[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 76 (Friday, April 21, 2017)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 18704-18705]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-08117]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 300

[Docket No. 161031999-7314-02]
RIN 0648-BG41


International Fisheries; Pacific Tuna Fisheries; 2017 and 2018 
Commercial Fishing Restrictions for Pacific Bluefin Tuna in the Eastern 
Pacific Ocean

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

ACTION: Final rule.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is issuing 
regulations under the Tuna Conventions Act to implement Inter-American 
Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC or the Commission) Resolution C-16-08, 
which establishes limits on the U.S. commercial catch of Pacific 
bluefin tuna from waters of the IATTC Convention Area for 2017 and 
2018. This action is necessary for the United States to satisfy its 
obligations as a member of the IATTC.

DATES: The final rule is effective May 22, 2017.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the Regulatory Impact Review (RIR) and other 
supporting documents are available via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: 
http://www.regulations.gov, docket NOAA-NMFS-2016-0141, or contact with 
the Regional Administrator, Barry A. Thom, 1201 NE Lloyd Blvd., Suite 
1100, Portland, OR 97232-1274, or 
[email protected].

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Celia Barroso, NMFS, 
[email protected], 562-432-1850.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    On January 18, 2017, NMFS published a proposed rule in the Federal 
Register (82 FR 5508) to revise regulations at 50 CFR part 300, subpart 
C, to implement IATTC Resolution C-16-08, ``Measures for the 
Conservation and Management of Bluefin Tuna in the Eastern Pacific 
Ocean.'' This resolution, which contains commercial catch limits 
applicable to 2017 and 2018, was adopted by the IATTC at its resumed 
90th meeting in October 2016. The proposed trip limits are not in the 
resolution and were based on a recommendation from the Pacific Fishery 
Management Council (Council) at its November 2016 meeting. 
Additionally, these are the same trip limits established by a final 
rule implementing the previous IATTC resolution on Pacific bluefin tuna 
(Resolution C-14-06) which expired on December 31, 2016. The public 
comment period was open until February 17, 2017.
    The final rule is implemented under the authority of the Tuna 
Conventions Act (16 U.S.C. 951 et seq.), which directs the Secretary of 
Commerce, after approval by the Secretary of State, to promulgate 
regulations as may be necessary to implement resolutions adopted by the 
IATTC. This authority has been delegated to NMFS.
    The proposed rule contains additional background information, 
including information on the IATTC, the international obligations of 
the United States as an IATTC member, and the need for regulations. 
Public comments received are addressed below. The regulatory text in 
this final rule is unchanged from the regulatory text of the proposed 
rule.

New Regulations

    This final rule establishes catch limits for U.S. commercial 
vessels that catch Pacific bluefin tuna in the Convention Area (defined 
as the area bounded by the coast of the Americas, the 50[deg] N. and 
50[deg] S. parallels, the 150[deg] W. meridian, and the waters of the 
eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO)) for 2017 and 2018. In 2017, the catch 
limit for the entire U.S. fleet is 425 metric tons (mt) with an initial 
trip limit \1\ of 25 mt per vessel. When NMFS anticipates that the 
total catch for the fleet has reached 375 mt, it will impose a 2-mt 
trip limit for each vessel that will be in effect until the total catch 
for 2017 reaches 425 mt. For calendar year 2018, NMFS will announce the 
catch limit in a Federal Register notice. NMFS will calculate the 2018 
catch limit to ensure compliance with Resolution C-16-08 (i.e., not to 
exceed 425 mt in either year). The 2018 catch limit will be calculated 
as the remainder from the 2017 catch limit (i.e., how much of 425 mt 
was not caught) added to 175 mt, except as follows: (1) If 175 mt or 
less is caught in 2017, then the 2018 catch limit is 425 mt; or (2) if 
greater than 425 mt is caught in 2017, then the catch limit in 2018 
will be further reduced by the amount in excess of 425 mt (i.e., the 
remainder of the 600 mt limit for 2017-2018). In 2018, the fishery will 
also be subject to an initial 25-mt trip limit until catch is within 50 
mt of the 2018 catch limit, after which a 2-mt trip limit will be 
imposed.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ ``Trip limit'' is defined in 50 CFR 300.21 as the total 
allowable amount of a species by weight of fish that may be retained 
on board, transshipped, or landed during a single fishing trip.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    When NMFS determines that the catch limit is expected to be reached 
in 2017 or 2018 (based on landings receipts, data submitted in 
logbooks, and other available fishery information), it will prohibit 
commercial fishing for, or retention of, Pacific bluefin tuna for the 
remainder of the calendar year. NMFS will publish a notice in the 
Federal Register announcing that the targeting, retaining, 
transshipping, or landing for Pacific bluefin tuna will be prohibited 
on a specified effective date through the end of that calendar year. 
Upon that effective date, a commercial fishing vessel of the United 
States may not be used to target, retain on board, transship, or land 
Pacific bluefin tuna captured in the Convention Area during the period 
specified in the announcement, with the exception that any Pacific 
bluefin tuna already on board a fishing vessel on the effective date 
may be retained on board, transshipped, and/or landed, to the extent 
authorized by applicable laws and regulations, provided that they are 
landed within 14 days after the effective date.

Catch Monitoring, Catch Limit Announcements

    NMFS will provide updates on Pacific bluefin tuna catch in the 
Convention Area to the public via the IATTC listserv and the West Coast 
Region Web site: http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/migratory_species/bluefin_tuna_harvest_status.html. Additionally, NMFS 
will report preliminary estimates of Pacific bluefin tuna catch more 
frequently than in monthly intervals if and when commercial catch 
approaches the limits to help participants in the U.S. commercial 
fishery plan for the possibility of catch limits being reached.
    In 2017, NMFS will publish up to two Federal Register notices 
imposing inseason management measures after the final rule is issued. 
First, NMFS will publish a notice when the commercial 2-mt trip limit 
is imposed (i.e., catch is

[[Page 18705]]

expected to reach 375 mt). Second, NMFS will publish a notice closing 
the entire commercial fishery when NMFS determines that the catch limit 
is expected to be met.
    In 2018, NMFS will publish up to three notices in the Federal 
Register. The first notice will announce the 2018 catch limit. A second 
notice will announce the 2-mt trip limit when NMFS determines that the 
commercial catch is expected to be within 50 mt of the catch limit. 
NMFS will publish a third notice in the Federal Register when it 
determines that the catch limit is expected to be reached.

Public Comments and Responses

    NMFS received two written comments. Both commenters supported the 
proposed catch limits, while one of the commenters also suggested a 
moratorium on commercial fishing for Pacific bluefin tuna in either 
2017 or 2018. NMFS notes that a fishing moratorium on commercial 
fishing for Pacific bluefin tuna is beyond the scope of this rule, 
which implements an international agreement to establish catch limits; 
however, in 2016, NMFS responded to a petition that, among other 
requests, called for a prohibition on fishing for Pacific bluefin tuna 
under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (81 
FR 39213, June 16, 2016). Please see NMFS' response here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/06/16/2016-14239/pacific-bluefin-tuna-in-the-eastern-pacific-ocean-response-to-petition-for-rulemaking.

Classification

    The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this rule is 
consistent with the Tuna Conventions Act and other applicable laws.
    This rule was determined to be not significant for purposes of 
Executive Order 12866.
    Although there are no new collection-of-information requirements 
associated with this action that are subject to the Paperwork Reduction 
Act, existing collection-of-information requirements associated with 
the Fishery Management Plan for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly 
Migratory Species still apply. These requirements have been approved by 
the Office of Management and Budget under Control Number 0648-0204. 
Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is required 
to respond to, and no person shall be subject to 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.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the 
proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments were received 
regarding the certification. Therefore, the certification published 
with the proposed rule--that this rule is not expected to have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities--
is still valid. As a result, a regulatory flexibility analysis was not 
required and none was prepared.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 300

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

    Dated: April 18, 2017.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 300 is amended 
as follows:

PART 300--INTERNATIONAL FISHERIES REGULATIONS

Subpart C--Eastern Pacific Tuna Fisheries

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

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 951 et seq.

0
2. In Sec.  300.24, revise paragraph (u) to read as follows:


Sec.  300.24  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (u) Use a United States commercial fishing vessel in the Convention 
Area to target, retain on board, transship, or land Pacific bluefin 
tuna in contravention of Sec.  300.25(g)(3) through (5).
* * * * *

0
3. In Sec.  300.25, revise paragraph (g) to read as follows:


Sec.  300.25  Eastern Pacific fisheries management.

* * * * *
    (g) Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) commercial catch 
limits in the eastern Pacific Ocean for 2017-2018. The following is 
applicable to the U.S. commercial fishery for Pacific bluefin tuna in 
the Convention Area in the years 2017 and 2018.
    (1) For the calendar year 2017, all commercial fishing vessels of 
the United States combined may capture, retain, transship, or land no 
more than 425 metric tons in the Convention Area.
    (2) In 2018, NMFS will publish a notice in the Federal Register 
announcing the 2018 catch limit. For the calendar year 2018, all 
commercial fishing vessels of the United States combined may capture, 
retain on board, transship, or land no more than the 2018 annual catch 
limit. The 2018 catch limit is calculated by adding any amount of the 
425 metric ton catch limit that was not caught in 2017, as determined 
by NMFS, to 175 metric tons, except as follows:
    (i) If 175 metric tons or less are caught in 2017, as determined by 
NMFS, then the 2018 catch limit is 425 metric tons; or,
    (ii) If greater than 425 metric tons are caught in 2017, as 
determined by NMFS, then the 2018 catch limit is calculated by 
subtracting the amount caught in 2017 from 600 metric tons.
    (3) In 2017 and 2018, a 25 metric ton trip limit will be in effect 
until NMFS anticipates that catch will be within 50 metric tons of the 
catch limit, after which a 2 metric ton trip limit will be in effect 
upon publication of a notice in the Federal Register by NMFS.
    (4) After NMFS determines that the catch limits under paragraphs 
(g)(1) and (g)(2) of this section are expected to be reached by a 
future date, NMFS will publish a fishing closure notice in the Federal 
Register announcing the effective date that targeting, retaining on 
board, transshipping, or landing Pacific bluefin tuna in the Convention 
Area shall be prohibited as described in paragraph (g)(5) of this 
section.
    (5) Beginning on the date announced in the fishing closure notice 
published under paragraph (g)(4) of this section through the end of the 
calendar year, a commercial fishing vessel of the United States may not 
be used to target, retain on board, transship, or land Pacific bluefin 
tuna captured in the Convention Area, with the exception that any 
Pacific bluefin tuna already on board a fishing vessel on the effective 
date of the notice may be retained on board, transshipped, and/or 
landed, to the extent authorized by applicable laws and regulations, 
provided such Pacific bluefin tuna is landed within 14 days after the 
effective date published in the fishing closure notice.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2017-08117 Filed 4-20-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P