→ Fourth National Climate Assessment

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The U.S. Global Change Research Program is calling for public comment on a third-order draft of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (Vol. II). The second volume of the National Climate Assessment “summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future” (GlobalChange.gov). The Assessment reviews information specific to different regions of the United States, 'while also evaluating climate change impacts, risks, and adaptation on 17 national-level topics. 

*Check back for upcoming summaries on Chapters 4,5,6 & 9*

→ Test of International Trade Data System for electronic submission of data related to import of fish products

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The National Marine Fisheries Services announces 'a test of the International Trade Data System involving the electronic submission of data, related to importation of fish products regulated under the Seafood Import Monitoring Program.' The test, coordinated with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, uses the import Partner Government Agency data set via the Automated Commercial Environment Secure Data Portal.' The National Marine Fisheries Service, with Customs and Border Patrol, 'have developed a plan to test and assess the electronic transmission of harvest and traceability data for fish imports covered by the [Seafood Import Monitoring Program].' 'Under this test, data may be submitted for the covered fish products imported in any operational port. All ports are operational for the test.' The test 'will continue until concluded by publication of a notice in the Federal Register ending the test. Comments on the submission and processing of import data will be accepted throughout the duration of the test.'

→ Proposed authorization of recreational quota entity in Pacific Halibut and Sablefish Individual Fishing Quota Program in Gulf of Alaska

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The National Marine Fisheries Services is proposing to authorize formation of a recreational quota entity 'that could participate in the Pacific Halibut and Sablefish Individual Fishing Quota Program in International Pacific Halibut Commission Regulatory Areas 2C and 3A in the Gulf of Alaska.' The recreational quota entity 'would be authorized to purchase and hold a limited amount of commercial halibut quota share that would yield additional pounds of recreational fishing quota on an annual basis.' This would increase the amount of halibut available for the charter halibut fishery by reallocating a portion of commercial halibut quota. The National Marine Fisheries Service states that this 'proposed rule is necessary to promote social and economic flexibility in the charter halibut fishery, and is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982, and other applicable laws.'

→ Implementation of a federal limited entry permit for California / Oregon large-mesh drift gillnet fishery

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The Pacific Fishery Management Council has submitted Amendment 5 to the Fishery Management Plan for the US West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species. 'The intent of Amendment 5 is to implement a federal limited entry permit for California/Oregon large-mesh drift gillnet fishery.' This would bring California's fishery permit program under Magnuson-Stevens Act authority, something the Pacific Fishery Management Council has been considering since 2014. All current California large-mesh drift gillnet permit holders would be eligible to apply for, and receive, a federal permit. This amendment is primarily administrative in nature, and so 'the action would neither increase capacity within the fishery, nor would it incentivize or stimulate fishing effort or activity of current latent permits.'

→ Classification of foreign fisheries under the Marine Mammal Protection Act

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The National Marine Fisheries Service has published its draft List of Foreign Fisheries (LOFF) for 2017, per the Marine Mammal Protection Act. 'The draft LOFF reflects available information on marine mammal interactions in commercial fisheries exporting fish and fish products to the United States.' Each commercial fishery included in the draft LOFF is classified as as "exempt" or "export," based on the 'frequency and likelihood of incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals that is likely to occur incidental to each fishery.' Nations must apply for and receive a comparability finding for each of their fisheries on the LOFF to continue to export fish and fish products to the US. The classification as "exempt" or "export" will determine which regulatory requirements are applicable to that fishery when the nation applies to receive a comparability finding. Comparability findings determine whether the regulatory program of that fishery is comparable in effectiveness to US regulatory programs. 

→ EPA proposed withdrawal of 2014 Proposed Determination for Pebble Mine deposit area

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‘The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator and Region 10 Regional Administrator are requesting public comment on this proposal to withdraw the EPA Region 10 July 2014 Proposed Determination. The 2014 Determination would have restricted the use of certain waters' in the Bristol Bay watershed 'in southwest Alaska as disposal sites for dredged or fill material associated with mining the Pebble deposit, a copper-, gold-, and molybdenum-bearing ore body. The EPA agreed to initiate this proposed withdrawal process as part of a May 11, 2017 settlement agreement with the Pebble Limited Partnership, whose subsidiaries own the mineral claims to the Pebble deposit. The EPA is accepting comments from the public on the rationale for the proposed withdrawal.’ The EPA is specifically asking for comment on (1) 'whether to withdraw the July 2014 Proposed Determination at this time for reasons provided' in the Federal Register; and (2) if a final withdrawal decision is made following this comment period, whether the Administrator should review and reconsider the withdrawal decision.

→ Amendment 48 on Community Development Quota Program for Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab rationalization program

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The North Pacific Fishery Management Council submitted Amendment 48 to the National Marine Fisheries Service for review. Amendment 48 'would revise the Crab Fishery Management Plan to specify how the National Marine Fisheries Service determines the amount of limited access privileges held and used by groups in the Western Alaska Community Development Quota Program for the purposes of managing the excessive share limits under the Crab Rationalization Program [implemented April 2005]. Amendment 48 is necessary to make the Crab Fishery Management Plan consistent with Magnuson-Stevens Act requirements and the current method of managing excessive share limits for Community Development Quota Program groups.' The National Marine Fisheries Service is soliciting public comment on the proposed Amendment 48. 

→ Intent to prepare Environmental Impact Statement for establishment of subsistence harvest catch limits for bowhead whales

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The National Marine Fisheries Service is announcing its 'intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement... in order to assess the impacts of issuing annual catch limits for the subsistence harvest of bowhead whales by Alaska Natives from 2019 onward.' A notice of aboriginal subsistence whale hunting catch limits and any limitations on such hunting is published annually in the Federal Register. Annual catch limits are based on IWC Scientific Committee advice on the sustainability of proposed catch limits using a population model. The subsistence hunt itself is directly managed by the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission. The National Marine Fisheries Service is initiating the official scoping period for the above Environmental Impact Statement; public comments submitted during the scoping period will 'help identify issues and alternatives to be considered.'

→ National Marine Fisheries Service streamlining regulatory processes and reducing regulatory burden

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A series of recent Executive Orders aimed at eliminating, improving and streamlining current regulations and associated regulatory processes have been issued in 2017. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, through the National Marine Fisheries Service, seeks public input on identifying existing regulations that: (1) eliminate jobs, or inhibit job creation; (2) are outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective; (3) impose costs that exceed benefits; (4) create a serious inconsistency or interfere with regulatory reform initiatives and policies; (5) are inconsistent with the requirements of section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act, 2001; and/or (6) derive from or implement Executive Orders or other Presidential directives that have been subsequently rescinded or substantially modified. Comments are specifically requested on existing processes and regulations under the following statutes, among others: Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. 

→ Omnibus Framework Adjustment to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council's acceptable biological catch framework

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This action proposes regulations to implement an Omnibus Framework Adjustment to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council acceptable biological catch setting process, as recommended to the National Marine Fisheries Service by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council.  The Omnibus Framework Adjustment proposes a change from varying to constant acceptable biological catches within multi-year quotas by setting up averaged acceptable biological catches at a constant level for up to five years for spiny dogfish and up to three years for all other species managed by the Council.. A previous move to multi-year specifications has not provided the anticipated stability to quotas because target fishing mortality rates are applied to stock size projections that tend to change from year-to-year, creating varying acceptable biological catches within multi-year quotas. The proposed change to constant multi-year acceptable biological catches would therefore help bring stability to quotas while accounting for year-to-year changes in stock size projections, and allow the Mid-Atlantic Council's Fishery Management Plans to automatically incorporate the best available scientific information when calculating acceptable biological catches. This action also proposes to revise regulatory language to clarify the Mid-Atlantic Council's acceptable biological catch control rule assessment level designations.

→ Northeastern Tilefish Fishery Management Plan; Amendment 6

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NMFS announces that the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council has submitted Amendment 6 to the Tilefish Fishery Management Plan for review and approval by the Secretary of Commerce. This action was initiated because there was no permanent federal management of blueline tilefish north of North Carolina and no state management north of Maryland. We are requesting comments from the public on the amendment. Amendment 6 would establish management measures for the blueline tilefish fishery north of the Virginia/North Carolina border, including: Permitting, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements; trip limits for both the commercial and recreational sectors of the fishery; and the process for setting specifications and annual catch limits. In addition, this action would set 2017 harvest limits. Additional details of the proposed measures are available in the amendment document and the proposed rule.

→ NMFS Plan for Review of Regulations: Notice and Request for Comments

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The Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) section 610 requires that the National Marine Fisheries Service periodically review existing regulations that have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, such as small businesses, small organizations, and small governmental jurisdictions. This notice announces the existing rules that NMFS is reviewing under the RFA. The intended effect of this document is to inform the public of the rules under review, to outline NMFS' review process, and to provide an opportunity to comment. The information compiled through this routine action will also be relevant to the regulatory reviews required under  Executive Order 13771, “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs” (Jan. 30, 2017) and Executive Order 13777, “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda” (Feb. 24, 2017).

→ Framework to require electronic vessel trip reports by federally-permitted party and charter vessel operators in the Mid-Atlantic

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The Omnibus Electronic Vessel Trip Report Framework would require charter and party vessels to submit electronic vessel trip reports (as opposed to hardcopies) while on a trip carrying passengers for hire, if those vessels hold a permit to fish for Atlantic bluefish, black sea bass, scup, summer flounder, tilefish, squid, Atlantic mackerel, and/or butterfish. These proposed measures are intended to improve the timeliness, accuracy, and quality of fisheries data submitted to NMFS while also reducing the burden on the charter and party fishing fleets. Federally permitted vessel owners and operators on commercial fishing trips will maintain the option to submit VTRs through hardcopy by mail or through electronic means.

→Annual Specifications for the northern subpopulation of Pacific sardine

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The National Marine Fisheries Service proposes to implement annual management measures and harvest specifications to establish the allowable catch levels for the northern subpopulation of Pacific sardine in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone off the Pacific coast for the fishing season of July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018. The proposed action would prohibit directed non-tribal Pacific sardine commercial fishing for Pacific sardine off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California, which is required because the estimated 2017 biomass of Pacific sardine has dropped below the biomass threshold specified in the HG control rule. Under the proposed action, Pacific sardine may still be harvested as part of either the live bait or tribal fishery, or as incidental catch in other fisheries. This proposed rule is intended to conserve and manage the Pacific sardine stock off the U.S. West Coast.

→ Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council's Unmanaged Forage Fish Omnibus Amendment

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The purpose of this action is to prevent the development of new, and the expansion of existing, commercial fisheries on certain forage species until the Council has adequate opportunity and information to evaluate the potential impacts of forage fish harvest on existing fisheries, fishing communities, and the marine ecosystem. This amendment would implement an annual landing limit, possession limits, and permitting and reporting requirements for certain previously unmanaged forage species and species groups within Mid-Atlantic Federal waters.