50 CFR 229.7 - Monitoring of incidental mortalities and serious injuries.
(a) Purpose. The Assistant Administrator will establish a program to monitor incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals during the course of commercial fishing operations in order to:
(1) Obtain statistically reliable estimates of incidental mortality and serious injury;
(2) Determine the reliability of reports of incidental mortality and injury under § 229.6; and
(3) Identify changes in fishing methods or technology that may increase or decrease incidental mortality and serious injury.
(b) Observer program. Pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section, the Assistant Administrator may observe Category I and II vessels as necessary. Observers may, among other tasks:
(1) Record incidental mortality and injury, and bycatch of other nontarget species;
(2) Record numbers of marine mammals sighted; and
(3) Perform other scientific investigations, which may include, but are not limited to, sampling and photographing incidental mortalities and serious injuries.
(c) Observer requirements for participants in Category I and II fisheries.
(1) If requested by NMFS or by a designated contractor providing observer services to NMFS, a vessel owner/operator must take aboard an observer to accompany the vessel on fishing trips.
(2) After being notified by NMFS, or by a designated contractor providing observer services to NMFS, that the vessel is required to carry an observer, the vessel owner/operator must comply with the notification by providing information requested within the specified time on scheduled or anticipated fishing trips.
(3) NMFS, or a designated contractor providing observer services to NMFS, may waive the observer requirement based on a finding that the facilities for housing the observer or for carrying out observer functions are so inadequate or unsafe that the health or safety of the observer or the safe operation of the vessel would be jeopardized.
(4) The vessel owner/operator and crew must cooperate with the observer in the performance of the observer's duties including:
(i) Providing, at no cost to the observer, the United States government, or the designated observer provider, food, toilet, bathing, sleeping accommodations, and other amenities that are equivalent to those provided to the crew, unless other arrangements are approved in advance by the Regional Administrator;
(ii) Allowing for the embarking and debarking of the observer as specified by NMFS personnel or designated contractors. The operator of a vessel must ensure that transfers of observers at sea are accomplished in a safe manner, via small boat or raft, during daylight hours if feasible, as weather and sea conditions allow, and with the agreement of the observer involved;
(iii) Allowing the observer access to all areas of the vessel necessary to conduct observer duties;
(iv) Allowing the observer access to communications equipment and navigation equipment, when available on the vessel, as necessary to perform observer duties;
(v) Providing true vessel locations by latitude and longitude, accurate to the minute, or by loran coordinates, upon request by the observer;
(vi) Sampling, retaining, and storing of marine mammal specimens, other protected species specimens, or target or non-target catch specimens, upon request by NMFS personnel, designated contractors, or the observer, if adequate facilities are available and if feasible;
(vii) Notifying the observer in a timely fashion of when all commercial fishing operations are to begin and end;
(viii) Not impairing or in any way interfering with the research or observations being carried out; and
(ix) Complying with other guidelines or regulations that NMFS may develop to ensure the effective deployment and use of observers.
(5) Marine mammals or other specimens identified in paragraph (c)(4)(vi) of this section, which are readily accessible to crew members, must be brought on board the vessel and retained for the purposes of scientific research if feasible and requested by NMFS personnel, designated contractors, or the observer. Specimens so collected and retained must, upon request by NMFS personnel, designated contractors, or the observer, be retained in cold storage on board the vessel, if feasible, until removed at the request of NMFS personnel, designated contractors, or the observer, retrieved by authorized personnel of NMFS, or released by the observer for return to the ocean. These biological specimens may be transported on board the vessel during the fishing trip and back to port under this authorization.
(d) Observer requirements for participants in Category III fisheries.
(1) The Assistant Administrator may place observers on Category III vessels if the Assistant Administrator:
(i) Believes that the incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals from such fishery may be contributing to the immediate and significant adverse impact on a species or stock listed as a threatened species or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.); and
(ii) Has complied with § 229.9(a)(3)(i) and (ii); or
(iii) Has the consent of the vessel owner.
(2) If an observer is placed on a Category III vessel, the vessel owner and/or operator must comply with the requirements of § 229.7(c).
(e) Alternative observer program. The Assistant Administrator may establish an alternative observer program to provide statistically reliable information on the species and number of marine mammals incidentally taken in the course of commercial fishing operations. The alternative observer program may include direct observation of fishing activities from vessels, airplanes, or points on shore.