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Rule

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Pollock in Statistical Area 630 of the Gulf of Alaska

Document Details

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:

Inseason adjustment; request for comments.

SUMMARY:

NMFS issues an inseason adjustment opening directed fishing for pollock in Statistical Area 630 of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) for 12 hours effective 1200 hrs, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), February 15, 2004, until 2400 hrs, A.l.t., February 15, 2004. This adjustment is necessary to allow the fishing industry opportunity to harvest the 2004 interim total allowable catch (TAC) of pollock specified for Statistical Area 630 of the GOA.

DATES:

Effective 1200 hrs, A.l.t., February 15, 2004, until 2400 hrs, A.l.t., February 15, 2004. Comments must be received at the following address no later than 4:30 p.m., A.l.t., March 1, 2004.

ADDRESSES:

Comments on this inseason adjustment may be mailed to Sue Salveson, Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region, NMFS, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668, Attn: Lori Durall. Comments also may be sent via facsimile (fax) to 907-586-7557 or e-mail. The mailbox address for providing e-mail comments is AKR.eComments@noaa.gov. Include in the subject line of the e-mail comment the following document identifier: “Pollock Re-opening in Statistical Area 630, ID 021204A.” Courier or hand delivery of comments may be made to NMFS in the Federal Building, Room 453, Juneau, AK 99801.

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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 issued an inseason adjustment opening directed fishing for pollock in Statistical Area 630 of the GOA for 12 hours effective 1200 hrs, A.l.t, February 4, 2004, until 2400 hrs, A.l.t., February 4, 2004, in accordance with §§ 679.25(a)(1)(I) and 679.25(a)(2)(i)(A)(C), (69 FR 5934, February 9, 2004).

As of February 11, 2004, 2,015 metric tons (mt) of pollock remain in the 2004 interim TAC of the pollock specified for Statistical Area 630 of the GOA. Regulations at § 679.23(b) specify that the time of all openings and closures of fishing seasons other than the beginning and end of the calendar fishing year is 1200 hrs, A.l.t. Current information shows the catching capacity of vessels catching pollock for processing by the inshore component in Statistical Area 630 of the GOA is about 4,000 mt per day. The Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, has determined that the 2004 interim TAC of pollock could be exceeded if a 24-hour fishery were allowed to occur. NMFS intends that the seasonal allowance not be exceeded and, therefore, will not allow a 24-hour directed fishery. NMFS, in accordance with §§ 679.25(a)(1)(i) and 679.25(a)(2)(i)(A)(C), is adjusting directed fishery for pollock in Statistical Area 630 of the GOA by opening the fishery at 1200 hrs, A.l.t., February 15, 2004, and closing the fishery at 2400 hrs, A.l.t., February 15, 2004, at which time directed fishing for pollock will be prohibited. This action has the effect of opening the fishery for 12 hours.

NMFS is taking this action to allow a controlled fishery to occur, thereby preventing the overharvest of the 2004 interim TAC of pollock designated in accordance with the interim 2004 harvest specifications for groundfish in the GOA (68 FR 67964, December 5, 2004) and § 679.20(a)(5)(iii). In accordance with § 679.25(a)(2)(iii), NMFS has determined that prohibiting directed fishing at 2400 hrs, A.l.t., February 15, 2004, after a 12 hour opening is the least restrictive management adjustment to achieve the 2004 interim TAC of pollock in Statistical Area 630 of the GOA. Pursuant to § 679.25(b)(2), NMFS has considered data regarding catch per unit of effort and rate of harvest in making this adjustment.

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 would prevent the full utilization of the 2004 interim TAC of pollock in Statistical Area 630 of the GOA.

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.

Without this inseason adjustment, NMFS could not allow the 2004 interim TAC of pollock in Statistical Area 630 of the GOA to be harvested in an expedient manner and in accordance with the regulatory schedule. Under § 679.25(c)(2), interested persons are invited to submit written comments on this action to the above address until March 1, 2004.

This action is required by §§ 679.20 and 679.25 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: February 12, 2004.

John H. Dunnigan,

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

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[FR Doc. 04-3625 Filed 2-13-04; 2:26 pm]

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