(a) Standard 10. Conservation and management measures shall, to the extent practicable, promote the safety of human life at sea.
(1) Fishing is an inherently dangerous occupation where not all hazardous situations can be foreseen or avoided. The standard directs Councils to reduce that risk in crafting their management measures, so long as they can meet the other national standards and the legal and practical requirements of conservation and management. This standard is not meant to give preference to one method of managing a fishery over another.
(2) The qualifying phrase “to the extent practicable” recognizes that regulation necessarily puts constraints on fishing that would not otherwise exist. These constraints may create pressures on fishermen to fish under conditions that they would otherwise avoid. This standard instructs the Councils to identify and avoid those situations, if they can do so consistent with the legal and practical requirements of conservation and management of the resource.
(3) For the purposes of this national standard, the safety of the fishing vessel and the protection from injury of persons aboard the vessel are considered the same as “safety of human life at sea. The safety of a vessel and the people aboard is ultimately the responsibility of the master of that vessel. Each master makes many decisions about vessel maintenance and loading and about the capabilities of the vessel and crew to operate safely in a variety of weather and sea conditions. This national standard does not replace the judgment or relieve the responsibility of the vessel master related to vessel safety. The Councils, the USCG, and NMFS, through the consultation process of paragraph (d) of this section, will review all FMPs, amendments, and regulations during their development to ensure they recognize any impact on the safety of human life at sea and minimize or mitigate that impact where practicable.
(c) Safety considerations. The following is a non-inclusive list of safety considerations that should be considered in evaluating management measures under national standard 10.
(1) Operating environment. Where and when a fishing vessel operates is partly a function of the general climate and weather patterns of an area. Typically, larger vessels can fish farther offshore and in more adverse weather conditions than smaller vessels. An FMP should try to avoid creating situations that result in vessels going out farther, fishing longer, or fishing in weather worse than they generally would have in the absence of management measures. Where these conditions are unavoidable, management measures should mitigate these effects, consistent with the overall management goals of the fishery.
(2) Gear and vessel loading requirements. A fishing vessel operates in a very dynamic environment that can be an extremely dangerous place to work. Moving heavy gear in a seaway creates a dangerous situation on a vessel. Carrying extra gear can also significantly reduce the stability of a fishing vessel, making it prone to capsizing. An FMP should consider the safety and stability of fishing vessels when requiring specific gear or requiring the removal of gear from the water. Management measures should reflect a sensitivity to these issues and provide methods of mitigation of these situations wherever possible.
(3) Limited season and area fisheries. Fisheries where time constraints for harvesting are a significant factor and with no flexibility for weather, often called “derby” fisheries, can create serious safety problems. To participate fully in such a fishery, fishermen may fish in bad weather and overload their vessel with catch and/or gear. Where these conditions exist, FMPs should attempt to mitigate these effects and avoid them in new management regimes, as discussed in paragraph (e) of this section.
(d) Consultation. During preparation of any FMP, FMP amendment, or regulation that might affect safety of human life at sea, the Council should consult with the USCG and the fishing industry as to the nature and extent of any adverse impacts. This consultation may be done through a Council advisory panel, committee, or other review of the FMP, FMP amendment, or regulations. Mitigation, to the extent practicable, and other safety considerations identified in paragraph (c) of this section should be included in the FMP.
(e) Mitigation measures. There are many ways in which an FMP may avoid or provide alternative measures to reduce potential impacts on safety of human life at sea. The following is a list of some factors that could be considered when management measures are developed:
(1) Setting seasons to avoid hazardous weather.
(2) Providing for seasonal or trip flexibility to account for bad weather (weather days).
(3) Allowing for pre- and post-season “soak time” to deploy and pick up fixed gear, so as to avoid overloading vessels with fixed gear.
(4) Tailoring gear requirements to provide for smaller or lighter gear for smaller vessels.
(5) Avoiding management measures that require hazardous at-sea inspections or enforcement if other comparable enforcement could be accomplished as effectively.
(6) Limiting the number of participants in the fishery.
(7) Spreading effort over time and area to avoid potential gear and/or vessel conflicts.
(8) Implementing management measures that reduce the race for fish and the resulting incentives for fishermen to take additional risks with respect to vessel safety.
[63 FR 24236, May 1, 1998]