Federal fisheries officials have scheduled public hearings in Washington State, Oregon and Alaska on proposed restructuring of the observer program for North Pacific groundfish and halibut fisheries. The changes would involve Amendment 86 to the fishery management plan for groundfish in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area and Amendment 76 to the fishery management plan for groundfish in the Gulf of Alaska.
The hearings are set for April 17 at the NOAA Western Regional Center in Seattle, April 19 at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon, and May 2 at Centennial Hall in Juneau. All sessions are from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. local times.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council in October 2010 recommended restructuring the observer program to have the National Marine Fisheries Service contract directly with observer companies to deploy observers according to a scientifically valid sampling and deployment plan, with industry to pay a fee equal to 1.25 percent of the ex-vessel value of the landings included under the program.
The Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act authorizes collection of an ex-vessel fee of up to 2 percent.
The restructured program is intended to provide National Marine Fisheries service with the flexibility to deploy observers in response to fishery management needs and to reduce the bias inherent in the existing program, NMFS officials said.
Anyone wishing to make an oral statement for the record at one of these hearings is asked to provide a written copy of their statement to the hearing panel. While there is no limit on the length of written comment, time allotted for individual oral statements may be limited by the number of people wishing to present their statements, the National Marine Fisheries Service said.
Written comments, identified by FDMS Docket Number NOAA-NMFS-2011-0210, may be submitted via the federal eRulemaking portal website at http://www.regulations.gov or mailed to Glenn Merrill, assistant regional administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668; faxed to Merrill at 1-907-586-7557, or hand delivered, addressed to Merrill, Attn: Ellen Sebastian, at 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, Alaska.
The comment period extends through May 14.