[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 133 (Friday, July 11, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 40055-40057]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-16202]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 300

[Docket No. 140502404-4404-01]
RIN 0648-BE21


International Fisheries; Western and Central Pacific Fisheries 
for Highly Migratory Species; Fishing Capacity Limits in Purse Seine 
and Longline Fisheries

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

ACTION: Advance notice of proposed rulemaking; notification of control 
date; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS announces that persons who bring a U.S. purse seine or 
longline vessel into the fisheries in the western and central Pacific 
Ocean (WCPO) after July 11, 2014 (``control date''), or who, after the 
control date, expand the carrying capacity or well volume of a purse 
seine vessel already in the fishery, are not guaranteed the future 
participation of that vessel in the fishery if NMFS decides to limit 
the number of fishing vessels in the fishery or, with respect to purse 
seine vessels, the fishing capacity of the fleet or of vessels in the 
fleet in terms of carrying capacity or well volume. Furthermore, with 
respect to purse seine vessels, even if the future participation of 
such a vessel is allowed, the vessel's future allowable level of 
fishing effort and/or catch might be limited if NMFS decides to limit 
vessels' individual or collective allowable levels of fishing effort or 
catch. NMFS is considering the need to undertake such actions to 
implement provisions of a conservation and management measure adopted 
by the Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly 
Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPFC 
or Commission).

DATES: Comments must be submitted in writing by August 11, 2014.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2014-0067, by either 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-2014-0067, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Michael D. Tosatto, 
Regional Administrator, NMFS, Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO), 
1845 Wasp Blvd., Building 176, Honolulu, HI 96818.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
might 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 and address), 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.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Graham, NMFS PIRO, 808-725-5032.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background on the U.S. WCPO Purse Seine and Longline Fisheries

    Participation by U.S. flagged purse seine and longline vessels in 
the WCPO fisheries is contingent on fishing authorizations granted 
under several statutes.
    The U.S. WCPO purse seine fishery is regulated in part under the 
authority of the South Pacific Tuna Act of 1988 (16 U.S.C. 973-973r; 
SPTA) through implementing regulations at 50 CFR part 300, subpart D. 
The terms of the treaty between the United States and 16 Members of the 
Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (Treaty on Fisheries between the 
Governments of Certain Pacific Island States and the Government of the 
United States of America and its annexes, schedules, and implementing 
agreements, as amended; hereafter called ``the Treaty'') are 
implemented by the SPTA and the regulations cited above. The Treaty 
provides access to and generally governs U.S. fishing vessels operating 
in the Treaty Area, which comprises much of the WCPO, including all or 
portions of the exclusive economic zones of the 16 Pacific Island 
Parties to the Treaty (PIPs) through a licensing system. License 
applications are first submitted to NMFS, which are approved or 
disapproved according to procedures established at 50 CFR 300.32. NMFS 
forwards approved applications to the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries 
Agency (FFA, located in the Solomon Islands), which issues the licenses 
and acts as the Treaty administrator on behalf of the PIPs.
    In addition to being governed by the Treaty and the SPTA, the U.S. 
WCPO purse seine fishery is subject to the authority of the WCPFC 
Implementation Act (16 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.). The WCPFC Implementation 
Act authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to implement the provisions of 
the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory 
Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (Convention) and 
the decisions of the Commission, which was established under the 
Convention. The area of competence of the Commission, or the Convention 
Area, includes the majority of the Treaty Area. As a Party to the 
Convention and a Member of the Commission, the United States is 
obligated to implement the decisions of the Commission. The decisions 
of the Commission can be found on its Web site (http://www.wcpfc.int/). 
Pursuant to the Convention and the decisions of the Commission, a U.S. 
fishing vessel must have a high seas fishing permit (see below) with a 
valid WCPFC Area

[[Page 40056]]

Endorsement, issued by NMFS under 50 CFR 300.212, to be used for 
commercial fishing for highly migratory species on the high seas in the 
Convention Area.
    The U.S. WCPO purse seine fishery is also subject to the authority 
of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 
U.S.C. 1801 et seq.; MSA), particularly with respect to the operation 
of the fishery within the U.S. exclusive economic zone. The fishery is 
also subject to the authority of the High Seas Fishing Compliance Act 
(16 U.S.C. 5501 et seq.), which governs the conduct of U.S. fishing 
vessels on the high seas, and under which a high seas fishing permit is 
required for a U.S. fishing vessel to be used for commercial fishing 
anywhere on the high seas.
    The U.S. WCPO longline fishery is regulated in part under the 
authority of the MSA. Longline vessels are subject to the management 
regime developed by the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council and 
established in the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pacific Pelagic Fisheries 
of the Western Pacific Region, which is implemented through regulations 
at 50 CFR part 665. Among other management controls, there are limited 
entry programs for the Hawaii and American Samoa longline fisheries, 
with specific limits on the numbers of fishing permits available in 
each of the two fisheries. Longline vessels are also subject to the 
authority of the WCPFC Implementation Act. Like U.S. purse seine 
vessels, a U.S. longline vessel must have a high seas fishing permit 
with a valid WCPFC Area Endorsement, issued by NMFS under 50 CFR 
300.212, to be used for commercial fishing for highly migratory species 
on the high seas in the Convention Area.

Recent Decisions of the WCPFC

    In December 2013, the Commission adopted a conservation and 
management measure for bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna, and skipjack tuna 
(CMM 2013-01). Most of that CMM's provisions are in effect from 
February 4, 2014, until December 31, 2017. The CMM includes provisions 
specific to longline vessels and provisions specific to purse seine 
vessels. The CMM's longline provisions include limits on vessel numbers 
and limits on bigeye tuna catches. The CMM's purse seine provisions 
include limits on fishing effort, restrictions on the use of fish 
aggregating devices (FADs), catch retention requirements, observer 
requirements, and restrictions on vessel numbers and vessels' fishing 
capacity.
    This advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) and control date 
relate to CMM 2013-01's provisions on vessel numbers (which apply to 
both purse seine and longline vessels) and its provisions on vessels' 
fishing capacity (which apply only to purse seine vessels).
    Regarding purse seine vessels, CMM 2013-01 obligates certain flag 
States, including the United States, to limit the number of their purse 
seine vessels that are greater than 24 meters in length, have freezing 
capacity, and operate between the latitudes of 20[deg] North and 
20[deg] South to the current level (paragraph 49 of CMM 2013-01). CMM 
2013-01 also obligates certain flag States, including the United 
States, to ensure that purse seine vessels in their fleets are not 
replaced with vessels with greater carrying capacity or well volume, or 
that the catch or fishing effort of such vessels is not greater than 
that of the replaced vessels (paragraph 50 of CMM 2013-01). 
Notwithstanding this latter obligation, CMM 2013-01 provides for flag 
States to allow the replacement of purse seine vessels in their fleets 
with vessels for which building approval has been granted and notified 
to the Commission before March 1, 2014 (paragraph 50 of CMM 2013-01). 
These provisions for purse seine vessels do not apply to small island 
developing States or Participating Territories of the WCPFC, which 
include American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, 
and Guam.
    Regarding longline vessels, CMM 2013-01 obligates certain flag 
States, including the United States, to limit the number of their 
longline vessels with freezing capacity targeting bigeye tuna to the 
current level (paragraph 51 of CMM 2013-01), and to limit the number of 
their ice-chilled longline vessels targeting bigeye tuna and landing 
exclusively fresh fish to the current level or to the current number of 
licenses available under established limited entry programs (paragraph 
52 of CMM 2013-01). These provisions for longline vessels do not apply 
to small island developing States or Participating Territories of the 
WCPFC, which include American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern 
Mariana Islands, and Guam.

Establishment of Control Date and Possible Rulemaking

    One purpose of this ANPR is to notify persons that if they attempt 
to bring a vessel into the U.S. WCPO purse seine fishery or longline 
fishery after the control date of July 11, 2014, or if, after the 
control date, they expand the carrying capacity or well volume of a 
purse seine vessel already in the fishery, there is no assurance of 
being granted future participation of that vessel in the fishery if 
NMFS decides to limit the number of fishing vessels in the fishery, or, 
with respect to purse seine vessels, the fishing capacity of the fleet 
or of vessels in the fleet in terms of carrying capacity or well 
volume. Furthermore, with respect to purse seine vessels, even if the 
participation of such a vessel in the future is granted, the vessel's 
future allowable level of fishing effort and/or catch might be limited 
if NMFS decides to limit vessels' individual or collective allowable 
levels of fishing effort or catch beyond the limits already in place. 
For the purse seine fishery, any of these limits would likely apply 
only to vessels more than 24 meters in length with freezing capacity 
(all of the 40 currently SPTT-licensed purse seine vessels fall in this 
category). For the longline fishery, any limit on vessel numbers would 
likely apply only to vessels that NMFS determines target bigeye tuna.
    A second purpose of this ANPR is to solicit comments and input on 
possible ways to establish limits on purse seine fishing capacity as 
required under paragraphs 49 and 50 of CMM 2013-01, specifically on 
vessels' individual or collective carrying capacity, well volume, 
fishing effort, and/or catch levels. NMFS is especially interested in 
comments on whether it would be preferable to place limits on carrying 
capacity, well volume, fishing effort, or catch levels; on possible 
measures of carrying capacity and well volume that could be used for 
the purpose of such limits; and on possible methods for determining and 
verifying such measures.
    Establishment of this control date does not commit NMFS to any 
particular action or, if action is taken, any particular criteria for 
limiting vessel numbers in the U.S. WCPFC purse seine or longline 
fisheries or for limiting fishing capacity or fishing effort or catch 
levels in the U.S. WCPO purse seine fishery: NMFS might decide to 
continue to rely on existing regulatory controls, such as, for purse 
seine vessels, the limits on the number of available licenses under 
SPTA regulations, and for longline vessels, the limits on the number of 
available permits under MSA regulations. For example, NMFS has 
determined that the United States is currently in full compliance with 
the longline vessel number limits of CMM 2013-01 by virtue of the 
Hawaii longline limited entry program. As long as the number of permits 
available under that program does not increase--and NMFS does not 
anticipate any such increase in the foreseeable future--the United 
States would remain in

[[Page 40057]]

compliance with the longline vessel number limits of CMM 2013-01.
    Vessels are not guaranteed future participation in the U.S. WCPO 
purse seine or longline fisheries, regardless of their participation 
before or after the control date. Furthermore, NMFS might adopt a 
different control date or it might take an action that does not involve 
a control date.
    If NMFS proceeds with a proposed rule, the scope of the rule might 
be expanded to implement additional provisions of CMM 2013-01.

Classification

    This advance notice of proposed rulemaking has been determined to 
be not significant for the purposes of Executive Order 12866.

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.

    Dated: July 7, 2014.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-16202 Filed 7-10-14; 8:45 am]
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