[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 204 (Tuesday, October 22, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 62579-62582]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-24266]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 130710605-3605-01]
RIN 0648-BD41


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Shrimp Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Establish Funding 
Responsibilities for the Electronic Logbook Program

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

ACTION: Proposed changes to management measures; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes to establish funding responsibilities for an 
upgrade to the shrimp electronic logbook (ELB) program as described in 
a framework action to the Fishery Management Plan for the Shrimp 
Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico (FMP), as prepared by the Gulf of Mexico 
(Gulf) Fishery Management Council (Council). Newer and more efficient 
ELB units have been purchased by NMFS for the Gulf shrimp fleet and are 
available for installation on Gulf shrimp vessels. If the framework 
action is implemented, the proposed changes to the management measures 
would include establishing a cost-sharing program to fund the ELB 
program. The proposed changes would require NMFS to pay for the 
software development, data storage, effort estimation analysis, and 
archival activities for the new ELB units, and vessel permit holders in 
the Gulf shrimp fishery to pay for installation and maintenance of the 
new ELB units and for the data transmission from the ELB units to a 
NOAA server. The purpose of the proposed changes is to ensure that 
management of the shrimp fishery is based upon the best scientific 
information available and that bycatch is minimized to the extent 
practicable.

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before November 6, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed changes to the 
management measures, identified by ``NOAA-NMFS-2013-0127'' by any of 
the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0127, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Susan Gerhart, Southeast 
Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in 
Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
    Electronic copies of the framework action, which includes a 
Regulatory Flexibility Act analysis and a regulatory impact review, may 
be obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/gulf_fisheries/shrimp/index.html.
    Comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other aspects of 
the collection-of-information requirements contained in the proposed 
changes to the management measures may be submitted in writing to Anik 
Clemens, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. 
Petersburg, FL

[[Page 62580]]

33701; and OMB, by email at OIRA Submission@omb.eop.gov, or by fax to 
202-395-7285.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Gerhart, Southeast Regional 
Office, NMFS, telephone: 727-824-5305; email: Susan.Gerhart@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The shrimp fishery of the Gulf is managed 
under the FMP. The FMP was prepared by the Council and is implemented 
through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act).

Background

    The final rule implementing Amendment 13 to the FMP, which 
published on September 26, 2006 (71 FR 56039), established the 
requirement for an ELB program for the Gulf shrimp fishery. The program 
is administered by NMFS and is a cost-effective way to accurately 
determine the amount and location of effort occurring in the shrimp 
fishery in the Gulf exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Current regulations 
require vessels to participate in the ELB program, if selected by the 
NMFS Science and Research Director (SRD).
    The ELB program provides data on Gulf shrimp fishing effort that 
are critical to both the Council and NMFS in performing annual 
assessments of the status of shrimp stocks. The ELB program is also a 
key component in the Council's red snapper rebuilding plan because 
accurate estimates of juvenile red snapper mortality attributable to 
the shrimp fishery are essential data for red snapper stock 
assessments. Accurate estimates of shrimp fishing effort from the ELB 
program are also used to generate mortality estimates on a number of 
other species captured as bycatch in the shrimp fishery. In particular, 
the effort information from the ELB program is used to estimate and 
monitor incidental sea turtle takes.
    Currently, NMFS funds the deployment of ELB units on approximately 
500 shrimp vessels, roughly one-third of the offshore fleet. The 
previous contract expired on March 31, 2013; a new contract with the 
Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission extended the services and will 
expire December 31, 2013. The contract for the current ELB program will 
lapse because funding is not available at this time. NMFS recently 
purchased newer and more efficient ELB units and they are now available 
for installation. To continue the ELB program, additional funding is 
needed regardless of the equipment used. Therefore, the Council voted 
for a framework action to require vessel permit holders in the Gulf 
shrimp fishery to share in the cost of the ELB program. If additional 
funding becomes available, the current ELB units could be continued to 
be used for multiple years to allow a smoother transition to the new 
ELB units, and sharing the costs of the ELB program with the shrimp 
fishery may not be necessary.

Cost-Sharing for the Gulf Shrimp ELB Program

    NMFS purchased the new ELB units for each of the vessel permit 
holders in the Gulf shrimp fishery through the NMFS vessel monitoring 
system (VMS) program, an estimated one-time cost of $1,100,000 for 
1,500 vessels. If the cost-sharing program is implemented, NMFS would 
pay for the software development, data storage, effort estimation 
analysis, and archival activities, which are estimated to cost 
approximately $313,791 annually. Vessel owners would pay for 
installation and maintenance of the new ELB units and the data 
transmission from the ELB units to a NOAA server. The initial 
installation cost would be approximately $200 per vessel, and the 
annual wireless provider contract (data transmission) cost is estimated 
to be $720 per vessel. This division of costs between NMFS and the 
shrimp fishery is similar to the Gulf reef fish VMS program, and other 
cost sharing data reporting programs within NMFS throughout the U.S.
    NMFS initially sent a letter to each vessel permit holder in the 
Gulf shrimp fishery outlining the upgraded ELB program. This letter 
included the timeline and process for installation of the new ELB 
units.
    If the cost-sharing program is implemented, NMFS will, in a 
subsequent letter, inform vessel owners that they have been selected to 
participate in this program, and that they have a total of 90 days to 
comply with the regulations to install and activate their new ELB units 
including 30 days to activate a wireless account and 60 days to install 
the new ELB unit after it has been shipped by NMFS and received by the 
vessel owner. These vessel owners must contact Verizon Wireless, the 
wireless provider, by email at VZWGulfCoastELB@VerizonWireless.com, or 
by phone: 888-211-3258, to initiate service for the new ELB unit.

No Changes to Regulatory Text

    The framework action and the proposed changes would not require any 
changes to the current regulatory text within Sec.  622.51(a), 
``Commercial vessel owners and operators,'' regarding the requirements 
for the Gulf shrimp ELB program. This is because the current 
regulations specify that the SRD will select the vessel owners who will 
participate in the ELB program and how the ELB program is administered, 
and this would not change in this rulemaking. The proposed changes 
would revise the funding responsibilities for the ELB program, which 
are described in the FMP; however, the regulatory text would not 
change. The changes to the management measures are being proposed 
pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the framework action 
is consistent with FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 
and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public 
comment.
    The proposed changes to the management measures have been 
determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    NMFS prepared an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) for 
the proposed changes to the management measures, as required by section 
603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 603. The IRFA describes 
the economic impact that the proposed changes, if implemented, would 
have on small entities. A description of the action, why it is being 
considered, and the objectives of and legal basis for this action are 
contained in the preamble. A copy of the full analysis is available 
from the NMFS (see ADDRESSES). A summary of the IRFA follows.
    The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for the 
proposed changes to the management measures. No duplicative, 
overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been identified.
    The ELB program for the Gulf shrimp fishery, established through 
the final rule to implement Amendment 13 to the FMP in 2006, required 
selected vessels to carry ELB units. The proposed changes to the 
management measures would require selected vessels to carry new ELB 
units that are more modern and technologically advanced. From the 
standpoint of technical and professional skills needed, the new ELB 
units do not materially differ from the current ELB units. In fact, the 
new ELB units would no longer require a technician to meet vessels to 
pull and program the memory card. Data collected by ELB units would

[[Page 62581]]

be automatically transmitted to NMFS servers via a cellular phone 
connection activated when the vessel is within non-roaming cellular 
range. A key feature introduced by the proposed changes is that the 
vessel permit holders in the Gulf shrimp fishery would share the cost 
of the ELB program, whereas currently all costs of the ELB program are 
borne by the government. Each federally permitted shrimp vessel would 
be responsible for the one-time cost of installing the ELB unit ($200) 
and the annual cost of data transmission ($720) through a contract with 
the service provider. The vessel permit holders would also be 
responsible for the cost of repairing or replacing the ELB unit. The 
replacement of one ELB unit is estimated at about $425.
    NMFS expects the proposed changes to the management measures to 
directly affect commercial fishermen with valid or renewable Federal 
Gulf shrimp permits for harvesting penaied shrimp in the Gulf Exclusive 
Economic Zone (EEZ). The Small Business Administration has established 
small entity size criteria for all major industry sectors in the United 
States, including fish harvesters. A business involved in fish 
harvesting is classified as a small business if independently owned and 
operated, is not dominant in its field of operation (including its 
affiliates), and its combined annual receipts are not in excess of 
$19.0 million from finfish fishing (NAICS code 114111), or $5.0 million 
from shellfish fishing (NAICS code 114112), or $7 million from other 
marine fishing (NAICS code 114119) for all of its affiliated operations 
worldwide. For for-hire vessels, all qualifiers apply except that the 
annual receipts threshold is $7.0 million (NAICS code 713990, 
recreational industries).
    The Federal Gulf shrimp permit has been placed under a moratorium 
since 2007. At the start of the moratorium, 1,915 vessels qualified and 
received Gulf shrimp permits. Over time, the number of permitted shrimp 
vessels declined, and in 2012 there were 1,582 such permitted vessels. 
According to the Southeast Regional Office Web site, the Constituency 
Services Branch (Permits) unofficially listed 1,431 holders of Gulf 
shrimp permits as of June 25, 2013.
    During 2006 through 2010, an average of 4,582 vessels fished for 
shrimp in the Gulf EEZ and state waters, of which 20 percent held Gulf 
shrimp permits. Despite being fewer in number, vessels with Gulf shrimp 
permits accounted for an average of 67 percent of total shrimp landings 
and 77 percent of total ex-vessel revenues. Of all vessels with Gulf 
shrimp permits, 73 percent were active and 27 percent were inactive 
(i.e., did not commercially fish).
    During 2006 through 2010, an average permitted shrimp vessel 
generated revenues from commercial fishing ranging from around $205,000 
to $244,000. An average active permitted vessel had revenues from 
commercial fishing ranging from around $233,000 to $274,000. As may be 
expected, revenues from commercial fishing for an average inactive 
permitted vessel were practically none.
    Based on the revenue figures above, all permitted shrimp vessels 
are expected to be directly affected by the proposed changes to the 
management measures and are determined for the purpose of this analysis 
to be small business entities.
    Because all directly affected entities have been determined, for 
the purpose of this analysis, to be small entities, NMFS determined 
that the proposed action would affect a substantial number of small 
entities.
    Because NMFS determined that all entities expected to be affected 
by the proposed changes to the management measures are small entities, 
the issue of disproportional effects on small versus large entities 
does not arise in the present case.
    The vessel permit holders' share of the cost of the ELB program 
consists of a one-time cost of installing the ELB unit, an annual cost 
of transmitting data from the ELB unit to NMFS servers, and a periodic 
cost of repairing or replacing defective ELB units. On a per vessel 
basis, the installation cost is $200 and the annual data transmission 
cost is $720. In the event of equipment failure, the cost of repair 
could run from a small amount to $425, which is the cost of replacing 
an ELB unit.
    During 2006 through 2010, an average permitted shrimp vessel had 
negative net operating revenues in all years, except 2009. Its net 
profits (i.e., net operating revenues plus net receipts from non-
operating activities, such as government payments) were positive in 
2006 ($2,961), 2009 ($1,238), and 2010 ($94,279). However, it should be 
noted that the 2010 profits came mainly from earnings associated with 
the Deepwater Horizon MC252 (DWH) oil spill in the form of damage 
claims and revenues from the vessel's participation in BP's clean-up 
program. Without these oil spill related revenues, net profits in 2010 
would have been negative $2,480.
    For active permitted shrimp vessels, net operating revenues were 
negative in all years during 2006 through 2010. In addition, profits in 
all years were negative, except in 2010. Again, the positive net 
profits in 2010 were due to revenues associated with the DWH oil spill. 
The situation is worse for inactive permitted shrimp vessels, with net 
revenues and profits (except for 2010) being more negative than those 
of active permitted shrimp vessels. The average inactive permitted 
shrimp vessel had higher net profit in 2010 than the average active 
permitted shrimp vessel.
    The cost of the ELB program would impose a significant impact on 
the profits of an average permitted shrimp vessel. The effects would be 
even more significant for vessels that are not active in the fishery. 
It is noted that there are some vessels that are substantially more 
profitable than the average vessel, and thus would be able to absorb 
the per vessel cost of the ELB program. However, there are other 
vessels that are only slightly more profitable than the average vessel, 
and very likely the impacts on their profits would be significant.
    The following discussion analyzes the alternatives that were not 
selected as preferred by the Council.
    The proposed action would continue the ELB program. Being adjudged 
and proven to be very effective in collecting shrimp effort data in the 
Gulf EEZ, continuation of the ELB program has been deemed necessary so 
that NMFS could effectively carry out its mandate to base conservation 
and management measures on the best scientific information available 
and to minimize bycatch to the extent practicable. Therefore, no other 
alternative to collect shrimp effort data was considered.
    However, three alternatives, including the preferred alternative, 
were considered for funding the ELB program. As noted above, the 
preferred alternative would provide for cost sharing between NMFS and 
the vessel permit holders in the Gulf shrimp fishery. The second 
alternative would require NMFS to bear the entire cost of the ELB 
program. NMFS has recognized the vital role the ELB program has played 
in estimating shrimp effort in the Gulf, but due to tight budget 
constraints, NMFS cannot fully fund the ELB program. The third 
alternative would require the vessel permit holders to fund the entire 
cost of the ELB program. For several years now, the Gulf shrimp 
industry has been in relatively dire financial condition, thus the Gulf 
shrimp fishery indicated that funding the entire cost of the ELB would 
not be possible.
    Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person is required 
to respond to, nor shall a person be subject to a penalty for failure 
to comply with, a collection-of-information subject to the requirements 
of the Paperwork

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Reduction Act (PRA), unless that collection-of-information displays a 
currently valid Office of Management and Budget (OMB) control number.
    The proposed changes to the management measures contain collection-
of-information requirements subject to the PRA. NMFS estimates the 
requirement for the Gulf shrimp fishery to share in the costs of the 
new ELB units, which includes installation ($200) and data transmission 
($720), to average 1 hour and $920 per response for the first year. 
After the first year, NMFS estimates the requirement for vessel permit 
holders in the Gulf shrimp fishery to share in the costs of the new ELB 
units, which includes data transmission, to average 1 hour and $720 per 
response. These estimates of the public reporting burden include the 
time for reviewing instructions, gathering and maintaining the data 
needed, and completing and reviewing the collection-of-information.
    These requirements have been submitted to OMB for approval. NMFS 
seeks public comment regarding: Whether this proposed collection-of-
information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of 
the agency, including whether the information will 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. Send comments regarding the burden estimate or 
any other aspect of the collection-of-information requirement, 
including suggestions for reducing the burden, to NMFS and to OMB (see 
ADDRESSES).

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

    Dated: September 30, 2013.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, performing the functions and 
duties of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-24266 Filed 10-21-13; 8:45 am]
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