[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 250 (Monday, December 30, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 79388-79389]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-31195]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 665

RIN 0648-BD46


Western Pacific Pelagic Fisheries; Catch and Effort Limits for 
the U.S. Participating Territories

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

ACTION: Notice of availability of fishery ecosystem plan amendment; 
request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS announces that the Western Pacific Fishery Management 
Council proposes to amend the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pelagic 
Fisheries of the Western Pacific Region. If approved, Amendment 7 would 
establish a management framework and process for specifying fishing 
catch and effort limits and accountability measures for pelagic 
fisheries in the U.S. Pacific territories (American Samoa, Guam, and 
the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands). The framework would 
authorize the government of each territory to allocate a portion of its 
specified catch or effort limit to a U.S. fishing vessel or vessels 
through a specified fishing agreement, and establish criteria, which a 
specified fishing agreement must satisfy. The framework also includes 
measures to ensure accountability for adhering to fishing catch and 
effort limits.

DATES: NMFS must receive comments on the proposed amendment and the 
included environmental assessment by February 28, 2014.

ADDRESSES: You may send comments on the proposed amendment and 
environmental assessment, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2012-0178, to either 
of the following addresses:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2012-0178, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Send written comments to Michael D. Tosatto, 
Regional Administrator, NMFS Pacific Islands Region (PIR), 1601 
Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 1110, Honolulu, HI 96814-4700.
    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), and will accept attachments to electronic comments in 
Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
    The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared 
Amendment 7 to the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pelagic Fisheries of the 
Western Pacific Region (Pelagics FEP), including an environmental 
assessment and regulatory impact review, that provides background 
information on the proposed action. The amendment is available from 
www.regulations.gov or the Council, 1164 Bishop St., Suite 1400, 
Honolulu, HI 96813, tel 808-522-8220, fax 808-522-8226, 
www.wpcouncil.org.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Adam Bailey, Sustainable Fisheries 
Division, NMFS PIR, 808-944-2248.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS and the Council manage the pelagic 
fisheries of American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern 
Mariana Islands (CNMI) and Hawaii under the Pelagics FEP. Typically, 
the Council recommends conservation and management measures for NMFS to 
implement under the authority of Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act (16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.)). 
Certain pelagic fish stocks, including tunas, are also subject to 
conservation and management measures cooperatively agreed to by the 
Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), an 
international regional fisheries management organization that has 
jurisdiction over fisheries harvesting highly migratory species in the 
western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO, generally west of 150[deg] W. 
longitude). Although NMFS often implements these decisions directly 
under the authority of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries 
Convention Implementation Act, the Council may also recommend 
conservation and management measures applicable to the U.S. component 
of internationally-managed fisheries for implementation by NMFS under 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
    In 2008, the WCPFC adopted Conservation and Management Measure 
(CMM) 2008-01, ``Conservation and Management Measure for Bigeye and 
Yellowfin Tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean,'' which 
established an annual bigeye tuna catch limit for longline fisheries of 
the United States operating in the WCPO, as well separate longline 
bigeye tuna catch limits for the U.S. participating territories to the 
WCPFC, which are American Samoa, Guam, and the CNMI. The annual bigeye 
tuna catch limit for the United States (U.S. bigeye tuna limit) 
established through CMM 2008-01 was 3,736 mt, which NMFS implemented in 
fishing years 2009, 2010, and 2011 (December 7, 2009, 74 FR 63999). 
This limit applied only to the Hawaii-based longline fisheries or 
longline vessels based on the West Coast of the United States that fish 
in the WCPO; the limit did not apply to longline fisheries of the U.S. 
participating territories. CMM 2008-01 also provided that members and 
participating territories that caught less than 2,000 mt of bigeye tuna 
in 2004 would be subject to an annual limit of 2,000 mt, except that 
Small Island Developing States and Participating Territories of the 
WCPFC undertaking responsible development of their fisheries would not 
be subject to individual annual limits for bigeye tuna. The three U.S. 
participating territories fell into this category.
    The WCPFC extended the U.S. bigeye tuna limit for 2012 through CMM 
2011-01 (August 27, 2012, 77 FR 51709), and for fishing year 2013 
through CMM 2012-01 (September 23, 2013, 78 FR 58240). In addition, 
under CMM 2012-01, Small Island Developing States and Participating 
Territories of the WCPFC, including American Samoa, Guam, and the CNMI, 
were not subject to individual longline limits for bigeye tuna for 
fishing year 2013. Subsequently, in December 2013, the WCPFC adopted a 
new tropical tuna conservation and management measure, which maintain 
the U.S. longline bigeye tuna catch limit of 3,763 mt for 2014, and 
reduces the limit to 3,554 mt in 2015 and 2016, and to 3,345 mt for 
2017. CMM 2013-01 further provides that members that caught less than

[[Page 79389]]

2,000 mt of bigeye in 2004 are limited to no more than 2,000 mt in each 
of 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. However, this limit does not apply to 
Small Island Developing States and Participating Territories of the 
WCPFC. Consistent with previous WCPFC measures, the U.S. participating 
territories are not subject to individual longline limits for bigeye 
tuna under CMM 2013-01.
    There are two Hawaii longline fisheries: The deep-set fishery that 
targets bigeye tuna, and the shallow-set fishery that targets 
swordfish, but also retains other pelagic management unit species 
(MUS), including bigeye tuna. Therefore, of the U.S. bigeye tuna limit 
applies to vessels operating in both fisheries. NMFS monitors the catch 
of all pelagic MUS by each longline fishery and on the date NMFS 
projects the fisheries will reach the U.S. bigeye tuna limit, NMFS 
prohibits the retention, transshipment, or landing of bigeye tuna by 
Hawaii longline vessels in the WCPO through the remainder of the year 
as occurred in 2009 and 2010.
    In 2011, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 112-55, 125 Stat. 552 
et seq., the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act 
(CFCAA), 2012. Section 113 of the CFCAA allows the U.S. participating 
territories to use, assign, allocate, and manage catch or effort limits 
agreed to by the WCPFC through fishing agreements with fishing vessels 
of the United States to support fisheries development in the 
territories, and directed NMFS to attribute pelagic MUS catches made by 
such vessels to the U.S. participating territory to which the agreement 
applies. In 2011, NMFS forecasted that the U.S. bigeye catch limit of 
3,763 mt would likely be reached on November 17, 2011. Under the 
authority provided by Section 113 of the CFCAA, American Samoa entered 
into a fishing agreement with certain Hawaii longline fishing vessels 
and, from November 18 through December 31, 2011, NMFS attributed to 
American Samoa, 628 mt of bigeye tuna caught by those vessels. Because 
of the Section 113 agreement, the U.S. bigeye tuna limit was not 
reached, and Hawaii longline vessels that were not part of that 
agreement continued to catch bigeye tuna in the WCPO under the 
remaining amount of the U.S. bigeye tuna catch limit.
    In 2012, NMFS forecasted that the U.S. bigeye tuna catch limit of 
3,763 mt would be reached on November 27, 2012. In accordance with 
federal regulations at 50 CFR 300.224, from November 20, 2012, through 
December 31, 2012, NMFS attributed to American Samoa 771 mt of bigeye 
tuna caught by Hawaii longline vessels identified in the American Samoa 
fishing agreement. Consequently, the U.S. bigeye tuna limit was not 
reached, and Hawaii longline vessels that were not part of that 
agreement continued fishing for bigeye tuna in the WCPO under the 
remaining amount of the U.S. bigeye tuna catch limit. In both 2011 and 
2012, the United States did not exceed its bigeye tuna limit of 3,763 
mt, and the amount of bigeye caught by Hawaii-based longline vessels 
identified in the fishing agreements with American Samoa, and 
attributed to the territory was less than 1,000 mt each year.
    In 2013, the U.S. Congress extended the Section 113 provisions 
through Public Law 113-6, 125 Stat. 603, Section 110, the Department of 
Commerce Appropriations Act, 2013. For fishing year 2013, the CNMI 
entered into a Section 113 agreement with participants in the Hawaii 
longline fisheries. On December 5, 2013, in accordance with NMFS 
regulations at 50 CFR 300.224, NMFS began attributing to the CNMI 
bigeye tuna catches made by vessels identified in the agreement. The 
attribution is expected to continue through the end of 2013. NMFS does 
not expect the 2013 U.S. bigeye tuna limit of 3,763 mt to be reached.
    As directed in Section 113 of the CFCAA, the Council prepared 
Amendment 7 to the Pelagics FEP for Secretarial Review. If approved, 
the proposed action in Amendment 7 would:
     Establish a process for specifying catch or fishing effort 
limits and accountability measures for pelagic fisheries in the U.S. 
participating territories.
     Authorize each U.S. participating territory to enter into 
specified fishing agreements with fishing vessels of the United States 
permitted under the Pelagic FEP and allocate to those vessels, a 
specified portion of a territory's catch or fishing effort limit, as 
determined by NMFS and the Council;
     Establish the criteria specified fishing agreements must 
satisfy, and procedures for reviewing specified fishing agreements; and
     Establish accountability measures for attributing and 
restricting catch and effort towards the specified limits, including 
catches and effort made by vessels identified in specified fishing 
agreements.
    Comments on Amendment 7 must be received by February 28, 2014 to be 
considered by NMFS in the decision to approve, partially approve, or 
disapprove the amendment. NMFS soon expects to publish and request 
public comment on a proposed rule that would implement the measures 
recommended in Amendment 7.

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

    Dated: December 24, 2013.
Emily H. Menashes,
Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-31195 Filed 12-27-13; 8:45 am]
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