[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 155 (Monday, August 14, 2017)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 37824-37825]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-17164]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 300

[Docket No. 170329334-7665-01]
RIN 0648-XF578


Western and Central Pacific Fisheries for Highly Migratory 
Species; 2017 Bigeye Tuna Longline Fishery Closure

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

ACTION: Temporary rule; fishery closure.

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SUMMARY: NMFS is closing the U.S. pelagic longline fishery for bigeye 
tuna in the western and central Pacific Ocean because the fishery has 
reached the 2017 catch limit. This action is necessary to ensure 
compliance with NMFS regulations that implement decisions of the 
Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

DATES: Effective 12:01 a.m. local time September 1, 2017, 2017, through 
December 31, 2017.

ADDRESSES: NMFS prepared a plain language guide and frequently asked 
questions that explain how to comply with this rule; both are available 
at https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAA-NMFS-2017-0092.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jarad Makaiau, NMFS Pacific Islands 
Region, 808-725-5176.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Pelagic longline fishing in the western and 
central Pacific Ocean is managed, in part, under the Western and 
Central Pacific Fisheries Convention Implementation Act (Act). 
Regulations governing fishing by U.S. vessels in accordance with the 
Act appear at 50 CFR part 300, subpart O.
    NMFS established a calendar year 2017 limit of 3,138 metric tons 
(mt) of bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus) that may be caught and retained in 
the U.S. pelagic longline fishery 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 Area) (82 
FR 36341, August 4, 2017). NMFS monitored the retained

[[Page 37825]]

catches of bigeye tuna using logbook data submitted by vessel captains 
and other available information, and determined that the 2017 catch 
limit would be reached by September 1, 2017.
    In accordance with 50 CFR 300.224(e), this rule serves as 
notification to fishermen, the fishing industry, and the general public 
that the U.S. longline fishery for bigeye tuna in the Convention Area 
will be closed during the dates provided in the DATES heading. The 
fishery is scheduled to reopen on January 1, 2018. This rule does not 
apply to the longline fisheries of American Samoa, Guam, or the 
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, collectively ``the 
territories,'' as described below.
    During the closure, a U.S. fishing vessel may not retain on board, 
transship, or land bigeye tuna caught by longline gear in the 
Convention Area, except that any bigeye tuna already on board a fishing 
vessel upon the effective date of the restrictions may be retained on 
board, transshipped, and landed, provided that they are landed within 
14 days of the start of the closure, that is, by September 15, 2017. 
This 14-day landing requirement does not apply to a vessel that has 
declared to NMFS, pursuant to 50 CFR 665.803(a), that the current trip 
type is shallow-setting.
    During the effective period of the restrictions, longline-caught 
bigeye tuna may be retained on board, transshipped, and landed if the 
fish are caught by a vessel with a valid American Samoa longline 
permit, or if the fish are landed in the territories. In either case, 
the following conditions must be met:
    (1) The fish is not caught in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone 
(EEZ) around Hawaii;
    (2) Other applicable laws and regulations are followed; and
    (3) The vessel has a valid permit issued under 50 CFR 660.707 or 
665.801.
    Bigeye tuna caught by longline gear during the closure may also be 
retained on board, transshipped, and/or landed if they are caught by a 
vessel that is included in a valid specified fishing agreement under 50 
CFR 665.819(c), in accordance with 50 CFR 300.224(f)(1)(iv).
    During the closure, a U.S. vessel is also prohibited from 
transshipping bigeye tuna caught in the Convention Area by longline 
gear to any vessel other than a U.S. fishing vessel with a valid permit 
issued under 50 CFR 660.707 or 665.801.
    The catch limit and this closure do not apply to bigeye tuna caught 
by longline gear outside the Convention Area, such as in the eastern 
Pacific Ocean. To ensure compliance with the restrictions related to 
bigeye tuna caught by longline gear in the Convention Area, however, 
the following requirements apply during the closure period (see 50 CFR 
300.224):
    (1) Longline fishing both inside and outside the Convention Area is 
not allowed during the same fishing trip. An exception would be a 
fishing trip that is in progress on September 1, 2017. In that case, 
the catch of bigeye tuna must be landed by September 15, 2017; and
    (2) If a longline vessel fishes outside the Convention Area and the 
vessel then enters the Convention Area during the same fishing trip, 
the fishing gear must be stowed and not readily available for fishing 
in the Convention Area. Specifically, hooks, branch lines, and floats 
must be stowed and the mainline hauler must be covered.
    The above two additional prohibitions do not apply to the following 
vessels:
    (1) Vessels on declared shallow-setting trips pursuant to 50 CFR 
665.803(a); and
    (2) Vessels operating in the longline fisheries of the territories. 
This includes vessels included in a valid specified fishing agreement 
under 50 CFR 665.819(c), in accordance with 50 CFR 300.224(f)(1)(iv). 
This group also includes vessels with valid American Samoa longline 
permits and vessels landing bigeye tuna in one of the territories, as 
long as the bigeye tuna were not caught in the EEZ around Hawaii, the 
fishing was compliant with all applicable laws, and the vessel has a 
valid permit issued under 50 CFR 660.707 or 665.801.

Classification

    There is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice 
and the opportunity for public comment on this action, because it would 
be unnecessary and contrary to the public interest. This rule closes 
the U.S. longline fishery for bigeye tuna in the western and central 
Pacific as a result of reaching the applicable bigeye tuna catch limit. 
The limit is codified in Federal regulations and is based on agreed 
limits established by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries 
Commission. 50 CFR 300.224(e) notifies the public that fishing 
prohibitions will be placed in effect when the limit is reached. NMFS 
forecasts that the fishery will reach the 2017 limit by September 1, 
2017. Longline fishermen have been subject to longline bigeye tuna 
limits in the western and central Pacific since 2009. They have 
received ongoing, updated information about the 2017 catch and progress 
of the fishery in reaching the Convention Area limit via the NMFS Web 
site, social media, and other means. This constitutes adequate advance 
notice of this fishery closure. Additionally, the publication timing of 
this rule provides longline fishermen with seven days advance notice of 
the closure date, and allows two weeks to return to port and land their 
catch of bigeye tuna.
    For the reasons stated above, there is also good cause under 5 
U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness for this 
temporary rule. NMFS must close the fishery as soon as possible to 
ensure that fishery does not exceed the catch limit. According to NMFS 
stock-status-determination criteria, bigeye tuna in the Pacific Ocean 
are currently experiencing overfishing. NMFS implemented the catch 
limit to reduce the effects of fishing on bigeye tuna and restore the 
stock to levels capable of producing maximum sustainable yield on a 
continuing basis. Failure to close the fishery immediately would result 
in additional fishing pressure on this stock, in violation of Federal 
law and regulations that implement WCPFC decisions.
    This action is required by 50 CFR 300.224 and is exempt from review 
under Executive Order 12866.

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

    Dated: August 9, 2017.
Emily H. Menashes,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-17164 Filed 8-10-17; 11:15 am]
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