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Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Surf Clam and Ocean Quahog Fishery; Suspension of Minimum Surf Clam Size for 2003

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


Notice of suspension of surf clam minimum size limit.


NMFS suspends the minimum size limit of 4.75 inches (12.07 cm) for Atlantic surf clams for the 2003 fishing year. This action is taken under the authority of the implementing regulations for this fishery, which allow for the annual suspension of the minimum size limit based upon set criteria. The intended effect is to relieve the industry from a regulatory burden that is not necessary, as the majority of surf clams harvested are larger than the minimum size limit.


Effective January 1, 2003, through December 31, 2003.

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Douglas W. Christel, Fishery Management Specialist, 978-281-9141.

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Section 648.72(c) of the regulations implementing the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Atlantic Surf Clam and Ocean Quahog Fisheries allows the Administrator, Northeast Region, NMFS (Regional Administrator) to suspend annually, by publication of a notification in the Federal Register, the minimum size limit for Atlantic surf clams. This action may be taken unless discard, catch, and survey data indicate that 30 percent of the Atlantic surf clam resource is smaller than 4.75 inches (12.07 cm) and the overall reduced size is not attributable to harvest from beds where growth of the individual clams has been reduced because of density-dependent factors.

At its June 2002, meeting, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) voted to recommend that the Regional Administrator suspend the minimum size limit. Commercial surf clam shell length data for 2002 were analyzed to determine the percentage of surfclams landed that were smaller than the minimum size requirement. The analysis indicated that 14 percent of the samples taken overall were composed of surf clams that were less than 4.75 inches (12.07 cm). Based on these data, the Regional Administrator adopts the Start Printed Page 72868Council's recommendation and suspends the minimum size limit for Atlantic surf clams from January 1, 2003, through December 31, 2003.


This action is authorized by 50 CFR part 648 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

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

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Dated: December 3, 2002.

Bruce C. Morehead,

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

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[FR Doc. 02-31028 Filed 12-6-02; 8:45 am]