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Rule

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Atka Mackerel in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands

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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:

Closures and openings.

SUMMARY:

NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Atka mackerel with gears other than jig in the Eastern Aleutian District (Statistical Area (area) 541) and the Bering Sea subarea of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI). This action is necessary to prevent exceeding the A season allowance of the 2002 total allowable catch (TAC) of Atka mackerel in these areas. NMFS is also announcing the opening and closure dates of the first and second directed fisheries within the harvest limit area (HLA) in areas 542 and 543. These actions are necessary to prevent exceeding the A season HLA limits established for the Central (area 542) and Western (area 543) Aleutian Districts pursuant to the 2002 Atka mackerel TAC.

DATES:

Prohibition of directed fishing for Atka mackerel with gears other than jig in the Eastern Aleutian District and the Bering Sea subarea: Effective 1200 hrs, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), January 21, 2002, until 1200 hrs, A.l.t., September 1, 2002. The first directed fisheries in the HLA in area 542 and area 543 are open as follows: Effective 1200 hrs, A.l.t., January 23, 2002, until 1200 hrs, A.l.t., January 28, 2002. The second directed fisheries in the HLA in area 542 and area 543 are open as follows: Effective 1200 hrs, A.l.t., Start Printed Page 3447January 30, 2002, until 1200 hrs, A.l.t., February 4, 2002.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Andrew Smoker, 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 A season allowance of Atka mackerel TAC for non-jig gear in the Eastern Aleutian District and the Bering Sea subarea is 2,518 metric tons (mt) as established by an emergency rule implementing 2002 harvest specifications and associated management measures for the groundfish fisheries off Alaska (67 FR 956, January 8, 2002). See § 679.20 (a)(8)(ii).

In accordance with § 679.20 (d)(1)(i), the Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS (Regional Administrator), has determined that the A season allowance of TAC for non-jig gear Atka mackerel in the Eastern Aleutian District (Area 541) and the Bering Sea subarea will be reached. Therefore, the Regional Administrator is establishing a directed fishing allowance of 1,918 mt, and is setting aside the remaining 600 mt as bycatch to support other anticipated groundfish fisheries. In accordance with § 679.20 (d)(1)(iii), the Regional Administrator finds that this directed fishing allowance soon will be reached. Consequently, NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Atka mackerel in the Eastern Aleutian District and the Bering Sea subarea of the BSAI.

In accordance with § 679.20 (a)(8)(iii)(C), the Regional Administrator is opening the first directed fisheries for Atka mackerel within the HLA in areas 542 and 543. The opening is to occur 48 hours after the closure of the area 541 Atka mackerel directed fishery. The Regional Administrator has establish the opening date for the second HLA directed fisheries as 48 hours after the closure of the first HLA fisheries in both 542 and 543. Consequently, NMFS is opening directed fishing for Atka mackerel in the HLA of areas 542 and 543 in accordance with the periods listed under the DATES section of this publication.

In accordance with § 679.20 (a)(8)(iii), vessels using trawl gear for directed fishing for Atka mackerel have previously registered with NMFS to fish in the HLA fisheries in areas 542 and/or 543. NMFS has randomly assigned each vessel to the platoon or platoons associated with the directed fishery or fisheries for which they have been registered. NMFS has notified the operator of each vessel as to which platoon each vessel has been assigned by NMFS. (See the notification appearing in this publication of the Federal Register.)

In accordance with § 679.20 (a)(8)(ii)(C)(1), the A season harvest limit of the seasonal TAC in areas 542 and 543 are 6,605 mt and 5,467 mt respectively. Based on those seasonal apportionments and the proportion of the number of vessels in each platoon compared to the total number of vessels participating in the HLA directed fishery for area 542 or 543 during the A season, the harvest limit for each HLA directed fisheries for areas 542 and 543 are as follows: For the first directed fishery in area 542: 3,302 mt; for the first directed fishery in area 543: 2,733 mt; for the second directed fishery in area 542: 3,302 mt; for the second directed fishery in area 543: 2,733 mt. In accordance with § 679.20 (a)(8)(iii)(E), the Regional Administrator has established the closure dates of the Atka mackerel directed fisheries in the HLA for areas 542 and 543 based on the amount of the harvest limit and the estimated fishing capacity of the vessels assigned to the platoons participating in the respective fisheries. Consequently, NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Atka mackerel in the HLA of areas 542 and 543 in accordance with the periods listed under the DATES section of this action.

Classification

This action responds to the best available information recently obtained from the fishery. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, finds that the need to immediately implement this action to prevent exceeding the A season allowance of the 2002 TAC of Atka mackerel in the Eastern Aleutian District and the Bering Sea subarea and to prevent exceeding the A season HLA limit of the 2002 TAC of Atka mackerel allocated to the Central and Western Aleutian Districts constitutes good cause to waive the requirement to provide prior notice opportunity for public comment pursuant to the authority set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(3)(B) and 50 CFR 679.20 (b)(3)(iii)(A), as such procedures would be unnecessary and contrary to the public interest. Similarly, the need to implement these measures in a timely fashion to prevent exceeding the A season allowance of the 2002 TAC of Atka mackerel in the Eastern Aleutian District and the Bering Sea subarea and to prevent exceeding the A season Atka mackerel HLA harvest limits established for the Central (area 542) and Western (area 543) Aleutian Districts constitutes good cause to find that the effective date of this action cannot be delayed for 30 days. Accordingly, under 5 U.S.C. 553(d), a delay in the effective date is hereby waived.

This action is required by §§ 679.20 and 679.22 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

Start Authority

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

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Dated: January 17, 2002.

Jonathan M. Kurland,

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

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[FR Doc. 02-1759 Filed 1-18-02; 3:05 pm]

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