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Rule

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone off Alaska; Pacific Cod by Vessels Using Pot Gear in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Closure.

SUMMARY:

NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Pacific cod by vessels using pot gear in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI). This action is necessary to prevent exceeding the 2003 total allowable catch (TAC) of Pacific cod allocated to vessels using pot gear in this area.

DATES:

Effective 1200 hrs, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), December 9, 2003, until 2400 hrs, A.l.t., December 31, 2003.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Josh Keaton, 907-586-7228.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

NMFS manages the groundfish fishery in the BSAI 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 Start Printed Page 69049appear at subpart H of 50 CFR part 600 and 50 CFR part 679.

The 2003 Pacific cod TAC allocated to vessels using pot gear in the BSAI was established as a directed fishing allowance of 17,822 metric tons (mt) by the final 2003 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (68 FR 9907, March 3, 2003). The Pacific cod TAC allocation for vessels using pot gear was revised on October 17, 2003 (68 FR 59748), on December 2, 2003 (68 FR 67379), and again in a document published elsewhere in this issue, resulting in a directed fishing allowance of 18,661 mt. See § 679.20(c)(3)(iii), § 679.20(c)(5), § 679.20(a)(7)(i)(A) and (C) and § 679.20 (a) (7) (ii).

In accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(iii), the Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, has determined that the 2003 Pacific cod TAC allocated as a directed fishing allowance to vessels using pot gear in the BSAI will soon be reached. Consequently, NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Pacific cod by vessels using pot 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 2003 Pacific cod TAC allocated as a directed fishing allowance to vessels using pot gear in the BSAI, 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 § 679.20 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: December 8, 2003.

Bruce C. Morehead.

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

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[FR Doc. 03-30715 Filed 12-8-03; 3:17 pm]

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