[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 2 (Friday, January 3, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 381-384]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-31416]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

[Docket No. 130903776-3776-01]
RIN 0648-BD66

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; 
Modifications to Identification Markings on Fishing Gear Marker Buoys

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.


SUMMARY: NMFS proposes to revise the identification marking 
requirements for fishing gear marker buoys (buoys) used in Federal 
waters off Alaska. This proposed rule would eliminate the requirement 
that hook-and-line, longline pot, and pot-and-line buoys be marked with 
the vessel's name. The requirement to mark buoys with either the 
vessel's Federal fisheries permit number or Alaska Department of Fish 
and Game (ADF&G) number remains in effect. This action is needed to 
remove a regulatory requirement that is unnecessary. This action is 
intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens 
Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the 
Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian 
Islands Management Area (BSAI Groundfish FMP), the Fishery Management 
Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA Groundfish FMP), and 
other applicable laws.

[[Page 382]]

DATES: Comments must be received no later than February 3, 2014.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by FDMS Docket Number 
NOAA-NMFS-2013-0137, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0137, click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant 
Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region 
NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, 
AK 99802-1668.
     Fax: Address written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant 
Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region 
NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Fax comments to 907-586-7557.
    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 http://www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, 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 
or Excel or Adobe PDF file formats only.
    Electronic copies of the Categorical Exclusion and the Regulatory 
Impact Review/Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (RIR/IRFA) 
prepared for this action are available from http://www.regulations.gov 
or from the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.
    Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other 
aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this 
rule may be submitted to NMFS at the above address and by email to 
[email protected] or fax to 202-395-7285.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Camacho, 907-586-7228.

groundfish fisheries in the Exclusive Economic Zone off Alaska under 
the BSAI and GOA Groundfish FMPs. These FMPS were prepared by the North 
Pacific Fishery Management Council, under the authority of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., and other applicable 
laws, and approved by the Secretary of Commerce. Regulations 
implementing the FMPs appear at 50 CFR part 679. General regulations 
that pertain to U.S. fisheries appear at subpart H of 50 CFR part 600.


    Federal regulations pertaining to gear markings for groundfish are 
set forth at Sec.  679.24. These regulations apply to operators of 
vessels required to carry a Federal fisheries permit (FFP) while 
fishing in the groundfish and halibut fisheries in Federal waters off 
Alaska. The proposed rule implementing these requirements was published 
on August 16, 1989 (54 FR 33737), and the final rule on January 2, 1990 
(55 FR 31). Buoys are used to indicate the positions of hook-and-line, 
pot, and pot-and-line gear in these fisheries. Section 679.24 requires 
buoys to be marked to make it possible to identify the vessel from 
which the gear was deployed. The NMFS Office of Law Enforcement and the 
United States Coast Guard use the identification markings from buoys 
when issuing violations, prosecutions, and other enforcement actions. 
Cooperating fishermen use the identification markings to report the 
placement or occurrence of gear in unauthorized areas. Identification 
markings are also necessary to facilitate the return of lost or stolen 
gear. Fishermen that correctly mark their gear ultimately benefit 
because this deters unauthorized and illegal fishing and reduces the 
need for more burdensome regulations.
    Federal regulations at Sec.  679.24(a) require that buoys carried 
onboard or used by any vessel subject to 50 CFR part 679 that is using 
hook-and-line, longline pot, or pot-and-line gear must be marked with 
the vessel's name and either the vessel's FFP number or the vessel's 
Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) vessel registration number. 
In addition, the markings ``shall be in characters at least 4 inches 
(10.16 cm) in height and 0.5 inch (1.27 cm) in width in a contrasting 
color visible above the water line and shall be maintained so the 
markings are clearly visible.''
    These regulations apply to ``vessels regulated under this part'' 
which refers to those vessels required to carry FFPs under Sec.  
679.4(b). FFPs are required for vessels fishing for groundfish (a legal 
category that does not include halibut) in the GOA or BSAI, or fishing 
for any non-groundfish species when incidentally caught groundfish must 
be retained. Regulations at Sec.  679.7(f)(8) prohibit vessels with 
individual fishing quota (IFQ) halibut or sablefish on board from 
discarding rockfish or Pacific cod under various conditions. Thus, 
vessels used to fish for halibut IFQ are required to have FFPs and 
comply with all regulations in 50 CFR part 679 that apply to vessels 
required to have FFPs, including requirements for marking buoys. Other 
non-groundfish fisheries have no comparable discard prohibitions.
    Identification markings on buoys in the Federal waters off Alaska 
also are regulated by the State of Alaska (State) and the International 
Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC). The State shares management 
responsibilities with NMFS for king crab and Tanner crab in the Federal 
waters off Alaska, and regulates the buoy identification markings in 
these fisheries. The State requires at least one buoy on each 
commercial king or Tanner crab pot or ring net to be legibly marked 
with the permanent ADF&G license number of the vessel using the gear (5 
AAC 34.051; 5 AAC 35.051). Identification marking requirements for 
halibut gear buoys are set by the IPHC. The IPHC's regulations for 2013 
require that all setline or skate buoys carried onboard or used by any 
U.S. vessel for commercial halibut fishing shall be marked with the 
vessel's state license number or the vessel's registration number. Both 
State and IPHC commercial identification markings must be maintained in 
a legible condition, in characters at least four inches high (10.2 cm) 
and one-half-inch (1.3 cm) wide, in a contrasting color, and visible 
above the water. The principal difference between the State and IPHC 
commercial regulations and 50 CFR part 679 is the requirement for buoys 
to be marked with the vessel name.
    Information on the extent of compliance with the existing 
regulations is not available; however, non-compliance has not been 
raised as a concern by enforcement agencies.

Description of the Proposed Action

    The proposed action would eliminate the requirement that buoys 
carried onboard or marking the location of hook-and-line, longline pot, 
and pot-and-line gear deployed by vessels with FFPs be marked with the 
vessel's name. This action is needed to remove a regulatory requirement 
that experience has shown is not necessary. While one vessel may share 
the same name as another vessel, vessel identification numbers are 
exclusive and unique to the

[[Page 383]]

recipient vessel. Therefore, the proposed rule would eliminate the 
requirement in Sec.  679.24(a) to mark buoys with the vessel's name, 
but maintain the requirement for marking buoys with either the vessel's 
FFP number or ADF&G number. The proposed action should reduce costs to 
vessel owners by reducing the labor and materials needed to mark buoys. 
In addition, the proposed action would make buoy marking regulations at 
Sec.  679.24(a) consistent with Alaska's State crab and IPHC 


    Pursuant to section 305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS 
Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is 
consistent with the BSAI and GOA Groundfish FMPs, other provisions of 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further 
consideration after public comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined not to be significant for 
the purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    An RIR was prepared for this action that assesses all costs and 
benefits of available regulatory alternatives. The RIR describes the 
potential size, distribution, and magnitude of the economic impacts 
this action may be expected to have. The RIR finds that this action has 
a positive net economic impact to commercial fishing operations since 
it reduces the cost of compliance with identification marking 
requirements for buoys. This action does not create additional 
administrative costs and does not impose new requirements on fishing 
operations, or modify other existing ones.
    Section 610 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) requires 
``periodic review of the rules issued by the agency which have or will 
have a significant economic impact upon a substantial number of small 
entities. * * * The purpose of the review shall be to determine which 
such rules should be continued without change, or should be amended or 
rescinded, consistent with the stated objectives of applicable statues, 
to minimize any significant economic impact of the rules upon a 
substantial number of such small entities.'' Regulations requiring 
vessel names on buoys was identified by NMFS during a section 610 
review of past final rules as a requirement that was not necessary and 
could be removed from regulations.
    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 would have on small entities, if adopted. A 
description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal 
basis for this action are contained in the Background and Description 
of the Proposed Action sections of this proposed rule. A summary of the 
analysis follows. A copy of this analysis is available from NMFS (see 
    On June 20, 2013, the Small Business Administration issued a final 
rule revising the small business size standards for several industries 
effective July 22, 2013 (78 FR 37398; June 20, 2013). The rule 
increased the size standard for Finfish Fishing from $4.0 to $19.0 
million, Shellfish Fishing from $4.0 to $5.0 million, and Other Marine 
Fishing from $4.0 to $7.0 million. The new size standards were used to 
prepare the IRFA for this action.
    Vessels are directly regulated by this action when required to 
carry an FFP and using hook-and-line, pot, or pot-and-line gear in 
Federal groundfish or halibut fisheries in the GOA or BSAI. NMFS 
estimates that, in 2012, the most recent year for which gross revenues 
information is available, 761 entities would have been directly 
regulated by this action. NMFS estimates that 693 would have been small 
entities. Median gross revenues for the small entities would have been 
about $327,000, while 75 percent would have had gross revenues under 
about $779,000, and 25 percent would have had gross revenues under 
about $144,000. The 99th percentile of gross revenues was about 
    An IRFA also requires a description of any significant alternatives 
to the preferred alternative that accomplish the stated objectives, are 
consistent with applicable statutes, and that would minimize any 
significant economic impact of the proposed rule on small entities. The 
preferred alternative (the action alternative removing the requirement 
that vessel names be placed on marker buoys) places somewhat smaller 
obligations on directly regulated small entities than the alternative 
of retaining the status quo. Thus, there are no alternatives that have 
a smaller adverse economic impact on directly regulated small entities.
    This action will reduce, in a small way, the reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements of small entities participating in the BSAI 
and GOA groundfish fisheries.
    The analysis revealed no Federal rules that would conflict with, 
overlap, or be duplicated by the alternatives under consideration.

Collection-of-Information Requirements

    This rule contains collection-of-information requirements, subject 
to review and approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 
under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). This requirement has been 
submitted to the OMB for approval under OMB control number 0648-0353. 
The public reporting burden is estimated to average per response 10 
minutes or less to collect the information and paint it on a buoy.
    This estimate includes the time for reviewing instructions, 
searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data 
needed, and completing and reviewing the collection-of-information.
    Public comment is sought regarding: whether this proposed 
collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of 
the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall 
have practical utility; the accuracy of the burden estimate; ways to 
enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be 
collected; and ways to minimize the burden on the collection of 
information, including through the use of automated collection 
techniques or other forms of information technology.
    Send comments on these or any other aspects of the collection of 
information to NMFS (see ADDRESSES) and by email to [email protected], or fax to 202-395-7285.
    Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is 
required to respond to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty 
for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the 
requirements of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays 
a currently valid OMB control number.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679

    Alaska, Fisheries, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: December 26, 2013.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, performing the functions and 
duties of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 679 is 
proposed to be amended as follows:


1. The authority citation for part 679 continues to read as follows:

[[Page 384]]

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.; 1801 et seq.; 3631 et seq.; 
Pub. L. 108-447.

2. In Sec.  679.24, revise paragraph (a)(1) to read as follows:

Sec.  679.24  Gear limitations.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (1) All hook-and-line, longline pot, and pot-and-line marker buoys 
carried on board or used by any vessel regulated under this part shall 
be marked with the vessel's Federal fisheries permit number or ADF&G 
vessel registration number.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2013-31416 Filed 1-2-14; 8:45 am]