[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 142 (Thursday, July 24, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 43017-43018]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-17431]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Parts 600 and 660

RIN 0648-XD344


Fisheries Off West Coast States; Pacific Bluefin Tuna

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

ACTION: Notice of receipt of rulemaking petition to prohibit Pacific 
bluefin tuna fishing and request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS announces the receipt of, and request public comment on, 
a petition for rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act. The 
Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), a non-governmental organization, 
has petitioned the U.S. Department of Commerce to promulgate 
regulations to prohibit fishing for Pacific bluefin tuna and to 
identify specific reference points used to determine if overfishing is 
occurring or if the stock is overfished. The petition asserts that 
Pacific bluefin tuna are not adequately protected under the existing 
Fishery Management Plan for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly 
Migratory Species (HMS FMP). The petition also states that more robust 
international actions are necessary for ending overfishing of the 
stock. The petition seeks that NMFS take action to amend the HMS FMP 
and its implementing regulations for addressing domestic fishing on 
Pacific bluefin tuna. The petitioner also requests that NMFS develop 
recommendations to the Secretary of State to end overfishing of Pacific 
bluefin tuna at the international level, which would not be a 
rulemaking action.

DATES: Comments will be accepted through September 22, 2014.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2014-0076, 
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-2014-0076, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Mark Helvey, NMFS West 
Coast Region, 501 W. Ocean Blvd., Ste. 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802. 
Attn: Pacific Bluefin Tuna.
    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 to http://www.regulations.gov without change. All Personal Identifying 
Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by 
the commenter may be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous). Do not submit Confidential Business Information or 
otherwise sensitive or protected information.
    NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required 
fields, if you wish to remain anonymous). You may submit attachments to 
electronic comments in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF 
file formats only.
    Copies of the petition are available via the Federal e-Rulemaking 
Portal: http://www.regulations.gov, docket NOAA-NMFS-2014-0076 or 
contact with the Regional Administrator, William W. Stelle, Jr., NMFS 
West Coast Regional Office, 7600 Sand Point Way NE., Bldg 1, Seattle, 
WA 98115-0070, or RegionalAdministrator.WCRHMS@noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark Helvey, NMFS, 562-980-4040, 
mark.helvey@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Petition for Rulemaking

    The petition submitted to the Department by CBD states that Pacific 
bluefin tuna is a highly migratory pelagic fish primarily distributed 
through the North Pacific Ocean. The petition notes that most of the 
stock occurring in the eastern side of the Pacific are juveniles. The 
petition also notes that the major countries fishing Pacific bluefin 
since 1952 are Japan, Mexico, Chinese-Taipei, and Korea while the U.S. 
participation has declined. The petition acknowledges that while the 
U.S. catch represents only a small portion of Pacific bluefin catch, 
that NMFS still has a duty to take the steps it can to slow or reduce 
overfishing. The petition argues that without immediate domestic 
protections, Pacific bluefin face irreversible and irreparable harm 
from ongoing overfishing. Further, the petitioner states that their 
proposed domestic actions can make an important contribution to ending 
overfishing of Pacific bluefin tuna.
    The petition cites specific legal responsibilities of NMFS for 
addressing the overfishing and overfished status the agency has 
determined the stock is experiencing under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (MSA) and cites the stated 
international overfishing provisions at section 304(i). This provision 
of the MSA applies to a fishery that the Secretary of Commerce has 
determined to be overfished, thereby requiring the appropriate fishery 
management council to develop recommendations for domestic regulations 
addressing the relative impact of U.S. fishing vessels on the stock 
and, if developed by a council, the council shall submit such 
recommendations to the Secretary. The petition asserts that Pacific 
Fishery Management Council has failed to meet its statutory duty to 
develop recommendations for domestic regulation in response to NMFS' 
determination. The petition also lists three specific international 
actions and requests that NMFS make recommendations regarding these 
actions to the Secretary of State and Congress. These actions fall 
outside the petitioner's request for rulemaking but are included in 
this notice as an opportunity to solicit public comment.
    The petition specifically requests that NMFS promptly initiate 
rulemaking to amend the HMS FMP to address the impact of U.S. fishing 
vessels on Pacific bluefin tuna by taking the following measures:
    ``1. Prohibit fishing for Pacific bluefin tuna under 50 CFR 
660.711(a). In the alternative, establish annual catch limits for 
bluefin tuna and a permanent minimum size requirement to protect age 
classes 1-2 from fishing mortality; and
    ``2. Identify specific values for reference points used to 
determine if overfishing is occurring or if the stock is overfished, 
such as maximum fishing mortality threshold and the minimum stock size 
threshold. 50 CFR 600.310(h)(2)(ii).''
    If NMFS determines that rulemaking is appropriate, NMFS will notify 
the Pacific Fishery Management Council and recommend rulemaking through 
the council process.

Additional Requests Beyond Rulemaking

    The Petitioner also requests that NMFS make recommendations to the 
Secretary of State and Congress (not a rulemaking) regarding 
international actions to end overfishing in the fishery and rebuild 
Pacific bluefin tuna

[[Page 43018]]

populations that include all of the below:
    ``1. A high seas moratorium on all fishing;
    ``2. A Pacific-wide minimum size for bluefin tuna catch; and
    ``3. A steep reduction in Pacific bluefin tuna quota for all 
countries to meet rebuilding targets based on established reference 
points.''
    The exact and complete assertions of legal responsibilities under 
Federal law are contained in the text of Oceana's petition, which is 
available via internet at the following web address: http://www.regulations.gov, docket NOAA-NMFS-2014-0076. Also, anyone may 
obtain a copy of this petition by contacting NMFS at the above address.

Request for Comments

    The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA has determined that 
the petition contains enough information to enable NMFS to consider the 
substance of the petition. Therefore, NMFS is issuing this notice to 
solicit comments and information on all rulemaking and non-rulemaking 
requests contained in the petition. NMFS is specifically requesting 
that the public provide comments on the social, economic, and 
biological impacts to aid NMFS in evaluating the request for rulemaking 
and in determining what action, if any, is appropriate. NMFS will 
consider public comments and recommendations received in determining 
whether to proceed with the development of the regulations requested by 
the CBD. If NMFS determines that rulemaking is appropriate, NMFS will 
notify the Pacific Fishery Management Council and recommend rulemaking 
through the council process. Upon determining whether or not to 
initiate the requested rulemaking, the Assistant Administrator for 
Fisheries, NOAA, will publish in the Federal Register a notice of the 
agency's final disposition of the Center for Biological Diversity's 
petition request.

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

    Dated: July 18, 2014.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-17431 Filed 7-23-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P