[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 95 (Friday, May 16, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 28452-28455]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-11182]



[[Page 28452]]

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 300

[Docket No. 130722647-4403-02]
RIN 0648-BD55


International Fisheries; Pacific Tuna Fisheries; Fishing 
Restrictions for Pacific Bluefin Tuna in the Eastern Pacific Ocean

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS is issuing regulations under the Tuna Conventions Act to 
implement Resolution C-13-02 of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna 
Commission (IATTC or the Commission) by specifying limits on U.S. 
commercial catch of Pacific bluefin tuna from the eastern Pacific Ocean 
(EPO) waters of the IATTC Convention Area in 2014. This action is 
necessary for the United States to satisfy its obligations as a member 
of the IATTC to conserve Pacific Bluefin tuna, which is an overfished 
stock.

DATES: The rule is effective June 16, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Copies of supporting documents that were prepared for this 
final rule, including the Regulatory Impact Review (RIR), environmental 
assessment (EA), final regulatory flexibility analysis (FRFA), and the 
proposed rule, are available via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov, docket NOAA-NMFS-2013-0119. These documents, and 
the small entity compliance guide prepared for this final rule, are 
also available from the Regional Administrator, NMFS, West Coast 
Regional Office, 7600 Sand Point Way NE., Bldg 1, Seattle, WA 98115-
0070. A summary of the initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) 
is included in the proposed rule, and a summary of the FRFA is included 
in this final rule.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Amber Rhodes, NMFS, 562-980-3231, or 
Heidi Taylor, NMFS, 562-980-4039.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    On January 10, 2014, NMFS published a proposed rule in the Federal 
Register (79 FR 1810) that would add regulations at 50 CFR 300, subpart 
C, to implement Resolution C-13-02, ``Measures for the Conservation and 
Management of Bluefin Tuna in the Eastern Pacific Ocean,'' which was 
adopted by the IATTC at its 85th Meeting, in June 2013. The proposed 
rule was open to public comment through February 10, 2014. The comments 
received are addressed in this rule.
    The final rule is implemented under the authority of the Tuna 
Conventions Act (16 U.S.C. 951-962 and 971 et seq.), which directs the 
Secretary of Commerce, after approval by the Secretary of State, to 
promulgate such regulations as may be necessary to implement 
resolutions adopted by the IATTC. The Secretary's authority to 
promulgate such regulations as may be necessary to carry out the 
obligations of the United States has been delegated to NMFS.
    The proposed rule includes additional background information, 
including information on the IATTC, the international obligations of 
the United States as an IATTC Member, and the basis for the new 
regulations.

New Regulations

    This final rule establishes 2014 limits on catch of Pacific bluefin 
tuna (Thunnus orientalis) in the IATTC Convention Area. Once Pacific 
bluefin tuna catch limits have been reached, NMFS will prohibit any 
further targeting, retaining on board, transshipping, or landing of 
Pacific bluefin tuna in the Convention Area, because these activities 
can be effectively verified for enforcement purposes. The following 
section includes a description of how the Pacific bluefin tuna catch 
limit provisions apply under three possible scenarios.

2014 Catch Limits for Pacific Bluefin Tuna

    Once the Commission-wide commercial catch limit of 5,000 metric 
tons has been reached and the U.S. commercial fleet is expected to be 
reached or has exceeded the 500 metric tons catch limit, then 
targeting, retaining on board, transshipping, or landing of Pacific 
bluefin tuna by all U.S. commercial vessels in the IATTC Convention 
Area shall be prohibited for the remainder of 2014. If the U.S. 
commercial fishing fleet has not caught 500 metric tons of Pacific 
bluefin tuna in the Convention Area in 2014 when the Commission-wide 
5,000 metric tons catch limit is reached, then the U.S. commercial 
fleet may continue to target, retain, transship, or land Pacific 
bluefin tuna until the 500 metric ton limit is reached. The U.S. 
commercial fleet may continue to target, retain, transship, or land 
more than the 500 metric tons of Pacific bluefin tuna in 2014 unless 
and until the Commission-wide catch limit of 5,000 metric tons is 
reached.

Announcement of the Limits Being Reached

    To ensure that the total catch of Pacific bluefin tuna taken from 
the IATTC Convention Area does not exceed the Commission-wide catch 
limit for 2014, NMFS will report U.S. catch to the IATTC Director on a 
monthly basis. The IATTC Director will inform the IATTC Members and 
Cooperating non-members (collectively, CPCs) when 50 percent of the 
Commission-wide limit is reached. The Director will likewise send 
similar notices when 60, 70, and 80 percent of the Commission-wide 
limit is reached. When 90 percent of the Commission-wide limit is 
reached, the Director will send the corresponding notice to all CPCs, 
with a projection of when the 5,000 metric ton Commission-wide limit 
will be reached, at which time CPCs are expected to take the necessary 
internal measures to avoid exceeding the limit. NMFS will provide 
updates on Commission-wide and U.S. catches to the public via the IATTC 
and coastal pelagic species email distribution lists and the West Coast 
Region Web site: http://www.westcoast.fisheries .noaa.gov/fisheries/
migratory_species/bluefin_tuna_harvest_status.html. Additionally, 
NMFS will report preliminarily estimated Pacific bluefin tuna catch 
between monthly intervals (if and when catches approach the limits) to 
help participants in the U.S. commercial fishery plan for the 
possibility of the catch limit being reached.
    When NMFS is informed that the 5,000 metric ton Commission-wide 
limit has been met (based on information provided by the IATTC 
Director) and that the 500 metric ton catch limit is expected to be 
reached (based on landings receipts, data submitted in logbooks, and 
other available fishery information), NMFS will publish a notice in the 
Federal Register announcing that the targeting, retaining, 
transshipping or landing of Pacific bluefin tuna will be prohibited on 
a specified effective date through December 31, 2014. Upon that 
effective date, a commercial fishing vessel of the United States may 
not be used to target, retain on board, transship, or land any 
additional PBF in the Convention Area during the period specified in 
the announcement. Any PBF already on board a fishing vessel on the 
effective date may be retained on board,

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transshipped, and/or landed, to the extent authorized by applicable 
laws and regulations, provided that they are landed within 14 days 
after the effective date.

Public Comments and Responses

    NMFS received eight written public comments. The Department of the 
Interior submitted comments on behalf of the National Park Service. One 
commenter expressed concern about matters beyond the scope of this 
action. Seven commenters expressed concern for the status of the 
resource. None of the seven commenters opposed placing restrictions on 
the U.S. catch of Pacific bluefin tuna; however, six of them suggested 
further restricting the U.S. catch of Pacific bluefin tuna. Summaries 
of the comments received and NMFS' responses appear below.
    Comment 1: The proposed rule is not consistent with the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) 
because it does not prevent overfishing by addressing the relative 
impacts of the U.S. fleet.
    Response: NMFS is promulgating this rule in accordance with IATTC 
Resolution C-13-02 and under the authority of the Tuna Conventions Act. 
This action is not subject to the Magnuson-Stevens Act. However, NMFS 
informed the Pacific Fishery Management Council and the Western Pacific 
Fishery Management Council of the stock status determination and 
obligations under section 304(i) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act to develop 
and submit recommendations to NMFS and/or the Secretary of State for 
domestic and international actions that will end overfishing in the 
fishery and rebuild the affected stock taking into account the relative 
impact of U.S. vessels and that of foreign vessels on the stock.
    Comment 2: The proposed rule indicates that NMFS only analyzed two 
alternatives. More alternatives, including a suspension of bluefin 
fishing, should have been analyzed.
    Response: The preamble of the proposed rule included a discussion 
of only two alternatives as part of the IRFA summary: the proposed rule 
and no action. The purpose of the IFRA is to determine whether the 
action would have a significant economic impact on a substantial number 
of small entities. No other significant alternatives accomplished the 
stated objectives of the applicable statutes and minimized the economic 
impact of the proposed rule on affected small entities. In addition to 
the IRFA, NMFS prepared a draft EA and made it available for public 
comment with the proposed rule. The draft EA included several 
alternatives to the proposed action, including suspension of directed 
fishing for Pacific bluefin tuna in the eastern Pacific Ocean, and 
considered the potential effects of each alternative on the human 
environment (i.e., natural, social, and economic environment). The 
final EA is publicly available as a supporting document to this rule.
    Comment 3: Catch data should be up-to-date. NMFS should not be 
reporting catch data that is more than 1 year old as ``preliminary.''
    Response: NMFS decided not to cite the U.S. catch of Pacific 
bluefin tuna in 2013 in the proposed rule because, at that time, the 
2013 fishing season for Pacific bluefin tuna had not yet ended. U.S. 
catch reported in this final rule has been updated with ``preliminary'' 
data for U.S. commercial catch of Pacific bluefin tuna in 2013. 
``Preliminary'' data is subject to change. NMFS adheres to strict 
guidelines for publishing fishery data in the interest of ensuring data 
quality and protecting confidential data. Due to changes in data 
reporting mechanisms, there has been a delay in the availability of the 
published data sets typically made available annually in the Pacific 
Fishery Management Council's Highly Migratory Species Stock Assessment 
and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) documents. In the meantime, and when 
publishing supporting information in rules, NMFS has been publishing 
data as ``preliminary'' only after it has been determined not to be 
confidential.
    Comment 4: There are unacceptable levels of Pacific bluefin tuna 
mortality by overseas fleets and recreational fisheries. A Pacific-wide 
catch limit is needed and the 500 metric ton limit should include 
recreational catch. Additionally, the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) 
recommends that NMFS include national park unit boundaries in Pacific 
bluefin tuna regulations with consideration for additional monitoring 
of effort and catch, recreational catch-and-release, and a moratorium 
on harvest of Pacific bluefin tuna until individual national park units 
request a harvest allocation.
    Response: NMFS notes these recommendations going forward. However, 
they are beyond the scope of the IATTC resolution that this rule 
implements. NMFS acknowledges that the average annual Pacific bluefin 
tuna landings by U.S. commercial vessels fishing in the EPO represent 
roughly two percent of the average annual landings from all fleets 
commercially fishing in the EPO for years 2007 through 2011 (refer to 
Section 1.4 of the Environmental Assessment). This contribution to 
Pacific bluefin mortality by the U.S. commercial fishing fleet is even 
smaller when considering the levels of catch by all fisheries, Pacific-
wide. While the United States is a member of both the IATTC and the 
Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), a Pacific-
wide catch limit would require complimentary action by the WCPFC. 
Suggestions for purely domestic fishery management actions--such as 
rules on Pacific bluefin fishing within U.S. national parks--would be 
better suited to the decision-making process of the appropriate fishery 
management councils and implementation under the authority of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    No substantive changes have been made to this rule since the 
proposed rule stage. Minor edits were made to the regulatory text to 
improve clarity. The authority citations for 50 CFR part 300 and 
subpart C are revised to identify more precisely the statutory citation 
for the Tuna Conventions Act as 16 U.S.C. 951 et seq.

Classification

    The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this final 
rule is necessary for the conservation and management of Pacific 
bluefin tuna, and that it is consistent with the Tuna Conventions Act 
and other applicable laws.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    There are no new collection-of-information requirements associated 
with this action that are subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act, 
existing collection-of-information requirements associated with the 
U.S. West Coast Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan still 
apply. These requirements have been approved by the Office of 
Management and Budget under Control Number 0648-0204.
    A final regulatory flexibility analysis (FRFA) was prepared. A copy 
of this analysis is available from the NMFS (see ADDRESSES). The FRFA 
incorporates the IRFA, and a summary of the analyses completed to 
support the action is included directly below.
    The main objective of this rule is to establish catch limits to 
contribute to the conservation of the Pacific bluefin tuna stock. This 
rule applies to owners and operators of U.S. commercial fishing vessels 
that catch Pacific bluefin tuna in the IATTC Convention Area. Each 
vessel that is expected to be affected is considered a small business 
according to the Small Business

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Administration's revised size standards (78 FR 37398, July 20, 2013). 
Pacific bluefin tuna do not serve as the primary target species for any 
U.S. commercial vessels, but rather are incidentally or 
opportunistically caught by U.S. commercial vessels fishing in the EPO. 
Therefore, the action is not expected to have a significant or 
disproportional economic impact on these small business entities.
    After NMFS determines that the limits are expected to be reached, 
NMFS will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing that 
restrictions will be effective from the dates specified through the end 
of the calendar year. NMFS will take reasonable actions to inform 
vessel owners in advance of publishing, in a Federal Register 
announcement, the effective date for the restrictions on targeting, 
retaining, transshipping, or landing Pacific bluefin tuna captured in 
the IATTC Convention Area. In the event that the limit on Pacific 
bluefin tuna catch is reached in 2014, it will be the responsibility of 
the commercial vessel owner to ensure that no further targeting of 
Pacific bluefin tuna occurs, and that no additional Pacific bluefin 
tuna are retained on board, transshipped, or landed after the specified 
dates published in the Federal Register notice announcing that the 
annual limit is expected to be reached.
    While this rule does not mandate any new ``reporting'' or 
``recordkeeping'' requirements for the public, some compliance costs 
may be associated with these regulations if the restrictions on 
targeting, retaining, transshipping, or landing Pacific bluefin tuna in 
the IATTC Convention Area becomes effective in 2014 as a result of the 
commercial catch limits being reached. The Pacific bluefin tuna 
commercial catch limits are not expected to result in the cessation of 
fishing by U.S. commercial vessels for Pacific bluefin tuna in the 
Convention Area since the annual U.S. catches of Pacific bluefin tuna 
have not reached 500 metric tons in more than a decade. In the event of 
a closure under this rule, the cost of compliance would be de minimis. 
Compliance costs could consist of returning incidentally caught bluefin 
tuna to the ocean, forgoing associated profits, and potentially losing 
fishing opportunity if Pacific bluefin tuna are available to the U.S. 
fleet during a time when fishing for them has been prohibited.
    The U.S. catch of Pacific bluefin tuna in the EPO represents a 
relatively minor component of the overall catch of Pacific bluefin tuna 
from the EPO. The average annual U.S. catch of Pacific bluefin tuna was 
106 metric tons for 1999 through 2013. Pacific bluefin tuna is 
commercially caught by U.S. vessels fishing in the EPO on an irregular 
basis. Most of the landings are made by small coastal purse seine 
vessels operating in the Southern California Bight with limited 
additional landings made by the drift gillnet fleet that targets 
swordfish and thresher shark. Lesser amounts of Pacific bluefin tuna 
are caught by surface hook and line and longline gear (typically less 
than .05 metric tons per year for these gear types combined). The 
number of purse seine vessels that have landed tuna in California 
averaged 197 annually from 1981 through 1990. However, from 2000 to 
2013, no more than six small purse seiners have been registered with 
the IATTC to target Pacific bluefin tuna in the Convention Area each 
year. The landings data suggests that they opportunistically targeted 
Pacific bluefin tuna in alternate years since 2001.
    For the purposes of the Regulatory Flexibility Act analysis, NMFS 
compared the effects of the Pacific bluefin tuna restrictions imposed 
by this rule to a no action alternative. No additional alternatives 
exist that accomplish the stated objectives of applicable statutes and 
that minimize the rule's economic impact on the affected small 
entities. Under the no action alternative, there would be no limit on 
U.S. commercial catches of Pacific bluefin tuna in the IATTC Convention 
Area. It is unlikely that any short-term economic benefit to U.S. 
commercial fisheries would be gained from not implementing Resolution 
C-13-02 because recent trends in Pacific bluefin tuna catch data 
indicate that it is unlikely that the U.S. catch limit will be reached. 
However, failing to adopt this rule would result in the United States 
not satisfying its international obligations as a member of the IATTC. 
Furthermore, implementing Resolution C-13-02 conserves Pacific bluefin 
tuna by limiting catches, thereby increasing the chances that small 
entities will have continued opportunities to harvest this currently 
overfished stock in the EPO.
    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness 
Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for 
which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish 
one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, 
and shall designate such publications as ``small entity compliance 
guides.'' The agency shall explain the actions a small entity is 
required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. As part of 
this rulemaking process, a small entity compliance guide (the guide) 
was prepared. Copies of this final rule are available from the West 
Coast Regional Office, and the guide will be sent to vessels that catch 
Pacific bluefin tuna in the IATTC Convention Area via the IATTC and 
coastal pelagic species email distributions lists. The guide and this 
final rule will be available upon request and on the West Coast Region 
Web site: http://www.westcoast.fisheries .noaa.gov/fisheries/
migratory_species/bluefin_tuna_harvest_status.html.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 300

    Administrative practice and procedure, Antarctica, Canada, Exports, 
Fish, Fisheries, Fishing, Imports, Indians, Labeling, Marine resources, 
Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Russian Federation, 
Transportation, Treaties, Wildlife.

    Dated: May 9, 2014.
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 300 is amended 
as follows:

PART 300--INTERNATIONAL FISHERIES REGULATIONS

0
1. The authority citation for part 300 is revised to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 951 et seq., 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., 16 
U.S.C. 5501 et seq., 16 U.S.C. 2431 et seq., 31 U.S.C. 9701 et seq.


0
2. The authority citation for 50 CFR part 300, Subpart C, is revised to 
read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 951 et seq.


0
3. In Sec.  300.24, paragraph (u) is added to read as follows:


Sec.  300.24  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (u) Use a United States commercial fishing vessel in the IATTC 
Convention Area in contravention of Sec.  300.25(h)(4)

0
4. In Sec.  300.25, paragraph (h) is added to read as follows:


Sec.  300.25  Eastern Pacific fisheries management.

* * * * *
    (h) Pacific bluefin tuna commercial catch limits in the eastern 
Pacific Ocean.
    (1) For the calendar year 2014, all commercial fishing vessels of 
IATTC member countries and cooperating non-member countries 
collectively are subject to a limit of 5,000 metric tons of Pacific 
bluefin tuna that may be captured, retained, and landed in the 
Convention Area.

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    (2) Notwithstanding the collective 5,000 metric ton limit, in 
calendar year 2014 commercial vessels of the United States may capture, 
retain, transship, or land 500 metric tons of Pacific bluefin tuna.
    (3) After NMFS determines that the limits under paragraphs (h)(1) 
and (h)(2) of this section are expected to be reached by a future date, 
and at least 7 calendar days in advance of that date, NMFS will publish 
a notice of closure in the Federal Register announcing the effective 
date that additional targeting, retaining on board, transshipping or 
landing Pacific bluefin tuna in the Convention Area shall be prohibited 
as described in paragraph (h)(4) of this section.
    (4) Beginning on the date announced in the notice of closure 
published under paragraph (h)(3) of this section through the end of the 
calendar year, a commercial fishing vessel of the United States may not 
be used to target, retain on board, transship, or land any additional 
Pacific bluefin tuna captured in the Convention Area. Any Pacific 
bluefin tuna already on board a fishing vessel on the effective date of 
the notice may be retained on board, transshipped, and/or landed, to 
the extent authorized by applicable laws and regulations, provided such 
tuna is landed within 14 days after the effective date published in the 
notice of closure.

[FR Doc. 2014-11182 Filed 5-15-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P