International Fisheries: Pacific Tuna Fisheries; Fishing Restrictions for Silky Shark, Fish Aggregating Device, and Observer Safety in the Eastern Pacific Ocean
The proposed 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 proposed rule is necessary for the United States to satisfy its obligations as a member of the IATTC and Party to the AIDCP.
The three overarching objectives of this proposed rule are described here:
FADs: The proposed rule would revise 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 captains 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 would still be required to provide the observer with the FAD identification code and, as appropriate, the other information in the standard format.
Silky shark: The rule proposes to prohibit 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 proposed rule would also increase flexibility for accidental retention of silky shark on purse seine vessels. This proposed rule would also increase flexibility and allows 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 proposed 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 proposed 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 proposed rule would implement 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. Most of the safety requirements in these resolutions are already required by procedures implemented by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). This proposed rule is intended to fill the gaps between the existing USCG procedures and these resolutions.