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National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.
Notice of closure.Start Printed Page 68785
NMFS closes the commercial fishery for red snapper in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Gulf of Mexico. NMFS has determined that the fall portion of the annual commercial quota for red snapper will be reached on December 7, 2003. This closure is necessary to protect the red snapper resource.
Closure is effective noon, local time, December 7, 2003, until noon, local time, on February 1, 2004.Start Further Info
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Phil Steele, telephone 727-570-5305, fax 727-570-5583, e-mail Phil.Steele@noaa.gov.End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information
The reef fish fishery of the Gulf of Mexico is managed under the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (FMP). The FMP was prepared by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and is implemented under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act by regulations at 50 CFR part 622. Those regulations set the commercial quota for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico at 4.65 million lb (2.11 million kg) for the current fishing year, January 1 through December 31, 2003. The red snapper commercial fishing season is split into two time periods, the first commencing at noon on February 1 with two-thirds of the annual quota (3.10 million lb (1.41 million kg)) available, and the second commencing at noon on October 1 with the remainder of the annual quota available. During the commercial season, the red snapper commercial fishery opens at noon on the first of each month and closes at noon on the 10th of each month, until the applicable commercial quotas are reached.
Under 50 CFR 622.43(a), NMFS is required to close the commercial fishery for a species or species group when the quota for that species or species group is reached, or is projected to be reached, by filing a notification to that effect in the Federal Register. Based on current statistics, NMFS has determined that the available fall commercial quota of 1.60 million lb (0.73 million kg) for red snapper will be reached when the fishery closes at noon on December 7, 2003. Accordingly, the commercial fishery in the EEZ in the Gulf of Mexico for red snapper will remain closed until noon, local time, on February 1, 2004. The operator of a vessel with a valid reef fish permit having red snapper aboard must have landed and bartered, traded, or sold such red snapper prior to noon, local time, December 7, 2003.
During the closure, the bag and possession limits specified in 50 CFR 622.39(b) apply to all harvest or possession of red snapper in or from the EEZ in the Gulf of Mexico, and the sale or purchase of red snapper taken from the EEZ is prohibited. In addition, the bag and possession limits for red snapper apply on board a vessel for which a commercial permit for Gulf reef fish has been issued, without regard to where such red snapper were harvested. However, the bag and possession limits for red snapper apply only when the recreational quota for red snapper has not been reached and the bag and possession limit has not been reduced to zero. The 2003 recreational red snapper season opened on April 21, 2003, and closed on October 31, 2003. The prohibition on sale or purchase does not apply to sale or purchase of red snapper that were harvested, landed ashore, and sold prior to noon, local time, December 7, 2003, and were held in cold storage by a dealer or processor.
This action is taken under 50 CFR 622.43(a) and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.Start Signature
Dated: December 4, 2003.
Bruce C. Morehead,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 03-30607 Filed 12-5-03; 2:41 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S