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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 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 second seasonal apportionment of the 2003 halibut bycatch allowance specified for the trawl rock sole/flathead sole/“other flatfish” fishery category in the BSAI.

DATES:

Effective 1200 hrs, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), April 1, 2003, through 1200 hrs, A.l.t., June 29, 2003.

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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 second seasonal apportionment of the 2003 halibut bycatch allowance specified for the trawl rock sole/flathead sole/“other flatfish” fishery category in the BSAI is 164 metric tons as established by the final 2003 harvest specifications for Groundfish of the BSAI (68 FR 9907, March 3, 2003).

In accordance with § 679.21(e)(7)(v), the Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, has determined that the second seasonal apportionment of the 2003 halibut bycatch allowance specified for the trawl rock sole/flathead sole/“other flatfish” fishery category in the BSAI has been caught. Consequently, NMFS is closing directed fishing for species in the rock sole/flathead sole/“other flatfish” fishery category by vessels using trawl gear in the BSAI.

Classification

This action responds to the best available information recently obtained from the fishery. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA (AA), finds good cause to waive the requirement to provide prior notice and opportunity for public comment pursuant to the authority set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) as such requirement is contrary to the public interest. This requirement is contrary to the public interest as it would delay the closure of the fishery, lead to exceeding the second seasonal apportionment of the 2003 halibut bycatch allowance, and therefore reduce the public's ability to use and enjoy the fishery resource.

The AA also finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in the effective date of this action under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3). This finding is based upon the reasons provided above for waiver of prior notice and opportunity for public comment.

This action is required by § 679.21 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: March 25, 2003.

Richard W. Surdi,

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

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[FR Doc. 03-7647 Filed 3-26-03; 1:47 pm]

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