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Proposed Information Collection; Comment Request; Southeast Region Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) and Related Requirements

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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).




The Department of Commerce, as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, invites the general public and other Federal agencies to take this opportunity to comment on proposed and/or continuing information collections, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.


Written comments must be submitted on or before March 13, 2009.


Direct all written comments to Diana Hynek, Departmental Paperwork Clearance Officer, Department of Commerce, Room 7845, 14th and Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20230 (or via the Internet at

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Requests for additional information or copies of the information collection instrument and instructions should be directed to Jason Rueter, (727) 824-5350 or

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I. Abstract

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) authorizes the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) to prepare and amend fishery management plans for any fishery in waters under its jurisdiction. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) manages the reef fish fishery in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico under the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The regulations implementing the FMP appear at 50 CFR part 622, and regulations at 50 CFR part 697 and subpart H of 50 CFR part 600 also pertain. The corresponding regulations established a mandatory VMS requirement.

The Reef Fish FMP contains several area-specific regulations where fishing is restricted or prohibited in order to protect habitat or spawning aggregations, or to reduce fishing pressure in areas that are heavily fished. Unlike size, bag, and trip limits, where the catch can be monitored onshore when a vessel returns to port, area restrictions require at-sea enforcement. Start Printed Page 1178However, at-sea enforcement of offshore area restrictions is difficult due to the distance from shore and the limited number of patrol vessels, resulting in a need to improve enforceability of area fishing restrictions through remote sensing methods. In addition, all fishing gears are subject to some area fishing restrictions. Because of the sizes of these areas and the distances from shore, the effectiveness of enforcement through over flights and at-sea interception is limited. An electronic VMS allows a more effective means to monitor vessels for intrusions into restricted areas.

The VMS provides effort data and would significantly aid in enforcement of areas closed to fishing. All position reports are treated in accordance with NMFS existing guidelines for confidential data. As a condition of authorized fishing for or possession of Reef Fish in or from the Gulf of Mexico Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), a vessel owner or operator subject to the requirements for a VMS in this section must allow NMFS, the United States Coast Guard (USCG), and their authorized officers and designees access to the vessel's position data obtained from the VMS.

The currently approved reporting requirements are being renewed without change. The burden estimates, however, do have changes due to programmatic changes and attrition in the fishery.

II. Method of Collection

Respondents have a choice of either electronic or paper forms. Methods of submittal include e-mail of electronic forms, and mail and facsimile transmission of paper forms.

III. Data

OMB Control Number: 0648-0544.

Form Number: None.

Type of Review: Regular submission.

Affected Public: Business or other for-profit organizations.

Estimated Number of Respondents: 882.

Estimated Time per Response: Installation, 4 hours; installation and activation checklist, 15 minutes; transmission of position reports, 1 second; and annual maintenance, 2 hours.

Estimated Total Annual Burden Hours: 1,780.

Estimated Total Annual Cost to Public: $544,194 in operations and maintenance costs.

IV. Request for Comments

Comments are invited on: (a) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the agency's estimate of the burden (including hours and cost) of the proposed collection of information; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

Comments submitted in response to this notice will be summarized and/or included in the request for OMB approval of this information collection; they also will become a matter of public record.

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Dated: January 6, 2009.

Gwellnar Banks,

Management Analyst, Office of the Chief Information Officer.

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[FR Doc. E9-276 Filed 1-9-09; 8:45 am]