[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 135 (Monday, July 17, 2017)]
[Notices]
[Pages 32684-32685]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-14935]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XF513


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna 
Fisheries

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

ACTION: Notice of receipt of an application for an exempted fishing 
permit; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS has made a preliminary determination that an application 
for an exempted fishing permit (EFP) warrants further consideration and 
an opportunity for public comment. The application was submitted by the 
Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen's Alliance (CCCFA), requesting an 
exemption from the regulation that prohibits having unauthorized gear 
on board while fishing for, retaining, or possessing a bluefin tuna. 
The applicants suggest that with the use of electronic monitoring (EM) 
and through issuance of an EFP, there would be sufficient at-sea 
monitoring to verify the catch of bluefin tuna occurred with authorized 
gear (e.g., rod and reel and harpoon gear). NMFS requests public 
comment on the information provided in this notice and the application 
submitted.

DATES: Comments must be received by August 1, 2017.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this notice, identified by 0648-
XF513, by either of the following methods:
     Email: [email protected].
     Mail: Craig Cockrell, Highly Migratory Species Management 
Division (F/SF1), NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 
20910. Please mark the outside of the envelope ``Comments on 2017 CCCFA 
EM EFP application.''

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: A copy of the application can viewed 
at the following Web site: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/compliance/efp/index.html; or by contacting Craig Cockrell, Highly Migratory 
Species Management Division, NMFS, (301) 427-8503.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS published a notice of intent to issue 
EFPs, Scientific Research Permits, Letters of Acknowledgement, and 
Chartering Permits for Atlantic highly migratory species (HMS) in 2017 
(81 FR 80646, November 16, 2016). Although that notice anticipated a 
variety of applications, it stated that occasionally NMFS receives 
applications for activities that were not anticipated at the time of 
the general notice and that NMFS would provide additional opportunity 
for public comment if that were to occur.
    As discussed in the November 2016 notice of intent to issue EFPs 
and other permits, issuance of EFPs and related permits are necessary 
for the collection of HMS for public display and scientific research to 
exempt them from specified regulations (e.g., fishing seasons, 
prohibited species, authorized gear, closed areas, and minimum sizes) 
that may otherwise prohibit such collection. Specifically, NMFS may 
authorize activities otherwise prohibited by the regulations at 50 CFR 
part 635 for the conduct of scientific research; the acquisition of 
information and data; the enhancement of safety at sea; the purpose of 
collecting animals for public education or display; the investigation 
of bycatch, economic or regulatory discard; or for chartering 
arrangements. See 50 CFR 635.32(a)(1). The terms and conditions of 
individual permits are unique; however, most permits include reporting 
requirements, limit the number and species of HMS to be collected, and 
only authorize collection in Federal waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf 
of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea. EFPs and related permits are issued under 
the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Reauthorization Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) (16 U.S.C. 1801 
et seq.) and/or the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA) (16 U.S.C. 971 
et seq.). Regulations at 50 CFR 600.745 and 635.32 govern exempted 
fishing permits, as well as scientific research activity, chartering 
arrangements, and exempted public display and educational activities.
    Current Atlantic HMS regulations specify that a person that fishes 
for, retains, or possesses an Atlantic bluefin tuna may not have on 
board a vessel or use on board a vessel any primary gear other than 
those authorized for the category for which the Atlantic tunas or HMS 
permit has been issued for such vessel. See 50 CFR 635.19(b). As a 
result, vessels that are permitted in other fisheries that use gears 
that are not authorized for Atlantic tunas must remove these gears 
before fishing for, retaining, or possessing a bluefin tuna. This 
regulation allows enforcement agents to readily verify that only the 
authorized gear type was used to catch the bluefin tuna (rod and reel 
or harpoon). This regulation also serves as an effort control for 
bluefin tuna as it limits the number of vessels that can

[[Page 32685]]

actively pursue bluefin tuna to those with only authorized gear.
    The CCCFA would like to test the effectiveness of EM for confirming 
authorized gear is used to catch Atlantic tunas, while unauthorized 
gear (for tunas) is onboard. Fishermen would be targeting groundfish 
with benthic longline, jigging machines, handgear, demersal gillnet 
(6.5-inch groundfish and 10-12-inch tie-down monkfish gillnet), or 
otter trawl. The applicants would commit to 100 percent of the trips 
being recorded and 100 percent of the footage being reviewed. Video 
footage would be reviewed by Ecotrust Canada, a third-party EM service 
provider. Also, vessels using harpoon gear would have EM camera views 
that would allow for viewing all fishing operations to ensure 
compliance, including adding necessary cameras to cover the pulpit and 
harpoon throw.
    The CCCFA has requested that four vessels be exempted from the 
regulations at 50 CFR 635.19(b). These vessels would be listed as 
authorized vessels on the EFP and would also possess Atlantic Tunas 
General Category permits and/or Swordfish General Commercial permits. 
If granted, this EFP would expire on December 31, 2017.
    NMFS finds this application warrants further consideration. The 
agency may impose possible conditions on this EFP, if it is granted, 
based on consideration of public comments and further analyses. The 
submission of reports on the exempted fishing activities would be due 
within 5 days of the completion of fishing trips, as well as a summary 
report within 30 days of the expiration of the EFP, if issued.
    NMFS requests comments and offers a 15-day comment period on this 
notice, consistent with EFP regulations at 50 CFR 600.745.

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq.

    Dated: July 12, 2017.
 Emily H. Menashes,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-14935 Filed 7-14-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P