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Rule

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Species in the Rock sole/Flathead sole/“Other flatfish” Fishery Category by Vessels Using Trawl Gear in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area

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AGENCY:

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION:

Closure.

SUMMARY:

NMFS is closing directed fishing for species in the rock sole/flathead sole/“other flatfish” fishery category by vessels using trawl gear in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI). This action is necessary to prevent exceeding the 2000 Pacific halibut by catch allowance specified for the trawl rock sole/flathead sole/“other flatfish” fishery category.

DATES:

Effective 1200 hrs, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), August 25, 2000, until 2400 hrs, A.l.t., December 31, 2000.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Mary Furuness, 907-586-7228.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

NMFS manages the groundfish fishery in the BSAI exclusive economic zone according to the Fishery Management Plan for the Groundfish Fishery of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Area (FMP) prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council under authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Regulations governing fishing by U.S. vessels in accordance with the FMP appear at subpart H of 50 CFR part 600 and 50 CFR part 679.

The Final 2000 Harvest Specifications of Groundfish (65 FR 8282, February 18, 2000) and subsequent technical amendment (65 FR 42302, June 10, 2000) established the halibut bycatch mortality allowance for the BSAI trawl rock sole/flathead sole/“other flatfish” fishery category, which is defined at § 679.21(e)(3)(iv)(B)(2), as 779 metric tons.

In accordance with § 679.21(e)(7)(v), the Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS (Regional Administrator), has determined that the 2000 halibut bycatch allowance specified for the trawl rock sole/flathead sole/“other flatfish” fishery in the BSAI has been caught. Consequently, the Regional Administrator is closing directed fishing for species in the rock sole/flathead sole/“other flatfish” fishery category by vessels using trawl gear in the BSAI.

Maximum retainable bycatch amounts may be found in the regulations at § 679.20(e) and (f).

This action responds to the best available information recently obtained from the fishery. It must be implemented immediately to prevent exceeding the 2000 halibut bycatch allowance specified for the trawl rock sole/flathead sole/“other flatfish” fishery category. Providing prior notice and an opportunity for public comment on this action is impracticable and contrary to the public interest. The fleet will soon take the allowance. Further delay would only result in the 2000 halibut bycatch allowance being exceeded. NMFS finds for good cause that the implementation of this action cannot be delayed for 30 days. Accordingly, under U.S.C. 553(d), a delay in the effective date is hereby waived.

Classification

This action is required by 50 CFR 679.21 and is exempt from review under E.O. 12866.

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Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

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Bruce C. Morehead,

Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.

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[FR Doc. 00-22216 Filed 8-25-00; 3:39 pm]

Billing Code: 3510-22-S