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Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review/ Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis for Amendment 47 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Groundfish Fishery of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Area and Amendment 47 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska and Amendment 6 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Commercial King and Tanner Crab Fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Area to Implement a North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program to Replace the North Pacific Fisheries Research Plan
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  • Description:
    At its December 1995 meeting, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) recommended that the North Pacific Fisheries Research Plan (Research Plan) be repealed by the beginning of 1997. At the same meeting, the Council directed that a new observer plan be developed for final Council action at its April 1996 meeting that would supersede the Research Plan. Under this new plan, fishing operations required to obtain observers would continue to pay coverage costs, but payment would be made to a Prime Contractor. The Prime Contractor would enter into subcontracts with observer companies and direct them to respond to industry requests for observers. Payments received by the Prime Contractor would be used to cover administrative costs and pay subcontractors for providing observer services. NMFS would enter into a no-cost contractual arrangement with the Prime Contractor and would direct the Prime Contractor’s activities. NMFS would maintain functions necessary for the management of observer data, including debriefing. Briefing and training of observers would be carried out by NMFS staff and certified trainers at the University of Alaska Anchorage Observer Training Center. Because sufficient quantifiable potential cost information on this modified program was not available at its April 1996 meeting, the Council withheld final action on the modified program until those costs could be further defined. Because current observer coverage requirements expire December 31, 1996, the Council adopted an interim groundfish observer program that would supersede the Research Plan and authorize mandatory groundfish observer coverage requirements through 1997 (Alternative 2, option 1). The interim groundfish observer program would extend 1996 groundfish observer coverage requirements as well as vessel and processor responsibilities relating to the observer program. The interim groundfish observer program would remain effective through December 31, 1997, unless superseded by a long-term program that addresses concerns about observer data integrity, equitable distribution of observer coverage costs, observer compensation and working conditions, and other concerns raised by the Council's OAC. The Council is scheduled to receive more information on a long-term replacement to the Research Plan at its September 1996 meeting.
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