Notice of Receipt of a Petition from Oceana Seeking a Regulatory Program for Fisheries Observer Coverage of Bycatch
NOAA announces its decision on a petition for rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act. Oceana, a non-governmental organization, petitioned the U.S. Department of Commerce to promulgate immediately a rule to establish a program to count, cap, and control bycatch in U.S. fisheries. The Oceana petition asserted that NOAA Fisheries is not complying with its statutory obligations to monitor and minimize bycatch under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA), and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The petition sought a regulatory program that includes a workplan for observer coverage sufficient to provide statistically reliable bycatch estimates in all fisheries, the incorporation of bycatch estimates into restrictions on fishing, the placing of limits on directed catch and bycatch in each fishery with provision for closure upon attainment of either limit, and bycatch assessment and reduction plans as a requirement for all commercial and recreational fisheries. NOAA Fisheries has decided not to initiate rulemaking immediately, but instead to update and renew its commitment to a National Bycatch Strategy, which may eventually result in rulemaking for some fisheries.