[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 143 (Friday, July 25, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 43373-43377]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-17538]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 300

[Docket No. 140131088-4088-01]
RIN 0648-BD94


International Fisheries; Western and Central Pacific Fisheries 
for Highly Migratory Species; Fishing Effort Limits in Purse Seine 
Fisheries for 2014

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes regulations under authority of the Western and 
Central Pacific Fisheries Convention Implementation Act (WCPFC 
Implementation Act) to revise the 2014 limit on fishing effort by U.S. 
purse seine vessels in the U.S. exclusive economic zone (U.S. EEZ) and 
on the high seas between the latitudes of 20[deg] N. and 20[deg] S. in 
the area of application of the Convention on the Conservation and 
Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central 
Pacific Ocean (Convention). The total limit for 2014 would be revised 
from 2,588 fishing days to 1,828 fishing days. This action is necessary 
for the United States to implement provisions of a conservation and 
management measure (CMM) adopted by the Commission for the Conservation 
and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and 
Central Pacific Ocean (WCPFC) and to satisfy the obligations of the 
United States under the Convention, to which it is a Contracting Party.

DATES: Comments must be submitted in writing by August 25, 2014.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2014-0081, and the regulatory impact review (RIR) prepared 
for this proposed rule, 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-2014-0081, 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.
    An initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) prepared under 
authority of the Regulatory Flexibility Act is included in the 
Classification section of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this 
proposed rule.
    Copies of the RIR and the Supplemental Information Report prepared 
for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) purposes are available at 
www.regulations.gov or may be obtained from Michael D. Tosatto, 
Regional Administrator, NMFS PIRO (see address above).

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background on the Convention

    A map showing the boundaries of the area of application of the 
Convention (Convention Area), which comprises the majority of the 
western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), can be found on the WCPFC Web 
site at: www.wcpfc.int/doc/convention-area-map. The Convention focuses 
on the conservation and management of highly migratory species (HMS) 
and the management of fisheries for HMS. The objective of the 
Convention is to ensure, through effective management, the long-term 
conservation and sustainable use of HMS in the WCPO. To accomplish this 
objective, the Convention established the Commission for the 
Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the 
Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPFC). The WCPFC includes Members, 
Cooperating Non-members, and Participating Territories (hereafter, 
collectively ``members''). The United States is a Member. American 
Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands 
(CNMI) are Participating Territories.
    As a Contracting Party to the Convention and a Member of the WCPFC, 
the United States is obligated to implement the decisions of the WCPFC. 
The WCPFC Implementation Act (16 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.) authorizes the 
Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Secretary of State and 
the Secretary of the Department in which the United States Coast Guard 
is operating (currently the Department of Homeland Security), to 
promulgate such regulations as may be necessary to carry out the 
obligations of the United States under the Convention, including the 
decisions of the WCPFC. The WCPFC Implementation Act further provides 
that the Secretary of Commerce shall ensure consistency, to the extent 
practicable, of fishery management programs administered under the 
WCPFC Implementation Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act (MSA; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.), as well as other 
specific laws (see 16 U.S.C. 6905(b)). The Secretary of Commerce has 
delegated the authority to promulgate regulations under the WCPFC 
Implementation Act to NMFS.

WCPFC Decision on Tropical Tunas

    At its Tenth Regular Session, in December 2013, the WCPFC adopted 
CMM 2013-01, ``Conservation and Management Measure for Bigeye, 
Yellowfin and Skipjack Tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.'' 
CMM 2013-01 is the most recent in a series of CMMs for the management 
of tropical tuna stocks under the purview of the WCPFC. It is a 
successor to CMM 2012-01, adopted in December 2012. These and other 
CMMs are available at: www.wcpfc.int/conservation-and-management-measures.
    CMM 2013-01's stated general objective is to ensure that the stocks 
of bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus), yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), 
and skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis) in the WCPO are, at a minimum,

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maintained at levels capable of producing their maximum sustainable 
yield as qualified by relevant environmental and economic factors. The 
CMM includes specific objectives for each of the three stocks: For 
each, the fishing mortality rate is to be reduced to or maintained at 
levels no greater than the fishing mortality rate associated with 
maximum sustainable yield.
    CMM 2013-01 went into effect February 4, 2014, and is generally 
applicable for the 2014-2017 period. Some of its provisions apply to 
specific periods within the 2014-2017 period, and some of its 
provisions are contingent on whether the WCPFC makes certain decisions 
in the future. The CMM includes provisions for purse seine vessels, 
longline vessels, and other types of vessels that fish for HMS. The 
CMM's provisions for purse seine vessels include limits on the 
allowable number of fishing vessels, limits on the allowable level of 
fishing effort, restrictions on the use of fish aggregating devices, 
requirements to retain all bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna, and skipjack 
tuna except in specific circumstances, and requirements to carry vessel 
observers. This proposed rule is limited to implementing CMM 2013-01's 
provisions on allowable levels of fishing effort by purse seine vessels 
on the high seas and in the U.S. EEZ in the Convention Area, and only 
for 2014. The CMM's other provisions would be implemented through one 
or more separate rules, as appropriate.

Existing Purse Seine Fishing Effort Limit for 2014

    Currently there is a limit on the amount of fishing effort that 
U.S. purse seine vessels may collectively spend between the latitudes 
of 20[deg] N. and 20[deg] S. on the high seas and in the U.S. EEZ in 
the Convention Area in 2014 (50 CFR 300.223(a)). The areas of high seas 
and U.S. EEZ between the latitudes of 20[deg] N. and 20[deg] S. in the 
Convention Area are referred to in the regulations as the Effort Limit 
Area for Purse Seine, or ELAPS, and the limit applies within the ELAPS 
as a whole. The limit in the ELAPS for 2014 is 2,588 fishing days, 
which is identical to the limit for 2013. The 2013 and 2014 limits were 
established in a final rule published May 23, 2013 (78 FR 30773; ``2013 
rule''), and are consistent with the CMM for tropical tunas that was in 
effect at that time, CMM 2012-01. CMM 2012-01 has a provision that was 
applicable to the high seas portion of the ELAPS and a separate 
provision that was applicable to the U.S. EEZ portion of the ELAPS. For 
reasons explained in the preamble to the proposed rule (78 FR 14755, 
published March 7, 2013) that preceded the May 23, 2013, final rule, 
NMFS established the 2013 and 2014 fishing effort limits (following the 
practice in previous rules for earlier years) so that a single limit 
applies in the entire ELAPS rather than separate limits for the two 
areas. Limits on U.S. purse seine fishing effort in the ELAPS have been 
in place since 2009, when NMFS issued a final rule (74 FR 38544, 
published August 4, 2009; ``2009 rule'') to establish the limits 
required under the then-in-effect CMM for tropical tunas, CMM 2008-01.
    NMFS stated in the preamble to the March 7, 2013, proposed rule 
that if the WCPFC adopted a new CMM with purse seine provisions that 
differ from those in CMM 2012-01, NMFS would take any steps necessary 
to implement the WCPFC's new decision. Because the allowable level of 
purse seine fishing effort on the high seas has changed under CMM 2013-
01, this proposed rule would make the necessary changes to the 2014 
purse seine fishing effort limit in the ELAPS.

Proposed Action

    This proposed rule is limited to implementing the provisions in CMM 
2013-01 for 2014 on allowable levels of fishing effort by purse seine 
vessels on the high seas and in the U.S. EEZ. The CMM's fishing effort 
limit provisions for subsequent years would be implemented through one 
or more separate rules. NMFS is implementing the 2014 purse seine 
effort limits separately from other provisions of the CMM to ensure 
that the limits go into effect in U.S. regulations before the 
prescribed limits are exceeded by the fleet, which has a moderate 
likelihood of occurring before the end of 2014.
    The purse seine fishing effort provisions of CMM 2013-01 apply only 
in the Convention Area between the latitudes of 20[deg] N. and 20[deg] 
S. The proposed action as described below would therefore be limited to 
that area.
    With respect to the U.S. EEZ, CMM 2013-01 requires coastal members 
like the United States to ``establish effort limits, or equivalent 
catch limits for purse seine fisheries within their EEZs that reflect 
the geographical distributions of skipjack, yellowfin, and bigeye 
tunas, and are consistent with the objectives for those species.'' CMM 
2013 further requires, ``Those coastal States that have already 
notified limits to the Commission shall restrict purse seine effort 
and/or catch within their EEZs in accordance with those limits.'' The 
United States has regularly notified the WCPFC of its purse seine 
effort limits for the U.S. EEZ since the limits were first established 
in 2009 (in a final rule published August 4, 2009; 74 FR 38544). 
Accordingly, CMM 2013-01 does not change the applicable limit for the 
U.S. EEZ.
    With respect to the high seas, CMM 2013-01 requires flag members to 
restrict the fishing effort of their purse seine vessels to specified 
levels, which for the United States is 1,270 fishing days per year.
    This proposed rule would continue to implement the applicable 
limits for the U.S. EEZ and the high seas such that they apply to a 
single area, without regard to the boundary between the U.S. EEZ and 
the high seas; that is, to the ELAPS as a whole. As in the previous 
rules that established purse seine fishing effort limits in the ELAPS, 
NMFS has determined that combining the high seas and the U.S. EEZ 
limits would accomplish the objective of controlling the fishing 
mortality rates of the tuna stocks as required under the CMM, and, 
moreover, would provide greater operational flexibility to affected 
purse seine vessels and result in lesser adverse economic impacts than 
if separate limits were established in the two areas.
    The existing purse seine fishing effort limit for the ELAPS was 
determined as follows: The U.S. EEZ portion of the ELAPS limit was 558 
fishing days per year, and the high seas limit was 2,030 days per year, 
resulting in a combined limit of 2,588 fishing days per year, which is 
currently in place for 2014. CMM 2013-01 changes the high seas portion 
to 1,270 fishing days per year, so the new combined limit is 1,828 days 
per year (558 + 1,270). Accordingly, this proposed rule would change 
the existing 2014 purse seine fishing effort limit for the ELAPS from 
2,588 fishing days to 1,828 fishing days.

Classification

    The Administrator, Pacific Islands Region, NMFS, has determined 
that this proposed rule is consistent with the WCPFC Implementation Act 
and other applicable laws, subject to further consideration after 
public comment.

Executive Order 12866

    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    An initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as 
required by section 603 of the RFA. The IRFA describes the economic 
impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A 
description of

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the action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for this 
action are contained in the SUMMARY section of the preamble and in 
other sections of this SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of the 
preamble. The analysis follows:

Estimated Number of Small Entities Affected

    The proposed rule would apply to owners and operators of U.S. purse 
seine vessels used for fishing in the Convention Area. The number of 
affected vessels is the number licensed under the Treaty on Fisheries 
between the Governments of Certain Pacific Island States and the 
Government of the United States of America (South Pacific Tuna Treaty, 
or SPTT). The current number of licensed vessels is 40, which is the 
maximum number of licenses available under the SPTT (excluding joint-
venture licenses, of which there are five available under the SPTT, 
none of which have ever been applied for or issued).
    On June 12, 2014, the Small Business Administration (SBA) issued an 
interim final rule revising the small business size standards, 
effective July 14, 2014 (79 FR 33647). The rule increased the size 
standard for Finfish Fishing to $20.5 million. Based on (limited) 
available financial information about the affected fishing fleets and 
the SBA's definition of a small finfish harvester (i.e., gross annual 
receipts of less than $20.5 million, independently owned and operated, 
and not dominant in its field of operation), and using individual 
vessels as proxies for individual businesses, NMFS believes that all 
the affected fish harvesting businesses are small entities. As 
indicated above, there are currently 40 purse seine vessels in the 
affected purse seine fishery. Neither gross receipts nor ex-vessel 
price information specific to the 40 vessels are available to NMFS, so 
average annual receipts for each of the 40 vessels during the last 3 
years for which reasonably complete data are available, 2010-2012, were 
estimated as follows: The vessel's reported retained catches of each of 
skipjack tuna, yellowfin tuna, and bigeye tuna in each year was 
multiplied by an indicative Asia-Pacific regional cannery price for 
that species and year (developed by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries 
Agency and available at https://www.ffa.int/node/425#attachments). The 
products were summed across species for each year, and the sums were 
averaged across the 3 years. The estimated average annual receipts for 
each of the 40 vessels were less than $20.5 million.

Recordkeeping, Reporting, and Other Compliance Requirements

    The proposed rule would not establish any new reporting or 
recordkeeping requirements (within the meaning of the Paperwork 
Reduction Act). Affected vessel owners and operators would have to 
comply with all the proposed requirements, as described earlier in the 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of the preamble. Fulfillment of these 
requirements is not expected to require any professional skills that 
the affected vessel owners and operators do not already possess. The 
costs of complying with the proposed requirements are described below 
to the extent possible:
    If and when the purse seine fishery is closed to fishing in the 
ELAPS as a result of the annual fishing effort limit being reached in 
2014, owners and operators of U.S. purse seine vessels would have to 
cease fishing in that area for the remainder of the calendar year. 
Closure of the fishery in the ELAPS could thereby cause foregone 
fishing opportunities and associated economic losses if the ELAPS 
contains preferred fishing grounds during such a closure. The 
likelihood of the fishery being closed in the ELAPS in 2014 under the 
proposed rule is greater than under the no-action alternative, because 
the proposed limit (1,828 days) is smaller than the existing limit 
(2,588 fishing days). Historical fishing patterns suggest a moderate 
likelihood of the fishery being closed before the end of 2014. The most 
recent 10 years for which estimates are available, but omitting 2010-
2012, during which two important areas of high seas were closed to 
fishing, are used to determine the likelihood of the limit being 
reached. In order to make the data comparable among years, historical 
fishing effort, as well as the proposed ELAPS limit, are expressed here 
in terms of fishing days per year per active vessel, on average. 
Assuming 40 active vessels in 2014, the existing limit, 2,588 fishing 
days per year, is equivalent to 65 fishing days per year per vessel, on 
average (this level is termed the ``existing threshold'' in the 
following discussion, to distinguish it from the fleet-wide limit for 
2014). The proposed limit, 1,828 fishing days, is equivalent to 46 
fishing days per vessel per year, on average (``proposed threshold''). 
Among the 10 years 2001-2009 and 2013, fishing effort in the ELAPS 
ranged from 31 to 64 fishing days per vessel per year, exceeding the 
existing threshold in none of the 10 years and exceeding the proposed 
threshold in 4 of the 10 years, or 40 percent of the time. Based on 
this history, the likelihood of the proposed limit being reached in 
2014 is substantial--roughly 40 percent, whereas the existing limit is 
unlikely to be reached.
    Other factors that could influence the likelihood of the proposed 
limit being reached are the status of vessels with respect to whether 
they have fishery endorsements and are allowed to fish in the U.S. EEZ, 
El Ni[ntilde]o-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions, and recent 
changes to SPTT-related arrangements. Regarding the first factor, if 
the proportion of the fleet that has fishery endorsements changes from 
the proportion during the baseline period, the likelihood of the ELAPS 
limit being reached would change accordingly (if the proportion 
increases, the likelihood would increase). However, because fishing in 
the U.S. EEZ makes up a relatively small portion of all fishing in the 
ELAPS, this is a relatively minor factor, and is not examined any 
further here. Regarding the second factor, the eastern areas of the 
WCPO have tended to be comparatively more attractive to the U.S. purse 
seine fleet during El Ni[ntilde]o events (versus other times), when 
warm surface water spreads from the western Pacific to the eastern 
Pacific and large, valuable yellowfin tuna become more vulnerable to 
purse seine fishing. Consequently, the ELAPS, much of which is situated 
in the eastern range of the fleet's fishing grounds, is likely to be 
more important fishing grounds to the fleet during El Ni[ntilde]o 
events (as compared to neutral or La Ni[ntilde]a events). According to 
the National Weather Service (see http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/enso_advisory/index.shtml), as of May 
2014, conditions were ENSO-neutral and the forecast was that the chance 
of El Ni[ntilde]o conditions will exceed 65 percent by the summer of 
2014. To put this into perspective, the operational definition of El 
Ni[ntilde]o as used by the National Weather Service is one such that El 
Ni[ntilde]o events--which by definition last no fewer than five months 
and typically last less than 2 years--have occurred four times since 
2001, and seven times since 1988. During this period, El Ni[ntilde]o 
conditions have prevailed during much less than half the time. Thus the 
more-than-65 percent chance of an El Ni[ntilde]o developing in the 
summer of 2014 suggests a slightly higher likelihood (than indicated by 
historical fishing effort alone) of the proposed 2014 ELAPS limit being 
reached. Regarding the third factor, effective June 15, 2013, while 
certain SPTT instruments are being renegotiated, there is an interim

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arrangement in place between U.S. purse seine vessel owners and the 
members of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) that 
stipulates that the U.S. fleet may collectively spend no more than 
12,000 fishing days in the EEZs of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement 
(PNA, a subset of eight FFA members in whose waters most WCPO tropical 
purse seine fishing occurs), and no more than 450 fishing days in the 
EEZs of the other FFA members during the period of the interim 
arrangement, which is 18.5 months). Assessing the likelihood of the FFA 
members' EEZs ``limit'' (in quotation marks because it is not a federal 
regulatory limit) being reached before the end of 2014 is difficult 
because the meaning of a fishing day under that arrangement is 
different than the meaning as used for the ELAPS limit, and NMFS does 
not have access to reliable measures of fishing days as used in the 
arrangement. The following discussion is based on fishing days as 
defined for the purpose of the ELAPS limit. The ``limit'' of 12,000 + 
450 fishing days over 18.5 months means that there are 202 fishing days 
in the FFA members' EEZs available to each of the 40 expected U.S. 
vessels per 12 months, on average. Over the life of the SPTT through 
2013, this level of 202 fishing days per vessel in the FFA members' 
EEZs was exceeded in only one calendar year, 2010, which saw 208 
fishing days per vessel in the EEZs of the FFA members. The second 
highest level was in 2011, when there were 194 fishing days per vessel. 
2010 and 2011 were two of the three years during which the two 
westernmost high seas pockets were closed to purse seine fishing, so 
they are probably not very indicative of likely fishing effort in 2014. 
Thus, it appears that there is a relatively small likelihood of the 
EEZs of the FFA members becoming unavailable to the U.S. fleet before 
the end of 2014. Furthermore, it is possible that U.S. vessels will 
obtain access to additional 2014 fishing days in the EEZs of one or 
more FFA members, which would further lessen the likelihood of the FFA 
members' EEZs ``limit'' being reached.
    In summary, based on the available information, there is a moderate 
likelihood of the proposed ELAPS limit being reached before the end of 
2014 (about 40-percent likelihood based solely on historical patterns, 
and slightly greater taking into account forecasted ENSO conditions).
    The costs associated with a closure of the ELAPS would depend 
greatly on the length of the closure. Given the moderate likelihood of 
a closure, its duration would likely be relatively brief. The costs of 
a closure would also depend greatly on whether the EEZs of other 
nations, particularly the typically most favored fishing grounds, the 
EEZs of the PNA, are still open to fishing. As indicated above, there 
is relatively small likelihood of the EEZs of the FFA members being 
unavailable for fishing before the end of 2014. Assuming they do remain 
available as fishing grounds, the impacts of a closure of the ELAPS 
would likely be minor. Nonetheless, the closure of any fishing grounds 
for any amount of time would be expected to bring impacts to affected 
entities (e.g., because the open area might, during the closed period, 
be less optimal than the closed area, and vessels might use more fuel 
and spend more time having to travel to open areas). If the ELAPS is a 
relatively preferred fishing ground during the closure (e.g., because 
of oceanic conditions or other factors), then the losses would be 
accordingly greater than if the ELAPS is not preferred relative to 
other fishing grounds. If the EEZs of the PNA and other FFA members are 
not available during an ELAPS closure, the costs of an ELAPS closure 
could be substantial. In the event the entire WCPO is closed to fishing 
during an ELAPS closure, possible next-best opportunities include 
fishing outside the Convention Area in the eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO), 
and not fishing. The EPO tends to be fished very little by the fleet, 
indicating it contains less favorable fishing grounds (although, as 
indicated above, it tends to become more favorable during El 
Ni[ntilde]o events). Furthermore, unless on the IATTC Vessel Register, 
which very few of the SPTT-licensed purse seine vessels currently are, 
an SPTT-licensed vessel is allowed to make only one fishing trip in the 
EPO each year, not to exceed 90 days in length, and there is an annual 
limit of 32 trips for the entire SPTT-licensed fleet (50 CFR 
300.22(b)(1)). The alternative of not fishing at all during an ELAPS 
closure would mean a loss of any revenues from fishing. However, many 
of the vessels' variable operating costs would be avoided in that case, 
and for some vessels the time might be used for productive activities 
like vessel and equipment maintenance. U.S. purse seine vessel 
operating costs are not known, so estimates of economic losses cannot 
be made. But information on revenues per day can give an indication of 
the magnitude of possible economic costs to affected entities. Average 
annual gross revenues for the 40 affected purse seine vessels during 
2010-2012 were approximately $11 million per vessel, on average. This 
equates to about $30,000 per calendar day, on average.
    The proposed 2014 ELAPS limit could affect the temporal 
distribution of fishing effort in the U.S. purse seine fishery. Since 
the limits would apply fleet-wide; that is, they would not be allocated 
to individual vessels, vessel operators might have an incentive to fish 
harder in the ELAPS earlier in a given year than they otherwise would. 
Such a ``race-to-fish'' effect might also be expected in the time 
period between when a closure of the fishery is announced and when it 
is actually closed, which would be at least seven calendar days. To the 
extent such temporal shifts occur, they could affect the seasonal 
timing of fish catches and deliveries to canneries, and conceivably 
affect prices. However, because most of the traditional fishing grounds 
are outside the ELAPS, the intensity of any race-to-fish in the ELAPS 
is likely to be low if it occurs at all. The small likelihood of the 
EEZs of the FFA being closed to fishing before the end of 2014, as 
discussed above, might also influence the behavior of fishermen earlier 
in the year, but it is not clear how it would influence fishing in the 
ELAPS. If fishermen are more concerned about the FFA members' EEZs 
closing at some point, they might fish harder in those waters earlier 
in the year; if, on the other hand, they are more concerned about the 
ELAPS closing, they might fish harder in the ELAPS earlier in the year. 
In any case, the timing of cannery deliveries by the U.S. fleet alone 
(as it might affected by a race to fish in the ELAPS) is unlikely to 
have an appreciable impact on prices, since many canneries buy from the 
fleets of multiple nations at any given time. A race to fish could 
bring costs to affected entities if it causes vessel operators to 
forego vessel maintenance in favor of fishing or to fish in weather or 
ocean conditions that they otherwise would not. This could bring costs 
in terms of the health and safety of the crew as well as the economic 
performance of the vessel.
    In summary, there is a moderate likelihood of the limit being 
reached before the end of 2014, and if it is reached before the end of 
2014, the impacts to affected entities could be minor or substantial, 
depending on such factors as the length of the closure, whether the 
EEZs of the FFA members remain available for fishing, and oceanic 
conditions.
    There would be no disproportionate economic impacts between small 
and large entities operating vessels as a result of this proposed rule. 
Furthermore, there would be no

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disproportionate economic impacts based on vessel size, gear, or 
homeport.

Duplicating, Overlapping, and Conflicting Federal Regulations

    NMFS has not identified any Federal regulations that duplicate, 
overlap with, or conflict with the proposed regulations.

Alternatives to the Proposed Rule

    In previous rulemakings to establish or revise U.S. purse seine 
fishing effort limits in the ELAPS in accordance with WCPFC decisions, 
NMFS considered a number of alternatives. The alternatives had to do, 
firstly, with the time scales for the limits (e.g., single-year versus 
multiple-year limits); secondly, with whether separate limits would be 
established in the U.S. EEZ and high seas portions of the ELAPS or they 
would be combined; thirdly, with whether the limit(s) would be 
allocated to individual vessels; and fourthly, with the magnitude of 
the limit(s).
    The first category, time scales, is not relevant here because the 
objective is to implement the required fishing effort limit for 2014 
only.
    The second category, whether to break up the ELAPS limit into 
separate limits for the U.S. EEZ and the high seas portions of the 
ELAPS, would provide less operational flexibility for affected purse 
seine vessels, and thus be more constraining and costly than the 
proposed limit. It is not preferred for that reason.
    The third category, allocating the limit among individual vessels, 
would likely alleviate any adverse impacts of a race-to-fish that might 
occur as a result of establishing the competitive fishing effort limits 
as in the proposed rule. As described in the previous paragraphs, those 
potential impacts include lower prices for landed product and risks to 
performance and safety stemming from fishing during sub-optimal times. 
Those impacts, however, are expected to be minor, so this alternative 
is not preferred.
    Regarding the fourth category, the magnitude of the limits, NMFS 
could, as it did for the 2013 rule that established the 2013 and 
existing 2014 ELAPS limit, consider both smaller and larger limits for 
the ELAPS. Smaller limits, being more constraining and costly to 
affected fishing businesses, are not considered further here. CMM 2013-
01 includes an explicit limit for the United States for the high seas, 
1,270 fishing days per year, so NMFS is not afforded any discretion 
there. Like its predecessor, CMM 2012-01, CMM 2013-01 is less explicit 
with respect to the U.S. EEZ, so NMFS could consider a more expansive 
limit for that aspect of the total ELAPS limit. For example, in the 
2013 rule, NMFS considered an alternative that would be based in part 
on the fleet's greatest annual level of fishing effort in the U.S. EEZ 
(on an average per-vessel basis, then expanded to a 40-vessel-
equivalent) during the 1997-2010 time period. Using that approach here, 
the U.S. EEZ aspect of the limit would be 1,655 fishing days, and when 
combined with the high seas aspect of 1,270 fishing days, the total 
ELAPS limit would be 2,925 fishing days. Because this alternative limit 
is greater and thus less constraining than the proposed limit of 1,828 
fishing days (as well as the existing limit of 2,588 fishing days), the 
costs of complying with this alternative would be less than or equal to 
those of the proposed limit. This alternative is not preferred because 
it would depart from the effort limits established for the period 2009-
2013. The approach used in formulating the limit proposed in this rule 
is consistent with the precedent set by the 2009 rule and the 2013 
rule, and affected entities have been exposed to the impacts of those 
limits for the past five years.
    The alternative of taking no action at all, which would leave the 
existing 2014 ELAPS limit of 2,588 fishing days in place, is not 
preferred because it would fail to accomplish the objective of the 
WCPFC Implementation Act or satisfy the international obligations of 
the United States as a Contracting Party to the Convention.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 300

    Administrative practice and procedure, Fish, Fisheries, Fishing, 
Marine resources, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Treaties.

    Dated: July 21, 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 
proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 300--INTERNATIONAL FISHERIES REGULATIONS

0
1. The authority citation for 50 CFR part 300, subpart O, continues to 
read as follows:

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

0
2. In Sec.  300.223, paragraph (a)(1) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  300.223  Purse seine fishing restrictions.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (1) For calendar year 2014 there is a limit of 1,828 fishing days.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2014-17538 Filed 7-24-14; 8:45 am]
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