National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.
Availability of proposed fishery management plan amendment; request for comments.
The New England Fishery Management Council submitted the New England Industry-Funded Monitoring Omnibus Amendment, incorporating the Environmental Assessment and the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis, for review by the Secretary of Commerce. NMFS is requesting comments from the public on the proposed amendment, which was developed to allow for industry-funded monitoring in New England Council fishery management plans and implement industry-funded monitoring in the Atlantic herring fishery. This amendment would ensure consistency in industry-funded monitoring programs across New England fisheries and increase monitoring in the Atlantic herring fishery.
Public comments must be received on or before November 19, 2018.
You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2018-0109, by any of the following methods:
Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal.
1. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2018-0109;
2. Click the “Comment Now!” icon and complete the required fields; and
3. Enter or attach your comments.
Mail: Submit written comments to Michael Pentony, Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope, “Comments on the Industry-Funded Monitoring Amendment.”
Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by us. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. We will accept anonymous comments (enter “N/A” in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous).
Copies of the Industry-Funded Monitoring Omnibus Amendment, including the Environmental Assessment, the Regulatory Impact Review, and the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/RIR/IRFA) prepared in support of this action are available from Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950. The supporting documents are also accessible via the internet at: http://www.nefmc.org.
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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Carrie Nordeen, Fishery Policy Analyst, phone: (978) 281-9272 or email: Carrie.Nordeen@noaa.gov.
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In 2013, the Mid-Atlantic and New England Fishery Management Councils initiated a joint omnibus amendment to allow for industry-funded monitoring in all of the fishery management plans (FMPs) that the Councils manage. The joint omnibus amendment was intended to standardize the process to develop and administer future industry-funded monitoring programs for Council FMPs, and would have implemented industry-funded monitoring in the Atlantic herring and mackerel fisheries.
On September 20, 2016 (81 FR 64426), NMFS announced the public comment period for the draft joint omnibus amendment. The 45-day public comment period extended from September 23 through November 7, 2016. During that time, NMFS and the Councils hosted five public hearings on the draft joint omnibus amendment. NMFS and the Councils held public hearings in Gloucester, Massachusetts; Portland, Maine; Cape May, New Jersey; Narragansett, Rhode Island; and via webinar.
In April 2017, the New England Council finalized its selection of preferred alternatives and recommended that NMFS consider the joint omnibus amendment for approval and implementation, while the Mid-Atlantic Council decided to postpone action on the joint omnibus amendment. Therefore, the joint omnibus amendment, initiated by both Councils to allow for industry-funded monitoring, has become the New England Industry-Funded Monitoring Omnibus Amendment and would only apply to FMPs managed by the New England Council. Accordingly, this amendment would only implement industry-funded monitoring in the Atlantic herring fishery. At its October 2018 meeting, the Mid-Atlantic Council is scheduled to re-consider whether it wants to continue developing industry-funded monitoring measures for its FMPs.
1. Omnibus Measures
This amendment would standardize the development and administration of Start Printed Page 47327future industry-funded monitoring programs in New England Council FMPs. The proposed omnibus measures include:
- Standard cost responsibilities associated with industry-funded monitoring for NMFS and the fishing industry;
- A process to implement FMP-specific industry-funded monitoring via an amendment and revise via a framework adjustment;
- Standard administrative requirements for industry-funded observers/monitors and monitoring service providers;
- A process to prioritize industry-funded monitoring programs in order to allocate available Federal resources across all FMPs; and
- A process for monitoring set-aside programs to be implemented via a future framework adjustment.
2. Atlantic Herring Measures
This amendment would implement industry-funded monitoring in the Atlantic herring fishery. The purpose of increased monitoring is to better understand the frequency of discarding in the herring fishery, as well as improve the tracking of the incidental catch of haddock and river herring/shad catch against their catch caps in the herring fishery. The proposed herring measures include:
- Implementing a 50-percent coverage target for industry-funded at-sea monitoring on vessels issued All Areas (Category A) or Areas 2/3 (Category B) Limited Access Herring Permits; and
- Allowing midwater trawl vessels to purchase observer coverage to access Groundfish Closed Areas.
On April 19, 2018, the New England Council considered whether electronic monitoring in conjunction with portside sampling, would be an adequate substitute for at-sea monitoring coverage aboard midwater trawl vessels. The purpose of electronic monitoring would be to confirm catch retention and verify compliance with slippage restrictions, while the purpose of portside sampling would be to collect species composition data along with age and length information. Following discussion and public comment, the Council approved electronic monitoring and portside sampling as a monitoring option for midwater trawl vessels, but did not recommend requiring electronic monitoring and portside sampling as part of this action. Instead, the Council recommended NMFS use an exempted fishing permit (EFP) to further evaluate how to best permanently administer an electronic monitoring and portside sampling program. The EFP would exempt midwater vessels from the proposed requirement for industry-funded at-sea monitoring coverage and would allow midwater trawl vessels to use electronic monitoring and portside sampling coverage to comply with the Council-recommended 50-percent industry-funded monitoring coverage target. An EFP would enable NMFS to further evaluate monitoring issues in the herring fishery that are of interest to the Council and herring industry and provide an opportunity to improve the electronic monitoring and portside program's efficacy and efficiency. The Council recommended reconsidering herring industry-funded monitoring requirements two years after implementation. Using the results of the EFP, the Council would consider establishing electronic monitoring and portside sampling program requirements into regulation via a framework adjustment at that time.
Public Comment Instructions
Public comments on the Industry-Funded Monitoring Omnibus Amendment and its incorporated documents may be submitted through the end of the comment period stated in this notice of availability. A proposed rule to implement the Amendment, including draft regulatory text, will be published in the Federal Register for public comment. Public comments on the proposed rule must be received by the end of the comment period provided in this notice of availability to be considered in the approval/disapproval decision on the amendment. All comments received by November 19, 2018, whether specifically directed to Industry-Funded Monitoring Omnibus Amendment or the proposed rule for this amendment, will be considered in the approval/disapproval decision on the Industry-Funded Monitoring Omnibus Amendment. Comments received after that date will not be considered in the decision to approve or disapprove the Amendment. To be considered, comments must be received by close of business on the last day of the comment period.
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Dated: September 13, 2018.
Margo B. Schulze-Haugen,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2018-20259 Filed 9-18-18; 8:45 am]
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