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Rule

Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Coastal Migratory Pelagic Resources of the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic; Closure

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Closure.

SUMMARY:

NMFS closes the commercial fishery for king mackerel in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the northern Florida west coast subzone. This closure is necessary to protect the overfished Gulf king mackerel resource.

DATES:

The closure is effective 12:01 a.m., local time, November 19, 2000, through June 30, 2001.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Mark Godcharles, telephone 727-570-5305; fax 727-570-5583; e-mail: Mark.Godcharles@noaa.gov.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The fishery for coastal migratory pelagic fish (king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, cero, cobia, little tunny, dolphin, and, in the Gulf of Mexico only, bluefish) is managed under the Fishery Management Plan for the Coastal Migratory Pelagic Resources of the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic (FMP). The FMP was prepared by the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils (Councils) and is implemented under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) by regulations at 50 CFR part 622.

Based on the Councils' recommended total allowable catch and the allocation ratios in the FMP on February 19, 1998 (63 FR 8353), NMFS implemented a commercial quota of 2.34 million lb (1.06 million kg) for the eastern zone (Florida) of the Gulf migratory group of king mackerel. On April 27, 2000, NMFS’ implemented final rule (65 FR 16336, March 28, 2000) divided the Florida west coast subzone of the eastern zone into northern and southern subzones and established a separate quota for the northern Florida west coast subzone of 175,500 lb (79,606 kg)(50 CFR 622.42(c)(1)(i)(A)(2)(ii)).

Under 50 CFR 622.43(a)(3), NMFS is required to close any segment of the king mackerel commercial fishery when its quota has been reached, or is projected to be reached, by filing a notification at the Office of the Federal Register. NMFS has determined that the commercial quota of 175,500 lb (79,606 kg) for Gulf group king mackerel in the northern Florida west coast subzone was reached on November 15, 2000. Accordingly, the commercial fishery for king mackerel in the northern Florida west coast subzone is closed at 12:01 a.m., local time, November 19, 2000, through June 30, 2001, the end of the fishing year.

The Florida west coast subzone is that part of the eastern zone south and west of 25°20.4' N. lat. (a line directly east from the Miami-Dade County, FL, boundary). The Florida west coast subzone is further divided into northern and southern subzones. The northern subzone is that part of the Florida west coast subzone that is between 26°19.8' N. lat. (a line directly west from the Lee/Collier County, FL, boundary) and 87°31'06' W. long. (a line directly south from the Alabama/Florida boundary).

NMFS previously determined that the commercial quota for king mackerel from the western zone of the Gulf of Mexico was reached and closed that segment of the fishery on August 26, 2000 (65 FR 52350, August 29, 2000). Thus, with this closure, all commercial fisheries for Gulf group king mackerel in the EEZ are closed from the U.S./Mexico border through the northern Florida west coast subzone through June 30, 2001.

Except for a person aboard a charter vessel or headboat, during the closure, no person aboard a vessel for which a commercial permit for king mackerel has been issued may fish for Gulf group king mackerel in the EEZ in the closed zones or subzones. A person aboard a vessel that has a valid charter vessel/headboat permit for coastal migratory pelagic fish may continue to retain king mackerel in or from the closed zones or subzones under the bag and possession limits set forth in 50 CFR 622.39(c)(1)(ii) and (c)(2), provided the vessel is operating as a charter vessel or headboat. Note, however, that the bag limit for an operator or crew member of a charter vessel or headboat is zero. A charter vessel or headboat that also has a commercial king mackerel permit is considered to be operating as a charter vessel or headboat when it carries a passenger who pays a fee or when there are more than three persons aboard, including operator and crew.

During the closure, king mackerel from the closed zones or subzones taken in the EEZ, including those harvested under the bag and possession limits, may not be purchased or sold. This prohibition does not apply to trade in king mackerel from the closed zones or subzones that were harvested, landed ashore, and sold prior to the closure and were held in cold storage by a dealer or processor.

Classification

This action responds to the best available information recently obtained from the fishery. The closure must be implemented immediately to prevent an overrun of the commercial quota (50 CFR 622.42(c)(1)) of Gulf group king mackerel, given the capacity of the fishing fleet to harvest the quota quickly. Overruns could potentially lead to further overfishing and unnecessary delays in rebuilding this overfished resource. Any delay in implementing this action would be impractical and contradictory to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the FMP, and the public interest. NMFS finds, for good cause, that the implementation of this action cannot be delayed for 30 days. Accordingly, under 5 U.S.C. 553(d), a delay in the effective date is waived.

This action is taken under 50 CFR 622.43(a) and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

Start Authority

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

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Dated: November 17, 2000.

Bruce C. Morehead,

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

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[FR Doc. 00-29882 Filed 11-17-00; 4:20 pm]

BILLING CODE 3510-22-S