[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 64 (Thursday, April 3, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 18655-18657]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-07467]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

[Docket No. 130903776-4274-02]
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: Final rule.


SUMMARY: NMFS publishes a regulatory amendment to revise the 
identification marking requirements for fishing gear marker buoys 
(buoys) used in Federal waters off Alaska. This final rule eliminates 
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 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.

DATES: Effective May 5, 2014.

ADDRESSES: 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, Alaska Region, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, 
AK 99802-1668, Attn: Ellen Sebastian, Records Officer; in person at 
NMFS, Alaska Region, 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, AK; or by 
email to [email protected] or fax to 202-395-7285.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sally Bibb, Sustainable Fisheries 
Division, 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.
    This final rule implements a regulatory amendment to remove the 
requirement that hook-and-line, longline pot, and pot-and-line buoys be 
marked with the vessel's name. Under this final rule, these vessels are 
relieved from unnecessary compliance costs. NMFS published a proposed 
rule for this regulatory amendment in the Federal Register on January 
3, 2014 (79 FR 381). The 30-day comment period on the proposed rule 
ended on February 3, 2014. NMFS received one comment letter during the 
comment period on the proposed rule that supported the proposed action. 
A summary of this comment and NMFS' response is provided in the 
``Comments and Responses'' section of this preamble. There were no 
changes to the regulatory text between the proposed rule and this final 


    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. Buoys are used to indicate the positions of hook-and-line, pot, 
and pot-and-line gear in these fisheries. Federal regulations at Sec.  
679.24(a) require that buoys carried on board 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

[[Page 18656]]

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 2014 
require that all setline or skate buoys carried on board 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.
    This final rule eliminates the requirement that buoys carried on 
board 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 recipient vessel. Therefore, this rule 
eliminates the requirement in Sec.  679.24(a) to mark buoys with the 
vessel's name, but maintains the requirement for marking buoys with 
either the vessel's FFP number or ADF&G number. This action should 
reduce costs to vessel owners by reducing the labor and materials 
needed to mark buoys. In addition, this action makes buoy marking 
regulations at Sec.  679.24(a) consistent with State crab and IPHC 

Comments and Responses

    NMFS received one comment letter during the public comment period 
for the proposed rule to implement this regulatory amendment. This 
letter was received from a representative of the affected fishing 
industry. A summary of the comment and NMFS' response follows.
    Comment 1: The commenter expressed general support for the proposed 
regulatory amendment.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges this comment.


    Pursuant to section 305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS 
Assistant Administrator has determined that this final rule is 
consistent with the BSAI and GOA Groundfish FMPs, other provisions of 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.

Executive Order 12866

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

Regulatory Impact Review

    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. A copy of the RIR is 
available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES).

Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    This section constitutes the Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis 
(FRFA) for this action, prepared pursuant to the requirements of the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). This FRFA incorporates the Initial 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) prepared for the proposed rule 
and addresses the applicable requirements of section 604(a) of the RFA.
    The FRFA must contain:
    1. A succinct statement of the need for, and objectives of, the 
    2. A summary of the significant issues raised by the public 
comments in response to the initial regulatory flexibility analysis, a 
summary of the assessment of the agency of such issues, and a statement 
of any changes made in the proposed rule as a result of such comments;
    3. A description and an estimate of the number of small entities to 
which the rule will apply, or an explanation of why no such estimate is 
    4. A description of the projected reporting, recordkeeping, and 
other compliance requirements of the rule, including an estimate of the 
classes of small entities which will be subject to the requirement and 
the type of professional skills necessary for preparation of the report 
or record; and
    5. A description of the steps the agency has taken to minimize the 
significant economic impact on small entities consistent with the 
stated objectives of applicable statutes, including a statement of the 
factual, policy, and legal reasons for selecting the alternative 
adopted in the final rule and why each one of the other significant 
alternatives to the rule considered by the agency which affect the 
impact on small entities was rejected.
    The description of this rule, the need for it, and its objectives 
are described in the preamble to the proposed rule and are not repeated 

Summary of Significant Issues Raised During Public Comment

    NMFS published the proposed rule on January 4, 2014 (79 FR 381), 
with comments invited through February 3, 2014. An IRFA was prepared 
and summarized in the ``Classification'' section of the preamble to the 
proposed rule. NMFS received no comments on the IRFA; therefore, no 
changes were made to the rule as a result of comments on the IRFA.

Number and Description of Small Entities Regulated by the Final Rule

    The ``universe'' of entities to be considered in a FRFA generally 
includes only those small entities that can reasonably be expected to 
be directly regulated by the final rule. If the effects of the rule 
fall primarily on a distinct segment of the industry, or portion 
thereof (e.g., user group, gear type, geographic area), that segment is 
considered the universe for purposes of this analysis. In preparing a 
FRFA, an agency may provide either a quantifiable or numerical 
description of the effects of a rule (and alternatives to the rule), or 
more general descriptive statements, if quantification is not 
practicable or reliable.
    Vessels directly regulated by this action are those required to 
carry an FFP, and that use hook-and-line, pot, or pot-and-line gear in 
Federal groundfish or halibut fisheries in the GOA or BSAI.

[[Page 18657]]

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 of those 693 
would have been small entities. The Small Business Administration (SBA) 
defines a small commercial finfish fishing entity as one that has 
annual gross sales of less than $19 million; a shellfish fishing small 
entity is one with less than $5 million annual gross revenue, and other 
marine fishing operations are small if they have less than $7 million 
in gross revenue. 78 FR 37398 (July 22, 2013). 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 $2,974,000. Accordingly, under any of the 
SBA's size standards for fishing operations, all affected entities are 
``small.'' This action will reduce, in a small way, the reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements of small entities participating in the BSAI 
and GOA groundfish fisheries.

Reporting and Recordkeeping Requirements

    This action will reduce, in a small way, the recordkeeping and 
reporting requirements of small entities participating in the BSAI and 
GOA groundfish fisheries.

Description of Alternatives Considered

    A FRFA 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 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.

Small Entity Compliance Guide

    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. The preamble 
to the proposed rule and this final rule serve as the small entity 
compliance guide. This action does not require any additional 
compliance from small entities that is not described in the preamble. 
Copies of this final rule are available from NMFS at the following Web 
site: http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.

Collection-of-Information Requirements

    This final rule contains a collection-of-information requirement 
subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) and which has been 
approved by Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under control number 
0648-0353. Public reporting burden is estimated to average per response 
10 minutes or less, including the time for reviewing instructions, 
searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data 
needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information. 
Send comments regarding these burden estimates or any other aspect of 
this data collection, including suggestions for reducing the burden, 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: March 28, 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 679 is amended 
as follows:


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

    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. 2014-07467 Filed 4-2-14; 8:45 am]