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Rule

Fisheries of the Economic Exclusive Zone Off Alaska; Groundfish Fisheries by Vessels using Hook-and-Line Gear in the Gulf of Alaska

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National

Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION:

Closure.

SUMMARY:

NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for groundfish by vessels using hook-and-line gear in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA), except for demersal shelf rockfish in the Southeast Outside District or sablefish. This action is necessary because the 2003 bycatch mortality allowance of Pacific halibut apportioned to hook-and-line gear targeting groundfish other than demersal shelf rockfish in the Southeast Outside District or sablefish has been reached.

DATES:

Effective 1200 hrs, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), September 28, 2003, until 2400 hrs, A.l.t., December 31, 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 GOA exclusive economic zone according to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (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 Pacific halibut bycatch mortality allowance for groundfish included in the other hook-and-line fishery, defined at § 679.21(d)(4)(iii)(C), was established by the final 2003 harvest specifications for groundfish of the GOA (68 FR 9924, March 3, 2003) as 290 metric tons. The other hook-and-line fishery includes all groundfish except for demersal shelf rockfish in the Southeast Outside District or sablefish.

In accordance with § 679.21(d)(7)(ii), the Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, has determined that the 2003 Pacific halibut bycatch mortality allowance specified for the other hook-and-line fishery has been reached. Consequently, NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for groundfish other than demersal shelf rockfish in the Southeast Outside District or sablefish by vessels using hook-and-line gear.

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

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 2003 bycatch mortality allowance of Pacific halibut apportioned to hook-and-line gear, 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: September 25, 2003.

Bruce C. Morehead,

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

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[FR Doc. 03-24922 Filed 9-26-03; 3:54 pm]

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