dealers that are 
prepared to handle large volume offloads. The economic analyses in the 
EIS suggest that when both the audit model and MREM are available to 
vessels, as alternatives to ASM, the costs of 100-percent monitoring 
may be reduced for individual vessels and the fishery as a whole.
    A vessel may only use the audit model or MREM to meet the sector 
monitoring requirement if its sector includes that EM model in its 
approved operations plan. A vessel must opt into an EM program for an 
entire fishing year, with two exceptions. First, a sector may allow a 
vessel a single opportunity to opt in/out of EM at any time during a 
fishing year if the sector operations plan includes both an approved 
ASM and EM plan. Second, if a vessel changes to a gear type not covered 
in the VMP, the vessel may temporarily become an ASM vessel until the 
VMP authorizing the use of the new gear type is approved. Vessels using 
EM must have their EM system operational and running on every sector 
groundfish trip, including trips that would be excluded from the ASM 
requirement (see ``Exclusion from Monitoring Requirements for Certain 
Vessel Under Certain Conditions'' below), unless issued a waiver by 
NMFS or assigned an ASM. During each sector EM trip taken by a vessel, 
the EM system records all fishing activity onboard the vessel. The 
vessel operator and crew sort fish and make any allowable discards 
within view of the cameras in accordance with the catch handling 
protocols described in the VMP.
    NMFS proposes to implement the audit model consistent with the 
operational program implemented in fishing year 2021. Amendment 23 
specified that vessels using audit model EM in place of ASM would be 
required to report discards at the haul level. However, the current 
operational audit model allows vessels to report discards at the sub-
trip level, rather than the haul level. Haul-level reporting would 
require the vessel to fill out a new eVTR for each haulback of a trawl 
net, each haul of a string of gillnets, and each haul of fixed hook 
gear while sub-trip-level reporting requires a new eVTR only when a 
vessel changes gear type or mesh size, or physically changes location 
to a different statistical area. As part of implementing Amendment 23, 
NMFS proposes to allow vessels using the audit model to continue 
reporting discards at the sub-trip level, rather than the haul level, 
and is soliciting comment on this proposal (see ``Sector Reporting'' 
below).
    NMFS proposes to implement MREM consistent with the NOAA Fisheries 
MREM program detailed in the draft Sector Operations Plan, Contract, 
and Environmental Assessment Requirements guide for fishing year 2022 
available at: https://media.fisheries.noaa.gov/2022-01/210826_SectorOpsEAGuidanceFY2021_2022_Revised.pdf. Under MREM, the 
vessel operator and crew must adhere to the following catch handling 
requirements: Retain and land all catch of allocated groundfish, 
including any sublegal-size catch and unmarketable fish; discard 
unallocated groundfish stocks (i.e., windowpane flounder, ocean pout, 
wolffish, Atlantic halibut) at designated discard control points; 
handle all other species in accordance with standard commercial fishing 
operations, including adhering to possession limits for halibut and 
non-groundfish species; and sort unmarketable fish separately from fish 
below the minimum legal size.
    MREM vessels must also participate in a DSM program. NMFS proposes 
to initially continue to operate a DSM program for MREM vessels while 
working with partners to pilot a third-party DSM program. Subsequently, 
an industry-funded DSM model would be implemented and sectors would be 
required to contract with approved DSM providers to cover their MREM 
vessels. The vessel operator must notify the DSM program of its 
intention to sail prior to beginning a sector EM trip. Either the 
vessel operator or dealer must provide an offload time to the DSM 
program in advance of landing. The advance notice of landing and 
offload schedule will be dependent on the nature of the vessel's 
activity (e.g., day boat vs trip boat vessels) and will be defined in 
the vessel's VMP. The vessel operator, crew, and dealer must offload 
all allocated groundfish in the presence of the dockside monitor. The 
vessel operator and crew may not begin offloading unless a dockside 
monitor is present or they have received a waiver from the DSM program. 
The vessel operator must allow the dockside monitor access to the fish 
hold immediately following the offload in order to confirm all 
allocated groundfish were offloaded. The vessel operator and crew or 
dealer personnel must separate sublegal allocated groundfish catch by 
species, except in instances where the

[[Page 11018]]

sublegal component of a high-volume target species (i.e., redfish, 
haddock, and pollock) is combined with fish in the terminal legal-sized 
market category. The vessel operator and crew or dealer personnel must 
also separate unmarketable fish from fish below the minimum size.
    NMFS also proposes requirements for Northeast multispecies dealers 
to facilitate DSM for MREM vessels. Federally permitted Northeast 
multispecies dealers would be required to allow dockside monitors 
access to their premises, scales, and any fish received from vessels 
participating in the MREM program for the purpose of collecting fish 
species and weights of fish received by the dealer, fish length 
measurements, and the collection of age structures such as otoliths or 
scales. The primary dealer would be required to retain all sublegal 
allocated groundfish catch in order to be weighed and sampled by the 
dockside monitor. Dealers would be required to clearly mark all 
containers containing sublegal catch to facilitate tracking, and would 
be required to provide settlement documents to the DSM program for any 
allocated groundfish forwarded to secondary dealers. This is intended 
to provide a ready means for dealers to show when they possess 
undersized fish landed from MREM vessels. The implementing regulations 
deemed by the Council inadvertently omitted this requirement, but it is 
included in the regulations proposed in this rule. We highlight this 
change from the deeming requirements to ensure the Council and the 
public have an opportunity to comment on this addition to the 
implementing regulations.
    Dealers would also be required to provide dockside monitors with 
access to facilities equivalent to what is provided to the dealer's 
staff, including: A safe sampling station, with shelter from weather, 
for dockside monitors to conduct their duties and process catch; access 
to bathrooms; and access to facilities for washing equipment with fresh 
water. The intent of the dealer requirements is not to require dealers 
to create or provide facilities that do not already exist, but to 
ensure dockside monitors have access to facilities equivalent to what 
is available to the dealer's staff.
    The proposed EM programs raise several implementation issues that 
NMFS is highlighting for comment. First, as noted above, NMFS proposes 
that vessels using EM must have their EM system operational and running 
on every sector groundfish trip, including trips that would be excluded 
from the ASM requirement, unless issued a waiver by NMFS or assigned an 
ASM. Throughout the development of EM, we have found that vessels are 
most successful at complying with their VMP when it is followed on all 
groundfish trips. Further, this requirement is consistent with the 
Council's intent that EM tools meet or exceed the ASM coverage target 
to ensure catch accountability. Vessels that are interested in fishing 
in ways that would be excluded from ASM (see ``Exclusion from 
Monitoring Requirements for Certain Vessel Under Certain Conditions'' 
below) may choose to use ASM, rather than adopting EM, and be excluded 
from the sector monitoring requirement on trips with low groundfish 
catch. Second, some discards of allocated groundfish occur on MREM 
trips and the Council should consider how to account for those fish. 
This would include operational discards (fish that drop out of the gear 
into the ocean, fish taken by birds), accidental discards, and 
intentional discards. These discards cannot always be estimated using 
EM technology. Third, vessels must discard any red hake in excess of 
the possession limit, but those fish cannot be distinguished from white 
hake using cameras. The Council may want to consider this interaction 
between the NE Multispecies FMP and the small-mesh fishery and 
potential methods for fully accounting for catch of these two stocks by 
MREM vessels.

Determining Total Monitoring Coverage at a Time Certain

    Amendment 23 would require the Regional Administrator to determine 
the ASM coverage target at least 3 weeks prior to the annual sector 
enrollment deadline set by NMFS. The date NMFS announces the annual ASM 
coverage target in past years has varied from January 25 to March 26 
and has sometimes been later than the sector roster deadline for that 
fishing year (see Table 65 in the EIS, see ADDRESSES). This action sets 
a fixed ASM coverage target; however, the monitoring coverage target is 
dependent on available Federal funding (see ``ASM Coverage Target'' 
above and ``Higher Monitoring Coverage Levels if NMFS Funds Are 
Available'' below). The Council identified the importance for industry 
to know the ASM coverage target at a time certain in advance of the 
start of the fishing year because the ASM coverage target may have 
industry costs when Federal funding cannot at least support NMFS and 
industry costs for a 40-percent ASM coverage target. Therefore, this 
rule proposes NMFS will announce the ASM coverage target at least 3 
weeks before the annual sector enrollment deadline set by NMFS, if 
Federal funding information is available. In years when Federal funding 
information is not available prior to the sector enrollment deadline, 
the ASM coverage target will be announced as soon as practicable.

Review Process for Monitoring Coverage Rates

    As part of the revisions to the groundfish sector monitoring 
program, Amendment 23 includes a Council review process to evaluate the 
effectiveness of the increased ASM coverage target. The Council would 
undertake the review once two full fishing years of data are available 
(likely in year 3 following implementation), and periodically 
thereafter. The Council review process is intended to be flexible and 
somewhat general, but would include establishing metrics and indicators 
of how well the monitoring program improved accuracy while maximizing 
value and minimizing costs. As a priority for 2021, the Council 
recommended that the Groundfish Plan Development Team develop the 
review process metrics based on the Council's final preferred 
alternatives in Amendment 23. The Council discussed that the scope of 
the review would be different if 100 percent coverage levels are 
selected compared to lower coverage levels. The Council selected a 
fixed ASM coverage target 100 percent of trips, but also selected a 
default ASM coverage target of 40-percent coverage in the event that 
Federal funds are not available to support industry costs for higher 
monitoring coverage. The review process if the ASM coverage target is 
100 percent could include metrics such as discard estimate CVs and a 
measure of how catch (discards and landings) changed following 
implementation of comprehensive monitoring. For lower ASM coverage 
targets, the review may include additional metrics to ensure monitoring 
targets were met and were effective, and might include analyses of 
whether the program is operating in a way the Council intended, whether 
catch is being measured accurately, or whether there is evidence of 
bias.
    The intent of the review process is to evaluate whether the revised 
groundfish sector monitoring program, and particularly the increased 
ASM coverage target, is meeting the Council's goal of improved accuracy 
of catch data and catch monitoring while maximizing the value of the 
data collected and minimizing the costs of the monitoring program. The 
Council would be responsible for the review and the results would 
support potential future Council action to refine the groundfish

[[Page 11019]]

sector monitoring program or revise the ASM coverage target. NMFS may 
also review the sector monitoring program to assist the Council in its 
review and to ensure the sector monitoring program meets requirements 
of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, particularly the requirement to specify 
ACLs at a level that prevents overfishing, including measures to ensure 
accountability.

Waivers From Monitoring Requirements

    Amendment 23 includes a provision to allow waivers exempting 
individual vessels from industry-funded monitoring requirements, for 
either a trip or the fishing year, if coverage would be unavailable due 
to insufficient funding for NMFS administrative costs to meet the ASM 
coverage target. The waivers would include coverage for ASM and EM, 
including DSM for MREM vessels. Allowing the potential to issue these 
waivers preserves the Council's intent to increase monitoring in the 
groundfish fishery without creating a requirement that could prevent 
vessels from participating in the groundfish fishery if monitoring 
coverage was not available.
    As described above, NMFS would evaluate available Federal funding 
each year (see ``ASM Coverage Target'' above). If NMFS determines that 
there is insufficient funding to pay for its cost responsibilities, as 
defined in Sec.  648.11(g)(3), for an ASM coverage target of at least 
40 percent, then vessels would continue to be required to notify NMFS 
of all trips through the PTNS, but NMFS would issue a waiver for a 
sector trip exempting the vessel from the sector monitoring program 
coverage requirements. If NMFS waives monitoring requirements due to 
insufficient funding, as part of its review the Council would consider 
whether changes to the FMP were necessary to ensure effective 
management if the ASM coverage target was less than 40 percent.
Exclusion From Monitoring Requirements for Certain Vessel Under Certain 
Conditions
    Amendment 23 excludes sector fishing trips fished in their entirety 
west of 71[deg]30' W Longitude from the ASM requirement. The Council 
included this provision to minimize the costs of the overall increase 
in monitoring because the majority of groundfish are caught in waters 
east of this boundary. The catch composition includes little to no 
catch of many groundfish stocks, with substantial catch of a few 
groundfish stocks, for sector vessels fishing exclusively west of 
71[deg]30' W Longitude (see Table 73 of the EIS). However, the 
proportion of commercial catches for some stocks (Southern New England 
yellowtail flounder and winter flounder, southern windowpane flounder, 
and ocean pout) caught in this area has been over 25 percent in recent 
years.
    Vessels would continue to be required to notify NMFS of all trips 
through the PTNS, but NMFS would issue a waiver for a sector trip 
exempting the vessel from ASM on a trip fishing exclusively west of 
71[deg]30' W Longitude. Vessels on a trip excluded from the ASM 
requirement under this provision would be required to comply with the 
VMS declaration requirements at Sec.  648.10(g)(3), and the transiting 
requirements at Sec.  648.81(e) when east of 71[deg]30' W Longitude. 
Vessels using EM to satisfy the sector monitoring requirement would be 
required to have their system turned on and comply with their vessel 
monitoring plan on all trips, including trips fishing exclusively west 
71[deg]30' W Longitude.
    This proposed exclusion from the ASM requirements raises several 
implementation issues and concerns that NMFS is highlighting for 
comment and future Council consideration. First, as discussed in more 
detail above (see ``Electronic Monitoring'' above), NMFS proposes that 
vessels using EM must have their EM system operational and running on 
every sector groundfish trip, including trips that would otherwise be 
excluded from the ASM requirement under this provision, unless issued a 
waiver by NMFS or assigned an ASM. Therefore, this exclusion would not 
apply to EM vessels. Second, any catch of groundfish on these trips 
would not be monitored and because the 71[deg]30' W Longitude line 
splits three statistical areas (533, 537, and 539), some trips in those 
statistical areas will have ASM coverage and others will not, 
complicating any attempt to use observed trips to estimate catch on 
unobserved trips in those areas, including during the Council's review 
(see ``Review Process for Monitoring Coverage Rates'' above). The 
Council should consider these issues when considering uncertainty 
buffers in future actions setting specifications.

Review Process for Vessels Excluded Exempted From Commercial Groundfish 
Monitoring Program Requirements

    The monitoring revisions in Amendment 23 establish a process for 
reviewing measures that exclude certain vessels from the groundfish 
monitoring program requirements based on catch composition. This 
includes the existing gear-based exclusion from the ASM requirement, 
implemented by Framework 55, for sector trips that exclusively fish 
using gillnets of 10-inch (24.5-cm) or larger mesh in the Inshore 
Georges Bank and/or the Southern New England Broad Stock Areas; and the 
Amendment 23 provision excluding sector fishing trips taken in their 
entirety west of 71[deg]30' W Longitude (see ``Exclusion from 
Monitoring Requirements for Certain Vessel Under Certain Conditions'' 
above). The Council will conduct this review after two years of fishing 
data are available and every three years after that.
    The intent of the review process is to evaluate whether the trips 
excluded from the ASM requirement continue to catch small amounts of 
groundfish. The Council raised a concern that it did not want vessels 
to change their fishing behavior and target groundfish on trips 
excluded from the ASM requirement. The review would also be important 
to evaluate whether exclusions from the ASM requirement undermine the 
monitoring program or other measures of the FMP. The Council would be 
responsible for the review and the results would support potential 
future Council action.

Higher Monitoring Coverage Levels if NMFS Funds Are Available

    Amendment 23 would allow for ASM at higher coverage levels than the 
ASM coverage target selected by the Council, up to 100 percent, if NMFS 
determines funding is available to cover the additional administrative 
costs to NMFS and sampling costs to industry in a given year. This 
measure would apply to year 5 and later, when the ASM coverage target 
would otherwise be 40 percent of sector trips.
    Monitoring coverage of 100 percent of trips, or as close to 100 
percent as achievable increases the accuracy of catch estimates and at 
least reduces, if not eliminates, the potential for bias. Higher 
coverage levels, even for a limited time, could inform understanding of 
the magnitude of bias, and inform future actions on the value of higher 
monitoring coverage levels. ASM coverage of 100 percent of trips is 
currently considered to remove or reduce bias to the greatest extent 
practicable; however, it may be impracticable for industry or NMFS to 
fund costs associated with complete ASM coverage, resulting in a lower 
ASM coverage level. Higher levels of ASM coverage would substantially 
increase costs to NMFS and sectors. Making the ASM coverage target 
contingent on Federal funding for industry costs balances the need for 
improved monitoring with the economic impacts on the fishery.

[[Page 11020]]

    Each year, NMFS would evaluate available Federal funding and 
determine how much Federal funding is available for the groundfish 
sector monitoring program and then use that in conjunction with other 
available information (e.g., recent monitoring costs, estimate of the 
number of vessels choosing EM) to calculate the ASM coverage target for 
the coming fishing year.

Elimination of Management Uncertainty Buffer for Sector ACLs

    Amendment 23 includes an option to revise the management 
uncertainty buffer for the sector portion of the ACL for each allocated 
groundfish stock to be set to zero. The NE Multispecies includes a 
process for setting an overfishing limit (OFL) for groundfish stocks. 
The OFL represents the maximum amount of fish that can be caught in a 
year without resulting in overfishing. The Council typically recommends 
an acceptable biological catch (ABC) for a groundfish stock that is 
lower than the OFL to account for scientific uncertainty. The Council 
sets an ACL at a level below the ABC to account for management 
uncertainty, and this serves as a buffer to prevent the fishery from 
exceeding the ABC. The management uncertainty buffer accounts for the 
possibility that management measures will result in a level of catch 
greater than expected. The Council evaluates the management uncertainty 
buffers in each specification-setting action.
    The revised management uncertainty buffers would apply only to 
sectors, and not to the common pool component of the fishery, or other 
sub-ACLs or sub-components for any stocks. The management uncertainty 
buffer may be removed only in years in which the ASM coverage target is 
100 percent. The process by which the Council evaluates and sets 
management uncertainty buffers remains unchanged and the Council could 
adjust management uncertainty buffers in future actions. The need for a 
management uncertainty buffer for the sector sub-ACL would continue to 
be evaluated as part of each specification action.
    Monitoring adequacy, precision, and enforceability of management 
measures are three of the elements considered in setting the management 
uncertainty buffer. An ASM coverage target of 100 percent could 
minimize all of those sources of management uncertainty for the sector 
fishery. The full accountability associated with comprehensive 
monitoring could remove uncertainty about whether management measures 
successfully restrain catch by sector vessels to the sector quotas. 
Eliminating uncertainty in quantifying true sector catch could make the 
management uncertainty buffer unnecessary for the sector program. 
Removing the buffer provides direct benefits to the fishery by 
providing opportunity for additional catch and revenue. Increased catch 
and revenue may reduce the net costs of increased monitoring.
    NMFS would make an annual determination prior to the start of the 
fishing year as to whether the buffers would be eliminated based on the 
ASM coverage target set for the fishing year. If Federal funds are not 
available for 100 percent ASM coverage and a lower target coverage 
level is set, the management uncertainty buffers would be in place for 
that fishing year, subject to the Council's review as part of each 
specification action. If 100-percent monitoring coverage is determined 
not to be effective, or if any additional elements evaluated when 
setting the management uncertainty buffers have the potential to result 
in catches that could exceed ACLs, the PDT would recommend an 
appropriate management uncertainty buffer for the sector sub-ACLs as 
part of actions setting specifications.
    This proposed elimination of the uncertainty buffer for sectors 
raises several issues that NMFS is highlighting for comment and future 
Council consideration. First, as discussed above, Amendment 23 excludes 
sector fishing trips taken in their entirety west of 71[deg]30' W 
Longitude from the ASM requirement, but for some stocks (southern New 
England yellowtail flounder and winter flounder, southern windowpane 
flounder, and ocean pout) catch in this area has been over 25 percent 
in recent years. Further, 71[deg]30' W Longitude splits three 
statistical areas (533, 537, and 539), making estimation of catch on 
those trips more complicated. Second, some operational discards (e.g., 
fish fall from the net, birds steal fish) of allocated groundfish occur 
on MREM trips and the Council should consider how to account for those 
fish. Third, eliminating the uncertainty buffer from the sector 
allocations would result in negligible sector carryover because sector 
carryover from one year to the next is limited by the management 
uncertainty buffer between the ACL and ABC in year 2. These issues 
arose after the Council made its final decision on Amendment 23. We 
highlight these issues to ensure the Council and the public have an 
opportunity to comment on how NMFS proposes to address these issues.

Sector Reporting

    Amendment 23 would authorize the Regional Administrator to modify 
the sector monitoring requirements at Sec.  648.87(b)(1)(v) and the 
sector reporting requirements at Sec.  648.87(b)(1)(vi) to streamline 
the sector reporting process. Each week, each sector must submit to 
NMFS a summary catch report, including quota balances; a detailed catch 
report with catch for each trip; and a trip issue report detailing any 
enforcement or reporting compliance issues, violations of sector 
operations and regulations, and general problems with monitoring or 
sector operations. When a sector has caught 90 percent of any quota, 
that sector must submit daily catch reports. Each sector must also 
submit an annual report that summarizes the fishing activities of 
participating vessels.
    More efficient methods might be developed that would still involve 
timely monitoring and reconciliation of data sources between sectors 
and NMFS. For example, NMFS could eliminate the requirement for sectors 
to submit weekly and daily reports and instead provide monitoring 
summaries for the sectors to use for catch accounting and managing 
annual catch entitlements, while continuing the process where NMFS and 
sectors reconcile catch data to confirm accuracy. Authorizing the 
Regional Administrator to streamline the sector reporting process could 
help to reduce reporting redundancies, provide flexibility to sectors 
and sector managers, and improve timeliness of data processing.
    As discussed above (see ``Electronic Monitoring''), Amendment 23 
specified that vessels using Audit Model EM in place of ASM would be 
required to report discards at the haul level. However, the current 
operational Audit Model allows vessels to report discards at the sub-
trip level, rather than the haul level. As part of implementing 
Amendment 23, NMFS proposes using the authority to streamline sector 
reporting requirements to allow vessels using the Audit Model to 
continue reporting discards at the sub-trip level, rather than the haul 
level, and is soliciting comment on this proposal.

Addition to List of Framework Items

    The regulations at Sec.  648.90 list management measures that may 
be changed or implemented through specifications or framework actions. 
During the development of Amendment 23, the Council identified a list 
of specific issues that may be addressed through future specifications 
actions or

[[Page 11021]]

framework adjustments. All alternatives considered in Amendment 23 
would be added to the list of FMP items that may be considered in a 
future framework. Specifically, this includes:
     The addition of new sector monitoring tools (e.g., EM, 
other technologies or approaches) that meet or exceed the Council's 
selected monitoring standard;
     Setting vessel-specific coverage targets instead of 
coverage targets applicable at the sector level; and
     All the Amendment 23 measures discussed in detail above.
    Amendment 23 includes two options for electronic monitoring that 
would be available for sectors to include in their operations plans 
without requiring a separate determination of sufficiency by NMFS. 
Further evolution of technology or development of analytical methods 
could lead to additional or better tools for achieving the goals of the 
monitoring program. It is not possible to forecast technology changes, 
but it is expected that in the future there may be additional 
technologies that would benefit the monitoring program that the Council 
could adopt through a framework.
    A vessel-specific coverage level would require each vessel to meet 
the target coverage level, rather than evaluating the target at the 
sector level. The intent would be to reduce the variation in the amount 
of industry-funded monitoring coverage applicable to each vessel.
    The intent of adding all alternatives considered in Amendment 23 to 
the list of framework items is to allow adjustments to groundfish 
monitoring program to be considered in a framework action. This would 
support a Council response to the new review requirements that would be 
implemented as part of Amendment 23. The regulations at Sec.  
648.90(a)(2)(iii) would be revised to specify that the Council could 
consider these items in a future framework adjustment.

Regulatory Adjustments and Corrections Under Regional Administrator 
Authority

    NMFS is proposing several changes to the regulations consistent 
with section 305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which provides that 
the Secretary of Commerce may promulgate regulations necessary to 
ensure that amendments to an FMP are carried out in accordance with the 
FMP and the Magnuson-Stevens Act. These adjustments do not make any 
substantive changes to the current regulations, but are intended to 
improve the clarity of the regulations.
    First, NMFS would revise Sec.  648.2 to add definitions of terms 
related to EM that are used in the implementing regulations for 
Amendment 23 and clarify and consolidate definitions related to 
individuals that collect data for NMFS. Second, NMFS would move the 
sector monitoring program regulations from Sec.  648.87 to Sec.  
648.11. Third, NMFS would revise Sec.  648.11 to update the names of 
divisions within NMFS. Fourth, NMFS would revise Sec. Sec.  648.2, 
648.10, 648.11, 648.14, 648.51, 648.80, 648.86, and 648.202 to clarify 
that individuals undergoing observer training are included in 
regulatory provisions that apply to certified observers. Finally, NMFS 
would revise Sec.  648.14(k) to correct a typographical error where 
text is missing and to clarify application of the prohibitions to EM.
    Finally, due to the extensive regulatory changes in this action, we 
are updating references throughout the groundfish regulations that will 
change based on the proposed regulatory adjustments. We have included a 
summary of all of the proposed regulatory changes in this rule in Table 
1.

                       Table 1--Summary of Proposed Regulatory Changes to 50 CFR Part 648
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Section                       Authority                       Summary of proposed changes
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sec.   648.2..................  Amendment 23 and 305(d)......  The existing definition of ``electronic
                                                                monitoring'' is revised and new definitions for
                                                                ``electronic monitoring audit model'' and
                                                                ``electronic monitoring maximized retention
                                                                model'' are added to address the EM models
                                                                included in Amendment 23. A new definition for
                                                                ``electronic monitoring provider staff'' is
                                                                added to accommodate monitoring staff that are
                                                                not involved in at-sea or dockside monitoring
                                                                tasks. The existing definition of ``observer/sea
                                                                sampler'' is deleted and the existing definition
                                                                of ``observer or monitor'' is revised to cover
                                                                any person, including trainees, who collects
                                                                observer information, operational fishing data,
                                                                biological data, or economic data for
                                                                conservation and management purposes, whether
                                                                they work on a vessel or on shore. The
                                                                definitions of ``slippage in the Atlantic
                                                                herring fishery,'' ``slip(s) or slipping catch
                                                                in the Atlantic herring fishery,'' and ``video
                                                                reviewer'' are revised to include staff in
                                                                training.
Sec.   648.10.................  305(d).......................  Paragraph (f)(4)(i) is revised to include staff
                                                                in training.
Sec.   648.11.................  Amendment 23 and 305(d)......  The monitoring coverage regulations are revised
                                                                to include the groundfish sector monitoring
                                                                program regulations currently codified in Sec.
                                                                648.87. The newly added groundfish sector
                                                                monitoring program regulations include revisions
                                                                and additions to the text formerly codified in
                                                                Sec.   648.87 to incorporate the proposed
                                                                measures to implement Amendment 23. This section
                                                                is also revised to clarify the insurance
                                                                requirements for monitoring providers, to
                                                                clarify that individuals undergoing observer
                                                                training are included in regulatory provisions
                                                                that apply to certified observers, and to update
                                                                the names of divisions within NMFS.
Sec.   648.14.................  Amendment 23 and 305(d)......  The prohibitions are revised to address new
                                                                regulations implementing Amendment 23 and to
                                                                revise citations associated with moving the
                                                                groundfish sector monitoring program regulations
                                                                currently codified in Sec.   648.87 to Sec.
                                                                648.11. The prohibitions are also revised to
                                                                address changes to the definitions in Sec.
                                                                648.2 that include monitoring staff that are not
                                                                involved in at-sea or dockside monitoring tasks
                                                                and trainees. Prohibitions are added to address
                                                                the dockside monitoring requirements applicable
                                                                to dealers at Sec.   648.11 that implement
                                                                Amendment 23. Section 648.14(k)(3) is revised to
                                                                incorporate missing text stating it is
                                                                prohibited to engage in the behaviors listed in
                                                                sub-paragraphs. Sections 648.14(i)(1)(ix)(B) and
                                                                (r)(2)(iv) are also revised to include staff in
                                                                training.
Sec.   648.51.................  305(d).......................  Sec.  Sec.   648.51(c)(4) and (e)(3)(iii) are
                                                                revised to include staff in training.
Sec.   648.80.................  305(d).......................  Sec.  Sec.   648.80(d)(3) and (e)(2)(ii) are
                                                                revised to include staff in training.
Sec.   648.83(a)(1)...........  Amendment 23.................  The text regarding minimum fish sizes for
                                                                commercial vessels is revised to exclude fish
                                                                landed by MREM vessels from the minimum sizes to
                                                                implement Amendment 23.
Sec.   648.85.................  Amendment 23 and 305(d)......  Section 648.85(e)(1)(viii)(C) is revised to
                                                                address the participation of MREM vessels in the
                                                                universal sector exemption for targeting
                                                                redfish.
Sec.   648.86.................  Amendment 23.................  The text regarding NE multispecies possession
                                                                limits for commercial vessels is revised to
                                                                exclude fish landed by MREM vessels to implement
                                                                Amendment 23. Section 648.86(a)(3)(ii)(A)(1) is
                                                                also revised to include staff in training.
Sec.   648.87.................  Amendment 23.................  Section 648.87 is revised by removing the
                                                                groundfish sector monitoring program regulations
                                                                that are being moved to Sec.   648.11,
                                                                redesignating the remaining paragraphs, and
                                                                updating citations to the new locations of the
                                                                monitoring regulations.
Sec.   648.90.................  Amendment 23.................  Section 648.90 is revised to include all
                                                                Amendment 23 measures as frameworkable items.
                                                                The potential to implement vessel-specific ASM
                                                                coverage targets was also added to the list of
                                                                frameworkable items consistent with Amendment
                                                                23. New regulatory text was added specifying
                                                                that the sector portion of the management
                                                                uncertainty buffer for allocated stocks would be
                                                                set to zero when the coverage target is 100
                                                                percent, unless the Council chooses to
                                                                incorporate a different amount of management
                                                                uncertainty for sectors.

[[Page 11022]]

 
Sec.   648.202................  305(d).......................  Section 648.202(b)(1) is revised to include staff
                                                                in training.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Classification

    NMFS is issuing this rule pursuant to sections 304(b)(1)(A) and 
305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which provide specific authority 
for implementing this action. Pursuant to Magnuson-Stevens Act section 
305(d), this action is necessary to carry out the NE Multispecies FMP, 
through administrative changes revising the existing implementing 
regulations for the groundfish sector monitoring program to be 
consistent with the industry-funded monitoring program regulations, 
moving the groundfish monitoring program implementing regulations to 
the same chapter as other industry-funded monitoring programs, and 
improving the clarity of the existing regulations. Pursuant to section 
304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant 
Administrator has made a preliminary determination that this proposed 
rule is consistent with the NE Multispecies FMP, other provisions of 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further 
consideration after public comment.
    The New England Fishery Management Council prepared a final 
environmental impact statement for Amendment 23 to the NE Multispecies 
FMP; a notice of availability was published on January 21, 2022 (87 FR 
3298). A target ASM coverage rate of 100 percent, higher than past and 
current coverage levels, will be in place, if sufficient Federal funds 
are available, which should result in more accurate information on 
catch (landings and discards) of target and non-target species, and 
fully account for discard mortality. In the short term, improved catch 
accounting is expected to reduce fishing effort and fishing mortality, 
which in the long term should allow for rebuilding of overfished 
stocks. In the longer-term analytical assessments should improve with 
better catch data. If the proposed coverage level target of 100 percent 
results in reduced groundfish fishing activity, then it may provide 
some minor short-term benefits to habitat. Over the long term, if 100-
percent coverage contributes to higher catch limits, fishing effort 
could increase in the future, which could have negative impacts to 
habitat. The modifications in management measures may indirectly affect 
protected resources, but are not expected to have substantial impacts 
on protected resources. This action is expected to have a range of 
potential socioeconomic impacts, depending on the availability of 
Federal funding for monitoring and the ultimate ASM coverage target. A 
target at-sea monitoring coverage rate of 100 percent will be in place, 
if sufficient Federal funds are available, which will result in 
relatively neutral impacts on operating costs compared to those under 
past and current coverage levels. However, if no Federal funding is 
available, the ASM coverage rate target would be 40 percent, which 
would increase fleet wide operating costs by an estimated $2.09 million 
per year. Economic effects could be lower if any subsidy is available 
to offset the cost of monitoring, or depending on the number of vessels 
that use electronic monitoring (EM) in lieu of human at-sea monitoring. 
Initial costs of installing and purchasing EM equipment may be high 
which may have negative impacts in the short term, if not subsidized, 
but over the long term EM may be more cost effective than human at-sea 
monitors. EM is expected to be more cost effective for vessels who fish 
more in the groundfish fishery (i.e., greater than 20 days per year). 
Based on the amount of available funds that have been allocated to 
reimburse sectors for monitoring as of 2021, there appears to be 
sufficient funds for at least 2 years of 100-percent monitoring 
starting in fishing year 2022. In addition, 100-percent at-sea 
monitoring coverage may be seen as overly burdensome by fishing 
communities. However, under 100-percent monitoring coverage the 
enforceability of the FMP and the risk of non-compliance both improve, 
which should improve the fairness and equitability of management 
measures. In the short term, economic impacts of 100-percent at-sea 
monitoring coverage on human communities would be reduced while Federal 
reimbursements for monitoring costs are available. Impacts over the 
long term will vary depending on whether Federal reimbursements of 
monitoring costs continue into the future.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    An initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as 
required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The 
IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, 
would have on small entities. A copy of the IRFA, contained in the 
Environmental Impact Statement, is available from the Council (see 
ADDRESSES). A description of the action, why it is being considered, 
and the legal basis for this action are contained at the beginning of 
this section in the preamble and in the SUMMARY section of the 
preamble. No relevant Federal rules duplicate, overlap, or conflict 
with this proposed rule. A summary of the analysis follows.

Description of the Reasons Why Action by the Agency Is Being Considered 
and Statement of the Objectives of, and Legal Basis for, This Proposed 
Rule

    This action is taken under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act and regulations at 50 CFR part 648.
    The primary purpose of this action is to improve accounting of 
landings and discards in the commercial groundfish fishery, while also 
taking into account the costs of such monitoring. Catch of commercial 
groundfish in the sector component of the fishery is managed via a 
quota system, where pounds of each groundfish species are allocated 
annually to sectors (essentially cooperatives) and all fish caught, 
including discards, must be accounted against these shares of quota. 
Quota shares (pounds) are ``leased'' (traded) among sectors, with each 
sector agreeing to a lease price prior to executing the trade. Catch 
that is discarded or landed without accounting would save sectors and 
the businesses that comprise those sectors the value of the leased 
quota pounds. To ensure that all sectors are accountable to their 
annual allocations, various monitoring methods were considered in 
Amendment 23.

Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities to Which This 
Proposed Rule Would Apply

    This action would regulate all commercial fishing businesses issued 
a Federal limited access NE multispecies vessel permit and/or a NE 
multispecies dealer permit. As of June 1, 2020, NMFS had issued 828 
commercial limited access groundfish permits associated with vessels 
and 148 permits associated with dealers. Therefore, 976 permits are 
regulated by this action. Each vessel or dealer may be individually 
owned or part of a larger corporate ownership

[[Page 11023]]

structure, and for RFA purposes, it is the ownership entity that 
ultimately would be regulated by the proposed action. Ownership 
entities are identified on June 1 of each year, based on the list of 
all permit numbers, for the most recent complete calendar year, that 
have applied for any type of Northeast Federal fishing permit. The 
current ownership data set is based on calendar year 2019 permits and 
contains gross sales associated with those permits for calendar years 
2017 through 2019.
    For RFA purposes only, NMFS has established a small business size 
standard for businesses, including their affiliates, whose primary 
industry is commercial fishing (see 50 CFR 200.2). A business primarily 
engaged in commercial fishing (NAICS code 11411) is classified as a 
small business if it is independently owned and operated, is not 
dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and has 
combined annual receipts not in excess of $11 million for all its 
affiliated operations worldwide. The determination as to whether the 
entity is large or small is based on the average annual revenue for the 
three years from 2017 through 2019. Ownership data collected from 
vessel permit holders indicate that there are 667 distinct business 
entities that hold at least one vessel permit regulated by the proposed 
action. Of these, all are engaged primarily in commercial fishing, and 
80 did not have any revenues (were inactive) in 2019. Of these distinct 
business entities, 661 are categorized as small entities and 6 are 
categorized as large entities, per the NMFS guidelines. Ownership data 
collected from dealer permit holders indicate there are 148 distinct 
business entities that hold at least one dealer permit regulated by 
this action. Of these, 135 distinct businesses are categorized as small 
entities and 13 are categorized as large entities, per the NMFS 
guidelines.

Federal Rules Which May Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With This 
Proposed Rule

    The proposed action does not duplicate, overlap, or conflict with 
any other Federal rules.

Description of Significant Alternatives to the Proposed Action Which 
Accomplish the Stated Objectives of Applicable Statutes and Which 
Minimize Any Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities

    The New England Fishery Management Council selected all 
alternatives that met the objectives of the action, and minimized 
costs, to provide regulated businesses the ability to choose the 
monitoring options that best suit their operations while meeting the 
catch accounting requirements.

Description of the Projected Reporting, Record-Keeping, and Other 
Compliance Requirements of This Proposed Rule

    A description of the projected reporting, recordkeeping, and other 
compliance requirements of this proposed action, including an estimate 
of the classes of small entities that will be subject to the 
requirements is contained in the Notice of Information Collection 
published December 17, 2021 (86 FR 71624), and summarized below.
    This proposed rule contains a collection-of-information requirement 
subject to review and approval by the Office of Management and Budget 
(OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). This rule revises, and 
renews, the existing requirements for the collection of information 
0648-0605, titled ``Northeast Multispecies Amendment 16.'' These 
revisions are due to an increased monitoring and reporting burden from 
higher ASM coverage targets; additional reporting and data collection 
through voluntary options for sector monitoring tools (audit model EM 
and MREM); potential for increases or decreases in monitoring and 
reporting burden as a result of coverage level changes from funding 
provisions; and an additional VMS declaration required for vessels 
fishing on a trip exclusively west of 71[deg]30' W longitude to be 
excluded from the ASM requirement.
    In 2010, we implemented a new suite of regulations for the NE 
multispecies fishery through Amendment 16 to the NE Multispecies FMP. 
Amendment 16 required sectors to develop and fund an independent third-
party ASM program. Amendment 16 allowed sectors to use EM instead of 
human monitors to meet ASM requirements, provided that the Greater 
Atlantic Regional Administrator deemed EM sufficient. Using the 
authority and process granted to it in Amendment 16, NMFS announced its 
determination that sectors may use EM to meet monitoring requirements 
(86 FR 16686; March 31, 2021). To implement this change, we are 
proposing to collect additional data elements necessary to support an 
EM program. Specifically, we propose to require the development and 
submission of VMPs and trip-level feedback reports, both of which are 
critical for accurate catch data and management of ACLs. We also 
propose to require the collection of information related to the 
purchase and installation of EM equipment. This is necessary for NMFS 
to reimburse industry's ASM costs as directed and funded by 
Congressional appropriations.
    We estimate 1,309 entities will be subject to the existing and new 
elements of the information collection. The estimated total annual 
burden hours are 73,198. The estimated total annual cost to the public 
is $10,632,454 in recordkeeping and reporting costs. These estimates 
include the time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data 
sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and 
reviewing the collection of information. The estimated time per 
response varies by item within the suite of information collected, as 
follows: Sector operations plan and membership list updates, 110 hours; 
monitoring service provider initial application, 10 hours; monitoring 
service provider response to application disapproval, 10 hours; data 
entry for sector discard monitoring system, 3 minutes; sector weekly 
catch report, 4 hours; sector annual report, 10 hours; notification of 
expulsion from a sector, 30 minutes; request to transfer sector annual 
catch entitlement, 5 minutes; request to lease DAS, 5 minutes; request 
to downgrade DAS baseline, 5 minutes; VMS area and DAS declaration, 5 
minutes; VMS trip-level catch report; VMS daily catch reports when 
fishing in multiple broad stock areas, 15 minutes; daily VMS catch 
reports when fishing in the U.S./Canada Management Area and Closed Area 
II Special Access Programs, 15 minutes; daily VMS catch reports when 
fishing in the Regular B DAS Program, 15 minutes; pre-trip hail report, 
2 minutes; trip-end hail report, 15 minutes; pre-trip notification 
system notification, 2 minutes; vessel notification of selection for 
ASM coverage, 5 minutes; at-sea monitor deployment report, 10 minutes; 
ASM and EM service provider catch report to NMFS upon request, 5 
minutes; at-sea monitor or EM staff report of harassment, safety 
concerns, and other issues, 30 minutes; ASM and EM service provider 
contracts upon request, 30 minutes; ASM and EM service provider 
information materials upon request, 30 minutes; EM VMP development and 
submission, 2 hours; EM vessel feedback letters, 30 minutes; EM 
equipment installation, 16 hours; EM equipment purchase and 
installation reimbursement form, 30 minutes; Office of Law Enforcement 
debriefing of at-sea monitors and EM staff, 2 hours; ASM database and 
data entry requirements, 0 minutes; DAS Transfer Program, 5minutes; 
submission of proposed special access programs, 20 hours; and

[[Page 11024]]

NAFO Reporting Requirements, 23 hours.
    Public comment is sought regarding: 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; the accuracy of the burden estimate; ways to 
enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be 
collected; and ways to minimize the burden of the collection of 
information, including through the use of automated collection 
techniques or other forms of information technology. Submit comments on 
these or any other aspects of the collection of information at 
www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAMain.
    Notwithstanding any other provisions of the law, no person is 
required to respond to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty 
for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the 
requirements of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays 
a currently valid OMB Control Number.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

    Dated: February 14, 2022.
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 648 is 
proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 648--FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES

0
1. The authority citation for part 648 continues to read as follows:

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

0
2. Section 648.2 is amended by:
0
a. Revising the definition for ``Electronic monitoring'';
0
b. Adding the definition for ``Electronic monitoring audit model'';
0
c. Adding the definition for ``Electronic monitoring maximized 
retention model'';
0
d. Adding the definition for ``Electronic monitoring provider staff'';
0
e. Revising the definition for ``Observer or monitor'';
0
f. Removing the definition for ``Observer/sea sampler'';
0
g. Republishing in alphabetical order the definition of ``Ocean 
quahog''.
0
h. Revising the definition for ``Slippage in the Atlantic herring 
fishery'';
0
i. Revising the definition for ``Slip(s) or slipping catch in the 
Atlantic herring fishery''; and
0
j. Revising the definition for ``Video reviewer''.
    The revisions and additions read as follows:


Sec.  648.2  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Electronic monitoring means a network of equipment that uses a 
software operating system connected to one or more technology 
components, including, but not limited to, cameras and recording 
devices to collect data on catch and vessel operations. With respect to 
the groundfish sector monitoring program, electronic monitoring means 
any equipment that is used to meet sector monitoring requirements in 
lieu of at-sea monitors as part of an approved sector at-sea monitoring 
program, including the audit model and maximized retention model.
    Electronic monitoring audit model with respect to the groundfish 
sector monitoring program means a program in which all eligible trips 
must be electronically monitored; discards are reported at the haul 
level; fish must be handled in view of cameras; species identification 
and length must be collected for regulated species and ocean pout 
discards for catch estimation; allowed discarding must occur at 
controlled points in view of cameras; and electronic monitoring data 
are compared to the area fished, regulated species and ocean pout 
discards, and other information reported on the vessel trip report on a 
subset of trips for validation.
* * * * *
    Electronic monitoring maximized retention model with respect to the 
groundfish sector monitoring program, means a program in which all 
eligible trips are electronically monitored; fish must be handled in 
view of cameras; allowed discarding must occur at controlled points in 
view of cameras; all allocated regulated species stocks must be 
retained; electronic monitoring is used to verify compliance; and 
offloads are subject to observation by dockside monitors.
* * * * *
    Electronic monitoring provider staff means any video reviewer, or 
any person employed or contracted by an electronic monitoring service 
provider to provide electronic monitoring services to vessels.
* * * * *
    Observer or monitor means any person authorized by NMFS to collect 
observer information, operational fishing data, biological data, or 
economic data for conservation and management purposes on or from 
fishing vessels or federally permitted dealers as required by the 
regulations, including, but not limited to, observers, at-sea monitors, 
observer/sea samplers, portside samplers, or dockside monitors.
    Ocean quahog means the species Arctica islandica.
* * * * *
    Slippage in the Atlantic herring fishery means discarded catch from 
a vessel issued an Atlantic herring permit that is carrying an observer 
or monitor prior to the catch being brought on board or prior to the 
catch being made available for sampling and inspection by an observer 
or monitor after the catch is on board. Slippage also means any catch 
that is discarded during a trip prior to it being sampled portside by a 
portside sampler on a trip selected for portside sampling coverage by 
NMFS. Slippage includes releasing catch from a codend or seine prior to 
the completion of pumping the catch aboard and the release of catch 
from a codend or seine while the codend or seine is in the water. Fish 
that cannot be pumped and remain in the codend or seine at the end of 
pumping operations are not considered slippage. Discards that occur 
after the catch is brought on board and made available for sampling and 
inspection by an observer or monitor are also not considered slippage.
* * * * *
    Slip(s) or slipping catch in the Atlantic herring fishery means 
discarded catch from a vessel issued an Atlantic herring permit that is 
carrying an observer or monitor prior to the catch being brought on 
board or prior to the catch being made available for sampling and 
inspection by an observer or monitor after the catch is on board. 
Slip(s) or slipping catch also means any catch that is discarded during 
a trip prior to it being sampled portside by a portside sampler on a 
trip selected for portside sampling coverage by NMFS. Slip(s) or 
slipping catch includes releasing fish from a codend or seine prior to 
the completion of pumping the fish on board and the release of fish 
from a codend or seine while the codend or seine is in the water. 
Slippage or slipped catch refers to fish that are slipped. Slippage or 
slipped catch does not include operational discards, discards that 
occur after the catch is brought on board and made available for 
sampling and inspection by an observer or monitor, or fish that 
inadvertently fall out of or off fishing gear as gear is being brought 
on board the vessel.
* * * * *
    Video reviewer means any electronic monitoring service provider 
staff

[[Page 11025]]

approved/certified or training to be approved/certified by NMFS for 
providing electronic monitoring video review services consistent with 
electronic monitoring program requirements.
* * * * *
0
3. Section 648.10 is amended by revising paragraph (f)(4)(i) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  648.10  VMS and DAS requirements for vessel owners/operators.

* * * * *
    (f) * * *
    (4) * * *
    (i) For trips greater than 24 hours, the owner or operator of a 
limited access or LAGC scallop vessel with an IFQ permit that fishes 
for, possesses, or retains scallops, and is not fishing under a NE 
Multispecies DAS or sector allocation, must submit reports through the 
VMS, in accordance with instructions to be provided by the Regional 
Administrator, for each day fished, including open area trips, access 
area trips as described in Sec.  648.59(b)(9), Northern Gulf of Maine 
RSA trips, and trips accompanied by an observer. The reports must be 
submitted for each day (beginning at 0000 hr and ending at 2400 hr) and 
not later than 0900 hr of the following day. Such reports must include 
the following information:
    (A) VTR serial number;
    (B) Date fish were caught;
    (C) Total pounds of scallop meats kept; and
    (D) Total pounds of all fish kept.
* * * * *
0
4. Section 648.11 is amended by:
0
a. Revising paragraphs (a), (b), (d), (h)(1), (h)(3)(vii), (h)(3)(ix) 
and (x), (h)(5)(i) through (iv), (h)(5)(vi) and (vii), (h)(7), (i)(1) 
and (2), (i)(3)(i), (i)(4)(ii), (i)(5) and (6);
0
b. Adding paragraph (i)(7); and
0
c. Revising paragraphs (j), (k)(4)(i) and (ii), (l), (m)(1)(i) and (v), 
(m)(2)(iii)(A), (m)(4)(i), (m)(6) introductory text, and (n)(2) 
introductory text.
    The revisions and addition read as follows:


Sec.  648.11  Monitoring coverage.

    (a) Coverage. The Regional Administrator may request any vessel 
holding a permit for Atlantic sea scallops, NE multispecies, monkfish, 
skates, Atlantic mackerel, squid, butterfish, scup, black sea bass, 
bluefish, spiny dogfish, Atlantic herring, tilefish, Atlantic surfclam, 
ocean quahog, or Atlantic deep-sea red crab; or a moratorium permit for 
summer flounder; to carry a fisheries observer. A vessel holding a 
permit for Atlantic sea scallops is subject to the additional 
requirements specific in paragraph (g) of this section. Also, any 
vessel or vessel owner/operator that fishes for, catches or lands 
hagfish, or intends to fish for, catch, or land hagfish in or from the 
exclusive economic zone must carry a fisheries observer when requested 
by the Regional Administrator in accordance with the requirements of 
this section. The requirements of this section do not apply to vessels 
with only a Federal private recreational tilefish permit.
    (b) Facilitating coverage. If requested by the Regional 
Administrator or their designees, including observers, monitors, and 
NMFS staff, to be sampled by an observer or monitor, it is the 
responsibility of the vessel owner or vessel operator to arrange for 
and facilitate observer or monitor placement. Owners or operators of 
vessels selected for observer or monitor coverage must notify the 
appropriate monitoring service provider before commencing any fishing 
trip that may result in the harvest of resources of the respective 
fishery. Notification procedures will be specified in selection letters 
to vessel owners or permit holder letters.
* * * * *
    (d) Vessel requirements associated with coverage. An owner or 
operator of a vessel on which an observer or monitor is embarked must:
    (1) Provide accommodations and food that are equivalent to those 
provided to the crew.
    (2) Allow the observer or monitor access to and use of the vessel's 
communications equipment and personnel upon request for the 
transmission and receipt of messages related to the observer's or 
monitor's duties.
    (3) Provide true vessel locations, by latitude and longitude or 
loran coordinates, as requested by the observer or monitor, and allow 
the observer or monitor access to and use of the vessel's navigation 
equipment and personnel upon request to determine the vessel's 
position.
    (4) Notify the observer or monitor in a timely fashion of when 
fishing operations are to begin and end.
    (5) Allow for the embarking and debarking of the observer or 
monitor, as specified by the Regional Administrator, ensuring that 
transfers of observers or monitors at sea are accomplished in a safe 
manner, via small boat or raft, during daylight hours as weather and 
sea conditions allow, and with the agreement of the observers or 
monitors involved.
    (6) Allow the observer or monitor free and unobstructed access to 
the vessel's bridge, working decks, holding bins, weight scales, holds, 
and any other space used to hold, process, weigh, or store fish.
    (7) Allow the observer or monitor to inspect and copy any the 
vessel's log, communications log, and records associated with the catch 
and distribution of fish for that trip.
* * * * *
    (h) * * *
    (1) General. An entity seeking to provide monitoring services, 
including services for IFM Programs described in paragraph (g) of this 
section, must apply for and obtain approval from NMFS following 
submission of a complete application. Monitoring services include 
providing observers, monitors (at-sea monitors and portside samplers), 
and/or electronic monitoring. A list of approved monitoring service 
providers shall be distributed to vessel owners and shall be posted on 
the NMFS Fisheries Sampling Branch (FSB) website: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/resource/data/observer-providers-northeast-and-mid-atlantic-programs.
* * * * *
    (3) * * *
    (vii) Evidence of holding adequate insurance to cover injury, 
liability, and accidental death for any observers, monitors (at-sea or 
dockside/roving monitors), or electronic monitoring provider staff who 
provide electronic monitoring services onboard vessels, whether 
contracted or directly employed by the service provider, during their 
period of employment (including during training).
    (A) A monitoring service provider must hold Workers' Compensation 
and Maritime Employer's Liability for observers, monitors, vessel 
owners, and their operations. The minimum combined coverage required is 
$5 million.
    (B) An electronic monitoring service provider must hold Worker's 
Compensation and commercial general liability coverage for electronic 
monitoring provider staff. The minimum combined coverage required is $1 
million.
    (C) Upon request by a vessel owner, operator, or vessel manager, a 
monitoring service provider must provide a certificate of insurance, or 
other evidence, that demonstrates they have the required coverages 
under (A) and (B) of this paragraph as appropriate.
* * * * *
    (ix) The names of its fully equipped certified observers, monitors, 
or video reviewers on staff; or a list of its training candidates (with 
resumes) and a request for an appropriate NMFS-certified

[[Page 11026]]

Training class. All training classes have a minimum class size of eight 
individuals, which may be split among multiple vendors requesting 
training. Requests for training classes with fewer than eight 
individuals will be delayed until further requests make up the full 
training class size.
    (x) An Emergency Action Plan (EAP) describing its response to an 
emergency with an observer, monitor, or electronic monitoring provider 
staff on a vessel at sea or in port, including, but not limited to, 
personal injury, death, harassment, or intimidation. The EAP shall 
include communications protocol and appropriate contact information in 
an emergency.
* * * * *
    (5) Responsibilities of monitoring service providers. To maintain 
an approved monitoring service provider status, a monitoring service 
provider, including electronic monitoring service providers, must 
demonstrate an ability to provide or support the following monitoring 
services:
    (i) Certified observers or monitors. Provide observers or monitors 
that have passed a NMFS-certified Observer or Monitor Training class 
pursuant to paragraph (i) of this section for deployment in a fishery 
when contacted and contracted by the owner, operator, or vessel manager 
of a fishing vessel, unless the monitoring service provider refuses to 
deploy an observer or monitor on a requesting vessel for any of the 
reasons specified at paragraph (h)(5)(viii) of this section.
    (ii) Support for observers, monitors, or electronic monitoring 
provider staff. Ensure that each of its observers, monitors, or 
electronic monitoring provider staff procures or is provided with the 
following:
    (A) All necessary transportation, lodging costs and support for 
arrangements and logistics of travel for observers, monitors, or 
electronic monitoring provider staff to and from the initial location 
of deployment, to all subsequent vessel assignments, to any debriefing 
locations, and for appearances in Court for monitoring-related trials 
as necessary;
    (B) Lodging, per diem, and any other services necessary for 
observers, monitors, or electronic monitoring provider staff assigned 
to a fishing vessel or to attend an appropriate NMFS training class;
    (C) The required observer, monitor, or electronic monitoring 
equipment, in accordance with equipment requirements, prior to any 
deployment and/or prior to certification training; and
    (D) Individually assigned communication equipment, in working 
order, such as a mobile phone, for all necessary communication. A 
monitoring service provider may alternatively compensate observers or 
monitors for the use of the observer's or monitor's personal mobile 
phone, or other device, for communications made in support of, or 
necessary for, the observer's or monitor's duties.
    (iii) Deployment logistics. (A) Assign an available observer or 
monitor to a vessel upon request. For service providers contracted to 
meet the requirements of the NE multispecies monitoring program in 
paragraph (l) of this section, assign available at-sea monitors, 
electronic monitoring provider staff, and other approved at-sea 
monitoring mechanisms fairly and equitably in a manner that represents 
fishing activities within each sector throughout the fishing year 
without regard to any sector manager or vessel representative 
preference.
    (B) Enable an owner, operator, or manager of a vessel to secure 
monitoring coverage or electronic monitoring technical support when 
requested, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week via a telephone or other 
notification system that is monitored a minimum of four times daily to 
ensure rapid response to industry requests.
    (iv) Observer deployment limitations. (A) A candidate observer's 
first several deployments and the resulting data shall be immediately 
edited and approved after each trip by NMFS prior to any further 
deployments by that observer. If data quality is considered acceptable, 
the observer would be certified.
    (B) For the purpose of coverage to meet SBRM requirements, unless 
alternative arrangements are approved by NMFS, a monitoring service 
provider must not deploy any observer on the same vessel for more than 
two consecutive multi-day trips, and not more than twice in any given 
month for multi-day deployments.
    (C) For the purpose of coverage to meet IFM requirements, a 
monitoring service provider may deploy any observer or monitor on the 
same vessel for more than two consecutive multi-day trips and more than 
twice in any given month for multi-day deployments.
* * * * *
    (vi) Observer and monitor training requirements. Ensure all 
observers and monitors attend and complete a NMFS-certified Observer or 
Monitor Training class. Requests for training must be submitted to NMFS 
45 calendar days in advance of the requested training. The following 
information must be submitted to NMFS at least 15 business days prior 
to the beginning of the proposed training: A list of observer or 
monitor candidates; candidate resumes, cover letters and academic 
transcripts; and a statement signed by the candidate, under penalty of 
perjury, that discloses the candidate's criminal convictions, if any. A 
medical report certified by a physician for each candidate is required 
7 business days prior to the first day of training. CPR/First Aid 
certificates and a final list of training candidates with candidate 
contact information (email, phone, number, mailing address and 
emergency contact information) are due 7 business days prior to the 
first day of training. NMFS may reject a candidate for training if the 
candidate does not meet the minimum qualification requirements as 
outlined by NMFS minimum eligibility standards for observers or 
monitors as described on the National Observer Program website: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/fishery-observers#become-an-observer.
    (vii) Reports and Requirements. (A) Deployment reports.
    (1) Report to NMFS when, where, to whom, and to what vessel an 
observer or monitor has been deployed, as soon as practicable, and 
according to requirements outlined by NMFS. The deployment report must 
be available and accessible to NMFS electronically 24 hours a day, 7 
days a week.
    (2) Ensure that the raw (unedited) data collected by the observer 
or monitor is provided to NMFS at the specified time per program. 
Electronic data submission protocols will be outlined in training and 
may include accessing government websites via personal computers/
devices or submitting data through government issued electronics.
    (B) Safety refusals. Report to NMFS any trip or landing that has 
been refused due to safety issues (e.g., failure to hold a valid USCG 
Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Examination Decal or to meet the 
safety requirements of the observer's or monitor's safety checklist) 
within 12 hours of the refusal.
    (C) Biological samples. Ensure that biological samples, including 
whole marine mammals, sea turtles, sea birds, and fin clips or other 
DNA samples, are stored/handled properly and transported to NMFS within 
5 days of landing. If transport to NMFS Observer Training Facility is 
not immediately available then whole animals requiring freezing shall 
be received by the nearest NMFS freezer facility within 24 hours of 
vessel landing.
    (D) Debriefing. Ensure that the observer, monitor, or electronic

[[Page 11027]]

monitoring provider staff remains available to NMFS, either in-person 
or via phone, at NMFS' discretion, including NMFS Office of Law 
Enforcement, for debriefing for at least 2 weeks following any 
monitored trip/offload or electronic monitoring trip report submission. 
If requested by NMFS, an observer or monitor that is at sea during the 
2-week period must contact NMFS upon his or her return. Monitoring 
service providers must pay for travel and land hours for any requested 
debriefings.
    (E) Availability report. The monitoring service provider must 
report to NMFS any inability to respond to an industry request for 
observer or monitor coverage due to the lack of available observers or 
monitors as soon as practicable. Availability report must be available 
and accessible to NMFS electronically 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
    (F) Incident reports. Report possible observer, monitor, or 
electronic monitoring provider staff harassment, discrimination, 
concerns about vessel safety, or marine casualty; concerns with 
possible electronic monitoring system tampering, data loss, or catch 
handling protocols; or observer or monitor illness or injury; or other 
events as specified by the Regional Administrator; and any information, 
allegations, or reports regarding observer, monitor, or electronic 
monitoring provider staff conflict of interest or breach of the 
standards of behavior, to NMFS within 12 hours of the event or within 
12 hours of learning of the event.
    (G) Status report. (1) Provide NMFS with an updated list of contact 
information for all observers or monitors that includes the 
identification number, name, mailing address, email address, phone 
numbers, homeports or fisheries/trip types assigned, and must include 
whether or not the observer or monitor is ``in service,'' indicating 
when the observer or monitor has requested leave and/or is not 
currently working for an industry-funded program.
    (2) Place any Federally contracted observer not actively deployed 
on a vessel for 30 days on Leave of Absence (LOA) status (or as 
specified by NMFS) according to most recent Information Technology 
Security Guidelines.
    (3) Ensure Federally contracted observers on LOA for 90 days or 
more conduct an exit interview with NMFS and return any NMFS issued 
gear and Common Access Card (CAC), unless alternative arrangements are 
approved by NMFS. NMFS requires 2-week advance notification when a 
Federally contracted observer is leaving the program so that an exit 
interview may be arranged and gear returned.
    (H) Vessel contract. Submit to NMFS, if requested, a copy of each 
type of signed and valid contract (including all attachments, 
appendices, addendums, and exhibits incorporated into the contract) 
between the monitoring service provider and those entities requiring 
monitoring services.
    (I) Observer, monitor, or video reviewer contract. Submit to NMFS, 
if requested, a copy of each type of signed and valid contract 
(including all attachments, appendices, addendums, and exhibits 
incorporated into the contract) between the monitoring service provider 
and specific observers, monitors, or video reviewers.
    (J) Additional information. Submit to NMFS, if requested, copies of 
any information developed and/or used by the monitoring service 
provider and distributed to vessels, observers, monitors, or electronic 
monitoring provider staff such as informational pamphlets, payment 
notification, daily rate of monitoring or review services, description 
of observer or monitor duties, etc.
    (K) Discard estimates. Estimate discards for each trip and provide 
such information to the sector manager and NMFS when providing 
monitoring services to meet catch estimation and/or at-sea or 
electronic monitoring service requirements in paragraph (l) of this 
section.
    (L) Data system. If contracted to meet the groundfish sector 
monitoring program in paragraph (l) of this section, maintain an 
electronic monitoring system to record, retain, and distribute to NMFS 
upon request for a minimum of 12 months after receiving notice from 
NMFS that catch data are finalized for the fishing year, the following 
information:
    (1) The number of at-sea monitor deployments and other approved 
monitoring equipment deployments or video reviews, including any 
refusal to provide service when requested and reasons for such 
refusals;
    (2) Incident/non-compliance reports (e.g., failure to offload 
catch);
    (3) Vessel hail reports and landings records;
    (4) Electronic monitoring data and reports; and
    (5) A means to protect the confidentiality and privacy of data 
submitted by vessels, as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
    (M) Data retention. Ensure that electronic monitoring data and 
reports are retained for a minimum of 12 months after catch data are 
finalized for the fishing year. NMFS will notify monitoring service 
providers of the catch data finalization date each year. The electronic 
monitoring service provider must provide NMFS access to electronic 
monitoring data or reports upon request.
    (N) Software requirements. Provide NMFS with all software necessary 
for accessing, viewing, and interpreting the data generated by the 
electronic monitoring system, including submitting the agency's 
secondary review data to the application programming interface and 
maintenance releases to correct errors in the software or enhance 
software functionality. The software must:
    (1) Support a ``dual user'' system that allows NMFS to complete and 
submit secondary reviews to the application programming interface.
    (2) Allow for the export or download of electronic monitoring data 
in order for the agency to make a copy if necessary.
    (O) Software training. Provide software training for NMFS staff.
    (P) Facilitation. Provide the following to NMFS upon request:
    (1) Assistance in electronic monitoring system operations, 
diagnosing/resolving technical issues, and recovering lost or corrupted 
data;
    (2) Responses to inquiries related to data summaries, analyses, 
reports, and operational issues;
    (3) Access to video reviewers for debriefing sessions;
    (Q) Litigation support. Provide technical and expert information 
substantiating electronic monitoring system data, testing procedures, 
error rates, peer review or other issues raised in litigation, 
including but not limited to, a brief summary of the litigation and any 
court findings on the reliability of the technology.
* * * * *
    (7) Removal of monitoring service provider from the list of 
approved service providers. A monitoring service provider that fails to 
meet the requirements, conditions, and responsibilities specified in 
paragraphs (h)(5) and (6) of this section shall be notified by NMFS, in 
writing, that it is subject to removal from the list of approved 
monitoring service providers. Such notification shall specify the 
reasons for the pending removal. A monitoring service provider that has 
received notification that it is subject to removal from the list of 
approved monitoring service providers may submit written information to 
rebut the reasons for removal from the list. Such rebuttal must be 
submitted within 30 days of notification received by the

[[Page 11028]]

monitoring service provider that the monitoring service provider is 
subject to removal and must be accompanied by written evidence 
rebutting the basis for removal. NMFS shall review information 
rebutting the pending removal and shall notify the monitoring service 
provider within 15 days of receipt of the rebuttal whether or not the 
removal is warranted. If no response to a pending removal is received 
by NMFS, the monitoring service provider shall be automatically removed 
from the list of approved monitoring service providers. The decision to 
remove the monitoring service provider from the list, either after 
reviewing a rebuttal, or if no rebuttal is submitted, shall be the 
final decision of NMFS and the Department of Commerce. Removal from the 
list of approved monitoring service providers does not necessarily 
prevent such monitoring service provider from obtaining an approval in 
the future if a new application is submitted that demonstrates that the 
reasons for removal are remedied. Observers and monitors under contract 
with observer monitoring service provider that has been removed from 
the list of approved service providers must complete their assigned 
duties for any fishing trips on which the observers or monitors are 
deployed at the time the monitoring service provider is removed from 
the list of approved monitoring service providers. A monitoring service 
provider removed from the list of approved monitoring service providers 
is responsible for providing NMFS with the information required in 
paragraph (h)(5)(vii) of this section following completion of the trip. 
NMFS may consider, but is not limited to, the following in determining 
if a monitoring service provider may remain on the list of approved 
monitoring service providers:
    (i) Failure to meet the requirements, conditions, and 
responsibilities of monitoring service providers specified in 
paragraphs (h)(5) and (6) of this section;
    (ii) Evidence of conflict of interest as defined under paragraph 
(h)(6) of this section;
    (iii) Evidence of criminal convictions related to:
    (A) Embezzlement, theft, forgery, bribery, falsification or 
destruction of records, making false statements, or receiving stolen 
property; or
    (B) The commission of any other crimes of dishonesty, as defined by 
state law or Federal law, that would seriously and directly affect the 
fitness of an applicant in providing monitoring services under this 
section; and
    (iv) Unsatisfactory performance ratings on any Federal contracts 
held by the applicant; and
    (v) Evidence of any history of decertification as either an 
observer, monitor, or monitoring service provider.
    (i) Observer, monitor, or video reviewer certification. (1) 
Requirements. To be certified as an observer, or monitor, or video 
reviewer, a monitoring service provider employee or contractor must 
meet the criteria in paragraphs (i)(1) through (3) of this section for 
observers, or paragraphs (i)(1), (2), and (4) of this section for 
monitors, and paragraphs (i)(1), (2), and (5) of this section for video 
reviewers, respectively. In addition, observers must meet NMFS National 
Minimum Eligibility Standards for observers specified at the National 
Observer Program website: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/fishery-observers#become-an-observer.
    (2) Training. In order to provide observer or monitor services and 
be deployed on any fishing vessel, a candidate observer or monitor must 
have passed an appropriate NMFS-certified Observer or Monitor Training 
course and must adhere to all NMFS program standards and policies. In 
order to perform electronic monitoring video review, a candidate video 
reviewer must have passed an appropriate NMFS-certified Video Review 
Training course and must adhere to all NMFS program standards and 
policies. NMFS will immediately notify any candidate that fails 
training and the monitoring service provider. Observer or monitor 
training may include an observer training trip, as part of the 
observer's training, aboard a fishing vessel with a trainer. Contact 
NMFS for the required number of program specific observer and monitor 
training certification trips for full certification following training.
    (3) * * *
    (i) Have a valid NMFS fisheries observer certification pursuant to 
paragraph (i)(1) of this section;
* * * * *
    (4) * * *
    (ii) Have a valid NMFS certification pursuant to paragraph (i)(1) 
of this section;
* * * * *
    (5) Video reviewer requirements. All video reviewers must:
    (i) Hold a high school diploma or legal equivalent;
    (ii) Have a valid NMFS certification pursuant to paragraph (i)(1) 
of this section; and
    (iii) Accurately record sampling data, write complete reports, and 
report accurately any observations relevant to conservation of marine 
resources or their environment.
    (6) Probation and decertification. NMFS may review observer, 
monitor, and video reviewer certifications and issue observer, monitor, 
and video reviewer certification probations and/or decertifications as 
described in NMFS policy.
    (7) Issuance of decertification. Upon determination that 
decertification is warranted under paragraph (i)(6) of this section, 
NMFS shall issue a written decision to decertify the observer, monitor, 
or video reviewer to the observer, monitor, or video reviewer and 
approved monitoring service provider via certified mail at the 
observer's, monitor's, or video reviewer's most current address 
provided to NMFS. The decision shall identify whether a certification 
is revoked and shall identify the specific reasons for the action 
taken. Decertification is effective immediately as of the date of 
issuance, unless the decertification official notes a compelling reason 
for maintaining certification for a specified period and under 
specified conditions. Decertification is the final decision of NMFS and 
the Department of Commerce and may not be appealed.
    (j) Coverage. In the event that a vessel is requested by the 
Regional Administrator to carry a fisheries observer pursuant to 
paragraph (a) of this section and is also selected to carry an at-sea 
monitor as part of an approved sector at-sea monitoring program 
specified in paragraph (l) of this section for the same trip, only the 
fisheries observer is required to go on that particular trip. Vessels 
using electronic monitoring to satisfy the groundfish sector monitoring 
program requirement must comply with their vessel monitoring plan on 
all trips, including a trip that has been selected to carry, or a trip 
that carries, a fisheries observer.
    (k) * * *
    (4) * * *
    (i) An owner of a scallop vessel required to carry an observer 
under paragraph (k)(3) of this section must arrange for carrying an 
observer that has passed a NMFS-certified Observer Training class 
certified by NMFS from an observer service provider approved by NMFS 
under paragraph (h) of this section. The owner, operator, or vessel 
manager of a vessel selected to carry an observer must contact the 
observer service provider and must provide at least 48-hr notice in 
advance of the fishing trip for the provider to arrange for observer 
deployment for the specified trip. The observer service provider will 
notify the vessel owner,

[[Page 11029]]

operator, or manager within 18 hr whether they have an available 
observer. A list of approved observer service providers shall be posted 
on the NMFS/FSB website: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/resource/data/observer-providers-northeast-and-mid-atlantic-programs. The observer 
service provider may take up to 48 hr to arrange for observer 
deployment for the specified scallop trip.
    (ii) An owner, operator, or vessel manager of a vessel that cannot 
procure an observer within 48 hr of the advance notification to the 
provider due to the unavailability of an observer may request a waiver 
from NMFS from the requirement for observer coverage for that trip, but 
only if the owner, operator, or vessel manager has contacted all of the 
available observer service providers to secure observer coverage and no 
observer is available. NMFS shall issue such a waiver within 24 hr, if 
the conditions of this paragraph (k)(4)(ii) are met. A vessel may not 
begin the trip without being issued a waiver.
* * * * *
    (l) * * *
    (1) Groundfish sector monitoring program goals and objectives. The 
primary goal of the at-sea/electronic monitoring program is to verify 
area fished, as well as catch and discards by species and gear type, in 
the most cost-effective means practicable. The following goals and 
objectives of groundfish monitoring programs are equally-weighted 
secondary goals by which monitoring programs established for the NE 
multispecies are to be designed to be consistent with:
    (i) Improve documentation of catch:
    (A) Determine total catch and effort, for each sector and common 
pool, of target or regulated species and ocean pout; and
    (B) Achieve coverage level sufficient to minimize effects of 
potential monitoring bias to the extent possible while maintaining as 
much flexibility as possible to enhance fleet viability.
    (ii) Reduce the cost of monitoring:
    (A) Streamline data management and eliminate redundancy;
    (B) Explore options for cost-sharing and deferment of cost to 
industry; and
    (C) Recognize opportunity costs of insufficient monitoring.
    (iii) Incentivize reducing discards:
    (A) Determine discard rate by smallest possible strata while 
maintaining cost-effectiveness; and
    (B) Collect information by gear type to accurately calculate 
discard rates.
    (iv) Provide additional data streams for stock assessments:
    (A) Reduce management and/or biological uncertainty; and
    (B) Perform biological sampling if it may be used to enhance 
accuracy of mortality or recruitment calculations.
    (v) Enhance safety of monitoring program.
    (vi) Perform periodic review of monitoring program for 
effectiveness.
    (2) Sector monitoring programs. A sector must develop and implement 
an at-sea and/or electronic monitoring program that may be approved by 
NMFS as both sufficient to monitor catch, discards, and use of sector 
ACE; and as consistent with the sector monitoring program goals and 
objectives. The details of any at-sea or electronic monitoring program 
must be specified in the sector's operations plan, pursuant to 
paragraph Sec.  648.87(b)(2)(xi), and must meet the operational 
standards specified in paragraph (l)(10) of this section. Maximized 
retention electronic monitoring and audit electronic monitoring models, 
meeting the requirements in paragraph (l)(10) of this section, may be 
used in place of at-sea monitoring to ensure a sector's monitoring 
programs may be approved. Other types of electronic monitoring may be 
used in place of at-sea monitors if the technology is deemed sufficient 
by NMFS, in a manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act, 
for a specific trip type based on gear type and area fished. The 
Regional Administrator will approve or disapprove at-sea/electronic 
programs, including vessel monitoring plans, as part of a sector's 
operations plans in a manner consistent with the Administrative 
Procedure Act.
    (3) Pre-trip notification. For the purpose of selecting vessels for 
observer or at-sea monitor deployment, as instructed by the Regional 
Administrator, the owner, operator, or manager of a vessel (i.e., 
vessel manager or sector manager) issued a limited access NE 
multispecies permit that is fishing under a NE multispecies DAS or on a 
sector trip, as defined in this part, must provide advance notice to 
NMFS at least 48 hr prior to departing port on any trip declared into 
the NE multispecies fishery pursuant to Sec.  648.10 or Sec.  648.85 of 
the following: The vessel name, permit number, and sector to which the 
vessel belongs, if applicable; contact name and telephone number for 
coordination of observer or at-sea monitor deployment; date, time, and 
port of departure; and the vessel's trip plan, including area to be 
fished, whether a monkfish DAS will be used, and gear type to be used, 
unless otherwise specified in this paragraph (l) or notified by the 
Regional Administrator. For trips lasting 48 hr or less in duration 
from the time the vessel leaves port to begin a fishing trip until the 
time the vessel returns to port upon the completion of the fishing 
trip, the vessel owner, operator, or manager may make a weekly 
notification rather than trip-by-trip calls. For weekly pre-trip 
notification, a vessel must notify NMFS by 0001 hr of the Friday 
preceding the week (Sunday through Saturday) that it intends to 
complete at least one NE multispecies DAS or sector trip during the 
following week and provide the vessel's trip-plans for that week, 
including each trip's date, time, port of departure, area to be fished, 
whether a monkfish DAS will be used, and gear type to be used. Pre-trip 
notification calls must be made no more than 10 days in advance of each 
fishing trip. The vessel owner, operator, or manager must notify NMFS 
of any trip plan changes at least 24 hr prior to vessel departure from 
port. A vessel may not begin the trip without being issued either an 
observer notification, an at-sea monitor notification, or a waiver by 
NMFS.
    (4) Vessel selection for observer or at-sea monitor coverage. NMFS 
shall notify the vessel owner, operator, or manager whether the vessel 
must carry an observer or at-sea monitor for the specified trip within 
24 hr of the vessel owner's, operator's or manager's pre-trip 
notification of the prospective trip, as specified in paragraph (l)(2) 
of this section. All pre-trip notifications shall be issued a unique 
confirmation number. A vessel may not fish on a NE multispecies DAS or 
sector trip with an observer waiver confirmation number that does not 
match the vessel's trip plan that was called in to NMFS. Confirmation 
numbers and the vessel's observer or observer waiver status for pre-
trip notification calls remain valid for 48 hr from the intended sail 
date. After a trip begins, that trip's confirmation number and observer 
or observer waiver status remains valid until the trip ends. If a trip 
is interrupted and the vessel returns to port due to bad weather or 
other circumstance beyond the operator's control, the vessel's observer 
or observer waiver status and confirmation number for the interrupted 
trip remains the same if the vessel departs within 48 hr from the 
vessel's return to port. If the layover time is greater than 48 hr, the 
vessel owner, operator, or manager must provide a new pre-trip 
notification. If an observer or at-sea monitor is assigned to a 
particular trip, a vessel may not leave port without the at-sea monitor 
on board, unless NMFS issues a waiver. If a vessel is using electronic 
monitoring to comply with the monitoring requirements of this part, it 
may not leave port without an operational

[[Page 11030]]

electronic monitoring system on board, unless NMFS issues a waiver, or 
assigned other at-sea monitoring coverage.
    (5) Sector monitoring coverage levels. Coverage levels for an at-
sea or electronic monitoring program, including video review 
requirements, shall be specified by NMFS, pursuant to paragraph 
(l)(5)(i) of this section.
    (i) At-sea monitoring coverage target. The at-sea monitoring 
coverage target for the sector monitoring program will be set as a 
percentage of all eligible sector trips based on available federal 
funding for NMFS and industry cost responsibilities as defined in 
paragraph (g)(3) of this section. Sectors are responsible for industry 
costs for at-sea monitoring coverage up to the coverage target for all 
trips not observed by a Northeast Fishery Observer Program observer. In 
fishing years 2022, 2023, 2024, and 2025, the ASM coverage target will 
be set at the highest level that available federal funding for NMFS and 
industry cost responsibilities supports, up to 100 percent of trips. 
Beginning in fishing year 2026, the target coverage will be set at 40 
percent of trips, unless replaced by the Council after a review, as 
detailed in paragraph (l)(5)(v) of this section. In the absence of 
available federal funds sufficient to fund both NMFS costs and industry 
costs associated with a coverage target of at least 40 percent of all 
sector trips, sectors must pay the industry's costs for coverage 
necessary to achieve a 40-percent coverage target. As an example, if, 
after paying NMFS costs, available federal funding is sufficient only 
to fund industry costs for 15-percent coverage, sectors must pay the 
industry costs for the remaining 25-percent coverage to achieve a 40-
percent coverage target. Any coverage provided by the Northeast 
Fisheries Observer Program through deployment of an observer would be 
deducted from the industry's cost responsibility. To ensure coverage is 
both sufficient to monitor sector catch, discards, and sector ACE; and 
consistent with sector monitoring goals and objectives, at-sea 
monitoring coverage may be higher than the at-sea monitoring coverage 
target, up to 100 percent of all eligible trips, if available federal 
funding is sufficient for NMFS and industry cost responsibilities, 
respectively. NMFS will announce the coverage target at least 3 weeks 
before the annual sector enrollment deadline set by NMFS, if federal 
funding information is available.
    (ii) Gear-based exclusion from the at-sea monitoring program. A 
sector vessel that notifies NMFS of its intent to exclusively fish 
using gillnets with a mesh size of 10-inch (25.4-cm) or greater in 
either the Inshore GB Stock Area, as defined at Sec.  648.10(k)(3)(ii), 
and/or the SNE Broad Stock Area, as defined at Sec.  648.10(k)(3)(iv), 
is not subject to the coverage level for at-sea monitoring specified in 
Sec.  648.11(l)(5)(i) provided that the trip is limited to the Inshore 
GB and/or SNE Broad Stock Areas and that the vessel only uses gillnets 
with a mesh size of 10-inches (25.4-cm) or greater. When on such a 
trip, other gear may be on board provided that it is stowed and not 
available for immediate use as defined in Sec.  648.2. A sector trip 
fishing with 10-inch (25.4-cm) mesh or larger gillnets will still be 
subject to at-sea monitoring coverage if the trip declares its intent 
to fish in any part of the trip in the GOM Stock area, as defined at 
Sec.  648.10(k)(3)(i), or the Offshore GB Stock Area, as defined at 
Sec.  648.10(k)(3)(iii). Vessels using electronic monitoring to satisfy 
the sector monitoring requirement must have their system turned on and 
comply with their vessel monitoring plan on all trips, including a trip 
that is limited to the Inshore GB and/or SNE Broad Stock Areas where 
the vessel only uses gillnets with a mesh size of 10-inches (25.4-cm) 
or greater.
    (iii) Geographic exclusion from the at-sea monitoring program. 
Vessels fishing exclusively west of 71 degrees 30 minutes west 
longitude on a sector trip are excluded from the requirement to carry 
an at-sea monitor. Vessels on a trip excluded from the at-sea 
monitoring requirement under this provision must comply with the VMS 
declaration requirements at Sec.  648.10(g)(3), and the transiting 
requirements at Sec.  648.81(e) when east of 71 degrees 30 minutes. 
Vessels using electronic monitoring to satisfy the sector monitoring 
requirement must have their system turned on and comply with their 
vessel monitoring plan on all trips, including trips fishing 
exclusively west of 71 degrees 30 minutes west longitude.
    (iv) Waivers. In addition to the safety waivers in Sec.  648.11(c), 
NMFS may issue a waiver for a sector trip exempting the vessel from the 
sector monitoring program coverage requirements for the following 
reasons.
    (A) Funding waivers. NMFS will issue a waiver for a sector trip 
exempting the vessel from the sector monitoring program coverage 
requirements if coverage is unavailable due to insufficient funding for 
NMFS cost responsibilities as defined in paragraph (g)(3) of this 
section.
    (B) Logistics waivers. NMFS may issue a waiver for a sector trip 
exempting the vessel from the sector monitoring program coverage 
requirements for logistical and technical reasons, including, but not 
limited to: No monitor is available; the assigned observer is unable to 
make the trip; the trip will have no fishing effort; and electronic 
monitoring system technical problems.
    (C) Set-only trip waivers. Vessels on a set-only trip, as defined 
at Sec.  648.2, are excluded from the groundfish sector monitoring 
program requirements in Sec.  648.11(l). If a vessel is using 
electronic monitoring to comply with the monitoring requirements of 
this part, that vessel may turn off its cameras on a set-only trip.
    (v) Review of exclusions from the at-sea monitoring program. A 
Council review of the exclusions from the at-sea monitoring program in 
Sec.  648.11(l)(5)(ii) and (iii) will evaluate whether the exclusions 
continue to meet the intent of the Council to exclude trips with little 
catch of regulated species and ocean pout. The review will be conducted 
using complete data from 2 fishing years once the data are available 
(fishing years 2022 and 2023) and every 3 years after the initial 
review.
    (6) Groundfish sector monitoring program review. A Council review 
of the NE multispecies monitoring program will evaluate whether the 
monitoring program is meeting the goal of improved accuracy of catch 
data, while maximizing value and minimizing costs of the program, using 
complete data from 2 fishing years once the data are available (fishing 
years 2022 and 2023) and periodically after the initial review. The 
review process should be flexible and general, and include establishing 
metrics and indicators of how well the monitoring program improved 
accuracy while maximizing value and minimizing costs.
    (7) Hail reports. For the purposes of the monitoring requirements 
specified in paragraph (l)(2) of this section, sector vessels must 
submit all hail reports for a sector trip in which the NE multispecies 
catch applies against the ACE allocated to a sector, as specified in 
this part, to their respective contracted monitoring service providers. 
The mechanism and timing of the transmission of such hail reports must 
be consistent with instructions provided by the Regional Administrator 
for any at-sea or electronic monitoring program required by paragraph 
(l)(2) of this section, or specified in the annual sector operations 
plan, consistent with Sec.  648.87(b)(5).
    (8) Notification of monitoring service provider change. If, for any 
reason, a sector decides to change approved service providers used to 
provide at-sea or electronic monitoring services

[[Page 11031]]

required in paragraph (l)(2) of this section, the sector manager must 
first inform NMFS in writing in advance of the effective date of the 
change in approved monitoring service providers in conjunction with the 
submission of the next weekly sector catch report specified in Sec.  
648.87(b)(1)(v)(B). A sector may use more than one monitoring service 
provider at any time, provided any monitoring service provider employed 
by or contracted with a sector meets the standards specified in 
paragraph (b)(4) of this section.
    (9) Discards. A sector vessel may not discard any legal-sized 
regulated species or ocean pout allocated to sectors pursuant to Sec.  
648.87(b)(1)(i), unless otherwise required pursuant to Sec.  648.86(l). 
Discards of undersized regulated species or ocean pout by a sector 
vessel must be reported to NMFS consistent with the reporting 
requirements specified in Sec.  648.87(b)(1)(v). Discards shall not be 
included in the information used to calculate a vessel's PSC, as 
described in Sec.  648.87(b)(1)(i)(E), but shall be counted against a 
sector's ACE for each regulated species allocated to a sector.
    (10) Sector monitoring program operational standards. In addition 
to the monitoring service provider standards specified in paragraph 
(h)(5) of this section, any at-sea/electronic monitoring program 
developed as part of a sector's yearly operations plan pursuant to 
paragraph (l)(2) of this section must meet the following operational 
standards to be approved by NMFS:
    (i) Vessel requirements. (A) Electronic monitoring system 
requirements. A vessel owner or operator using electronic monitoring to 
meet sector monitoring requirements must do the following:
    (1) Ensure that the electronic monitoring system is fully 
operational for every sector trip, which means it is operating, 
recording, and retaining the recording for the duration of every trip. 
A vessel may not fish without a fully operational electronic monitoring 
system, unless issued a waiver by NMFS for that trip;
    (2) Conduct a system check of the electronic monitoring system 
prior to departing on a fishing trip. An electronic monitoring system 
check must show that the electronic monitoring system is fully 
operational and there is sufficient video storage capacity to retain 
the recording of the entire fishing trip;
    (3) Maintain clear and unobstructed camera views at all times. 
Ensure lighting is sufficient in all circumstances to illuminate catch 
so that catch and discards are visible and may be identified and 
quantified as required; and
    (4) Ensure no person tampers with, disconnects, or destroys any 
part of the electronic monitoring system, associated equipment, or 
recorded data.
    (B) Vessel monitoring plan requirements for electronic monitoring 
vessels. A vessel must have a NMFS-approved vessel monitoring plan to 
use electronic monitoring to meet sector monitoring requirements. The 
vessel monitoring plan describes how an electronic monitoring system is 
configured on a particular vessel and how fishing operations must be 
conducted to effectively monitor catch.
    (1) The vessel monitoring plan must be onboard the vessel at all 
times.
    (2) The vessel owner, operator and crew must comply with all catch 
handling protocols and other requirements described in the vessel 
monitoring plan, including sorting catch and processing any discards 
within view of the cameras and consistent with the vessel monitoring 
plan.
    (3) Modifications to any vessel monitoring plan must be approved by 
NMFS prior to such vessel fishing under the conditions of the new 
vessel monitoring plan.
    (4) A vessel owner or operator using electronic monitoring to meet 
sector monitoring requirements must submit all electronic monitoring 
data to the monitoring service provider in accordance with the 
electronic monitoring program requirements in Sec.  648.11, or as 
otherwise instructed by the Regional Administrator.
    (5) A vessel owner or operator must make the electronic monitoring 
system, associated equipment, electronic monitoring data, or vessel 
monitoring plan available to NMFS for inspection, upon request.
    (6) A vessel owner or operator using electronic monitoring to meet 
sector monitoring requirements must turn on its camera for 100 percent 
of sector trips.
    (7) A vessel owner or operator using electronic monitoring to meet 
sector monitoring requirements must comply with the requirements in 
Sec.  648.11(l)(10)(ii)(B) or the Regional Administrator may withdraw 
approval for the vessel to use electronic monitoring.
    (8) The Regional Administrator may revise vessel monitoring plan 
requirements and approval standards consistent with the Administrative 
Procedure Act. Any revisions will be published on the agency's website.
    (C) Safety hazards. The operator of a sector vessel must detail and 
identify any safety hazards to any at-sea monitor assigned pursuant to 
paragraph (b)(5)(iii)(B)(1) of this section prior to leaving port. A 
vessel may not begin a trip if it has failed a review of safety issues 
pursuant to paragraph (b)(5)(iv)(B) of this section, until the 
identified safety deficiency has been resolved, pursuant to Sec.  
600.746(i).
    (D) Dockside monitoring. Vessels using maximized retention 
electronic monitoring must participate in either an independent third 
party dockside monitoring program approved by NMFS, or the dockside 
monitoring program operated by NMFS, as instructed by NMFS.
    (E) Retention of fish. Vessels using maximized retention electronic 
monitoring must retain all fish from each allocated regulated species, 
regardless of length.
    (ii) Sector monitoring plan monitoring service provider 
requirements. In addition to the monitoring service provider standards 
in paragraph (h) of this section, sector monitoring plans must include 
the following operational requirements for any monitoring provider 
contracted to meet sector monitoring program requirements in this 
paragraph (l):
    (A) At-sea monitoring report. Within 48 hours of the completion of 
a trip, or as otherwise instructed by the Regional Administrator, 
electronic submission to NMFS and the sector a report detailing the 
area fished and the amount of each species kept and discarded. A 
standard format for submission shall be specified by NMFS and 
distributed to all monitoring service providers and sectors. NMFS will 
accept only monitoring data that passes automated NMFS data quality 
checks.
    (B) Electronic monitoring report. A report detailing area fished 
and the amount of each species discarded must be submitted 
electronically in a standard acceptable form to the appropriate sector 
and NMFS within 10 business days of a trip being selected for video 
review, or as otherwise instructed by the Regional Administrator. The 
format for submission shall be specified by NMFS and distributed to all 
monitoring service providers and sectors. NMFS will accept only 
monitoring data that passes automated NMFS data quality checks.
    (C) Vessel feedback report. A report must be submitted to the 
vessel owner following a trip with detailed feedback on the vessel 
operator's and crew's catch handling, camera maintenance, and vessel 
monitoring plan compliance.

[[Page 11032]]

A copy must be submitted to NMFS upon request.
    (D) Safety hazards. Completion by an at-sea monitor of a pre-trip 
vessel safety checklist provided by NMFS before an at-sea monitor can 
leave port onboard a vessel on a sector trip. If the vessel fails a 
review of safety issues pursuant to this paragraph (l)(10)(ii)(E), an 
at-sea monitor cannot be deployed on that vessel for that trip.
    (E) Gear. Provision of all equipment specified by the Northeast 
Fisheries Science Center to each at-sea monitor before the at-sea 
monitor may be deployed on a vessel. A list of such equipment is 
available from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center upon request. 
This gear shall be inspected by NMFS upon the completion of training 
required pursuant to paragraph (i)(2) of this section.
    (F) Adjustment to service provider requirements and approval 
standards. The Regional Administrator may revise monitoring service 
provider requirements and approval standards consistent with the 
Administrative Procedure Act.
    (iii) Sector requirements. Each sector shall monitor catch by 
participating sector vessels to ensure that ACEs are not exceeded 
during the fishing year, as specified in this paragraph (l)(10)(iii). 
The sector shall summarize trips validated by dealer reports; oversee 
the use of electronic monitoring equipment and review of associated 
data; maintain a database of VTR, dealer, observer, and electronic 
monitoring reports; determine all species landings by stock areas; 
apply discard estimates to landings; deduct catch from ACEs allocated 
to sectors; and report sector catch on a weekly basis to NMFS, as 
required in paragraph (b)(1)(v) of this section. Unless otherwise 
specified in this paragraph (l)(10), all catches of stocks allocated to 
sectors by vessels on a sector trip shall be deducted from the sector's 
ACE for each regulated species stock regardless of the fishery the 
vessel was participating in when the fish was caught. For the purposes 
of this paragraph (l)(10), any regulated species or ocean pout caught 
using gear capable of catching NE multispecies (i.e., gear not listed 
as exempted gear under this part) would be deducted from a sector's ACE 
if such catch contributed to the specification of PSC, as described in 
Sec.  648.87(b)(1)(i)(E), and would not apply to another ACL sub-
component pursuant to Sec.  648.90(a)(4). For example, any regulated 
species or ocean pout landed while fishing for or catching skates or 
monkfish pursuant to the regulations for those fisheries would be 
deducted from the sector's ACE for each stock because such regulated 
species or ocean pout were caught while also operating under a NE 
multispecies DAS. However, for example, if a sector vessel is issued a 
limited access General Category Atlantic Sea Scallop permit and fishes 
for scallops under the provisions specific to that permit, any 
yellowtail flounder caught by the vessel on such trips would be 
deducted from the appropriate non-groundfish component, such as the 
other sub-component or the appropriate yellowtail flounder stock's ACL 
specified for the Atlantic Sea Scallop fishery and not from the 
yellowtail flounder ACE for the sector.
    (iv) Dealer requirements. Federally permitted NE multispecies 
dealers must allow dockside monitors access to their premises, scales, 
and any fish received from vessels participating in the maximized 
retention electronic monitoring program for the purpose of collecting 
fish species and weights of fish received by the dealer, fish length 
measurements, and the collection of age structures such as otoliths or 
scales.
    (A) Facilitation. Federally permitted NE multispecies dealers must 
facilitate dockside monitoring for vessels participating in a maximized 
retention electronic monitoring program, including, but not limited to, 
the following requirements:
    (1) Provide a safe sampling station, including shelter from 
weather, for dockside monitors to conduct their duties and process 
catch, that is equivalent to the accommodations provided to the 
dealer's staff.
    (2) Allow dockside monitors access to bathrooms equivalent to the 
accommodations provided to the dealer's staff.
    (3) Allow dockside monitors access to any facilities for washing 
equipment with fresh water that are provided to the dealer's staff.
    (B) Processing, sorting, labeling, and reporting. Federally 
permitted NE multispecies dealers must process fish for vessels 
participating in a maximized retention electronic monitoring program 
consistent with and including, but not limited to, the following 
requirements:
    (1) Offload from vessels participating in the maximized retention 
monitoring program all fish below the minimum size specified at Sec.  
648.83 before other fish that meet the minimum size, sort the 
undersized fish by species, and provide the dockside monitor access to 
those at the safe sampling station.
    (2) Sort by species all redfish, haddock, and pollock, except that 
fish of the same species below the minimum size specified at Sec.  
648.83 may be mixed with the same species of fish in the smallest 
market category.
    (3) Sort by species all unmarketable fish from other fish, when 
identifiable to species.
    (4) Clearly identify, mark, or label all containers with fish below 
the minimum size specified in Sec.  648.83 as containing undersized 
fish, the fishing vessel from which they were offloaded, and the date 
of offloading.
    (5) Report all fish below the minimum size specified in Sec.  
648.83, and all unmarketable fish, as instructed by NMFS.
    (v) Adjustment to operational standards. The at-sea/electronic 
monitoring operational standards specified in paragraph (l)(10) of this 
section may be revised by the Regional Administrator in a manner 
consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act.
    (m) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) In addition to the requirement for any vessel holding an 
Atlantic herring permit to carry an observer described in paragraph (a) 
of this section, vessels issued a Category A or B Herring Permit are 
subject to industry-funded monitoring (IFM) requirements on declared 
Atlantic herring trips, unless the vessel is carrying an observer to 
fulfill Standard Bycatch Reporting Methodology requirements. An owner 
of a midwater trawl vessel, required to carry an observer when fishing 
in Northeast Multispecies Closed Areas at Sec.  648.202(b), may 
purchase an IFM high volume fisheries (HVF) observer to access Closed 
Areas on a trip-by-trip basis. General requirements for IFM programs in 
New England Council FMPs are specified in paragraph (g) of this 
section. Possible IFM monitoring for the Atlantic herring fishery 
includes observers, at-sea monitors, and electronic monitoring and 
portside samplers, as defined in Sec.  648.2.
* * * * *
    (v) To provide the required IFM coverage aboard declared Atlantic 
herring trips, observers and monitors must hold a high volume fisheries 
certification from NMFS.
    (2) * * *
    (iii) * * *
    (A) For IFM observer coverage aboard vessels fishing with midwater 
trawl gear to access the Northeast Multispecies Closed Areas, 
consistent with requirements at Sec.  648.202(b), at any point during 
the trip;
* * * * *
    (4) * * *
    (i) An owner of an Atlantic herring vessel required to have 
monitoring under paragraph (m)(3) of this section

[[Page 11033]]

must arrange for monitoring by an observer from a monitoring service 
provider approved by NMFS under paragraph (h) of this section. The 
owner, operator, or vessel manager of a vessel selected for monitoring 
must contact a monitoring service provider prior to the beginning of 
the trip and the monitoring service provider will notify the vessel 
owner, operator, or manager whether monitoring is available. A list of 
approved monitoring service providers shall be posted on the NMFS 
website: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/resource/data/observer-providers-northeast-and-mid-atlantic-programs.
* * * * *
    (6) Sampling requirements for observers and monitors. In addition 
to the requirements at Sec.  648.11(d)(1) through (7), an owner or 
operator of a vessel issued a limited access herring permit on which an 
observer or monitor is embarked must provide observers or monitors:
* * * * *
    (n) * * *
    (2) Sampling requirements for limited access Atlantic mackerel and 
longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permit holders. In addition to the 
requirements in paragraphs (d)(1) through (7) of this section, an owner 
or operator of a vessel issued a limited access Atlantic mackerel or 
longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permit on which an observer is 
embarked must provide observers:
* * * * *
0
5. Section 648.14 is amended by:
0
a. Revising paragraphs (a)(7), (e), and (i)(1)(ix)(B);
0
b. Adding paragraph (k)(2)(vii); and
0
c. Revising paragraphs (k)(3), (k)(14)(ix) through (xiii), and 
(r)(2)(v).
    The revisions and addition read as follows:


Sec.  648.14  Prohibitions.

    (a) * * *
    (7) Possess, import, export, transfer, land, or have custody or 
control of any species of fish regulated pursuant to this part that do 
not meet the minimum size provisions in this part, unless such species 
were harvested exclusively within state waters by a vessel that does 
not hold a valid permit under this part, or are species included in the 
NE Multispecies Fishery Management Plan that were either harvested by a 
vessel participating in the maximized retention electronic monitoring 
program consistent with Sec.  648.11(l)(10)(i)(E) or harvested by a 
vessel issued a valid High Seas Fishing Compliance permit that fished 
exclusively in the NAFO Regulatory Area.
* * * * *
    (e) Observer program. It is unlawful for any person to do any of 
the following:
    (1) Assault, resist, oppose, impede, harass, intimidate, or 
interfere with or bar by command, impediment, threat, or coercion any 
observer or monitor conducting his or her duties; any electronic 
monitoring provider staff who collects data required under this part; 
any authorized officer conducting any search, inspection, 
investigation, or seizure in connection with enforcement of this part; 
any official designee of the Regional Administrator conducting his or 
her duties, including those duties authorized in Sec. Sec.  648.7(g) 
and 648.11(l)(10)(v).
    (2) Refuse monitoring coverage by an observer or monitor if 
selected for monitoring coverage by the Regional Administrator or the 
Regional Administrator's designee.
    (3) Fail to provide information, notification, accommodations, 
access, or reasonable assistance to either an observer, monitor, or 
electronic monitoring provider staff conducting his or her duties as 
specified in Sec.  648.11.
    (4) Submit false or inaccurate data, statements, or reports.
* * * * *
    (i) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (ix) * * *
    (B) Fail to provide information, notification, accommodations, 
access, or reasonable assistance to an observer conducting his or her 
duties aboard a vessel, as specified in Sec.  648.11.
* * * * *
    (k) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (vii) Fish under a waiver from the groundfish sector monitoring 
program issued under Sec.  648.11(l)(5)(ii) or (iii) without complying 
with the VMS declaration requirements at Sec.  648.10(g)(3) and the 
pre-trip notification requirements at Sec.  648.11(l)(1).
    (3) Dealer requirements. It is unlawful for any person to:
    (i) Purchase, possess, import, export, or receive as a dealer, or 
in the capacity of a dealer, regulated species or ocean pout in excess 
of the possession limits specified in Sec. Sec.  648.82, 648.85, 
648.86, or 648.87 applicable to a vessel issued a NE multispecies 
permit, unless otherwise specified in Sec.  648.17, or unless the 
regulated species or ocean pout are purchased or received from a vessel 
that caught them on a sector trip and such species are exempt from such 
possession limits in accordance with an approved sector operations 
plan, as specified in Sec.  648.87(c).
    (ii) Sell or transfer to another person for a commercial purpose, 
other than solely for transport on land, any NE multispecies harvested 
from the EEZ by a vessel issued a Federal NE multispecies permit, 
unless the transferee has a valid NE multispecies dealer permit.
    (iii) Purchase, possess, import, export, or receive as a dealer, or 
in the capacity of a dealer, regulated species or ocean pout from a 
vessel participating in the maximized retention electronic monitoring 
program in Sec.  648.11(l) unless the offload of catch was observed by 
a dockside monitor or NMFS issued a waiver from dockside monitoring for 
the trip.
    (iv) Assault, resist, oppose, impede, harass, intimidate, or 
interfere with or bar by command, impediment, threat, or coercion any 
observer or monitor conducting his or her duties or any electronic 
monitoring provider staff who collects data required under this part.
    (v) Impede a dockside monitors' access to their premises, scales, 
and any fish received from vessels participating in the maximized 
retention electronic monitoring program; fail to facilitate dockside 
monitoring for vessels participating in a maximized retention 
electronic monitoring program; or fail to process, sort, label, and 
report fish from vessels participating in the maximized retention 
monitoring program, as required in Sec.  648.11(l)(10)(iv).
* * * * *
    (14) * * *
    (ix) Fail to comply with the reporting requirements specified in 
Sec.  648.11(l)(10)(iii) and Sec.  648.87(b)(1)(v).
    (x) Leave port to begin a trip before an at-sea monitor has arrived 
and boarded the vessel if assigned to carry an at-sea monitor for that 
trip, or without an operational electronic monitoring system installed 
on board, as specified in Sec. Sec.  648.11(l)(3) and (l)(10)(i).
    (xi) Leave port to begin a trip if a vessel has failed a review of 
safety issues by an at-sea monitor and has not successfully resolved 
any identified safety deficiencies, as prohibited by Sec.  
648.11(l)(10)(i)(C).
    (xii) Fail to comply with the electronic monitoring system 
requirements as specified in Sec.  648.11(l)(10)(i)(A), including, but 
not limited to: Ensuring the electronic monitoring system is fully 
operational; conducting a system check of the electronic monitoring 
system; ensuring camera views are unobstructed and clear; and ensuring 
that no person tampers with the electronic monitoring system.
    (xiii) Fail to comply with the vessel monitoring plan requirements 
as

[[Page 11034]]

specified in Sec.  648.11(l)(10)(i)(B), including, but not limited to: 
Carrying the vessel monitoring plan onboard the vessel at all times; 
complying with all catch handling protocols and other requirements in 
the vessel monitoring plan; submitting electronic monitoring data as 
required; and making the electronic monitoring system available to NMFS 
for inspection upon request.
* * * * *
    (r) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (v) Fish with midwater trawl gear in any Northeast Multispecies 
Closed Area, as defined in Sec.  648.81(a)(3) through (5) and (c)(3) 
and (4), without an observer on board, if the vessel has been issued an 
Atlantic herring permit.
* * * * *
0
6. Section 648.51 is amended by revising paragraphs (c)(4) and 
(e)(3)(iii) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.51  Gear and crew restrictions.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (4) An at-sea observer is on board, as required by Sec.  648.11(k).
* * * * *
    (e) * * *
    (3) * * *
    (iii) An at-sea observer is on board, as required by Sec.  
648.11(k).
* * * * *
0
7. Section 648.80 is amended by revising paragraphs (d)(3) and 
(e)(2)(ii) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.80  NE Multispecies regulated mesh areas and restrictions on 
gear and methods of fishing.

* * * * *
    (d) * * *
    (3) The vessel carries an observer, if requested by the Regional 
Administrator;
* * * * *
    (e) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (ii) The vessel carries an observer, if requested by the Regional 
Administrator;
* * * * *
0
8. Section 648.83 is amended by revising paragraph (a)(1) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  648.83  Multispecies minimum fish sizes.

    (a) * * *
    (1) Minimum fish sizes for recreational vessels and charter/party 
vessels that are not fishing under a NE multispecies DAS are specified 
in Sec.  648.89. Except as provided in Sec.  648.11(l)(10)(i)(E) and 
Sec.  648.17, all other vessels are subject to the following minimum 
fish sizes, determined by total length (TL):

             Minimum Fish Sizes (TL) for Commercial Vessels
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Species                          Size in inches
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cod.......................................  19 (48.3 cm).
Haddock...................................  16 (40.6 cm).
Pollock...................................  19 (48.3 cm).
Witch flounder (gray sole)................  13 (33 cm).
Yellowtail flounder.......................  12 (30.5 cm).
American plaice (dab).....................  12 (30.5 cm).
Atlantic halibut..........................  41 (104.1 cm).
Winter flounder (blackback)...............  12 (30.5 cm).
Redfish...................................  7 (17.8 cm).
------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *
0
9. Section 648.85 is amended by revising paragraph (e)(1)(viii)(C) to 
read as follows:


Sec.  648.85  Special management programs.

* * * * *
    (e) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (viii) * * *
    (C) Administration of Thresholds. (1) For the purpose of 
determining a sector's monthly redfish landings threshold performance 
described in paragraph (e)(1)(viii)(A)(1) of this section and the 
annual redfish landings threshold described in paragraph 
(e)(1)(viii)(B)(1) of this section, landings of allocated regulated 
species by vessels participating in a maximized retention electronic 
monitoring program consistent with Sec.  648.11(l), including landings 
of allocated stocks below the minimum size at Sec.  648.83(a)(1), will 
be counted as landings and not discards.
    (2) For the purpose of determining a sector's monthly discards 
threshold performance described in paragraph (e)(1)(viii)(A)(2) of this 
section, a trip by a vessel participating in a maximized retention 
electronic monitoring program consistent with Sec.  648.11(l) will be 
excluded from evaluation of the monthly discard threshold.
    (3) If a sector fails to meet the monthly redfish landings 
threshold or the monthly discards threshold described in paragraphs 
(e)(1)(viii)(A)(1) and (2) of this section for four or more months 
total, or three or more consecutive months, in a fishing year, the 
Regional Administrator shall prohibit all vessels in that sector from 
fishing under the provisions of the Redfish Exemption Program for the 
remainder of the fishing year, and place the sector and its vessels in 
a probationary status for one fishing year beginning the following 
fishing year.
    (4) If a sector fails to meet the annual redfish landings threshold 
described in paragraph (e)(1)(viii)(B)(1) of this section in a fishing 
year, the Regional Administrator shall place the sector and its vessels 
in a probationary status for one fishing year beginning the following 
fishing year.
    (5) While in probationary status as described in paragraph 
(e)(1)(viii)(C)(3) or (4) of this section, if the sector fails to meet 
the monthly redfish landings threshold or the monthly discards 
threshold described in paragraphs (e)(1)(viii)(A)(1) and (2) of this 
section for four or more months total, or three or more consecutive 
months, in that fishing year, the Regional Administrator shall prohibit 
all vessels in that sector from fishing under the provisions of the 
Redfish Exemption Program for the remainder of the fishing year and the 
following fishing year.
    (6) If a sector fails to meet the annual redfish landings threshold 
in (e)(1)(viii)(B)(1) of this section for any fishing year during which 
the sector is in a probationary status as described in paragraph 
(e)(1)(viii)(C)(3) or (4) of this section, the Regional Administrator 
shall prohibit all vessels in that sector from fishing under the 
provisions of the Redfish Exemption Program for the following fishing 
year.
    (7) The Regional Administrator may determine a sector has failed to 
meet required monthly or annual thresholds described in paragraphs 
(e)(1)(viii)(A) and (B) of this section using available information 
including, but not limited to, vessel declarations and notifications, 
vessel trip reports, dealer reports, and observer and electronic 
monitoring records.
    (8) The Regional Administrator shall notify a sector of a failure 
to meet the required monthly or annual thresholds and the sector's 
vessels prohibition or probation status consistent with the provisions 
in paragraphs (e)(1)(viii)(C)(1) through (7) of this section. The 
Regional Administrator shall also make administrative amendments to the 
approved sector operations plan and issue sector vessel letters of 
authorization consistent with the provisions in paragraphs 
(e)(1)(viii)(C)(1) through (7) of this section. These administrative 
amendments may be made during a fishing year or during the sector 
operations plan and sector contract approval process.
    (9) A sector may request in writing that the Regional Administrator 
review and reverse a determination made under the provisions of this 
section within 30 days of the date of the Regional Administrator's 
determination. Any such request must be based on information showing 
the sector complied with the required thresholds, including, but not 
limited to, landing, discard, observer or electronic monitoring 
records. The Regional

[[Page 11035]]

Administrator will review and maintain or reverse the determination and 
notify the sector of this decision in writing. Any determination 
resulting from a review conducted under this provision is final and may 
not be reviewed further.
* * * * *
0
10. Section 648.86 is amended by revising the introductory text and 
paragraph (a)(3)(ii)(A)(1) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.86  NE Multispecies possession restrictions.

    Except as provided in Sec.  648.11(l), Sec.  648.17, or elsewhere 
in this part, the following possession restrictions apply:
    (a) * * *
    (3) * * *
    (ii) * * *
    (A) * * *
    (1) Haddock incidental catch cap. When the Regional Administrator 
has determined that the incidental catch allowance for a given haddock 
stock, as specified in Sec.  648.90(a)(4)(iii)(D), has been caught, no 
vessel issued an Atlantic herring permit and fishing with midwater 
trawl gear in the applicable stock area, i.e., the Herring GOM Haddock 
Accountability Measure (AM) Area or Herring GB Haddock AM Area, as 
defined in paragraphs (a)(3)(ii)(A)(2) and (3) of this section, may 
fish for, possess, or land herring in excess of 2,000 lb (907.2 kg) per 
trip in or from that area, unless all herring possessed and landed by 
the vessel were caught outside the applicable AM Area and the vessel's 
gear is stowed and not available for immediate use as defined in Sec.  
648.2 while transiting the AM Area. Upon this determination, the 
haddock possession limit is reduced to 0 lb (0 kg) for a vessel issued 
a Federal Atlantic herring permit and fishing with midwater trawl gear 
or for a vessel issued a Category A or B Herring Permit fishing on a 
declared herring trip, regardless of area fished or gear used, in the 
applicable AM area, unless the vessel also possesses a NE multispecies 
permit and is operating on a declared (consistent with Sec.  648.10(g)) 
NE multispecies trip. In making this determination, the Regional 
Administrator shall use haddock catches observed by observers or 
monitors by herring vessel trips using midwater trawl gear in 
Management Areas 1A, 1B, and/or 3, as defined in Sec.  648.200(f)(1) 
and (3), expanded to an estimate of total haddock catch for all such 
trips in a given haddock stock area.
* * * * *
0
11. Section 648.87 is amended by:
0
a. Revising paragraph (b)(1) introductory text, and (b)(1)(v) through 
(viii);
0
b. Removing paragraph (b)(1)(ix);
0
c. Revising paragraph (b)(2) and (3); and
0
d. Removing paragraphs (b)(4) and (5).
    The revisions read as follows:


Sec.  648.87  Sector allocation.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) All sectors approved under the provisions of paragraph (a) of 
this section must submit the documents specified in paragraphs (a)(1), 
(b)(2), and (3) of this section, comply with the conditions and 
restrictions of this paragraph (b)(1), and comply with the groundfish 
sector monitoring program in Sec.  648.11(l).
* * * * *
    (v) Sector reporting requirements. In addition to the other 
reporting/recordkeeping requirements specified in this part, a sector's 
vessels must comply with the reporting requirements specified in this 
paragraph (b)(1)(v).
    (A) VMS declarations and trip-level catch reports. Prior to each 
sector trip, a sector vessel must declare into broad stock areas in 
which the vessel fishes and submit the VTR serial number associated 
with that trip pursuant to Sec.  648.10(k). The sector vessel must also 
submit a VMS catch report detailing regulated species and ocean pout 
catch by statistical area when fishing in multiple broad stock areas on 
the same trip, pursuant to Sec.  648.10(k).
    (B) Weekly catch report. Each sector must submit weekly reports to 
NMFS stating the remaining balance of ACE allocated to each sector 
based upon regulated species and ocean pout landings and discards of 
vessels participating in that sector and any compliance/enforcement 
concerns. These reports must include at least the following 
information, as instructed by the Regional Administrator: Week ending 
date; species, stock area, gear, number of trips, reported landings 
(landed pounds and live pounds), discards (live pounds), total catch 
(live pounds), status of the sector's ACE (pounds remaining and percent 
remaining), and whether this is a new or updated record of sector catch 
for each regulated species stock allocated to that particular sector; 
sector enforcement issues; and a list of vessels landing for that 
reporting week. These weekly catch reports must be submitted no later 
than 0700 hr on the second Monday after the reporting week, as defined 
in this part. The frequency of these reports must be increased to more 
than a weekly submission when the balance of remaining ACE is low, as 
specified in the sector operations plan and approved by NMFS. If 
requested, sectors must provide detailed trip-by-trip catch data to 
NMFS for the purposes of auditing sector catch monitoring data based 
upon guidance provided by the Regional Administrator.
    (C) Year-end report. An approved sector must submit an annual year-
end report to NMFS and the Council, no later than 60 days after the end 
of the fishing year, that summarizes the fishing activities of 
participating permits/vessels, which must include at least the 
following information: Catch, including landings and discards, of all 
species by sector vessels; the permit number of each sector vessel that 
fished for regulated species or ocean pout; the number of vessels that 
fished for non-regulated species or ocean pout; the method used to 
estimate discards by sector vessels; the landing port used by sector 
vessels; enforcement actions; and other relevant information required 
to evaluate the biological, economic, and social impacts of sectors and 
their fishing operations consistent with confidentiality requirements 
of applicable law.
    (D) Streamlining sector reporting requirements. The reporting/
recordkeeping requirements specified in Sec.  648.11(l) and this 
paragraph (b)(1)(v) may be revised by the Regional Administrator in a 
manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act.
    (vi) Interaction with other fisheries.
    (A) Use of DAS. A sector vessel must comply with all measures 
specified for another fishery pursuant to this part, including any 
requirement to use a NE multispecies DAS. If the regulations of another 
fishery require the use of a NE multispecies DAS, the DAS allocation 
and accrual provisions specified in Sec.  648.82(d) and (e), 
respectively, apply to each trip by a sector vessel, as applicable. For 
example, if a sector vessel is also issued a limited access monkfish 
Category C permit and is required to use a NE multispecies DAS 
concurrent with a monkfish DAS under this part, any NE multispecies DAS 
used by the sector vessel accrues, as specified in Sec.  
648.82(e)(1)(ii) based upon the vessel's NE multispecies DAS allocation 
calculated pursuant to Sec.  648.82(d)(1)(iv)(B).
    (B) Availability of ACE. Notwithstanding the requirements in 
paragraph (b)(1)(vi)(A) of this section, if a sector has not been 
allocated or does not acquire sufficient ACE available to cover the 
catch of a particular stock of regulated species while participating in 
another fishery in which such catch would apply to the ACE allocated to 
a sector, vessels participating in that sector cannot participate in 
those other fisheries unless NMFS has approved a

[[Page 11036]]

sector operations plan that ensures that regulated species or ocean 
pout will not be caught while participating in these other fisheries.
    (vii) ACE transfers. All or a portion of a sector's ACE for any NE 
multispecies stock may be transferred to another sector at any time 
during the fishing year and up to 2 weeks into the following fishing 
year (i.e., through May 14), unless otherwise instructed by NMFS, to 
cover any overages during the previous fishing year. A sector is not 
required to transfer ACE to another sector. An ACE transfer only 
becomes effective upon approval by NMFS, as specified in paragraph 
(b)(1)(vii)(B) of this section.
    (A) Application to transfer ACE. ACE may be transferred from one 
sector to another through written request to the Regional 
Administrator. This request must include the name of the sectors 
involved, the amount of each ACE to be transferred, the fishing year in 
which the ACE transfer applies, and the amount of compensation received 
for any ACE transferred, as instructed by the Regional Administrator.
    (B) Approval of an ACE transfer request. NMFS shall approve/
disapprove a request to transfer ACE based upon compliance by each 
sector and its participating vessels with the reporting requirements 
specified in this part. The Regional Administrator shall inform both 
sectors in writing whether the ACE transfer request has been approved 
within 2 weeks of the receipt of the ACE transfer request.
    (C) Duration of transfer. Notwithstanding ACE carried over into the 
next fishing year pursuant to paragraph (b)(1)(i)(C) of this section, 
ACE transferred pursuant to this paragraph (b)(1)(vii) is only valid 
for the fishing year in which the transfer is approved, with the 
exception of ACE transfer requests that are submitted up to 2 weeks 
into the subsequent fishing year to address any potential ACE overages 
from the previous fishing year, as provided in paragraph (b)(1)(iii) of 
this section, unless otherwise instructed by NMFS.
    (viii) Trip limits. With the exception of stocks listed in Sec.  
648.86(1) and the Atlantic halibut trip limit at Sec.  648.86(c), a 
sector vessel is not limited in the amount of allocated NE multispecies 
stocks that can be harvested on a particular fishing trip, unless 
otherwise specified in the operations plan.
    (2) Operations plan and sector contract. To be approved to operate, 
each sector must submit an operations plan and preliminary sector 
contract to the Regional Administrator no later than September 1 prior 
to the fishing year in which the sector intends to begin operations, 
unless otherwise instructed by NMFS. A final roster, sector contract, 
and list of Federal and state permits held by participating vessels for 
each sector must be submitted by December 1 prior to the fishing year 
in which the sector intends to begin operations, unless otherwise 
instructed by NMFS. The operations plan may cover a 1- or 2-year 
period, provided the analysis required in paragraph (b)(3) of this 
section is sufficient to assess the impacts of sector operations during 
the 2-year period and that sector membership, or any other parameter 
that may affect sector operations during the second year of the 
approved operations plan, does not differ to the point where the 
impacts analyzed by the supporting NEPA document are compromised. Each 
vessel and vessel operator and/or vessel owner participating in a 
sector must agree to and comply with all applicable requirements and 
conditions of the operations plan specified in this paragraph (b)(2) 
and the letter of authorization issued pursuant to paragraph (c)(2) of 
this section. It shall be unlawful to violate any such conditions and 
requirements unless such conditions or restrictions are identified in 
an approved operations plan as administrative only. If a proposed 
sector does not comply with the requirements of this paragraph (b)(2), 
NMFS may decline to propose for approval such sector operations plans, 
even if the Council has approved such sector. At least the following 
elements must be contained in either the final operations plan or 
sector contract submitted to NMFS:
    (i) A list of all parties, vessels, and vessel owners who will 
participate in the sector;
    (ii) A list of all Federal and state permits held by persons 
participating in the sector, including an indication for each permit 
whether it is enrolled and will actively fish in a sector, or will be 
subject to the provisions of the common pool;
    (iii) A contract signed by all sector participants indicating their 
agreement to abide by the operations plan;
    (iv) The name of a designated representative or agent of the sector 
for service of process;
    (v) If applicable, a plan for consolidation or redistribution of 
ACE detailing the quantity and duration of such consolidation or 
redistribution within the sector;
    (vi) A list of the specific management rules the sector 
participants will agree to abide by in order to avoid exceeding the 
allocated ACE for each stock, including a plan of operations or 
cessation of operations once the ACEs of one or more stocks are 
harvested and detailed plans for enforcement of the sector rules;
    (vii) A plan that defines the procedures by which members of the 
sector that do not abide by the rules of the sector will be disciplined 
or removed from the sector, and a procedure for notifying NMFS of such 
expulsions from the sector;
    (viii) If applicable, a plan of how the ACE allocated to the sector 
is assigned to each vessel;
    (ix) If the operations plan is inconsistent with, or outside the 
scope of the NEPA analysis associated with the sector proposal/
framework adjustment as specified in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, 
a supplemental NEPA analysis may be required with the operations plan;
    (x) Detailed information about overage penalties or other actions 
that will be taken if a sector exceeds its ACE for any stock;
    (xi) Detailed plans for the monitoring and reporting of landings 
and discards by sector participants, including, but not limited to, 
detailed information describing the sector's at-sea/electronic 
monitoring program for monitoring utilization of ACE allocated to that 
sector; identification of the independent third-party service providers 
employed by the sector to provide at-sea/electronic monitoring 
services; the mechanism and timing of any hail reports; a list of 
specific ports where participating vessels will land fish, with 
specific exemptions noted for safety, weather, etc., allowed, provided 
the sector provides reasonable notification to NMFS concerning a 
deviation from the listed ports; and any other information about such a 
program required by NMFS;
    (xii) ACE thresholds that may trigger revisions to sector 
operations to ensure allocated ACE is not exceeded, and details 
regarding the sector's plans for notifying NMFS once the specified ACE 
threshold has been reached;
    (xiii) Identification of any potential redirection of effort into 
other fisheries expected as a result of sector operations, and, if 
necessary, proposed limitations to eliminate any adverse effects 
expected from such redirection of effort;
    (xiv) If applicable, description of how regulated species and ocean 
pout will be avoided while participating in other fisheries that have a 
bycatch of regulated species or ocean pout if the sector does not have 
sufficient ACE for stocks of regulated species or ocean pout caught as 
bycatch in those

[[Page 11037]]

fisheries, as specified in paragraph (b)(1)(vi)(B) of this section; and
    (xv) A list of existing regulations that the sector is requesting 
exemption from during the following fishing year pursuant to paragraph 
(c)(2) of this section.
    (3) NEPA analysis. In addition to the documents required by 
paragraphs (a)(1) and (b)(2) of this section, before NMFS can approve a 
sector to operate during a particular fishing year, each sector must 
develop and submit to NMFS, in conjunction with the yearly operations 
plan and sector contract, an appropriate NEPA analysis assessing the 
impacts of forming the sector and operating under the measures 
described in the sector operations plan.
* * * * *
0
12. In Sec.  648.90, revise paragraphs (a)(2)(iii) and (4)(i)(B) to 
read as follows:


Sec.  648.90  NE multispecies assessment, framework procedures and 
specifications, and flexible area action system.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (iii) In addition, the PDT may develop ranges of options for any of 
the management measures in the FMP and the following conditions that 
may be adjusted through a framework adjustment to achieve FMP goals and 
objectives including, but not limited to:
    (A) Revisions to DAS measures, including DAS allocations (such as 
the distribution of DAS among the four categories of DAS), future uses 
for Category C DAS, and DAS baselines, adjustments for steaming time, 
etc.;
    (B) Accumulation limits due to a permit buyout or buyback;
    (C) Modifications to capacity measures, such as changes to the DAS 
transfer or DAS leasing measures;
    (D) Calculation of area-specific ACLs (including sub-ACLs for 
specific stocks and areas (e.g., Gulf of Maine cod)), area management 
boundaries, and adoption of area-specific management measures including 
the delineation of inshore/offshore fishing practices, gear 
restrictions, declaration time periods;
    (E) Sector allocation requirements and specifications, including 
the establishment of a new sector, the disapproval of an existing 
sector, the allowable percent of ACL available to a sector through a 
sector allocation, an optional sub-ACL specific to Handgear A permitted 
vessels, management uncertainty buffers, and the calculation of PSCs;
    (F) Sector administration provisions, including at-sea, electronic, 
dockside, and other monitoring tools, coverage requirements and 
processes, monitoring program review, or other measures; sector 
reporting requirements; vessel-specific coverage levels;
    (G) State-operated permit bank administrative provisions;
    (H) Measures to implement the U.S./Canada Resource Sharing 
Understanding, including any specified TACs (hard or target);
    (I) Changes to administrative measures;
    (J) Additional uses for Regular B DAS;
    (K) Reporting requirements;
    (L) Declaration requirements pertaining to when and what time 
period a vessel must declare into or out of a fishery management area;
    (M) The GOM Inshore Conservation and Management Stewardship Plan;
    (N) Adjustments to the Handgear A or B permits;
    (O) Gear requirements to improve selectivity, reduce bycatch, and/
or reduce impacts of the fishery on EFH;
    (P) SAP modifications;
    (Q) Revisions to the ABC control rule and status determination 
criteria, including, but not limited to, changes in the target fishing 
mortality rates, minimum biomass thresholds, numerical estimates of 
parameter values, and the use of a proxy for biomass may be made either 
through a biennial adjustment or framework adjustment;
    (R) Changes to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance 
standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, 
fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day 
allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set 
aside programs; and
    (S) Any other measures currently included in the FMP.
* * * * *
    (4) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (B) ACL recommendations. The PDT shall develop ACL recommendations 
based upon ABCs recommended by the SSC and the pertinent 
recommendations of the Transboundary Management Guidance Committee 
(TMGC). The ACL recommendations of the PDT shall be specified based 
upon total catch for each stock (including both landings and discards), 
if that information is available. The PDT shall describe the steps 
involved with the calculation of the recommended ACLs and uncertainties 
and risks considered when developing these recommendations, including 
whether different levels of uncertainties were used for different sub-
components of the fishery and whether ACLs have been exceeded in recent 
years. Based upon the ABC recommendations of the SSC and the ACL 
recommendations of the PDT, the Council shall adopt ACLs that are equal 
to or lower than the ABC recommended by the SSC to account for 
management uncertainty in the fishery. In years that the coverage 
target for the groundfish sector monitoring program specified in Sec.  
648.11(l) is set at 100 percent, the management uncertainty buffer will 
default to zero for the sector sub-ACL for the allocated regulated 
species stocks specified at Sec.  648.87(b)(1)(i)(A), but the need for 
a management uncertainty buffer for the sector sub-ACL will continue to 
be evaluated as part of each specification action. The PDT will 
recommend an appropriate management uncertainty buffer for the sector 
sub-ACLs if 100-percent monitoring coverage is determined not to be 
effective, or if any additional elements evaluated when setting the 
management uncertainty buffers have the potential to result in catches 
that could exceed ACLs.
* * * * *
0
13. Section 648.202 is amended by revising paragraph (b)(1) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  648.202  Season and area restrictions.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) No vessel issued an Atlantic herring permit and fishing with 
midwater trawl gear, may fish for, possess or land fish in or from the 
Closed Areas, including Cashes Ledge Closure Area, Western GOM Closure 
Area, Closed Area I North (February 1-April 15), and Closed Area II, as 
defined in Sec.  648.81(a)(3), (4), and (5) and (c)(3) and (4), 
respectively, unless it has declared first its intent to fish in the 
Closed Areas as required by Sec.  648.11(m)(1), and is carrying onboard 
an observer.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2022-03572 Filed 2-25-22; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P