[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 247 (Wednesday, December 26, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 75999-76000]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-30966]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XC379


2013 Annual Determination for Sea Turtle Observer Requirement

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

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is providing 
notification that the agency will not identify additional fisheries to 
observe on the Annual Determination (AD) for 2013, pursuant to its 
authority under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Through an AD, NMFS 
identifies U.S. fisheries operating in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of 
Mexico, and Pacific Ocean that will be required to take observers upon 
NMFS' request. The purpose of observing identified fisheries is to 
learn more about sea turtle interactions in a given fishery, evaluate 
existing measures to prevent or reduce prohibited sea turtle takes, and 
to determine whether additional measures to implement the prohibition 
against sea turtle takes may be necessary. Fisheries identified in the 
2010 AD (see Table 1) remain on the AD and are therefore required to 
carry observers upon NMFS' request until December 31, 2014.

ADDRESSES: See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for a listing of all Regional 
Offices.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sara McNulty, Office of Protected 
Resources, 301-427-8402; Ellen Keane, Northeast Region, 978-282-8476; 
Dennis Klemm, Southeast Region, 727-824-5312; Christina Fahy, Southwest 
Region, 562-980-4023; Dawn Golden, Pacific Islands Region, 808-944-
2252. Individuals who use a telecommunications device for the hearing 
impaired may call the Federal Information Relay Service at 1-800-877-
8339 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday, 
excluding Federal holidays.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Availability of Published Materials

    Information regarding the Sea Turtle Observer Requirement for 
Fisheries (72 FR 43176, August 3, 2007) may be obtained at 
www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/turtles/regulations.htm or from any NMFS 
Regional Office at the addresses listed below:
     NMFS, Northeast Region, 55 Great Republic Drive, 
Gloucester, MA 01930;
     NMFS, Southeast Region, 263 13th Avenue South, St. 
Petersburg, FL 33701;
     NMFS, Southwest Region, 501 W. Ocean Blvd., Suite 4200, 
Long Beach, CA 90802;
     NMFS, Pacific Islands Region, Protected Resources, 1601 
Kapiolani Boulevard, Suite 1100, Honolulu, HI 96814.

Purpose of the Sea Turtle Observer Requirement

    Under the ESA, 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq., NMFS has the responsibility 
to implement programs to conserve marine life listed as endangered or 
threatened. All sea turtles found in U.S. waters are listed as either 
endangered or threatened under the ESA. Kemp's ridley (Lepidochelys 
kempii), loggerhead (Caretta caretta; North Pacific distinct population 
segment), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and hawksbill 
(Eretmochelys imbricata) sea turtles are listed as endangered. 
Loggerhead (Caretta caretta; Northwest Atlantic distinct population 
segment), green (Chelonia mydas), and olive ridley (Lepidochelys 
olivacea) sea turtles are listed as threatened, except for breeding 
colony populations of green turtles in Florida and on the Pacific coast 
of Mexico, and breeding colony populations of olive ridleys on the 
Pacific coast of Mexico, which are listed as endangered. Due to the 
inability to distinguish between populations of green and olive ridley 
turtles away from the nesting beach, NMFS considers these turtles 
endangered wherever they occur in U.S. waters. While some sea turtle 
populations have shown signs of recovery, many populations continue to 
decline.
    Incidental take, or bycatch, in fishing gear is one of the main 
sources of sea turtle injury and mortality nationwide. Section 9 of the 
ESA prohibits the take (including harassing, harming, pursuing, 
hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, trapping, capturing, or 
collecting or attempting to engage in any such conduct), including 
incidental take, of endangered sea turtles. Pursuant to section 4(d) of 
the ESA, NMFS has issued regulations extending the prohibition of take, 
with exceptions, to threatened sea turtles (50 CFR 223.205 and 
223.206). Sections 9 and 11 of the ESA authorize the issuance of 
regulations to enforce the take prohibitions. NMFS may grant exceptions 
to the take prohibitions with an incidental take statement or an 
incidental take permit issued pursuant to ESA section 7 or 10, 
respectively. To do so, NMFS must determine that the activity that will 
result in incidental take is not likely to jeopardize the continued 
existence of the affected listed species. For some Federal fisheries 
and most state fisheries, NMFS has not granted an exception primarily 
because we lack information about fishery-sea turtle interactions.
    The most effective way for NMFS to learn more about sea turtle-
fishery interactions in order to prevent or minimize take is to place 
observers aboard fishing vessels. In 2007, NMFS issued a regulation (50 
CFR 222.402) to establish procedures through which each year NMFS will 
identify, pursuant to specified criteria and after notice and 
opportunity for comment, those fisheries in which the agency intends to 
place observers (72 FR 43176, August 3, 2007). These regulations 
specify that NMFS may place observers on U.S. fishing vessels, either 
recreational or commercial, operating in U.S. territorial waters, the 
U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ), or on the high seas, or on vessels 
that are otherwise subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. 
Failure to comply with the requirements under this rule may result in 
civil or criminal penalties under the ESA.
    NMFS and/or interested cooperating entities will pay the direct 
costs for vessels to carry observers. These include observer salary and 
insurance costs. NMFS may also evaluate other potential direct costs, 
should they arise. Once selected, a fishery will be eligible to be 
observed for 5 years without further action by NMFS. This will enable 
NMFS to develop an appropriate sampling protocol to investigate 
whether, how, when, where, and under what conditions incidental takes 
are occurring; to evaluate whether existing measures are minimizing or 
preventing takes; and to determine whether additional measures are 
needed to conserve and recover turtles.

[[Page 76000]]

2013 Annual Determination

    NMFS is providing notification that the agency will not identify 
additional fisheries to observe for the 2013 AD, pursuant to its 
authority under the ESA. NMFS is not identifying additional fisheries 
at this time given lack of resources to implement new or expand 
existing observer programs to focus on sea turtles (50 CFR 
222.402(a)(4)). Fisheries identified in the 2010 AD (see Table 1) 
remain on the AD and are therefore required to carry observers upon 
NMFS' request until December 31, 2014. NMFS did not identify additional 
fisheries to observe in the 2011 AD or in the 2012 AD.

 Table 1--State and Federal Commercial Fisheries Included on the Annual
                              Determination
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                                                       Years Eligible to
                       Fishery                          Carry Observers
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Trawl Fisheries
    Atlantic shellfish bottom trawl..................          2010-2014
    Mid-Atlantic bottom trawl........................          2010-2014
    Mid-Atlantic mid-water trawl (including pair               2010-2014
     trawl)..........................................
    Southeastern U.S. Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico shrimp          2010-2014
     trawl...........................................
Gillnet Fisheries
    CA halibut, white seabass and other species set            2010-2014
     gillnet (>3.5 in mesh)..........................
    CA yellowtail, barracuda, and white seabass drift          2010-2014
     gillnet (mesh size >3.5 in. and <14 in.)........
    Chesapeake Bay inshore gillnet...................          2010-2014
    Long Island inshore gillnet......................          2010-2014
    Mid-Atlantic gillnet.............................          2010-2014
    North Carolina inshore gillnet...................          2010-2014
    Northeast sink gillnet...........................          2010-2014
    Southeast Atlantic gillnet.......................          2010-2014
Trap/Pot Fisheries
    Atlantic blue crab trap/pot......................          2010-2014
    Atlantic mixed species trap/pot..................          2010-2014
    Northeast/mid-Atlantic American lobster trap/pot.          2010-2014
Pound Net/Weir/Seine Fisheries
    Mid-Atlantic haul/beach seine....................          2010-2014
    Mid-Atlantic menhaden purse seine................          2010-2014
    U.S. mid-Atlantic mixed species stop seine/weir/           2010-2014
     pound net (except the NC roe mullet stop net)...
    Virginia pound net...............................          2010-2014
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    Dated: December 18, 2012.
Helen M. Golde,
Acting Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-30966 Filed 12-21-12; 4:15 pm]
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