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Rule

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Pacific Cod by Vessels Catching Pacific Cod for Processing by the Offshore Component in the Central Regulatory Area of the Gulf of Alaska

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AGENCY:

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Start Printed Page 59547Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION:

Modification of a closure.

SUMMARY:

NMFS is reopening directed fishing for Pacific cod by vessels catching Pacific cod for processing by the offshore component in the Central Regulatory Area of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) for 48 hours. This action is necessary to fully use the total allowable catch (TAC) of Pacific cod apportioned to vessels catching Pacific cod for processing by the offshore component in the Central Regulatory Area.

DATES:

Effective 1200 hrs, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), October 12, 2003, through 1200 hrs, A.l.t., October 14, 2003.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Josh Keaton, 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.

NMFS closed the directed fishery for Pacific cod by vessels catching Pacific cod for processing by the offshore component in the Central Regulatory Area of the GOA at 2400 hrs, October 1, 2003 (68 FR 57636, October 6, 2003).

NMFS has determined that, approximately 560 mt of Pacific cod remain in the directed fishing allowance. Therefore, in accordance with §§ 679.25(a)(1)(i) and (a)(2)(iii)(D), and to fully utilize the Pacific cod apportioned to vessels catching Pacific cod for processing by the offshore component in the Central Regulatory Area, NMFS is terminating the previous closure and is reopening directed fishing for Pacific cod by vessels catching Pacific cod for processing by the offshore component in the Central Regulatory Area of the GOA. In accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(iii), the Regional Administrator finds that this directed fishing allowance will be reached after 48 hours. Consequently, NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Pacific cod by vessels catching Pacific cod for processing by the offshore component in the Central Regulatory Area of the GOA effective 1200 hrs, A.l.t., October 14, 2003.

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 impracticable and contrary to the public interest as it would prevent the Agency from responding to the most recent fisheries data in a timely fashion and delay the opening of the fishery for Pacific cod apportioned to vessels catching Pacific cod for processing by the offshore component in the Central Regulatory Area, thus reducing 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 § 679.20 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: October 10, 2003.

Bruce C. Morehead,

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

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[FR Doc. 03-26193 Filed 10-10-03; 3:10 pm]

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