Implementing West Coast commercial fishery regulations for fish aggregating devices, silky shark conservation, and observer safety
The final rule implements provisions for three Resolutions adopted by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), and one Resolution by the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP) in 2018 and 2019: IATTC Resolutions C-19-01 (Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs)), C-19-05 (Conservation of Silky Sharks), and C-18-07 (Improving Observer Safety At Sea: Emergency Action Plan), and AIDCP Resolution A-18-03 (Improving Observer Safety At Sea: Emergency Action Plan). This final rule is necessary for the United States to satisfy its obligations as a member of the IATTC and Party to the AIDCP.
There are three overarching objectives of this final rule:
- FADs: The final rule revises existing regulations for FAD data collection to remove the reporting requirements for captains of large purse seine vessels fishing on FADs in the eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) that have observers onboard. The Commission removed this requirement for vessels without observers onboard because IATTC observers are now expected to collect all information that was previously required to be recorded by captains on the FAD data collection form. Captains are still required to provide the observer with the FAD identification code and, as appropriate, the other information in the standard format.
- Silky shark: The final rule prohibits the retention of silky shark by U.S. longline vessels fishing in the EPO. The retention ban for longline vessels is not expected to impact current fishing practices. The rule also increases flexibility for accidental retention of silky shark on purse seine vessels by allowing for exemptions in the case of any silky shark that is not seen during fishing operations and is delivered into the vessel hold. In such case, the silky shark may be stored on board and landed, but the vessel owner or operator must surrender the whole silky shark to a government authority present at the point of landing. The final rule specifies that if government authorities are unavailable, the whole silky shark is prohibited from being sold or bartered and must be donated for purposes of domestic human consumption consistent with relevant laws and policies. The rule also requires that the vessel owner or operator report any silky sharks surrendered in this manner to the IATTC Secretariat by recording it in the IATTC Pacific Tuna Regional Logbook.
- Observer safety: The final rule implements provisions of Resolutions C-18-07 and A-18-03 to strengthen protections for observers in longline and transshipment observer programs required by the IATTC and on purse seine vessels required by the AIDCP. The observer safety resolutions detail responsibilities for vessel owners and operators, responsibilities for IATTC and AIDCP members to which fishing vessels are flagged, responsibilities for members that have jurisdiction over ports, and responsibilities for observer providers for cases of harassment, intimidation, serious illness, and death of an observer. Most of the safety requirements in these resolutions are already required by procedures implemented by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). This rule is intended to fill the gaps between the existing USCG procedures and these resolutions.