International Fisheries; Pacific Tuna Fisheries; Purse Seine Observer Exemptions in the Eastern Pacific Ocean
NMFS issues regulations under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Tuna Conventions Act (TCA) of 1950, as amended, to allow NMFS to issue temporary exemptions from purse seine observer requirements in the eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) in accordance with procedures adopted by Parties to the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP) and members of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC). This final rule is necessary for the continuity of fishing activities for large U.S. purse seine vessels and for the United States to satisfy its obligations as a member of the IATTC.
The NMFS Emergency Rule that provided the United States domestic authority to waive observer coverage for large EPO purse seine vessels expired on March 26, 2022. Effective immediately upon publishing of the final on March 25, 2022, NMFS derives authority to issue exemptions from observer requirements to large purse seine vessels fishing in the EPO from the new regulations issued under the final rule, rather than the NMFS Emergency Rule. Without the authority to provide observer exemptions under this action, the United States would likely be the only AIDCP Party and IATTC Member unable to issue these exemptions to its purse seine vessels. The action will allow NMFS to continue issuing temporary exemptions from the observer requirements, on a case-by-case basis, beyond the NMFS Emergency Rule expiration date, and in accordance with continuing IATTC/AIDCP exemption procedures and potentially future exemptions as needed.